Saturday, December 29, 2012

Georgian Makeup Tips & Tricks for Modern Lady

It is no secret that make-up has had a bad rap up until well into the 20th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when make-up was commonly used by both men and women, it was not only being bashed by moralists but was also very likely to kill you. It contained such unsavory substances as lead, belladonna, arsenic and many more. Maria Coventry, Countess of Coventry, for instance, paid a heavy price for her makeup addiction. She died at the age of 27 from lead poisoning.

Maria Coventry, Countess of Coventry (1733 – 1760)
By the end of the 18th century, the cult of the natural began to take hold. Women donned simpler style of dress, and makeup became even more despised. But that did not stop people from using beauty products to improve their looks and complexion. In a hilarious scene from Jane Austen's Persuasion, the vain and silly Sir Walter Elliot advises his daughter to use Gowland's Lotion to improve her looks. This advice would have been pretty dangerous since Gowland Lotion contained, among other things, mercuric chloride. A substance you should keep away from your face.

An ad for Gowland's Lotion which was a chemical peel  
But while many cosmetics of the past were downright lethal and incompatible with our modern aesthetic, we can still learn a few things from our foremothers.

La toilette by Lucio Rossi (1846-1913) 
The 18th century was not a very great time for bathing. Ladies avoided baths and hair would not be washed for months, especially when the high puffy styles came into fashion around the middle of the century. These elaborate updos took a long time to construct and no lady would willingly ruin it by washing. The hair was built up and kept in place with a generous helping of powder. What we modern ladies can take from this is that powder is a wonderful degreaser.

Hairdresser powdering a lady's hair.  Galerie des Modes, 12e Cahier, 1e Figure
While I do not recommend going without bathing for months on end, hair can be made presentable by a bit of hair or talcum powder. Just put some on your hand and run it through the hair, shake off the excess and  you are ready to go. I prefer unscented talc, but you can find powder with a variety of very pleasant scents like vanilla, jasmine and rose. Some powders have glitter if you like a little extra glitz.

Lulu Organics Hair Powder 
Lush Vanilla Puff Powder
Ageless Artifice Perfumed Powder 
Rouge has been used for ages to give cheeks a glowing healthy look and to put some color into wane lips. It has mostly been replaced by blush and lipstick in our beauty kits.

Madam de Pompadour applying rouge   
However, it is about time we bring rouge back. There is no need to run to the local pharmacy for some white lead, vermilion and alkanet root. It can be easily replaced with lip stain or lip tint. Unlike lipstick or blush that could look heavy, lip tint gives a more natural flushed effect. The other advantage is that it is a two-in-one product. You can use lip tint to rouge up both lips and cheeks. Some shades can also be applied instead of cream eye shadow for a very pretty look. Just remember to dab some powder on it to keep it from creasing.

Lush It Started With A Kiss Lip tint
Odora Candy Color Mineral Lip Stain

Ageless Artifice Red Paint for the Face

Would you like more tips on how to emulate that 18th century beauty? Katie Cannon over at Ageless Artifice has a wonderful blog about historical cosmetics and a site where you can buy many of them. Great for all you makeup and history junkies out there. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Dear all,

Hope this Holiday Season brings light and joy and happiness!

Mr Fezziwig's ball, John Leech, A Christmas Carol by Dicken
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last Minute Christmas Decor Ideas

Christmas is always a very busy time. You have to make the presents, wrap everything and bake a million and two cookies. Sometimes you just do not have time to go all out on the Christmas decor.

For instance, we decided not to have a tree this year, so I decorate my room with a few nifty things I had at hand. Behold, the cake stand Christmas tree:

All right, I admit, it may not be all that epic, but it really makes for a fun piece, especially on a dinner table.  

You will need:
- A cake stand
- Christmas ornaments
- Some white cake doilies (if your cake stand has a very un-Christmasy pattern)

You can use tinsel, pine tree branches or a mix of everything. I had some really lovely vintage bulbs. If you have a Christmas star you could attach it to the top of the stand.

But cake stand is not the only way to decorate your room this year. You can use a jewelry stand instead.

You will need:
- A jewelry stand 
- Christmas tree ornaments

Pick a color scheme or just go all out (like I did) and put up everything you can find. This works much better if you hang the ornaments at different levels. Do not be afraid to add some tinsel or mix in some of your Christmas-looking jewelry for a more ostentatious look. I found stars, angel wings and bulb earrings, necklaces and bracelets of all kind very conductive to the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas!      

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bit of Jane Austen in your Mailbox

I must have been extra nice this year because Santa will be sending me a very special present: the Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine, No. 61

The January/February issue (No. 61) of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine is in the mail and I can look forward to getting it very soon. And it will be a very special issue, too, marking the bicentenary of Pride & Prejudice.

The highlights will include:

 *A history of Jane Austen’s “darling child”: the background to Jane’s best-known book

 *Firth and foremost: Colin Firth’s love-hate relationship with Mr Darcy

 *Choose your Darcy: some of the actors who have played Jane’s hero

 *North to Pemberley: Elizabeth Bennet's journey with the Gardiners 

*Selling Pride & Prejudice: the spin-offs and the merchandising

 *Plus News, Letters, Book Reviews and information from Jane Austen Societies in the US, UK, and Australia

I am giddy with excitement! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Preparing for Ofelia Market

I have been sadly neglecting my blogging duties due to a very special event I am planning to attend. It is called Ofelia Market (yes, with an 'f'). This wonderful craft fair and flea market is organized every year for all those who love vintage, lolita, goth and burlesque style. There are workshops and performances, and it is great fun for everyone involved.

So if you happen to be in Helsinki this weekend, come by and check it out. You will not regret it, I promise.  

The reason I am so excited about Ofelia Market is because this year I will not simply haunt the stalls looking for quirky stuff to buy, I will be selling some of my own things. Yes, it is true. I am a crafter; have my own Etsy store and everything.

On account of that, I have been pretty busy making new items to sell. My room is currently a battleground of ribbons, buttons, lace and super glue stains.

My desk. No room for the laptop   

Ofelia Market has its own blog. It's in Finnish, but Google Translate can help you with it. So check it out.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jewel Beetles in 19th Century Fashion

Evening Dress, 1850, India? Source: The Kyoto Costume Institute
What a beautiful dress! Mid-19th century white mull with silk satin bodice, a floral pattern and a matching shawl. So elegant!

But look closer. Can you see it? The floral embroidery on the skirt and shawl is made of thousands of beetle wings!

Evening Dress, detail, 1850, India? Source: The Kyoto Costume Institute
Jewel beetles or buprestidae have iridescent blue-green elytra (the hard case covering the wings) that reflect light very much like sequins and have been traditionally used for beetle wing jewelry and decorations. The elytra are lightweight and very durable. They retain color for a very long time and often remain intact when the surrounding fabric has practically disappeared.  

Jewel beetle embroidery came to England from India, where Madras and Clacutta were the centers of beetle wing art. The exquisitely beautiful elytra had been used since the beginning of the Mughal Empire to decorate turbans, wedding dresses and ceremonial robes as well as for jewelry and even paintings.

Dress piece, muslin, Madras (Chennai), India, about 1880. Source: V&A Museum
Though the technique came from India, Europeans often used the wing cases of South American jewel beetles. They must have looked quite dazzling in candlelight. This style of embroidery was not only fashionable, it was also considered a suitable pastime for ladies of leisure, who were advised to use Walker's number 8 needle and green thread.

Once the vogue for beetle wings on ball gowns had passed, they were often altered for fancy dress parties and masquerades. Beetle wings also found a home on the stage. Probably one of the most famous instance of jewel beetles in fashion is the stunning green dress worn by Ellen Terry in the role of Lady Macbeth at the London Lyceum Theater in 1888.

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth by John Singer Sargent, 1888
Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth dress © Zenzie Tinker Conservation Ltd
The gorgeous emerald and sea green gown is crocheted and composed of 1,000 jewel beetle wings. It has recently been restored and it took artists 1,300 hours to return the tattered dress to its former glory. It is currently on display at Smallhythe Place.

While using bugs for decoration may seem like a strange Victorian caprice, some modern designers still use jewel beetles for dresses and jewelry.

Take for instance the young designer Holly Russell who created this sheer fantasy in 2009.

The Blue Jewel Beetle dress by Holly Russell, 2009
The dress is from Russell's Animals & Minerals collection and uses jewel beetle wing cases and human hair to create that slightly surreal effect.

And if you have seen the recent Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), you may recognize this gorgeous gown worn by Queen Ravenna.
Evil Queen dress by Colleen Atwood, 2012 
The dress was designed for Charlize Theron's Evil Queen by Colleen Atwood. It is made of turquoise and gold chiffon with jewel beetle detailing.

Jewel beetle embroidery is truly beautiful and it is a shame that it has been relegated to the world of high fashion and film costumes. I suppose people are just too squeamish about wearing insects; but maybe we should consider adding some nature's own iridescence to our everyday style.    

Reading Jane Austen's Regency World Magazine

Every two months I get a small rectangular package in the mail. This is always a cause for rejoicing as I know that the package contains Jane Austen's  Regency World Magazine, published by that Mecca of all things Austen, the Jane Austen Center in Bath.

My November/December issue had arrived and I was not disappointed. Here are a few highlights:

Some great Christmas gift ideas for the Jane Austen fan in your life
I am very susceptible to gift lists and this Austen memorabilia is a delight. I keep leaving the magazine around the house in hopes that my flatmate will stumble upon it and get me one of these gifts for Christmas.  

You shall go to the dance – public and private balls in Jane Austen’s time
A great article about dancing in Regency England with plenty of references to dances in Austen's novels.

How keeping a bawdyhouse could be a tough business 
Really fascinating stuff. I'm definitively going to check out Emily Brand's book The Georgian Bawdyhouse.  

Baiting, coursing and fishing: blood sports were big business in the Georgian era
Hunting and fishing is not something I'm particular interested in, yet this article sheds some light on the occupations of Regency men. If you're curios to find out which sports were genteel and which were not, this is full of useful information.

Looking at Jane’s use of fashion accessories in Emma
Really fun article about clothing and its meaning in Emma. Did you know that an umbrella signifies a good solid man eligible for marriage, while a purple and gold riticule at a strawberry picking party shows that you are very vulgar? Now you do.

If you love Austen or know someone who dose, the Regency Magazine subscription is really a great Christmas present for them. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Halloween Masquarade with a Theater Group

For my theater group, Halloween is serious business. It is by far the most important social event of the season and everyone puts a lot of thought and effort into their costume for the annual Halloween Masquerade.

What makes it so wonderful is that since we are all creative, theater-loving people, the costumes were glorious.

Spooky Jack-o'-lantern is presiding over the bash  
Joker was our DJ. Thanks to Nolan we can all have a cool and easy H
alloween costume
Sometimes you watch the food. Sometimes the food watches you

Some nice witches donated a few fingers for our party
There seems to be blood on those candles
Punk Blue Fairy was there. Threatened to turn me into a real girl

Punk Tinker Bell and Punk Peter Pan. A lot of 'punk' at this party

A creepy marionette doll

Ophelia, but not the one from the play. This is the one from a painting by Arthur Hughes  

And Arthur Hughes, too. He was, surprise, Ophelia's date
A Bearded Lady. I suspect that beard used to belong to Jack Sparrow  

And the winner of the best costume - EdwardScissorhands!

I'm very proud of Edward, since I was the one who did the makeup

Happy Halloween!
Photography by Nihan Tanışer and Ritabrata Dutta

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paul Poiret's Fancy Dress Costumes

My friends and I had our Halloween masquerade on Saturday. And while I am waiting for some pictures to come my way so I could share them here, let me direct your attention to some more vintage Halloween ideas.    

If you still don't know what to be this Halloween, let Paul Poiret inspire you with his amazing fancy dresses. Some say that Paul Poiret was the first fashion designer, though I believe that distinction should go to Rose Bertin, milliner to Marie Antoinette and the “Minister of Fashion”. Poiret, though not the first fashion designer, was certainly an artist of fashion. Just look at some of these breathtaking costumes he designed.

 'Oriental' Costume

Oriental fancy dress costume, Paul Poiret, 1911. Source: Met Museum
This fancy dress ensemble was created for Poiret's 1002nd Night party in 1911. I absolute love the silhouette and the gems.

'Elizabethan' Costume

Elizabethan fancy dress costume, Paul Poiret, 1910-1920. Source: Met Museum
The gown is clearly inspired by Queen Elizabeth fashions, yet it does not strive for absolute historical accuracy. It is cream colored silk, trimmed and embroidered with metallic thread and synthetic gems.  

'Fountain' Costume

Fountain fancy dress costume, Paul Poiret, 1920s  
And last but not least, my favorite of all Poiret's fancy dresses. This Fountain costume was worn by Marchesa Luisa Casati, an Italian heiress and, by her own account, 'a living work of art'. The dress is so simple in its eccentricity. I love the elaborate two-storey hat and strings of large beads streaming down the body and the hoop skirt.

Of these three, which one would you wear to a Halloween party?  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dress of the Week: Carousel Fancy Dress

Sometimes you come across a costume so brilliant, so fabulous, so spectacular that you immediately fall in love with it and decide to elope to Gretna Green. Like today's Dress of the Week, the unbelievably intricate Carousel Fancy Dress

If nothing else, this dress would get first prize for most effort. Thecostume, probably from early 20th century, has the lady dressed in a skirt with horses going around the hem and an organ just above it. The hem of the skirt is adorned with frills and attached to a very high waist with bejeweled strings. The huge hat with lanterns and large beads represents the roof of the carousel.

If you think that this costume looks strangely familiar, you are not wrong. You may be thinking of Manish Arora carousel dress worn by the ever whimsical Kety Perry.

While I don't have the time to construct anything so elaborate for Halloween this year, I will certainly look into for our next costume party.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIY: How to Make an Elizabethan Ruff

This is it! The week before the big Halloween Party. Which means I must finish my costume forthwith.

And I am in need of one very specific accessory - an Elizabethan ruff collar. These collars look quite beautiful and are surprisingly easy make. All you need is some patience and a whole lot of ribbon.     

First things first, you will need a good tutorial. After looking over countless Elizabethan ruff how-tos, I have found this great video

- Ribbon
- Needle and thread
- Scissors
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Pencil
- Matches

Start with the ribbon. I used about 5 meters of 4 cm wide satin ribbon. It looks quite nice, but it's very slippery when you work with it, and if you want a wider collar it may droop a little. If you prefer something more solid, a grosgrain ribbon would probably be better.

Make sure you have enough thread. If you run out in the middle of the sewing project, it's going to be a real pain to tie it off and add another one. When you start sewing the dots together, keep in mind that the ribbon will bunch up. Be very careful and make sure that you do not  miss any pleats. Once you miss one, it's almost impossible to go back.

Adding the neckband ribbon was a very long and painful process. But I'm very happy with how it turned out. I think I'll start making these ruff collars for fun and profit.


Sorry about the lighting. I took these pictures in the dead of the night.  

Next week I'll have a longer post about the party and my costume. Stay tuned! 
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