One Delightful Day with Nora!

5 Feb

Our friend, Nora Gustuson, returned home from New York to take a role in The Montana Repertory Theater‘s touring production of Biloxi Blues, a play by Neil Simon set in World War II. This was fantastic news, because I was able to visit with a delightful friend, see her amusing play, and she even agreed to pose as the beautiful and hilarious Rosina in my La Finta Semplice Photos!

“La Finta Semplice” means “The Pretended Simpleton”, and the opera is about a group of lovers who cannot get married until the eldest, most buffoonish brother in the family gets married. So, they invite the mischievous Rosina over to pretend to be an idiot, and when the buffoon discovers that she is over-awed by his (dubious)  intellect, he falls madly in love with her. It is Mozart’s first full opera, and was written by him at around 10 years of age.

Nora looking thoughtful.

Nora looking thoughtful.

I had been planning this photo for over a year, buying picture frames and tying to design a costume. (I had originally taken a photo for this series a while back, but the aspect ratio was wrong and there were other technical problems that couldn’t be fixed in post, so I needed to re-shoot.)

After my Don Giovanni shoot was finished a while back, I washed one of the white gowns, to get it clean. The dye of the ivory sleeves ran over the silk taffeta. I tried to get the stain out using peroxide, which only made the stain run. It looked like someone had thrown tea on it! I thought the beautiful silk dress was ruined!

Well, I knew the dress couldn’t be sold that way, so I thought I would dye it.

The original dress on the left was stained. I dyed it and added appliques on the right.

The original dress on the left was stained. I dyed it and added appliques on the right.

At first, I was just going to dye it red, but then I thought, “Why don’t you dye it green and use it for your La Finta Semplice photo of Rosina?” So I dyed it green.

I also decided to make the front more elaborate to cover the stain and make it look like a new dress. With the help of my apprentice, Catey, I made some appliques. We each drew some flowers, then decided on which ones would be easiest to make. We traced the pattern onto the back of some interfacing which was adhered to silk scraps using a washable marker.

First I drew the flowers with washable marker and then cut them out, sewed them and turned them to make my own appliques.

First I drew the flowers with washable marker and then cut them out, sewed them and turned them to make my own appliques.

After we cut the flowers out, we sewed them together and turned them. Then, using Gladys Love’s Gingko Leaf tutorial from “Embellishing with Anything” as our guide, we sewed lines through the flowers to make them look more leafy!

Here I pinned the appliques to a bolt of fabric to see how to lay them out on the dress.

Here I pinned the appliques to a bolt of fabric to see how to lay them out on the dress.

After pinning the flowers to a bolt of green silk to best see how to arrange them on the bodice, I pinned them to the actual dress and sewed them on like buttons. I also added gemstones to get a little sparkle and to finish of the centers of the flowers. I used a fabric/bead glue.

Here's a close up of the finished appliques on the dress!

Here’s a close up of the finished appliques on the dress!

The under-bodice is made of a green brocade. I also glued gems to it to make it sparkle. It has a dropped front and high hips, making it a rather strange shape.

The under-bodice is a brocade with sparkly gems. Close up on the left, full shot on the right.

The under-bodice is a brocade with sparkly gems. Close up on the left, full shot on the right.

I also decided that Rosina should be photographed in front of a large group of paintings, and that each painting should be a continuation of the last. I painted all these pictures the night before I left for the shoot. The eight paintings connect to show a large Rococo style tree. You will also see portraits of Herr and Frau Mozart flanking the main painting.

We set up this set at Lizzie’s house after attending Nora’s play!

Nora Gustuson wears the newly dyed and embellished dress as Rosina in my La Finta Semplice photo set. Here you can see the full set decor.

Nora Gustuson wears the newly dyed and embellished dress as Rosina in my La Finta Semplice photo set. Here you can see the full set decor. Also, a roll of toilet paper.

Nora arrived and styled her own hair into a bow and pouf — she is also a wig stylist, so she knows her way around weird hairstyles! She told us a story about a display lobster at a restaurant leaving the platter, and walking off the table, which was funny. Lizzie had to go to work, so her husband Caenaan helped me and Nora for the rest of the shoot.

It is always nice to see Nora, and if you would like to see if her play is coming to your area, please visit the Montana Rep page or the PDF Schedule! I’ll leave you with a photo of Nora in the play Biloxi Blues:

Nora Gustuson and Dylan Rodwick in Biloxi Blues, on tour until April 2013 with the Montana Repertory Theater.

Nora Gustuson and Dylan Rodwick appear in Biloxi Blues, on tour until April 2013 with the Montana Repertory Theater.

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