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Making of a Ringmaster

September 5, 2014

This month's self portrait started just like almost every other self portrait I've done: with a trip to the thrift store. The ringmaster costume depended on a kickass red jacket, and I knew if I couldn't find one, then I'd have to make one. A jacket is a fairly complicated item of clothing to make from scratch - altering an existing jacket is much easier.

I tried on every single jacket in the Women's Jackets aisle of Value Village, and narrowed it down to four. I took them over to the changing area and tried them all on again in front of a mirror, which immediately disqualified two.

And because decisions are hard, I needed a second opinion. I would have asked Steve but he was home in constant pain-medicated-slumber thanks to his ear infection. I asked a random woman in the changing area, who was interested in my quest but honestly no help and instead took one of my rejected jackets home with her. And so I texted my brother in San Francisco for my lifeline and left with this cream jacket that fit really nicely.

Once home, I started on its alteraterations. First was to bring the front of the jacket up to shorten it and make it more formal looking.

Next I freehanded a tails pattern on paper, pinned the paper to the jacket to confirm the size and shape and length worked, and then sewed the tails out of uphosltry fabric. I had selected the fabric to most closely match the pattern of the jacket: I didn't care about it's color because I would be making the whole thing red anyway.

With the jacket altered, I set out to transform it red. I considered dying the jacket, but was concerned the different fabric blends of the jacket and the tails would dye differently. So instead I grabbed some fabric medium and painted the whole thing.

The dogs were very helpful during the painting process. Mitzi chewed on a stick (from the bucket in the garage labeled Mitzi Sticks), while Olive watched her chew on the stick. Every so often, Olive would pick up a piece of broken stick, chew on it, then spit it out because it's just a stick, but Mitzi is so enthralled by it, but again it's just a stick, Olive would like to go back in the house now please kthx.


Painting the jacket took longer than I expected, and then I ran out of red paint 75% through the project. Even after heat setting, and making sure I followed the fabric medium instructions, the jacket is still really stiff. Which is sad, because I think I would wear the jacket more often because this red jacket is completely badass.

With the jacket ready, all I had to do was assemble the rest of the outfit from my costume chest and closet, locate a suitable circus-y looking tent, and get up at the butt crack of dawn to shoot before the business owning the tent opened for the day.

Tophat: Steve made this for me, basically copying the hat I made (and still have!) for my Trixie costume four years ago. He used a scrap of material left over from the tails and painted it red so I would have a ribbon that matched my jacket.

Bowtie: purchased at Sears and I kind of want to wear it everywhere.

Blouse: vintage, purchased at a thrift shop in San Francisco many years ago. It's too short for general wearing, but worked perfectly here.

Waistcoat: a stretchy underbust faux corset that I've had forever.

Whip: was actually hanging behind the door of my new office at my new job when I started. No one would (could?) tell me why it was there, but it's mine now.

Pants: leggings were too see through (and also leggings are not pants), so I am wearing yoga pants, shh don't tell.

Boots: just my normal dress boots.

Lion: Olive was excited to be part of the photo shoot, less excited to be wearing this AMAZING felt mane and ears hat that Steve made for her.

Bulltub: totally my laundry basket turned upside down with printer paper taped around the middle.

Ringmaster (33.8)

August 31, 2014

Steve spent over a week in Indianapolis earlier this month at GenCon. He had a great time and I am glad he had the opportunity to blend in with thousands of other bearded nerds and play lots of games and eat bad chili on top of spagetti and covered by three pounds of cheese.

His trip left me to wrangle the teenager and two dogs alone in the final days of summer break.

My newfound power caused me to sing the theme song to Charles in Charge for pretty much the entire week, substituting my own name in for Charles.

I found this way more entertaining that Donovan or Olive did, and Mitzi was just happy that I was serenading her because any attention is good attention Mitzi is such a good dog.

I made decisions such as: what to eat for dinner (waffles!), where to bring the car for some work (adult things!), how many mochas to drink (all of the mochas!), which work outfits I could wear without any additional assistance (no back-zipping dresses!), how to spend a long weekend (go to Homer!), and which side of the bed to sleep on (lol just kidding Olive gets to decide that!).

And then Steve brought an ear infection home with him that kept him in bed for another week. So we continued operating under the Valette in Charge regime.

Taking care of the dogs and staying on top of the teenager's schedule and transportation requirements and bringing Steve soup and nagging him about taking his medication and getting dinner on the table and hitting work deadlines and last night I had a little breakdown, because this shit is hard.

I am so grateful to have a husband who is a real partner with me, who shoulders the household responsibilities and decisions with me, who calls me on my bullshit and expects me to call him on his, and who hugs me when I need it after a little stress breakdown. I don't always want to be in charge.

Pair of Frogs

August 6, 2014

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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