Thursday, December 18, 2014

Charming Activities: Ballet

Dance Studio

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!


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

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~! ♥

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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~)

Monday, July 30, 2012

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.

Untitled
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!