Friday, July 29, 2011

Where Did All The Funeral Hats Go?

The death of Amy Winehouse last week, though not completely unexpected, was still very sad and the internet this week has been flooded with pictures of her life and her funeral, most notably Kelly Osbourne's funeral beehive.

I thought this was a fitting tribute to pay to her friend but it did make me wonder what happened to the funeral hat?

Queen Victoria set the standard for mourning attire after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, wearing black mourning clothes for the rest of her life. In the Victorian era, men would wear a black armband when someone died, but women wore full black crape dresses for a year and a day. Then they wore crape-trimmed black dresses for another 21 months.

To this day the Royal family continue the tradition of wearing a hat to church at all times and thus a funeral is no exception.

Being from the the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland where the Wee Free Church still dominates I was taught that church and hats go hand in hand. At funerals I always thought this was a bonus as when I cry my face goes all red and blotchy for at least a couple of hours thus the ability to hide behind the rim of a hat or even better a veil (lucky Catholics get the full shielding force of a mantilla) saved much embarrassment.

It seems nowadays however that outside of certain church tradition the funeral hat has been completely done away with, with the exception of notably stylish funerals. The relatively recent funerals of designer Alexander McQueen and fashion stylist Isabella Blow stand out as exceptions.

As well as the funeral of Michael Jackson (not surprisingly) where all the Jackson sisters had their heads covered.

But the question remains; why has the funeral hat, despite its practical uses, disappeared? Maybe like hats in all other situations it has become a casualty of the ever casual clothing cult recent generations have fostered. The lack of enthusiasm to put effort into our appearance for occasions other than weddings has made the hat seem like an unnecessary accessory worn only by those who wish to draw attention to themselves. A veil may be seen as overly dramatic or diva like or maybe the focus on fashion at a funeral would be seen as crass and vain.

Maybe it is as simple as timing issues. When somebody dies we all have a black dress or suit somewhere in our wardrobe but a funeral hat? I mean, when is it appropriate to go shopping for a funeral hat? Before someone is dead would seem more than a little morbid but focussing on your outfit in the few days between when someone has died and the funeral would make you seem shallow and more than a little self obsessed thus when do you go funeral hat shopping?

Personally I am going to go and get a funeral hat now for no other reason than now is when I have thought about it and I will continue to wear a hat at all funerals I attend not only for the sake of my blotchy, red, puffy face but because I like the idea of dressing up out of respect to say a final goodbye to someone I love and I can only hope that my funeral (in many, many, many years time) looks as fashiontastic as Mr McQueen's and Ms Blow's.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bug Love

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love bugs (except spiders they just freak me out). In fact the bugs in Japan are one of my favorite things about the country.

Lets compare...

A British beetle

Crazy Japanese beetles

Which I assume was the inspiration behind this brooch

A British wasp

A HUGE Japanese wasp

So this week the Cicada decided to hatch. For anyone who doesn't know cicada are crazy bugs that look like ET. They spend 7 years underground as ugly grub things then hatch and live for 7 days before raining down on the streets of Japan like a strange plague sent by a pissed off god. During these 7 days they fly from tree to tree screaming like a banshee.

In fairness if I only had 7 days to live I would make as much noise as possible too so I wont hold my thumping headache against them. Instead I will dedicate today's blog to insect hats.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Aka Tombo hats

Hello all, sorry you didn't get a blog on Friday but it was my two year wedding anniversary so I spent the day with my boy instead of my computer.

I have also been really busy trying to fill up my etsy shop as it was looking a little depleted with me being away so much recently so today I thought I would give you a look at all the new goodies I have been putting up in the shop.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marine Day

Sorry for the lack of blog on Monday but it was Marine day here in Japan thus a national holiday so I spent the day shopping for supplies for my avant garde ocean themed hat.

According to Wikipedia:

"The day was known as Marine Memorial Day (海の記念日 umi no kinen bi) until 1996. Communications Minister Shozo Murata designated the holiday in 1942 to commemorate the Meiji Emperor and his 1876 voyage in the Meiji-Maru, an iron steamship constructed in England in 1874. "Marine Day" was declared a national holiday in 1995 as a day of gratitude for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan."

To celebrate I have rounded up some Maritime hats including the one at the top of the article which I think looks like water thus is kind of ocean related.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paris Haute Couture Autumn/winter 2011

A quick peek at what was being shown in Paris at the beginning of the month.

The Haute Couture ranges are often seen as being a bit out there but I am told they give us an idea of what the ready to wear fashions will look like a few seasons down the line. Calmed down versions that is. Good news for Aka Tombo fans as it seems Armani and I are singing from the same hymn book with a Japanese/Western mash up!

It would appear however that Armani was one of the few to embrace flamboiant head gear with Valentino opting for very simple yet feminine wire headdresses woven through French pleats.

Dior chose to keep his thinking firmly in the box.

and Giambattista Valli going for the simplest of simple with a mere head wrap, which is gangster pretty I guess.

All the Chanel girls were decked out in boater hats sitting right at the back of their head in fabrics matching their outfits, which honestly I find too dull to warrant a picture. Sorry Chanel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crown Wars

When I first came to Japan I couldn't help but notice that all the Buddha statues had hats on. In all the pictures of Buddha I had seen I ddn't remember seeing him in a hat but as it was every statue I passed I figured it must have some major importance. Luckily one of my Student lived in a temple as her husband and eldest son were both monks and so one day I finally asked her what the significance behind the red hat was. She looked at me a little confused at first then answered; "it's so he wont get cold". Naturally I laughed thinking she was joking but as her face contorted into greater confusion I quickly controlled myself and gave her a questioning look. She went on to explain that Japan has very long, cold winters and people were worried that as Buddha was bald and usually naked from the waist up he would get cold. So every winter the women of the temple would make him a hat and a little bib to help him get through the winter. At first I wasn't sure if she was completely taking the piss but over time (and four long, cold winters) I have come to think of it as a very nice thing to do. Scotland is also cold but I never remember seeing anyone knit Jesus a hat. Then I found this

However I also found this

which made me question how reliable a source google images is?

My interest was tweaked however so I went in search of a hat for Jesus and stumbled upon the news of Swiebodzin, a town in Poland, which recently unveiled the worlds largest Jesus statue. The effigy itself is 33 meters tall (one for every year Jesus lived apparently) and the base is 15 meters making it 48 meters tall. The Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro stands at 39.6 meters making this a bit of a Tokyo tower vs Eiffel tower situation.

You see Tokyo tower is actually 28ft taller that the Eiffel tower but only because it has a really long pole on top. The fact remains that the Eiffel tower is much more impressive than it's Japanese counterpart. The same can be said for the Brazil vs Poland Jesus. The one in Poland is taller but the one in Brazil is surely more impressive.

I think the people in Poland realised this and decided that their Jesus had to be even bigger and so the final height of Polish Jesus is 51 meters (167ft). And what gives Polish Jesus this extra height? You spied it. His CROWN!!!!

That's right Polish Jesus has a HUGE gold crown to make him tower over Brazilian Jesus. This is good news for Brazil who merely need to get their Jesus an even bigger crown to get the world title back. I have attached some photos of my favorite crowns for consideration.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I love the 1940's!!!

While walking off a hangover in Vegas recently I stumbled across the Bettie Page shop in Planet Hollywood and fell in love (read spent too much cash on dresses) and it made me realise how much I love 1940's - 1950's fashion. Since returnig to Japan I have spent waaaay too many hours trawling the internet looking for the perfect 1940's dress to wear to my friends wedding in November. During one of these trawls I fell upon pictures of Christian Dior's Spring 2011 collection and literally had to catch my breath. Way too much pretty for one set of eyes to take in!

And the best thing about the 1940's is that no outfit was complete without a hat as the ladies below prove.

And there were so many styles to choose from!

I now have my dress, wrap and shoes all ready for November though I am still hunting for vintage elbow length gloves and trying to decide which of the many, many hat styles to choose from. Will keep you posted on my progress and pics will follow in November (can't give away the whole look before the actual day, sorry)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Avant Garde Millinery

Milliners of Etsy are having a new contest within the group to design an avant garde hat with a nautical theme. The contest will be judged by the very talented Australian milliner Richard Nylon who's millinery and work ethic are challenging long held millinery ideas.

"Millinery is not a dying art it's a living art. What I don't like about millinery is this: oh this is the way Madame such and such did it in Paris in 1924 and therefore we have to do it. No, no, no, no, no what we do is we do what works and I'm sure if Madame whatever her name was in Paris in 1924 had super glue she would have used it. Modern milliners have to use what they have got but they have to embrace new materials too."

With this ethos in mind I went hunting the internet for avant garde fashion to use as inspiration and ended up stumbling upon my new favourite designers.

The first, Guo Pei, I have mention before in coverage of Beijing fashion week. Guo started out making making costumes for the Chinese Theatre and this has spilled over into his runway creations making him, in my opinion, the gold encrusted Chinese brother of Alexander McQueen.

The second is Swedish fashion designer Sandra Backlund who started her own label in 2004. I love wool therefore immediately fell in love with Sandra's sculptured wearable art. In 2007 she won the festival International De Mode et De Photographie at Hyeres and was selected by Franca Sozzani of Vogue Italia for the Protege Project in 2008. Love love love!

Chances of me pulling off a gold sculptured knitted nautical hat...not so sure?