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>Sixties Sophistication: Mad Details on Mad Men

25 Jan

>Count me among those who have yet to see Mad Men. Although the show looks undeniably stylish and has been lavished with numerous awards, I’ve yet to see one episode. After a long day at the office, I lack the time to watch series after series. Having recently finished my Supernatural S1 – S4 DVD box, I’ve now continued with House (S1 – S6). I can squeeze in one or two episodes a night before I go to bed and manage a few more on the weekends. Even so, you do the math. It’d take me another few months before I have time to immerse myself in the sixties world of Mad Men.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested. You might think it’s the costumes that are beginning to draw me in; pictures of pretty ensembles appear frequently all over the internet. Or you might think it’s the billboard charm of Don Draper that piques my curiosity and honestly, he knows how to wear his suits with style. Or you might think it’s the time period in general that puts Mad Men on the top of my to-see list. Nope. My mind was made up when I read an article about the props. Yes, you read that right. The reason I want to see Mad Men is because of the details rather than the big picture. Mostly the perfume bottle holder. It’s a gorgeous piece that really completes the scene.

I’ll show you what I mean. Click the link at the bottom to view the article and images in their original size for better viewing.

Seeking perfection: A stagehand attends to a minor prop detail as actresses January Jones and Kiernan Shipka (Betty and Sally Draper) prepare for a scene


CLASSY: Characters Roger Sterling and Don Draper in a bar scene

CLASSY: Characters Roger Sterling and Don Draper in a bar scene

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1315217/Revealed-The-incredible-attention-TVs-stylish-period-drama-Mad-Men.html#ixzz1C3K6hzV6

>Creating your Own Vintage Wardrobe

13 Jan

>I’m sure I’m not the only one who admired the wardrobe of Downton Abbey. I’ve always had a thing for historical clothing – they’re classy, sophisticated and unique. Back in the day, the rich had tailors and fashion was still an art. Ladies put in the effort to be stylish and sleek. Sometimes, their style became a part of their reputation and attracted men. That has become a rarity.

In today’s world, we all dress alike. Not many still design their own clothes or peruse vintage stores for that one jewel. Sadly, classy isn’t en vogue anymore. Quite the contrary. Tacky is. Ironically, Dita von Teese is an exception. Although I don’t condone her lifestyle or profession, I greatly admire her fashion sense. Vintage can be beautiful and it makes us stand out.

                                                          Edwardian fashion in Downton Abbey

Nowadays, pencil skirts and fishnet tights have become the norm. Sure, the secretary look can be sexy, even pretty. But not nearly everyone has the figure to pull it off. Many women suffer from chunky ankles and flabby thighs. Modern clothing does us few favours. So, how can we get our hands on vintage designs with their long, flowing gowns and puff sleeves? Every now and then, Victorian influences creep into today’s fashion. But most of the blouses are transparent. What do you wear with that? Other tops have an unusual cut that doesn’t flatter us. I’ve given up on high street stores (well, with some exceptions as listed below). So I’ve turned my attention to other resources instead.

Class, accessories and style are united in this striped number

As I like to say: Google is your friend. Many websites are dedicated to vintage reproductions to fulfill our every need. If it is an antique’re looking for, Ebay might be the answer. I spent a large portion of this morning searching for Victorian and Edwardian items and stumbled upon over a dozen original outfits – some dating back as far as the 1880’s. And of good quality, too! So, I put in a bid or two and fingers crossed, I will soon be the owner of an antique Victorian jacket. Naturally, they cost rather more than a reproduction but they’re certainly worth it.

Another alternative is Etsy – more suitable for those who, like most of us, live on a budget. You’d be surprised at the amount of vintage inspired clothes and accessories people have made and put up for sale. It is relatively cheap, innovative and you’ll be hard-pressed to run into someone wearing the same outfit.

                                                          Ruffles galore in Anne of Green Gables


Fashion tip:
Notice how in Anne of Green Gables a simple blouse and waistcoat combination instantly gives you a classy, vintage look. I’m sure everyone has a white blouse somewhere hidden in the corners of their wardrobe. Waistcoats are easy to come by in regular stores. Try different styles for different results. Experimentation is key so start mixing and matching! Couple it with a long skirt in neutral tones and you could end up with a Victorian/Steampunk looking fashion hit on your hands. Notice how in the picture below Anne has a small watch on her waistcoat; you can also try a small brooch or pin. Adding that little accessory will liven up your wardrobe and keep things fresh.

                                                          The classical blouse/waistcoat/straw hat combination

Accessories:

Try adding a choker to your dress for a little extra sparkle. See how Mary spruced up her dress by accessorizing. Otherwise, a subtle string of pearls might do the trick. Pay close attention to period drama to see just how effective a well-placed necklace or headdress can be. Gloves are also a real eye-catcher. Nothing says elegance like the evening gown – elbow-length gloves combination. For outside strolls and picnics, you should give a straw hat a try. They come in many different styles, with all sorts of ribbon, feathers and even fruit. 

                                           Mary’s choker might be recycled but it’s a stunner.

                                               The very definition of puff sleeves.

>A Regency Scene – A Mischievous Scheme

10 Jan

>


A continuation of: part 1 and part 2

The only person in the county to share her opinion was her best friend, Amelia Warren, whom she had known since childhood. Miss Warren, who was three years her senior, acted the part of her adviser in all matters of importance; it was mainly through her influence that the Hamilton family lived with economy and good taste. Amelia frequently with her brought the latest news from Paris in terms of fashion and the occasional gossip. Thanks to her great wealth and title, Miss Warren could do whatever she pleased and had taken a lover rather than a husband.

The only reason society still acknowledged her was because her promiscuity was a private affair only Audrey could confirm. The lover had to her even been introduced; Mr. Dawson, a gentleman’s second son and therefore heir to nothing except an allowance of a meagre 500 pounds per annum. This display of shocking indecorum initially repulsed Miss Hamilton. But once she saw the freedom the arrangement provided and the many pleasures her friend was privy to, she began to envy her situation rather than condemning it.

“You should take a lover, Audrey. Disinterested as you are in marriage, you should still allow yourself access to the pleasures of matrimony,” Amelia imparted as they were drinking tea in the drawing room.

Audrey’s eyes grew dilated and she shifted in her seat and fidgeted with her dress.

“That is impossible. I should fear being discovered. Besides, I have not completely despaired of men; after all, Catherine found herself an excellent husband so it can be done. We are to organise a ball next week at The Crown. Mr. Sharpe has engaged me for a dance and I am promised an introduction to the elusive Mr. Beckham.”

The man featured in their conversation with some regularity and both were anxious to make his acquaintance to find out his true nature. “Oh, I forgot to mention – my mother lately stumbled upon Mr. Beckham at her tailor; she told me he is excessively handsome and exceedingly obliging.”

Miss Hamilton could not but laugh at her theatrical language. “Which does not account for his treatment of us. I shall believe it when I experience his kindness myself; I do not trust another’s opinions. Our neighbours are too impressionable to be relied upon for any sort of valuable information.”



“And does my mother fall in that category?” Amelia teased.

“She’s certainly knowledgeable compared to mine.”

Amelia smiled. “Oh, high praise, indeed! But let us speak in earnest. Are you on the lookout for a husband?”

Even Audrey herself did not know her heart. “Only a very great man can tempt me to accept him. I have not seen a worthy suitor yet. But mama has set her sights on a visit to London so that might remedy my predicament.”

Miss Warren adored London and had long wished her friend to spend the season there; she knew Audrey to be a hopeless romantic and no romance could be found in the country at present – all eligible bachelors had gone away to Town to catch an heiress.

“I think it a very good development. You stayed away too long – such country grudges sully one’s reputation. Besides, I have a great acquaintance in Town and I shall endeavour to introduce you to every single one of them.”

Audrey sipped her tea and indulged in some quiet reflection; perhaps she had stayed away too long, indeed. “I am much obliged, Amelia. My only worry is that no one shall notice me when you stand next to me.”

Although the two friends were equal in beauty and wit, Amelia’s wealth and prospects were superior. Audrey, though respectable and rich, could offer no title or grand estate.

“Nonsense. I have made it perfectly clear I do not wish to marry. No gentleman would willingly subject himself to a rejection by making me an offer. No, I am quite resolved to promote you as the most beautiful, angelic and sweet-tempered girl in the country. You shall have all the attentions that you deserve. You may rely upon it.”

But Miss Hamilton, having endured only one proposal and one season in London, flushed at the notion of such relentless attentions to her person. She hoped that those vying for her notice would be well worth the effort. “They shall abandon me once an introduction to my mother has been made.”

Ever since returning to the country since her disastrous first season, her mother had scared away any potential suitors; her persistence was infamous, her methods questionable.

“Do not make yourself uneasy. The gentleman in Town are far too worldly to be so easily discouraged; but, perhaps I should include a warning in my promotion of fair Miss Hamilton. It might arouse their sympathy, rather than their abhorrence.”

But the idea sickened Miss Hamilton. “No, pray don’t speak of my mother. I will invent some scheme to keep her home. I might apply to the generosity of my aunt and uncle in escorting me to events. They are sociable creatures and very fond of me. They often write to beg me to come visit. I shall make my apologies to my mother and explain. To do so without injuring her shall be my only difficulty.”

“Can we not send you to Town under some pretext? Surely, your relatives have need of you. Otherwise I will take it upon myself to devise a reason. At any rate, I could accompany you so your arrival would cause the necessary alarm and curiosity.”

“Oh, yes. Mama dotes on you. She thinks you a very good influence (ahem). I am certain of her acquiescence if we were to travel together.”

Amelia’s eyes glistened with mischief. “Now all we have to do is tell her.”

At such times of emotional trial she turned to poetry: John Keats was her current favourite, after a brief time of Wordsworth. It was in poems a gleam of life with all its promise and potential revealed itself to her. “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,” she recited to herself to give her courage. Taking in a sharp breath, she entered her mother’s room and thought to herself: what would Jane do? Jane, of course, being Jane Austen.

>Movie Spotlight: Bright Star

9 Jan

>

                                                                                                                              John Keats portrait
Bright Star is unlike most period films. For one, anyone familiar with John Keats his life can reveal the film will have no happy ending. If the lovers do not live happily ever after, then what is the strength of the film? It has first-class acting, beautiful poetry, colourful costumes and lovely scenery. The film starts as Keats moves next door to Fanny Brawne and is far from successful as an author. Reviews for his poem ”Endymion” are bad – humiliatingly so. But his fashionista neighbour, who makes a living designing clothes, sees his potential when she hears the first passage:

A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.       

To say that their relationship soon blossoms into a passionate romance would sell the affair short for they did not immediately get on well. However, once they ceased to dispute, it allowed them to form a friendship which transitioned into a life-altering love affair. As lovers, they corresponded and never consumated their love as circumstances prevented them from getting married.

After a long night out in the cold, Keats grew weak and sickly and soon began to exhibit the symtoms of consumption. Despite her best efforts, Fanny is unable to cure him and he is sent away to Italy to test the warmer climate. Unfortunately, it is too late and Keats quickly dies, leaving Fanny heartbroken and reciting the poem he dedicated to her in between sobs:

Bright Star

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

Excerpts from the film:  

     



Costumes in the film:

Fanny Brawne, a budding fashionista, designs all her own costumes. As such, the picture is filled to the brim with interesting costumes and experimental designs. It gives the film a unique look that sets it apart from its fellow period dramas. Below you see a few of Fanny’s lovely outfits as seen in the film. Some of them are plain outrageous, while others catch my attention due to their simplicity and elegance.







That is some collar, Fanny!

Regency Barbie?

Possibly the most beautiful image in recent film

Interviews with the Cast and Crew:


 



>Regency Scene – Past Indiscretions

3 Jan

>

A continuation of: http://renate-villerius.blogspot.com/2010/12/bachelor-visits-regency-scene.html

“That’s settled, then. We will send out invitations later this week. There is no fixed date as of yet for the ball but I hope to secure the Crown Inn. They have a ball room that is divine. Naturally, Harley Manor was my first choice but with our extensive guest list, I fear we would be unable to accommodate everyone.”

In Audrey’s opinion, this was no great compliment to Harley Manor but her mother was quite ignorant of these matters. Her father, a very wealthy landowner, was better suited to supervise such delicate situations but business called him away so Josephine was in charge until his return a week from now. Mr. Sharpe took his leave, wished them the very best and expressed his delight at the prospective ball. As the door closed behind him, Mrs. Hamilton ordered some fresh tea and announced her plans for the blissful event.

“You must have new gowns, of course! You cannot stand up with such a man dressed like a farmer’s daughter,” she exclaimed. The critique was aimed at Audrey’s evening dress; creamy silk with a plunging neckline and puff sleeves with ribbon trimmings – purchased only the month before and still considered the height of fashion. But objections were fruitless; no one could reason with such a creature as her mother. “You shall look your very best. All past indiscretions shall be forgotten. All it takes is one dance with that gentleman. A smile and a few words of kindness should do the trick,” she continued

Audrey rarely danced. Not due to some inaptitude on her part but because there were few gentlemen whose company she could tolerate, let alone appreciate or enjoy. Most young men adjourned to London at the commencement of the season, leaving her locked away in the country with old fogies, clergymen and bores. At the beginning of her career as an adult and woman in search of a husband, she had been dispatched to London for a proper coming-out. But after a dozen balls, they had been forced to admit that her admirers, though loyal and clever, applied to her for friendship rather than courtship.

One marriage proposal was received by an elderly gentleman, a second son of a duke. The gentleman professed his love after a cup of tea, biscuit still in hand. But due to his lack of fortune and connections, not to mention the perfect indifference on her side, he was refused. Spiteful and hurt, he spoke of his rejection amongst friends and Audrey’s conduct towards him was pronounced misleading and deceitful. Wherever she went, this supposed error in judgement haunted her and she soon quit London entirely, never to return.

“If all goes well, we may even relocate to London. Should you not like to visit Town? It has been too long, I declare. Surely, your past vices have long been forgotten. It is many years since you were last there. They will have new scandals to speak of.” But on this point Audrey would not surrender.

“I have not the slightest intention of revisiting the place of my only failure.” Though she considered her punishment disproportionate to the crime, the fault was hers; through her youthful enthusiasm and unguarded nature, she had allowed him to believe an attachment had formed between them.

“You are too hard on yourself, my dear. Think of how much you have grown since then. It would be perfectly safe for us to sojourn there. I will not let you jeopardise your future. Your fear is understandable but with all you have to offer to the world, it must be overcome.”

Audrey was silent. Her mother meant well – supported and comforted her when disappointments crossed her path. Though Audrey had always been her favourite, after her scandal her hopes were transferred to Audrey’s younger sister, Catherine, who was recently married to a Duke.

“Besides, with your sister’s recent successes, your reputation will have increased. Only imagine how eager all those fine young men will be to be seen with you.”

Against such sound arguments, even Audrey could not but yield. “Very well. We shall go to London. But we have scarcely any acquaintance in Town. Who shall we call on during our stay?” It worried her. Her friends and relations were not such as possessed townhouses. Instead, they remained in the country, just as they had done for so many years.

“That isn’t true. Mr. Beckham will be in Town. He informed me of the fact only a fortnight ago at Mrs. Berry’s picnic. Apparently, he owns a large townhouse near Grosvenor Square.”

This was no great inducement for Audrey to go to London; Mr. Beckham purchased a big estate in the neighbourhood some weeks ago. Once settled in the community, he called on his neighbours to introduce himself as was the custom. However, when he was expected at Harley Manor, he sent word that he was unable to favour them with a visit and excused himself to join a hunting party up north. Hunting! How could it take precedence over his neighbourly duties? As of yet, all she has learned of his character has been through mutual friends, who were fortunate enough to be granted an audience with His Pompousness.

Mrs. Hamilton was kinder in her assessment of his person; the general opinion of his character was so favourable that it had impressed upon her the belief that all had been some mysterious misunderstanding that he sought to rectify as soon as possible. As such, she spoke very highly of him with unrelenting speeches about his intentions to visit them for an introduction.

Perhaps if it had not been for these many tedious remarks on the subject, Audrey would have forgiven his folly and reserved her judgement until in company with him. But, as it was, the many accounts of his generous nature and good breeding only made his ill treatment of them more strongly-felt. A gentleman so easily swayed from his responsibilities could not in essence be a good man.




>Living History: Reenacting Jane Austen

2 Jan

>


We are all familiar with the books of Jane Austen, spend rainy Sunday afternoons swooning over Mr. Darcy and wish we could step into Elizabeth’s lucky footsteps. Now, you might not get to meet Mr. Darcy, but reenactment allows you to travel through time and enter a different life. Events are held all across the world where people indulge in this strange hobby. So, what’s the appeal? As an experienced regency re-enactor I will share some of my experiences and photographs with you.

                                                           at my first ball with my aunt

I first heard about the society through my aunt, who co-founded it after experiencing a lack of civilian re-enactment groups. Many people were interested in the period itself rather than the military element. From the desire to demonstrate middle-class regency life, the society was born and quickly, my whole family joined. Made up of period piece enthusiasts, it was no difficult task to convince them. I was only twelve years old when I attended my first event – a ball in a real castle!
I wasn’t even officially a member at that point but it opened my eyes to a new, exciting world where I not only inhabited a regency heroine and got to dance with dashing rogues (who were perhaps a cook or accountant in real life), but it also deepened my love for history. Being involved in living history requires some effort on your part and whoever would like to take up this marvellous hobby, should take the following issues into consideration:

                                                                           a peek at our wardrobe

  • ·         You are in charge of your own costumes. Although members might let you borrow a gown or two when you’re just getting started, there are patterns available from the period so get your sewing kit out! I can tell you in advance that recreating a historical costume takes a lot of work, patience and fitting. You wouldn’t be the first one to cut off the wrong part or sew something on backwards. Through experience, you will become more proficient in creating your own historically accurate outfits. Just do some research on fabric and colour. I’ve seen one too many ladies in dresses that reminded me of Barbie goes to Prom.

                                                           attending a Regency wedding in church

  • ·          Events can take place internationally so depending on your location and commitment, there will be some travel expenses. You will need to bring your costume and accessories, food, etc. You’ll need a car to get all your stuff safely (and in good condition!) to the event.

sipping tea on our country estate; I’m in white
  • ·         Read, research, refine. If you’re going to portray someone from another period, you will need to know how they talked, sat, acted and so on. Familiarise yourself with the etiquette and the history of the period so you know what was going on in the world. There’s another excuse to re-watch Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion.
dance and dinner at a ball; I’m wearing the red dress
  • ·        Dancing lessons. If you want to actually dance at a ball, you will have to take regency dancing lessons. It’s my favourite part of the experience. Mastering the dances takes a lot of time and energy. During every dance rehearsal we had several moments were we said: “Wrong way, Mr. Collins!” I know of several regency dancing troupes in the U.K. so that is something worth checking out. And just think, next time you’ll watch a period drama on the BBC, you’ll be able to pinpoint what dance they’re using and trace their footsteps to refresh your memory. 

                                                          fishing with my sister and uncle


If you have the time and money to invest in this hobby, I highly recommend it. Through my society, I attended balls, picnics, hunting parties, historical weddings and battles. We cultivated idleness and sipped tea for an audience while the men engaged themselves in sport (shooting, for instance). The ladies drew, read books, played old-fashioned games and wrote letters. I’ve also tried fishing at one of the events but there were no fish to be caught. I suppose it wasn’t the season.

                                                              f.l.t.r: my aunt, myself, my sister, my uncle


I’ve been photographed by a dozen people at once (which made me feel like a film star), called Anne Frank (wrong century!) and even once a servant (wrong class!). My favourite events had an international flavour. It enables you to meet like-minded people from all across the world. All those brooding Italians and Spanish soldiers. I even met my first boyfriend through this hobby. Alas, as it turned out he wasn’t my Mr. Darcy. But as I surveyed all those fine specimen of manliness in their military outfits, I perfectly understood Lydia. “Ooh, officers! A man is nothing without regimentals!”

This hobby also has a bit of a theatrical aspect. We sometimes staged scenes, including public arguments between different groups/classes of re-enactors. To make matters easier, we decided on a character to play for the duration of our membership. Because my mother, sister, both aunts and uncle were all members we created a regency family so we could still be related in our new fantasy world. Under this regency name, I wrote diary entries. It gave me my first taste of historical fiction and I enjoyed it immensely. Our society also had a magazine with useful tips and information, interviews, recipes, etc.

                                                                      my family in the beginning of our adventure

Links about living history:

Regency dancing groups:


If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment box and I will get back to you. 

>Regency Scene – A Bachelor Visits

30 Dec

>

Harley Manor was all aflutter that morning – the maids whispered of intrigue and bachelors. As usual, they were right. There was quite an uproar in the Hamilton residence – the eligible Mr. Sharpe had unexpectedly come to call and Audrey sat in the drawing room immaculately groomed and with all the awkwardness in conversation her pestering relations invariably inflicted through their incessant encouragements.

Although Miss Hamilton was of good family, education and sense, her mother had never regarded her notions concerning her marital state as of any consequence. Her disinclination to marry had been discarded as a folly of youth but as the years passed and she reached the age of two and twenty, she gained a reputation as a bit of a spinster.

But Audrey simply enjoyed the peace and quiet. She was a spinster without the characteristic lack of charm and means. Quite the contrary, when in her element and left to her own devices, Audrey could be described as lively, pleasant and sarcastic, though agreeably so. But with her mother looming over her petite figure, her personality shrinked in response and she grew taciturn, reserved – closed.

Mr. Sharpe, fashionably dressed and in possession of a fine pair of sideburns and brooding good looks, was received cordially, even graciously by the lady of the house. But as for the heiress of the family, she cast him simply indifferent looks and longingly glanced outside, filling his imagination with visions of Miss Hamilton engaged in all sorts of active employment such as horseback riding and archery. He sensed that her mother’s presence affected her disposition and became only curious to learn more about his unwilling hostess.

“You live very comfortably. I daresay you spend your time tolerable well here,” he said in an attempt to gain access to the inner workings of her mind. When the daughter gently sighed at the poor excuse of conversation, the mother took over.

“Oh, yes! It is very good of you to call and you are most welcome here. I shall certainly add you to the guest list of our little ball,” Mrs. Hamilton remarked nonchalantly to steer the conversation toward a more intimate setting for their acquaintance.

“A ball? How delightful. And when will it take place? I have heard little about it,” James Sharpe observed, having in truth heard nothing at all. Audrey roused herself from her thoughts to amuse herself by acting the part of the huntress.

“It is a great secret and you are the first to hear of it. You will come, won’t you?” she batted her eyelashes and moved her fan to and fro to assume a more delicate manner befitting her new part. Josephine nearly squeaked with delight but covered up her pleasure by smiling generously at her tapestries.James shared her love for the theatre and quickly recognised the game she had entered and promptly followed suit.

“Napoleon himself couldn’t stop me.”

Audrey could barely contain her coquettish expression and smiled.
“Well, then I suppose you are the first confirmed guest. How marvelous. We must instantly look to the seating arrangements to accommodate Mr. Sharpe,” she informed her daughter.

“You may seat him by me. There is nothing so stimulating as dinner table conversation. We shall bond over such subject matters as who wears the best pair of breeches and who tripped over his feet on the dance floor,” she airily suggested, having only in mind her intention to avoid Mr. Beckham. Horrid man. Josephine, quite oblivious to her ill-founded dislike, deduced from the remark that her daughter had taken a fancy to a man at last. And an eligible bachelor, even! How splendid!

To Mr. Sharpe this merely meant he had now entered a more friendly sphere in Miss Hamilton’s acquaintance and as he had no mercenary interest in the lady, he sought only to widen his social circle in seeking out her company – which was said to be entertaining and prone to diverting remarks.
“I shall look forward to such a comparative study,” he assented, much to everyone’s satisfaction.