Charming Activities: Ballet

Charming Activities: Ballet

Dance Studio
I was very lucky to be able to catch this picture of the studio before the other students arrived!

Over the past two weekends I finally did something I’ve been thinking about for a while–I took a ballet class~! ♥

(Okay, okay–technically, I’ve taken four ballet classes.)

I took ballet lessons when I was a child–at the park district of the town I grew up in. I was never particularly talented or passionate. I started as a toddler, with “Ballet, Tap, & Tumbling” but I quit before moving on to pointe. I didn’t have the ambition or ability to be a professional dancer, but I definitely didn’t hate dancing or class. I still look back fondly on those memories. (My father video-taped all of my recitals; I once showed my husband the compiled VHS of those performances, and he loved it so much that he has watched it more than the one time.)

Exercise and sports have never been things I am particularly interested in. (It’s a basically laziness hiding behind the excuse of asthma. u_u) However, I care about getting a sufficient level of physical activity to stay in good health. Living in a city and not owning a car, I do a lot of walking–but that’s probably not enough on its own. I’ve been thinking of supplemental activities I could try.

When I was in college, I took a semester of adult beginner ballet–once again, at the park district. It was only the one semester for a variety of reasons: my school schedule interfering and questions of affording it were the top two. Something else that worried me, though, was the lack of guidance. The slow-paced class consisted of mostly women around the ages of my mother or grandmother. The teacher offered little correcting or coaching for the individuals in the class. I worried about picking up bad habits and causing injuries. Dancing incorrectly can be very bad for you!

I’ve always adored Degas’ work of ballet dancers. They look so lovely even when working hard.

After graduating, the idea of taking ballet again has been a constant and distant dream. The beauty of ballet has always appealed to me; I think of Degas’ paintings, sketches, and sculptures with a fond sigh. There’s a lot about ballet (and opera) from the 1880s that embodies things I love about lolita; the costumes from that era tend towards full skirts and adornments of ribbons and lace. There’s an elegance there that I long to participate in.

The fear of trying something new is my only excuse for how long it took me to try an adult ballet class in the city. There are a number of studios that offer adult classes, most of which are “open” classes that don’t require extensive registration or commitment for an entire semester. The schedules for those classes vary, providing opportunities for a variety of potential students with numerous claims on their time.

I didn’t want to buy a leotard in advance of taking my first class, in case I decided not to continue, so I wore close-fitting clothes that followed the dress code of the school. (Adult non-professionals are allowed to wear “workout-appropriate” attire. It’s important to make sure to meet dress code requirements.) I still had a pair of soft ballet shoes from my brief college stint; my feet are the same size and the shoes are in good condition, so I wore those. It made me glad I kept the shoes!

My first class was very intimidating. The “basics” class that I took involved a number of students who commented on having been regulars to the “basics” class for upwards of three years, as well as a few people whose concentration and prowess suggested that they were dancers in need of some extra practice although personally far above a “beginner” level. I felt very shy and uncomfortable surrounded by so many new people who clearly knew what they were doing while I did not. One student was very welcome and helpful; she engaged me in conversation–recognizing that I was new–and rearranged my place at the barre so I could have two experienced students to watch during class instead of twisting around to look for the teacher. The teacher arrived and began class immediately, with no introductions or explanations. It was hard for me to keep up with even simple combinations being both unfamiliar with the combinations and unfamiliar with the individual steps/motions/positions. It did not feel like a class billed as “an introduction” with “no experience required.”

When I left that first day I felt very discouraged. I spent the entirety of class feeling like the clumsiest and stupidest person in the room. As soon as I thought I’d memorized a combination, I’d realize that I learned it wrong–and then we’d be on to the next set. My balance was almost non-existent, and I couldn’t seem to figure out what to do with my feet, or my legs, or my arms. Every time I caught sight of myself in the mirror, embarrassment was almost overwhelming. I fantasized about quietly gathering up my things and walking out.

I was feeling so down that I decided to take another session the next day. My stepfather has always advocated doing things that intimidate you to avoid being ruled by your fear. When my siblings were learning to ski, if anyone fell or wiped out, they’d be checked over for injuries and then sent right back up the mountain. He said that the longer they’d wait to try again, the more their worries and fears about falling again would crowd out the memories of how fun the experience is. I definitely find truth in that from a number of aspects of my life. So, because I felt demoralized, I went back as soon as I could.

The second class was no easier than the first, but I felt much better afterward. I felt better not because I had magically improved, but because I became more comfortable with being the clumsiest and stupidest person the class. The other students didn’t care what I was doing. The teacher even recognized me, and took a moment to express that she was glad to see I came back and wasn’t scared off after the first class. I felt so much less miserable after that class that I went and bought a leotard, determined to continue taking classes.

There was a ballet supply shop not too far from where I took the classes, so I headed over there. It was very quiet when I headed in, and the two employees were quick to offer assistance. While I was there, a teenager and her mother arrived for a pointe shoe fitting. I tried really hard not to stare, but it was so fascinating to watch!

There were a number of different leotard styles and sizes across several price ranges. (I just wanted something basic and inexpensive, and I was able to find it.) Ballet sizing can be weird, so I benefited from being able to try things on instead of relying on measurements and purchasing online. Even the same “type” of leotard could be very different–higher or lower neckline or back, differently-cut leg openings, or seams in a variety of places. I really appreciated that I didn’t feel rushed or upsold by the employees, yet they were available for information and advice. One of the women was kind enough to take a look at the fit of my soft shoes. They were somewhat uncomfortable around my toes during class, so I wanted to make sure the fit was not poor. Thankfully, she said it just seemed to be that the shoes were new enough to need more wearing.

The third class that I took was taught by another teacher at the same studio. Her class felt more like something that deserved a “basics” label. Before beginning class, she asked if anyone was new to dance or new to this studio. She asked questions to determine the varying levels of “newness” and repositioned the students to allow clear visibility for the newbies. She then outlined the proper way to stand, went through the positions of feet and arms, and provided details on motions before introducing something new to a combination. That was the type of instruction I expected for a first class. I would recommend the second teacher if I knew someone who was brand new and wanted to take a class.

Dance Studio
The studio had quite a few of the portable bars that day!

Even though it was scary at first, I am really happy to be taking ballet classes! I hope I can continue to do so, and I look forward to improving. There has to be a point at which I’m no longer flailing about like one of those wind-sock tube advertising men. If my arms, legs, ankles, and core strengthen with practice, I might eventually graduate from being “the clumsiest” to “one of the clumsier ones.” That is certainly something I can look forward to~! ♥

Outfit Snap: Knit and Frill

Outfit Snap: Knit and Frill

Over the weekend I attended Vogue Knitting Live! Chicago 2014~ I first attended in 2012, as I was lucky enough to win an attendance package for marketplace access and a single lecture. I purchased an additional lecture, but I couldn’t quite afford to take a class. I hoped to be able to do so last year, but that was not possible either. This year, I was prepared–I registered bright and early, convinced a friend to join with me, and was able to take a few classes. ♥

I wanted to put my frilliest foot forward, but I also wanted to highlight knit pieces. I realized that I don’t knit very many things for myself, which made coordinating a bit more complicated than I originally anticipated. For a bit I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I had all of these ideas of things I’d like to make for myself and so few of them have been projects I’ve worked on. During the event I suddenly understood why. My clothing is primarily a very specific shade of pink. The yarn that I see and buy is typically a clashing shade of pink. I’m going to have to keep my eyes open for “the right pink.”

Friday VK Live! Outfit
This mirror and I became close friends for outfit pictures over the weekend, haha~

On the first day I opted to wear a yellow hat featuring my favourite hat pattern. It is pale yellow, so I pulled out a pink skirt with yellow accents. (I did not wear a petticoat on any of the days in attendance, because the classrooms and marketplace can be very crowded. To take up extra space felt rude.) This skirt has always difficult for me to coordinate; it contains a number of pinks that are unique from most of my socks/cardigans/etc. I really like it with this turtleneck in autumn, though.

I also wore a crocheted scarf. A friend and fellow lolita made this for me many years ago as a gift. It’s a nice touch when the weather is on the chillier side. I love the giant rose blossoms on either end~ ♥

Saturday VK Live! Outfit
I’m really not the best at taking pictures of myself, so it took a lot of tries to not get something so blurry it wasn’t useable.

On Saturday I really wanted to wear this large cabled hooded pull-over cape. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the temperature to drop a bit so that I could wear it~ (Actually, it was much warmer on Saturday than I anticipated it being, but thankfully the air conditioning in the hotel was intense enough that I didn’t regret putting this layer on.)

It has a very “idyllic forest” feeling to it (honestly everything designed by Tiny Owl Knits does!), so I felt the tiny forest animals on the border of this Innocent World one-piece would set this off well. Additionally, there are hints of the same pale green and a slightly darker green in this dress’s print. It helped avoid the green colour standing out in a way that seemed ungrounded elsewhere.

It Has a Hood
I love this hood! Especially the tassel on the end~

I pulled my hair up in braids to avoid larger hair accessories. I thought I might want to pull the hood up, not that the weather was really making that necessary, and I didn’t want a larger bow to get caught in the hood. The small bow clip was just enough to set it off.

Sunday VK Live! Outfit
I kept thinking I would find a different spot to take pictures, but again and again this was most convenient.

Sunday was the last day, and that’s when I realized I was running out of knit things to wear. I have a few pullover sweaters, but the weather is not cold enough yet and they are enormous “snuggle up in this and never come out” sweaters that would look very silly with lolita attire. I have a few shawls in colour choices that match nothing. I fell back on this cardigan. I knit it to a longer length that I prefer to wear with jeans, so it hits my skirt at a strange length, but I was determined to wear it.

I opted for a high-necked blouse to avoid a collar overlapping the scoop neckline of the cardigan. I had to wear the tartan skirt because I took a class on knitting a fabric that resembles woven tartan! (I wanted to stay “in theme,” haha~) The gray tights are not my favourite in this picture, but they seemed significantly paler and a closer match for the cardigan’s silver tone in better lighting.

Swatch Matchin'
Swatches from our instructor were passed around during the plaid technique class, and I matched this one pretty well!

My non-standard attire made it really easy for my friend to spot me in a crowd, always handy at a busy event! A few people approached me over the weekend stating that they met me in 2012 and remembered me from then! One such person was the lovely lady who taught me to crochet at the “beginner’s lounge” two years ago~ I definitely owe her a lot; I’m not crochet-savvy but I can do enough to get around for what I want. I’m really looking forward to next year’s Vogue Knitting Live!

(A more knitter-focused recap of my experience at Vogue Knitting Live! Chicago 2014 here~)

Outfit Snap: Summer Polka-Dots

Outfit Snap: Summer Polka-Dots

The weather has been pretty intense lately, not just for my area but for all sorts of areas of the United States. In the Midwest, we’ve suffered through a few heat waves. I don’t have air conditioning, and when the heat is so high and there’s no coolness at home, I really don’t want to do much of anything–especially dress up. I really love all of my beautiful frilly clothing, but I can’t feel happy and pretty and fluffy if I’m hot and sticky and sweaty. It’s gross!

My husband and I have been trying to escape to places with air conditioning as much as we can when the weather gets too unbearable in our own home, but when I’m traveling and it’s hot I don’t want a heavy bag. I’m not all that willing to bring my lolita clothing with me if that means I have more things to carry and worry about bringing back with me when the weekend is over. As a result, I haven’t done much of anything. I’ve regretted that I can’t take part in something I really enjoy, but at the same time it just doesn’t seem reasonable. Being uncomfortable just makes me grumpy, after all–I don’t want to voluntarily make myself irritable~

This weekend was the “Mega Meet,” one of the larger lolita fashion gatherings in my area. Lolita come into Chicago from suburbs and even other states. It’s generally a lot of fun, and I get to see friends that I otherwise don’t see. I was dreading the weather report, afraid that the temperature would spike again, but thankfully it was a pretty mild day! ♥ It was so nice to dress up again~!

Polka Dots
This was the only picture that I stood still for, really! There were just too many people that I hadn’t seen in SUCH a long time!

I don’t really plan my outfits too far in advance, for the most part, and this was no exception. I decided to wear the polka-dot dress because I thought it wouldn’t be too heavy and I wouldn’t need a blouse. I own several polka-dot accessories because I have another dress with the same polka-dot fabric, so I added the polka-dot choker that original came with the other dress. The dress has sewn-in straps that typically criss-cross in the front and tie behind the neck, but it was too much with the choker, so I tucked them down the front of the dress instead. X3

The socks were also polka dotted, and so is the parasol. I like the contrast of having the parasol and socks be white with pink polka dots, as opposed to the dress’s pink with white polka dots, just so that the same pattern wasn’t too overwhelming. If my dress and socks were the exact same colour and pattern I don’t think I’d be satisfied.

This dress is actually very short, so I wore an underskirt with it to add some length. One of these days I intend to have a white ruffle added to the bottom of the dress itself, but until that happens this is the best solution I’ve come up with. I don’t generally mind the shorter dresses, but this dress is very, very short–when I compare it to my other dresses, even though known for being less-than-lengthy, it’s always at least a few inches shorter. I don’t want to give it up just because of the length (or lack thereof), though~ I really like the design.

I didn’t have another picture of my outfit, but this picture is courtesy of “mylaar,” borrowed with permission~ ♥ The sunglasses were basically a permanent part of my outfit.

I opted for a white side-positioned hairbow for a little bit of contrast. I tried to pin my pigtails up a bit around the hair elastics. I wanted to mimic the volume of clip-on pigtails, without having to actually wear clip-ons. It wasn’t very successful, but it’s something I’d like to try again sometime. I probably should have worn a style that kept my hair off my neck entirely–it wasn’t blazing hot, but it wasn’t cool either! Thank goodness there was a nice breeze when we were near the lake~

Overall, I was really happy to wear lolita again~ Whenever the weather cools down and stays that way, I know I’ll be dressing up more frequently. It’s just too much fun!

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Follow Up)

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Follow Up)

A few days ago, when I checked the mail, I saw a bright pink envelope tucked in among the bills~ At first I thought it was a birthday card from a relative, but when I looked at the addresses the return address was unfamiliar. I opened it to find this card:

What Could This Card Be?
Isn’t it pretty? What a lovely pattern~
I still didn’t really understand what it could be, unless it was from a friend I don’t usually receive cards or letters from, but then I opened it up!

Inside the Card
There were two photos inside! I actually didn’t realize there were two–for a few days I only noticed the first one, the large group photo!
It was the promised card from the Angelic Pretty tea party at ACEN~! ♥ I am so happy to have received it! Angelic Pretty is very busy of course, so I didn’t even have a timeline of when I thought the attendees would be receiving the photos, but I remembered that they were taken and we were told we would receive copies. Having the photos arrive in a pretty pink envelope, in a lovely pink card with the design of “Little Bird’s Symphonia,” is so thrilling~ ♥

The card has signatures inside from Asuka, Maki, and RinRin~ I’m particularly happy about this because I didn’t make it to any events during the convention where they were autographing anything, so I missed my chance to have anything else signed. (I also forgot to take a moment and have my picture taken with only the special guests–whoops! I get too distracted when there’s so much going on.)

I love the pictures, and I definitely want to do something special with them~ I haven’t yet decided on anything, but at the very least it would be nice to have them framed for display~ ♥

Tea Party Mementos
Perhaps I could frame the pictures with some of the other papers I’ve saved from the events, scrapbook-esque~
I had little bits and pieces of things from the events still in my purse even though the tea party was several months ago, so I took everything out for one picture~ (Although I realized in retrospect that I could have included two postcards and an illustrated file that I also received at ACEN for Angelic Pretty-related reasons, but I didn’t think about it at the time.) I don’t usually save many things, especially not paper, but the tickets were so lovely that I didn’t want to throw it away!

I grouped together my badge–an exhibitor badge from my time volunteering at the Angelic Pretty booth (oooh, a specialty-type), my raffle ticket place card from the tea party, the small ring that I won at the tea party’s raffle (I hadn’t even opened it yet, haha~), the card, both photos, and my tea party ticket! ♥ Even though it was a while ago now, I still keep thinking about what a lovely time I had. ♥

Receiving the photos from the tea party was wonderful, and I’m so happy that Angelic Pretty was able to take the time to be guests at ACEN, and that they arranged so many special events for the fans in the area! I feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of so many fun things! I’ll definitely have to do something nice with these photos; they’re images of such wonderful memories~ ♥

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 3)

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 3)

After all of the hustle and bustle on Saturday, I was thankful for a relaxing Sunday morning. I didn’t help out at the booth and my only commitment was the tea party. Instead I woke up and was able to take my time getting ready while I packed up the room. The time of the tea party overlapped the check-out for the hotel room, so we would be checking out before heading over.

I was worried about being late, but we arrived in time for me to snap a few pictures in the hallway just before the door opened and the Angelic Pretty staff members announced to us that we could enter~

Angelic Pretty Tea Party at ACEN
It was a flurry of ruffles and pastels and cakes and decorations as everyone lined up to enter the room.
I was really thankful that everyone was orderly and polite. I always get worried about some kind of intense and crazy mad rush at any sort of event of this nature. Once inside, we chose our own seats. It wasn’t difficult to find a place to sit at any of the given tables, and I was lucky enough to sit among friends~

A selection of small sandwiches and desserts were already placed at the center of each table along with sugar and cream. I believe the sandwiches were roast beef with goat cheese and avocado with roasted red pepper tapinade. It was a good thing that they offered a vegetarian option, as there were quite a few vegetarians in attendance~ Each place setting was indicated with a teacup and a small flyer for the tea party. On the back of each flyer was a number that was used later during the tea party for a raffle~

Angelic Pretty Tea Party at ACEN
We were all restless while Maki, Asuka, RinRin, and staff got themselves set up near the table at the side of the room~
A long table was set up at the side of the room, in the center of the layout of tables. On the table were all types of Angelic Pretty goods, wrapped up with cellophane and ribbons. These were the prizes for the raffle at the end of the tea party~ There were also small speakers and a microphone.

When everyone was settled, convention staff introduced Maki, Asuka, and RinRin. Maki and Asuka then gave brief speeches–translated by staff–thanking everyone for their support of Angelic Pretty and providing some of their thoughts, inspiration, and plans for future collections. After Asuka and Maki were finished speaking, RinRin also gave a small speech about her own thoughts and involvement. It was very nice of them all to take the time to do so~

When they had finished speaking, tea was served. I was delighted to see that they were serving tea from Teavana. Teavana isn’t one of my favourite tea companies, but they sell fairly tasty teas and blends. The hotel in which the tea party was hosted does not offer a tea service on a regular basis, so I had worried that we’d be given hot water and single tea bags of black tea. While that’s no travesty, it would be somewhat of a let-down given the price of the tea party tickets–so having brewed loose-leaf tea poured by wait staff was a wonderful surprise!

Angelic Pretty Tea Party at ACEN
Gendo was one of our many dapper waiters, and he took his position very seriously!
The convention staff who volunteered for the tea party were very courteous and dedicated. They dressed for the occasion, as well–in dapper suits with bow-ties, crisp white half-aprons, and white towels draped over one arm. I appreciated their attention, given that a lolita fashion tea party at an anime convention probably didn’t register as a significantly big deal in most people’s opinions–but the staff treated it as if it were a very big deal. That helped make it a very special and fun memory for those who attended~

While the tea party guests enjoyed their tea and sandwiches, Maki, Asuka, and RinRin went from table to table, taking group photos with everyone and chatting a little bit. (The other Angelic Pretty shopgirls in attendance were kind enough to act as translators.) It was very exciting to get to speak to the designers and the model for a moment and to have a group picture taken. There were also pictures taken of each half of the room–there were too many party-goers to fit us all in one picture. To avoid confusion, it wasn’t possible to have that same picture snapped with every attendee’s camera, but we were promised that copies of the group photos would be mailed to us after the event.

After group photos, it was time for cupcakes! And immediately after cupcakes were served… a raffle!

Angelic Pretty Tea Party at ACEN
An excited raffle winner steps up to receive her prize!
The raffle was a lot of fun–they started off with small gifts, like rings, and moved up to cutsews, purses, and finally a set with a jumperskirt, socks, and a hairbow~! ♥ Maki and RinRin stood in front of the table to display the prizes to the crowd, while Asuka drew numbers and announced the winners. I won a small ring, which was very exciting–I typically have terrible luck when it comes to any game of chance! I really enjoyed watching the winners get chosen; it was thrilling to hear a number be called, then watch as someone stood up and cheerfully made their way towards the front. So many of my friends were lucky, and so many other attendees that I didn’t know until the tea party, too~!

I believe that those who didn’t win a prize through the raffle didn’t walk away empty-handed; if I remember correctly, they were given postcards which Asuka, Maki, and RinRin autographed.

It was then announced that there were gift bags at the door, which we would receive on the way out after having a chance to personally thank and say goodbye to Asuka, Maki, and RinRin. However, before that could happen, the Chicago community had something to give to the designers.

Angelic Pretty Tea Party at ACEN
Everyone looking over the scrapbook~
As part of a community-wide effort, led by several girls who put hours and hours of hard work into selecting and printing photos, assembling supplies, and piecing together the pages, we had put together a scrapbook to showcase our love of Angelic Pretty. It was presented to the designers to thank them for being special guests at our local convention so that we could have the chance to meet them and see their designs. I was happy to see that Maki, Asuka, and RinRin were surprised to have this brief interlude; they hadn’t expected something like this. As they stood together and flipped through the pages, I could see they were all so moved by this gesture that most of them were tearing up. Some of the shopgirls started crying outright, and then we were all sniffling. For a moment, we all understood just how much of an impact lolita fashion has had on our lives, and it was very touching~ ♥ It will be a very happy memory for me.

After that, it was time to leave. I was very happy to take part in such a fun event. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at ACEN; I hope that everyone else’s memories are as bright and sparkly as mine~!

P.S. I know that this is very late! I’ve never been very good at updating regularly, but I’ve been downright awful at it these last few years. I still adore the fashion, I’m just lacking in inspiration to write about it~ And I keep forgetting to take photos of anything! u_u Oh boy! I never learn!

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 2)

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 2)

I apologize for the brief delay–I caught a cold and have been spending the past few days bemoaning my stuffy nose and sore throat. n_~

Saturday morning began bright and early–models met with the hair and makeup volunteers at 7am. I was lucky in that I didn’t have to get up as early as some of the other girls with farther to travel, but I still wasn’t as early as I wanted to be. During the fitting they had requested that model volunteers apply whatever base makeup they could before coming to the room for hair and makeup, that way the ladies doing hair and makeup would have more time to style everyone. I don’t exactly wear makeup regularly, so even trying to provide a starting point for the makeup artists took me longer than I had hoped.

Angelic Pretty Fashion Show
My little sister came with to help backstage; she took plenty of pictures during the process.
When all of the models and workers were assembled, work began immediately. We were asked to change into our first outfits, and warned to be careful and tidy. It was a bit nerve-wracking to spend time around makeup in a pretty and expensive dress that wasn’t mine! The shop staff and designers were always very mindful of keeping the clothes in the best condition possible. When we sat down to have our hair styled or makeup applied, Asuka cautioned for us to fold and smooth our skirts and sit in a particular way–to avoid wrinkles.

There were three volunteers doing hair and makeup, along with hair and wig-styling help from Maki and Asuka. Due to the number of girls in comparison to the number of stylists, we were again asked to do whatever of our own makeup we could manage, including putting on false eyelashes. I had a very hard time with that! Thankfully the other girls were more than willing to help each other out, so I received an on-hand tutorial on how to apply them. We crowded around one mirror and applied and adjusted as best as possible. Some models were asked to wear multiple pairs of eyelashes for extra impact; I felt lucky to wear only one pair!

When we were fully dressed in all the elements of our first outfits and were waiting for a turn with the stylists, we practiced walking and posing. RinRin made herself available to coach us all, particularly for posing. She was very kind and thoughtful. ♥ Each outfit had coordinated props, and RinRin helped everyone come up with five different poses that utilized the props and looked as cute as possible. (The format of the runway required each outfit to pause for poses at five different points, and the designers preferred that we did not repeat the same pose each time.) She was always willing to provide another critique or suggestion so that we’d all be at our best. I was very thankful for her input!

The ladies who volunteered for hair and makeup were very friendly and very efficient! We were lucky to have their assistance.

The extra curly hair that would be pinned into my hair was packed in with my outfit, so I had it handy and available when it was my turn for hair styling. My pigtails were adjusted to be pulled as high on my head as possible, then wound into buns to provide a base for pinning on the curly hair. They used lots of bobby-pins and hairpins to keep it securely attached to my head. (To test how well it was pinned, the stylist asked me to jump up and down. This is a kind of silly and dangerous thing to ask me, because I took her very seriously. It stayed in place without a shiver!)

Angelic Pretty Fashion Show
This is my serious face. I wore it whenever I wasn’t being reminded to smile!
As soon as my hair and makeup were all set, I went back to practicing. It might seem foolish, but I took this very seriously. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a model–but that doesn’t mean I wanted everyone in the audience to know it! I was very lucky to not only have RinRin’s suggestions to focus on improving, but also critique from my little sister. She was absolutely invaluable during the time backstage in preparation, because every time I did something I shouldn’t have done, she called me on it so that I could start over. I don’t know exactly how much time I spent walking back and forth across a small mock-up of the runway, but it wasn’t a short period of time!

The designers wanted the models to walk slowly, but with spirit. We needed to look up and keep our chins up–no looking down. (This was extra-hard for me! I tend to look down, sometimes subconsciously.) All of our turns were supposed to be right turns, despite the fact that natural inclination is to turn left when facing the audience at the last stop. And, most importantly, we had to express happiness and cheerfulness! ♥ I drilled myself on the first issues, that way I wouldn’t have to think about them during the actual fashion show and could then be as happy and cheerful as possible–because I’d really feel that way. I am very thankful that I took the time to practice; if I hadn’t, I am sure I would have made a fool of myself on stage!

As the starting time for the fashion show crept closer, the models for the Hangry & Angry fashion show joined us in the room, as the hair and makeup stylists were now their hair and makeup stylists. In only a few minutes it was time to head backstage! We were all very nervous, but also very excited!

Angelic Pretty Fashion Show
Everything was a blur once we got backstage! We were all anxious for the fashion show to begin!
Backstage we went over the layout for the quick change–outfits in one area, accessories in the other. As soon as we stepped off the stage we were instructed to remove our hand and other small accessories, so that when we got back to the dressing area backstage we could immediately place those items in the bag that accompanied our first outfit. We did our best to memorize our order, so that we knew who we would be following or followed by. The rule was that there must always be at least three girls waiting to go on stage, so if you looked up and only saw two you needed to get ready faster! RinRin walked down the runway to practice the timing for the lights and music during the different parts of the show.

The fashion show was arranged in two parts–the first featured outfits that had already been released and that were for sale in the Angelic Pretty pop-up shop. After the first part, there was a brief video of a previous fashion show–I believe it was one from Paris–to provide a little bit of extra time for the models to change. The second part showcased outfits that had not yet been released! (This was so exciting!) When the second part of the show concluded, all of the models followed each other on a cheerful walk-through, then circled back and repeated the walk-through, remaining on the stage. For this finale, Maki and Asuka came out, saluted the audience, and everyone exited behind them.

When the fashion show finally began, the excitement of the past few days was finally an experience! I blessedly forgot all of my anxiety as soon as I stepped out on the runway. I only hope that I conveyed my happiness to the audience! ♥

The rush to get backstage again and change for part two of the show was nerve-wracking! As soon as I stepped off the stage I made a mad dash down the hallway, skidding to a stop just in time to bolt through the door into the dressing area. My accessories were ready to go into the bag, and someone was waiting to accept them. I unbuckled my shoes and one of the fitters passed them to the next girl whose outfit they were for. Someone unzipped the dress and I ducked into the curtained area with the clothing racks, quickly changing into the blouse and jumperskirt for the next outfit and heading back out. I put on my socks while someone else helped to put on my shoes, then added jewelry while someone else adjusted my hair accessories. It was a great team effort! We were done with plenty of time to spare–much better than rushing right up until the last moment!

Angelic Pretty Fashion Show
This outfit isn’t my usual style, but it was so much fun to wear! I loved that wand!
My second time on stage was even more thrilling because I loved my second prop–a card-themed baton! I didn’t really know what to do with it when I first practiced during the fitting, but Maki cleared up my confusion; she told me to “give the audience magic” and gestured with a wave of the wand. I am all about magical girls, so that’s what I took on as inspiration! ♥ (Also, the models were constantly told to make our movements big–and with a big prop, that’s even easier!) I really hope that the audience received as much “magic” as I tried to give them!!!

Angelic Pretty Fashion Show
All of the models, plus the designers and RinRin!
After the final walk-through and the finale, everyone backstage was bouncy and jubilant! It was a relief that all of the anxiety was over, and now there was absolutely no tenseness. We had fun taking pictures with each other and chatting until we finally had to put our real clothes on and return the fashion show attire. It was a really fun experience, and I am so happy to have been able to participate! I will treasure these memories forever! ☆

After the fashion show I returned to the Angelic Pretty booth to help out for a few hours before the independent designers’ fashion show that evening. After all of the bustle that morning I enjoyed standing in front of the booth greeting people and passing out flyers for the Meet & Greet with Maki and Asuka and the autograph session. (Neither of which I was able to attend, but it was still fun promoting it!) It felt relaxing even though I was still on my feet.

When it was time to prepare, I gathered together some of the other girls who would be modeling for ICK! by Industrial Kitty. When we headed up to the hotel room to prepare for the fashion show, we were met by the makeup artists and hair stylists and the other models. It was quite crowded for a while in the room while we were all getting ready! I helped out with a few last-minute tweaks to the different outfits; I’ve developed a knack for sewing on buttons. It was lucky that we had planned in advance to have several hours to get ready, because we used every minute of it!

I got a little bit lost when we headed down to the room for the independent designers’ fashion show, but thankfully a lolita I had met earlier at the convention pointed us in the right direction. It was pretty chaotic when we got to the room, though. The room was really, really small–far too small for a fashion show–and it was already full of attendees even though there was still a gigantic line snaking around the downstairs level of people who wanted to get in to see the fashion show! There wasn’t any space for the models and designers to stand while we waited for the show itself, but we kept getting chided about blocking the flow of traffic in the hallway. It was very uncomfortable for a while, particularly as there was nothing we could do about it. Each of the designers had at least five models, and there were quite a few designers–so that’s a lot of people.

Finally someone authorized us to wait in an area behind the room, which also became where we would enter and exit to walk for the actual show. I’m not sure what happened beyond that point; I couldn’t see or tell anything about what was going on in the room, nor did I have any idea about how large it would be. My first glimpse of it was when I waited near the door only a few models prior to walking in. I hadn’t realized just how small the room was, but it was really, really tiny and utterly packed with guests and photographers. There wasn’t much room for the models to walk around, just a little space at the front of the room and part of an aisle down the middle, so each model was in and out very quickly.

After each designer’s models had walked on we planned to do a final walk-through and exit the room out the back door. It started off pretty well, but when I walked into the room I noticed a weird sound in the music. As I reached the back of the room near the door, I realized it wasn’t something in the music, it was the building’s fire alarm system. Someone had triggered the alarm system for a full evacuation of the hotel. As soon as the models for ICK! by Industrial Kitty exited the room, we followed our designer upstairs and out of the hotel. The evacuation wasn’t panicked, but it wasn’t very orderly either. Some people didn’t really seem aware that it was an evacuation, or they simply didn’t want to comply. It was difficult to keep an eye on the people you were with whenever we entered a densely-populated area.

When we got outside, we decided to head to the hotel across the street from the convention center. There were a lot of people waiting right outside the front doors of the evacuated hotel–which is generally not safe and also very inefficient–and at this point emergency vehicles were trying to get into the area. Along the way we encountered other groups from the fashion show or groups of lolita who had also been evacuated from the hotel; we brought them with us and tried to pass along the message of where to meet. Once we reached our destination I went back out to see if I could notice any other lolita. I found one group easily because they held up an opened parasol–it was a great beacon! The evacuation was a very stressful time, but thankfully in the end everyone was alright and we found all of the community members we were looking for. I was pretty tired when I got back to the hotel, though!

It took me no time at all to fall asleep that night, although I had a heck of a time trying to remove the false eyelashes from the earlier fashion show! I didn’t really know how to take them off, and even though some of my friends provided helpful information, the glue was stuck very firmly to my eyelids. I’m not really encouraged to try false eyelashes again anytime soon! (I need more time for recovery, haha~!)

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 1)

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 1)

And so my report on ACEN continues! I stayed with a friend on Thursday night, because I was concerned about getting back to the convention center early enough on Friday morning. She was graciously hosting two other friends from out of town, so Thursday evening involved trips to the airport and early Friday morning a house bustling with frilly girls. ♥ As volunteers at the Angelic Pretty booth in the convention’s Dealer’s Hall, we had to get there bright and early! Everyone was out of the house by 7am, and after running a quick errand we hurried to our destination!

Helping out at the booth was a really fun experience! I was very thankful to have something to dedicate myself to and focus my attention on, even if it was only chit-chatting with customers and neatening clothing racks. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not particularly fond of attending conventions; knowing that I was “working,” even in the loosest sense of the word, kept me both from boredom and anxiety. I did my best to follow any instructions or suggestions from the official employees; they were all very adept at their jobs and very knowledgeable as can be expected.

Angelic Pretty Pop-Up Shop
So cute, so frilly, so tempting!
There was another benefit to being stationed at the booth in the Dealer’s Hall–I saw all of my friends~! ★

The Angelic Pretty pop-up shop was a highlight for everyone in the community, even those who usually don’t purchase their clothing from the company. For those with different style preferences, the booth offered a wide selection of garments and accessories not only from Angelic Pretty, but also from Chantilly, Atelier Pierrot, and Black Peace Now. With fluffy frilly cupcake princess fashion on the Angelic Pretty side and elegant dark lovely enchanting fashion on the Harajuku Hearts side, there was a little bit of something for everyone! (h.NAOTO was also represented at the convention, providing even more of a variety, but as that was at a different booth I didn’t see it. I really didn’t leave my post during the weekend!)

As a result, whenever anyone from the local community wandered over I had the opportunity to chat with them while they browsed through the shop. It was lots of fun, and I don’t think there was anyone I missed an opportunity to say hello to~ I also spoke to many lolita (or starry-eyed-dreaming-of-lolita shoppers) I had never met before. Everyone was so nice, and so friendly, and the time passed so pleasantly! I really hope I’ll see some of my new acquaintances again sometime!

Paradise Rose in Artists' Alley
Paradise Rose, in Artist Alley–one of my stops during my lunch break!
A little bit later on the in the afternoon I took a break to eat lunch, give my husband a call, and say hello to two friends with tables in Artist Alley. (I had other friends with tables as well, some of which I sort-of knew about and others that I learned about as the day progressed, but I wasn’t able to visit everyone…I could only remember the numbers for the two who told me.) I briefly considered wandering around the hall for a bit, but the crowds seemed a bit too daunting; I hurried back to the booth to continue fluffing dresses and encouraging sales.

Advertising, Advertising!
Maki and Asuka had signs advertising the fashion show taped to their purses, and Maki had one on her back as well! It was adorable!
When I returned the shop staff had printed flyers for Saturday’s official Angelic Pretty fashion show. Everyone present was asked to help spread the word and pass out flyers. Maki, Asuka, and RinRin were very dedicated and efficient at engaging passers-by, even though Maki and Asuka don’t speak very much English. I think they were simply too cute to ignore or refuse a flyer from, even for the convention patrons who weren’t stopping by the booth for any shopping. ♥ With the help of the other volunteers, fashion show flyers wound up in the hands of nearly anyone who walked by. I had a very clear view of this from my position on the outer corner of the booth’s space.

All of the excitement and promotion for the fashion show made me feel rather nervous, but also exhilarated! ☆

The rest of the evening before the Dealer’s Hall closed passed by in a happy blur! I didn’t attend any of the other lolita fashion events that day, although I know there were some, but I still had a nice time just fluffing around the booth. I was an opportunity I am very thankful for! I’m not about to run off and seek my future as a shopgirl, but getting to do anything–even the smallest of things–for a company I adore so much was absolutely fantastic. After everything was draped and secured, I filed out with my friends, still thrilled from the experience! By the time I got to my hotel room and took off my shoes my feet ached from standing all day, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. ♥

I intended to go to sleep early, to get plenty of rest for the fashion show the next day, but I was too wound up to fall asleep immediately. It went just fine even with that minor kink in my plans, and I enjoyed chatting with my little sister while she worked on some last-minute preparations for the Independent Designer Fashion Show occurring in the evening. We had no idea what would be in store for that!

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 0)

Meetup Report: Angelic Pretty at ACEN (Day 0)

My weekend at Anime Central (ACEN) was even more wonderful than I could have imagined! ♥ It was a really fantastic time, despite crazy things like full hotel evacuations that coincided right with the end of the independent designers’ fashion show. (Yes, that really happened. Yes, it was absurd. Yes, chaos reigned in the streets around the hotel. YES, all frilly folks were accounted for and okay!!!) I was astonishingly lucky to be able to not only take part in the Angelic Pretty fashion show, but also to help out at their booth in the dealer’s hall and attend the formal tea party. It was magical~ ☆

Although the convention itself began on Friday, the fitting and first rehearsal for all volunteer models occurred on Thursday evening, from 4:00pm until 7:30pm. I felt very lucky that I had taken Thursday off of work when originally planning my time off–before I knew anything about the open call for the fashion show. Taking the train to the convention center isn’t difficult, but it can be time consuming. I doubt I would have made it to the fitting on time if I had work that day, unless I had left early. I wasn’t the only one–there were a few girls who couldn’t make the fitting due to their travel arrangements. I did my best to plan for it, however…and wound up getting there an hour early! XD Whoops!

I feel like I should add a disclaimer at some point stating that I am not a model nor have I ever proclaimed to be one. The extent of my “modeling experience” has been helping out friends when they are involved in fashion shows for school-related or independent projects–and even that is something I’ve only done a handful of times. I’ve helped with a few local community-organized lolita fashion show in past years, but most of those occurred when I had first started wearing the style. It’s been quite a while since I was involved in anything like that. Although I’m kinda scrawny and am pretty easy to zip up in a dress and direct to walk across a room, I don’t have the skill (or talent) of a model. (I’m also utterly the wrong height.) I applied to model in the Angelic Pretty fashion show on a whim, just because I love the company so very dearly.

It’s hard for me to find the right way to express how I feel about Angelic Pretty. Many lolita ♥love♥ Angelic Pretty, so it isn’t as though I have some attachment to the company that no one else has. I’m not their most devoted customer or fan. I don’t collect the newest prints or aspire to the styling featured in magazines. I don’t know all of the tidbits of trivia about designers or models. I’ve never visited one of their stores. I simply adore the clothing. Wearing a lolita outfit from Angelic Pretty makes me feel like a truer version of myself–happier and more self-confident. I don’t disdain any of the other brand companies, but I’ve always been more partial to the designs and inclination of Angelic Pretty. Their presence at ACEN was more than I could have ever hoped for. I applied to model because any opportunity to interact with the company sounded amazing to me.

Thankfully, it was amazing. The reality of it out-shined anything I could have dreamed.

Waiting far too early with my luggage at the designated meeting spot, chatting on the phone with my younger brother to pass the time, I spotted Maki, Asuka, and RinRin. That moment sparked recognition that this was real; while I was planning for the trip or reading the email with instructions or traveling toward my destination, there was always a hint of, “Maybe this will be cancelled,” or “What if it doesn’t work out.” I didn’t jump up and chase after them–I continued my phone conversation and started chatting with the other girls as they arrived, but there was so much more excitement! ♥

Watching the designers and model at the fitting and practice increased my admiration for them. They are all very dedicated, professional, and inspirational. All of the models selected from the model call were volunteers, and we were both treated with confidence that we would perform suitably and provided with direction and instruction to compensate for our lack of experience. (I don’t mean to discount any of the other girls’ talents or abilities; I simply feel that it would be unfair to classify any of us as professional models.) The designers treated every detail with seriousness and consideration that demonstrated their adroitness. I really enjoyed witnessing their passion for their work.

At the fitting we tried on the outfits the designers had preliminarily assigned to us and they made comments and minor adjustments styling or accessorizing. Discussions and notes with hair and makeup volunteers followed. (I particularly adored that Maki and Asuka had drawn sketches of the hairstyles they wanted for each model; very simple and very charming!) Models were asked to bring wigs and most of the hair styling was performed on wigs rather than actual hair. I don’t own a wig, and rather than fit a borrowed one on me they decided to pin curly fake hair to my head in two voluminous pigtails. Watching Asuka and Maki try to describe what they wanted to the hair stylists to do with the false hair became utterly adorable when the Japanese explanation was punctuated with “Mickey! MIC-KEY!” and gesturing like the iconic round mouse ears.

While other logistics and arrangements for the fashion show were discussed by those directly involved, the participants practiced with the hand props for their outfits. Every coordination came with props of some kind to accompany and accent the outfit: cupcakes and forks for those wearing Sugary Fairy Cake, lollipops and candy for models wearing Toy Drops, parasols or purses for outfits without a print, and birdcages and flower baskets to coordinate with the newest birdcage series. The layout of the stage involved five different places for each look to stop and pose. Finding five different ways to pose with a give set of props could be pretty difficult! I was definitely not as original as some of the other volunteering models; I probably repeated the same motion quite a few times. ~_~

Every last minute of the scheduled time for the fitting was used. In fact, I believe we ran over our allotted time. There was always some other instruction to add, another notice to announce, more critique to be delivered, and such~ I wasn’t working terribly hard, but I felt exhausted by the time it was over…although my evening wasn’t over yet and the convention had yet to begin!

On Being Lolita: Angelic Pretty at Anime Central

On Being Lolita: Angelic Pretty at Anime Central

I am supremely excited that this year one of the special guests at my local anime convention, Anime Central (ACEN) will be Angelic Pretty~ ♥

Angelic Pretty has been my favourite Japanese lolita brand house since I started wearing lolita fashion six years ago~ ♥ I don’t particularly dislike any of the other brands, not by far, and I don’t own Angelic Pretty’s clothing and accessories exclusively, but there’s just something about their designs that really draws me in. When I was first wearing the style I would print out pictures of their dresses and imagine that some day I would learn to sew and these would be inspiration. Ultimately that did not happen–firstly I am a horror with a sewing machine and secondly I like purchasing the clothing directly. I like supporting companies that make things I enjoy buying, after all, and the best way to show that support is with purchases. I would be very excited if BABY, the Stars Shine Bright, Innocent World, Mary Magdalene, or any other Japanese lolita company was represented anywhere in my area, but for me there is an extra bit of thrill in knowing that it will be my very favourite!

In general I don’t attend the local anime convention, even though my friends really look forward to it. I’ve attended a few years in the past, but I don’t really follow anime so there isn’t a whole lot there that appeals to me. It is another place to see my friends, but usually I’d rather wait for another day and another meetup. I also get really nervous in such large crowds of people. Sometimes I get very lost trying to navigate the maze that is the convention center and its attached hotels. Overall, it isn’t the sort of thing I plan on attending–but I have said to others, when the subject of the convention has come up in conversation, that the one thing that could make me attend would be the presence of Angelic Pretty.

At the time, it was something I stated mostly in jest. Although Chicago is a large city in the US, it doesn’t attract the same kind of attention that the East and West costs do. As Japanese lolita companies have expanded their scope to attending events in San Francisco (and opening stores) and New York, that was very exciting–but it didn’t necessarily seem to foretell any involvement in the Midwest. I honestly didn’t believe that Angelic Pretty would ever attend anything in my general area, anime convention or not. I couldn’t imagine a situation in which it would be a good business move for any of the lolita fashion companies, despite how much I would personally adore that kind of chance. Now that it’s actually happening, I am thrilled! ★

As soon as the announcement was semi-official, I started getting notes from different friends, reminding me of the words I’d casually tossed off in previous years when questioned about ACEN.

When details for the tea party were made available, I was so worked up about hoping I could get one of the tickets that my fears wormed their way into my nightmares. When I received the confirmation email about the ticket after sitting at my pink computer holding my breath and hope-hope-hoping that I wouldn’t be unlucky, I finally relaxed a bit–although I’m still nervous! I hope I don’t spill anything on myself or others, or do something similarly embarrassing. I am not very well-coordinated or graceful, unfortunately…

I also applied to model in the fashion show, and somehow I was selected~ I am also nervous about that, of course. There’s a nagging voice in my mind that keeps thinking they’ll see me and change their minds, or that they confused me with someone else and didn’t mean to choose me. I know, rationally, that both of those things are incredibly unlikely–but that doesn’t stop me from worrying. As long as I don’t worry so much that I can’t enjoy myself, I’ll survive regardless of any internalized silliness on my part!

I want to remember to take lots of pictures, enjoy all of the time that I can spend with my friends, and participate in everything to the fullest extent that I possibly can! I never could have imagined that I would be so excited for an anime convention, haha~ My life would certainly be a lot less exciting if I hadn’t become interested in lolita fashion; I never regret it. ♥ This seems like it will be a wonderful weekend. I’m determined to have a great time no matter what happens~!

Update: Crème Puff on the Mend

Update: Crème Puff on the Mend

For the past few months I’ve been at the vet every-other Friday. Crème Puff, the one of my guinea pig pair who has unfortunately poor health, was in particularly bad shape. We learned that he has heart trouble, and that untreated heart trouble lead to edema–in his case, fluid in his cavities and in his lungs. His heart was enlarged from the stress. He had an upper respiratory infection. I spent time and money on x-rays, medications, exams, and tests.

After all those weeks, things have settled down. He’s not 100% better, but he’s well enough that his next check up is in three months rather than two weeks. (After six bi-weekly appointments, I’m ready for a break if he is.) He’s on a series of medications that appear to be working, although slowly. He needs to have his heart ultrasounded, so that’s next up on my list. He’ll be on the medication for life, so that’s a bit of an adjustment. I’ve started waking up just before my husband leaves at 4:30am and giving the guinea pig his morning dose of medicine before collapsing back in bed until my own alarm goes off. (Trying to fit that in before I leave for work makes me feel rushed and frustrated.)

The guinea pigs took a short vacation (with my husband and I as chaperones) to visit my parents and enjoy being spoiled by my stepfather.

Taking my pets to and from the vet makes me feel very stressed, which I think is rather expected and obvious. I’ve been focused entirely on my pet’s health, so I haven’t been dressing up, going anywhere, or spending much time with friends. I felt like I didn’t have enough time or money to do fun things, but I also didn’t feel motivated. I’m looking forward to enjoying my hobbies and activities now that I am no longer fraught with worry about my dear piggle.

I’m very thankful that he’s recovering. ♥ I love my pets very, very much–I always want to keep them happy and healthy. He’s happy, and maybe he’ll get to “healthy” eventually.