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Filtering by Tag: history

The Vibrant World of Russian Folk Art

Russian Folk Art gives us an insight into the ideologies and history of Russian culture. Russia is well known for its contributions to folk art, the most widely recognised being Matryoshka’s (or Nesting Dolls), which are signature figures of Russian art and craft. However, Russian folk art features a variety of characterful crafts, such as embroidery, lace-making, painting, prints and beading – all of which are of interest to us at Playful Promises! Their crafts are known for being whimsical, vibrant and surreal.

Our Playful Promises Sasha set, inspired by Russian Folk Art

Our Playful Promises Sasha set, inspired by Russian Folk Art

If you hadn’t already noticed, unique florals are kind of “our thing” at PP, and naturally Russia’s vibrant paintings of flora are what we’ve looked to for inspiration behind our Sasha set. Russia has many different types of painting and craft techniques which include florals. One of which being Khokloma, which originated in the 17th century in the Nizhni Novgorod province, which at the time was just recovering from the damage caused by the Mongol invasion. Here, surrounded by woodland, there was an abundance of wood and many began to master the art of wood-work. The crafts were then varnished and decorated in gold and painted with floral patterns.

Golden Khokhloma hand painted decorative plate

Golden Khokhloma hand painted decorative plate

Khokloma art generally features red, gold and black – and these colours bear a profound symbolism for the decoration of churches, as well as decoration on eating utensils used in monasteries and nunneries. The red symbolises beauty, the gold heavenly light and the black signified the cleansing of the human soul. The “grass-leaves” style of painting featured in Khokloma is inspired by the rural-living folk artists of Russia, as well as rooted in folklore. The golden leaves and flowers are meant to signify a happy life and bring good fortune.

A wooden chopping board with folk Gorodets painting from Russia

A wooden chopping board with folk Gorodets painting from Russia

Gorodets painting, another art form which originated from the Nizhni Novgorod region, in the town of Gorodets. Gorodets painting is manifested by it's freehand paint brush depictions of horses, roosters and flora,  and it's graphic black outlines and intense bright colours. Another notable feature of Gorodets painting is that they do not follow the laws of perspective and therefore seem surreal with giant flowers surrounding smaller figurines. The themes are light and carefree, and therefore the technique is also known as naïve art, because of the childlike quality to them.

Playful Promises Sasha set with floral Gorodets pattern

Playful Promises Sasha set with floral Gorodets pattern

Our Sasha collection takes inspiration from the vibrant, positive energy from the Russian countryside, using surreal and idealistic florals to make you feel bright and happy when you put your pants on in the morning! Our exclusive and designed in-house digital print is slightly modernised and symmetrical for a Playful Promises twist, paired with black mesh and a classic retro silhouette. To finish off the set, a little light blue bow contrasts against the black and compliments the floral design. This set is inspired by the classic, Russian heritage yet updated for a modern-day folktale. 

 

References:

http://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/folklore-pattern-gorodets-painting-russia.html

http://www.artrusse.ca/khokhloma_en.htm

http://russiapedia.rt.com/of-russian-origin/khokhloma/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Folklore_of_Russia

http://www.russia-ic.com/culture_art/visual_arts/970/#.Vv1LyfkrLcs

 

The Legend of the Mermaid

Seashell detail featured in our Ada set

Seashell detail featured in our Ada set

Mermaids can be found in legends across the world dating back to around 2000 B.C. While many are familiar with Disney’s lighthearted production of the Little Mermaid, most underwater spirits in mystical folk tales were described not only as beautiful and enchanting, but also dangerous and murderous. These sirens of the ocean have always been portrayed with quite a contradictory personality: while on one hand they were often described as gorgeous maidens tempting lonely sailors at sea, they were also often portrayed as beasts drowning men in the depths of the deep black ocean. The conflicting personality of the mermaid has allowed her to remain intriguing still today.

One well known tale of the seductive deception of the mermaid is the Greek myth of Ulysses and the Sirens. Before setting sail back home to Greece, Ulysses was warned by a prophetess Circe about the beautiful but deadly song of the sirens that was known to sweetly lure sailors into the ocean to drown. When passing through the waters that these mermaidens inhabited, Ulysses ordered his crew to put wax in their ears so that they would not be able to hear the deadly song. Ulysses, wanting to hear the song himself without being influenced to jump to his death, had his crew tie him to a mast and keep him there, though he was driven to insanity begged to be released to them once he heard their beautiful song. 

John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1910

John William Waterhouse, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1910

The most typical storyline of a mermaid folklore across all culture involves a mermaid falling in love with a young man. If the man accepts her, she drags him down to his death in the sea, in some stories out of malice and in others simply because she forgets that mortals cannot live underwater. On the other hand if the man rejects her love, she would simply kill him. Regardless of the choice the man makes, it seems that the enchanting beauty of the legendary mermaids resulted in death for her unfortunate victim of attraction either way.

John William Waterhouse, A Mermaid, 1900

John William Waterhouse, A Mermaid, 1900

A somewhat happier example of this type of story is the Cornish legend of a mysterious woman in church one day who attracts the attention of all the young men, specifically a Mathey Trewella. At the end of the service, she lures Mathey towards the end of the cliffs at the edge of town and he is never seen again. Years later, a Cornish sailor from this town is greeted by a mermaid who sweetly asks him to remove the anchor from the entrance of her home, as it is blocking her on her way back to see her husband, Mathey Trewella. The sailor returns home startled, as mermaids were also a sign of unfortunate events to come, and puts up a mermaid figure to honor Mathey’s fate.

Frederic Leighton, The Fisherman and the Syren, 1856-1858

Frederic Leighton, The Fisherman and the Syren, 1856-1858

While marine biology was still in its infancy during the Age of Exploration, sightings of these beautiful creatures throughout Age of Exploration was quite common. In 1614 John Smith, known as the love of Pocahontas, reported spotting a lovely sea maiden “swimming about with all possible grace” and noted that “her long green hair imparted to her an original character that was by no means unattractive”.  Christopher Columbus also mentioned having seen three mermaids frolicking on the coast of Haiti during his seafaring journeys.

Disney, Peter Pan, 1953

Disney, Peter Pan, 1953

While today’s stories describe merfolk as a bit more gentle than the manipulative maidens of old tales, many depictions, like the mermaids from Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan, still have quite a bit of sass and seduction. Additionally, the most recent film from the Pirates of the Caribbean series in 2015 depicts a group of mermaids as their classic, seductive, murderous selves, luring pirates into the ocean to drown.

Our Ada collection draws inspiration from the enchanting sensuality of the mermaid legends with a modern retro twist. The peach satin cup is delicately embroidered to highlight the shell shape of the bra and features a delicate bow at center front. A sheer mesh above the lower shell cup adds a beautiful enticement to the bra. The peach satin brief is shaped into a shell on the front panel, topped with embroidery to pick out the details. The rest of the brief is comprised of sheer show-off mesh and a matching centre bow. This set allows the modern enchantress to show off her elegance and charm, taking a page out of the legendary mermaids’ book of seduction.

- Kristi

The History of the Corset

Stays 1780-89

Stays 1780-89

Hi, my name’s Steph and I’m interning at Playful Promises this week! I’m a Costume Design student at UAL, so I thought I’d write a blog post about historical underwear – more specifically, the corset!

 

When we think of historical corsets today, what comes to mind is the extreme hourglass shape fashionable during the Victorian period. But when did corsets really begin?

 

The first instances of corsets, or ‘stays’, being used under a bodice can be traced back to the end of 17th century. These were stiffened conical shapes which lifted the bust and shaped the waist. However they were not the restrictive garments we imagine today – women at the time would stitch their stays by hand, and there were no metal eyelets for lacing, so stays could not be laced very tightly or the laboriously stitched together garment would break. 

 

 

 

 

 

During the 18th century, stays were laced either at the back or at the front under or over an embroidered stomacher (a stiff panel which attached to the bodice) in a zig-zag shape. In her portrait to the left, Madame de Pompadour wears a stomacher decorated with a line of bows; a look she popularised.

 

Towards the end of the 18th century, the fashionable waistline moves upwards (think Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice), so corsets also change - dresses are looser so the body no longer needs shaping in the same way. The emphasis in this period is on the bust, so cups are built into the corset for the first time, and stiff wooden busks are used to keeps the breasts apart. Below is an example of a corset from 1790.

With the advent of the Victorian period, the waist moves back down and more recognisable corsets come into use. These make use of new inventions – metal eyelets and metal busks which use hooks to allow the corset to be fastened at the front, as well as laced at the back. Criss-cross lacing is introduced, and remains in use today. It is during this period that tight-lacing becomes popular, along with the hourglass figure. Below is an example of a corset from 1864. 

Corsets largely fell out of fashion during the 1920s, as a new "boyish" shape was desired by flappers. They began to come back into popularity in the 1950s in the form of bustiers and girdles like the ones to the right.

 

Modern designers like Jean Paul Gaultier have revisited the corset in haute couture, and the resurgence of burlesque has ensured that corsets are once again  fashionable and desirable items of lingerie!

One of Jean Paul Gaultier's stunning designs

One of Jean Paul Gaultier's stunning designs

Ready to try out corsets for yourself? Our corsets and waspies are designed for the boudoir or as outerwear (rather than waist training corsets, which need to be specially made to safely reduce your waist-line)!