Saturday, June 30, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of June 25, 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012
• A merry life and a short one! The Drunkard's Coat of Arms, 1707.
Captain Wentworth as the Old Spice sailor? Jane Austen's Persuasion, 1960s style.
• More Viagra in your marmalade, sir? Historical foods and carnality.
Classic Victorian murderess. Method: poison. Motive: money. Unique feature: blaming the wallpaper.
• Truly unique (and spooky) US National Park: an abandoned fort floating on a desert island.
• 'The making of a the silhouette': slide-show of 19th c corsets.
• Richard Topcliffe, Queen Elizabeth I's torturer.
• The art of Edwardian conversation.
• Oh, applesauce! Flapper slang and fab pictures from 1920s.
• Letter by Benjamin Franklin lists eight advantages of an older mistress.
• Was there really a 19th c hotel for prostitutes in Coney Island shaped like a giant elephant?
• The medieval Pied Piper.
• Queen Charlotte's Arcot Diamonds.
• Beard lore: Victorians thought shaving a "fatal fashion" that caused high rates of murder, suicide.
• The circus comes to town: photos from 1891.
• Dozens of historical embroidery patterns, newly scanned and on-line.
• Where to eat in London...224 years ago? The hottest London Eats of 1788, mapped via Google.
• Finally! The collections of the Museum at FIT are online and searchable.
• All fine and dandy: gentleman's fashions, c 1787.
• A "vampire-slaying kit" bought by the Royal Armouries museum.
Dolley Madison story of saving the White House portrait of George Washington, 1814.
Crave more than a once-a-week update? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for the freshest tweets every day.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday video: Making haute couture

Friday, June 29, 2012
Loretta reports:

The beautiful dresses described in the ladies' magazines of the early 19th century weren't for everybody.  Then, as today, only the privileged could afford them.  By far the greatest part of the price was the material—often adorned with exquisite embroidery, pearls, and even diamonds.  Labor was very cheap.

This short excerpt, from a longer Chanel documentary that seems to have disappeared from YouTube, offers some insight into the level of craftsmanship involved in creating beautiful garments by hand.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see only a rectangle or square where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A self-fastening corset

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Loretta reports:

Some while back, the 2NHG library acquired copies of Fashioning Fashion; European Dress in Detail 1700-1915.  The book, which showcases fashions from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), was a gift from our friends there.

I included one of the dresses in yesterday’s post, whose sleeve Susan had blogged about previously.  The book provided inspiration for one of the scenes in Scandal Wears Satin.

The self-fastening corset Sophy has to get into in a hurry at a Portsmouth inn was not a figment of my overheated imagination.  I discovered it in this very book.  “A new system of crossed ties allowed the wearer to lace her own corset without assistance.”  You can view extreme closeups of the corset at the LACMA site, which is what I did, to understand how this as well as other underwear worked. 

Courtesy Wikipedia
Clicking here will take you to multiple views of the corset (for some reason it’s filed under “sleeve plumpers;” if you search “corset” you get only the front view.)  You can zoom in for intimate detail.

As you can see, the corset laces up the back, but the strings come round to the front and seem to be woven into the tabs that tie in front.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What to wear to your social downfall

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
La Belle Assemblée May 1835

Loretta reports:

In the first chapter of Scandal Wears Satin, Lady Clara Fairfax gets into trouble. These fashion prints helped inspire the dress I envisioned for the scene.  Though the dress plays an important role, there’s little description of it—only enough to make it clear it’s in the process of being taken off and the bodice is pleated.

As Susan & I have mentioned more than once, the fashion prints can give an inaccurate impression of the dresses.  For one thing, the prints depend on the artist’s talent, and fashion illustration, with a few exceptions, seemed not to attract great talents.  Secondly, they can’t possibly convey the richness of the fabrics used, or the craftsmanship and fine detail.  While the dress from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is dated a few years earlier—and I’d expect bigger sleeves for 1835—it doesn’t take a great stretch of the imagination to get a sense of what the real thing might have been like.

Along with demonstrating the play of light on the two-toned silk and the “longitudinal folds” (as described in La Belle Assemblée for May 1835 and apparently quite a popular design element), the real dress makes us aware that the lady would not have had a strangely diamond-shaped upper body, with no shoulder bones to speak of.  Too, while the skirt does poof out, we’re aware of how light and airy it would have been in motion—something the print can’t convey.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art*

You’ll find quite a number of fashion prints of the time, from both English and French sources (thank you Los Angeles Public Library!) on my Pinterest Boards for Scandal Wears Satin at both our TwoNerdyHistoryGirls*** and my Loretta Chase page.

You’ll find there other illustrations for the book as well, and may expect to see more in coming days.

*Please click on the link for more detailed views of this dress.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scandal Wears Satin on sale today

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Loretta is very happy to report:

All that history I blog about?  It goes into my books, too.  Well, quite a bit of it.  And the fashions?  They're a crucial part of my Dressmakers series.

Scandal Wears Satin, the second Dressmakers book, is now available for what I hope will be your reading delectation.

This time it's Sophy's story—and those of you who've already read Book One, Silk is for Seduction, will probably not swoon with astonishment when you find out that the hero is...

Right. Him.

You can read an excerpt at my website...or you can just go take a wild chance and get the book and see what happens.

 You can expect to see more book-related historical tidbits here at 2NHG this week—and I'll be working like crazy to give you plenty of visuals over on our Pinterest page aka TwoNerdyHistoryGirls***.

And if you'll kindly bear with my bragging a little in small print, Scandal Wears Satin received starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist as well as 4-1/2 stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times.  And other nice reviews elsewhere—but a dose of discretion, I think, cannot come amiss.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Compare and Contrast: Fashions for June 1820 and 1829

Monday, June 25, 2012

Loretta reports:

I thought to do a little compare and contrast today.  These June fashions illustrate how women’s dress changed between 1820 and 1829.  By the later date, the waistline’s come down, the skirt is swelling out, and sleeves are starting the steady increase in pouffiness that will reach a truly entertaining phase in the 1830s.

No 1.—FANCY BALL DRESS. White slip of gros-de-Naples,* under a frock of fine net, richly embroidered with silver, and trimmed in the most splendid manner with geranium colour and roses of real silver lama.** Head-dress a diadem bandeau of diamonds, with a regal coronet and plume of white feathers. White shoes of figured gros-de-Naples, and white kid gloves.

From La Belle Assemblée.  Publisher J. Bell, 1820

No. VI.] JUNE, 1829. [PRICE 2S.

Dress of Aurora colour crêpe aërophane*** over a satin slip of the same colour; the corsage made close to the shape, displaying to advantage the fine formed bust; it is made extremely low on the shoulders, and adorned in the centre and sides with pinnatifid**** columns of satin ; the sleeve short and very full; the skirt is ornamented by tucks half a quarter wide, extending half way up the dress : pinnatifid columns extend perpendicularly, and give a grace and finish to this novel kind of dress.

The head-dress is composed of an Aurora coloured hat, profusely decorated with large plumes d'Autriche and large bows of striped gauze riband ; under the brim of the hat, on the left side, is placed a rosette, composed of blonde***** and riband, like that which decorates the crown. Pearl necklace ; white satin shoes and sandals ; white kid gloves.

R. Ackermann's Repository of fashions [4th ser. of the Repository of arts, literature, fashions, manufactures].Published1829

*"a corded Italian silk similar to Irish poplin; 'lutestring, now termed gros de Naples'" (English Women's Clothing of the Nineteenth Century, C. Willett Cunnington)
***thin crinkled semi-transparent fabric
****like fern fronds
*****silk lace

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of June 18, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012
Another serving of our favorite links of the week to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
• For Father's Day: Photos of Dads & their kids, 1840s-1950s.
• Grim history, grand buildings: abandoned Talgarth Asylum, Wales.
• Royal mistress Diane de Poitiers used her charms in 1524 to save her father from beheading.
• An unusually informal & popular (especially with Scottish immigrants) Victorian sculpture in Central Park lasts only 19 years.
• British accusation of Yankee atrocities at Battle of Bunker Hills: chewed musket balls.
• This week in 1873: Suffragist Susan B. Anthony fined $100 for attempting to vote in 1872 presidential election.
Crinoline cartoons from the 1850s.
Slangs of NY: 19th c street vocabulary worth bringing back.
• Workboxes, needle cases, & other Georgian needlework paraphernalia.
Black cat auditions in Hollywood, 1961.
• Happy first day of summer - celebrate with a Weegee photo of the crowds at Coney Island, NY.
Royal Ascot in the 1960s, when the elegance seemed effortless & the skirts very short.
• Glorious 1930s color photographs of everyday American life.
• Oo la la! Pale aqua boudoir slippers, c 1939.
• Bridget, the woman who beggared belief - and herself - in 1839 for the sake of her husband.
• Poignant reminder of thousands of horses who served in WWI: remains of war horses discovered at the Menin Gates.
• So charming: Robert Louis Stevenson transfers his birthday to a young girl.
• Eighteenth century Spanish paps and steeple creams, or, the wobbliest jelly in the universe.
• The American Wild West was even wilder than you thought.
• Zoomable map of England in 1736.
Photos of Chelsea Pageant 1908 by Kate Pragnell, one of only two women professional photographers in London at the time.
• Friday weirdly turned into Evil Bunny Day: vengeful medieval rabbits, Elizabethan coney-catching, medieval rabbit justice, medieval rabbit with a crossbow, & rabbit with a horn.
Just launched: incredible resource on BlackGotham: life in 19th c NYC.
• You can choose to live your life with the joy of the front row, or the solemnity of the third row.
• This week in 1868: Christopher Latham Sholes receives patent for invention he called "Type-Writer."
Crave more than a once-a-week update? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for the freshest tweets every day.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Video: The Violinist's Reply

Friday, June 22, 2012

Isabella/Susan reporting:

This video isn't new, but it deserves another round of viewers. One of the greatest plagues of modern life is the un-muted cell-phone, ringing away where and when it shouldn't. Weddings, libraries, funerals, 'quiet cars' - we've all heard it. But while the rest of us must be content with furious glares at the offender, Lukas Kmit, the violinist in this video, displayed a much more original way to cope with a ringing phone. This performance was recorded in the Orthodox Jewish Synagogue in Presov Slovakia earlier this year.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Young Lady's Behavior Towards Gentlemen

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Fragonard, The Stolen Kiss
Loretta reports:
In a young lady's behaviour towards gentlemen, great delicacy is certainly required: yet, I believe, women oftener err from too great a consciousness of the supposed views of men, than from inattention to those views, or want of caution against them.  . . . Men of loose morals or impertinent behaviour must always be avoided: or, if at any time you are obliged to be in their company, you must keep them at a distance by cold civility. But, with regard to those gentlemen whom your parents think it proper for you to converse with, and who give no offence by their own manners, to them I wish you to behave with the same frankness and simplicity as if they were of your own sex. If you have natural modesty, you will never transgress its bounds, whilst you converse with a man, as one rational creature with another, without any view to the possibility of a lover or admirer, where nothing of that kind is professed; where it is, I hope you will ever be equally a stranger to coquetry and prudery; and that you will be able to distinguish the effects of real esteem and love from idle gallantry and unmeaning fine speeches: the slighter notice you take of these last, the better; and that, rather with good-humoured contempt than with affected gravity: but, the first must be treated with seriousness and well-bred sincerity; not giving the least encouragement, which you do not mean, nor assuming airs of contempt, where it is not deserved. But this belongs to a subject, which I have touched upon in a former letter.* I have already told you that you will be unsafe in every step which leads to a serious attachment, unless you consult your parents, from the first moment you apprehend any thing of that sort to be intended: let them be your first confidants, and let every part of your conduct, in such a case, be particularly directed by them.
Hester Chapone, Letters on the Improvement of the Mind: Addressed to a Lady (first published in 1775.  Google Books edition is 1806)

*Read it here.
More about the Fragonard painting here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Would You Wear Jane Austen's Ring?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Isabella/Susan reporting:

Everything connected with Jane Austen has a certain magic. Readers today are so eager for a connection with this favorite 19th c author that early editions of her books (see here and here) bring astronomical sums at auction, and even improbable "portraits" become news.

There's no dispute over the latest piece of Jane Austen memorabilia to come to market, however. The ring, left, has never left Jane's family, being passed down from Jane to her sister Cassandra, and then through various Austen descendants to the present day. The ring has been so privately cherished that, as the auction catalogue notes, it has been "hitherto unknown to scholars." It's unlikely to remain unknown any longer. Set to be auctioned by Sotheby's on July 10, the pre-sale estimated price is £20,000-£30,000, and no one will be surprised if the final sale is for much more. UPDATE: The ring did in fact sell for more than the estimate - much, much more. The final hammer price was £152,450, or about $236,000. The buyer? You'd never predict who it was - click here for her identity.

The ring is simple and elegant. The stone is believed to be odontalite, a popular 19th c substitute for turquoise, and the setting is gold. Jane's taste in jewelry was understated, and in letters to her sister Cassandra, she notes a preference for pieces "neat and plain."Still in an early 19th c jeweler's box that may be the original ("T.West, Goldsmith, Ludgate Street, near St Paul's"), the ring is also accompanied by a descriptive note by Eleanor Austen, the third owner, and wife to Jane's brother Rev. Henry Thomas Austen. Provenance is everything in memorabilia, and this is as perfect as any collector could wish.

Many of my fellow-writers wear rings, often ones with a sentimental connection or historical story. Rings are jewelry that can be enjoyed by the wearer. There's an intimacy to them, wrapped tightly around the finger, that earrings or pins can never have. Looking at Jane's ring, I can imagine the gold band on her finger as she writes, her pen moving swiftly over the page. Or perhaps she's paused to search for the perfect word or phrase, her thumb absently rubbing over and over that smooth blue stone....

Above: A gold and gem set ring, once belonging to Jane Austen. Photo from Sotheby's.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fashion Goes Wild: Fancy Dress in the 1830s

Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Los Angeles Public Library
Loretta reports:

Now that Isabella/Susan and I are pinning pins on Pinterest (as TwoNerdyHistoryGirls*** as well as individually), we are encountering some amazing images.

When she first sent me this, we were both scratching our heads, trying to decide what was going on. (Our French is less than exquisite, and it doesn’t help that spelling could be haphazard at the time.) Obviously it wasn’t a caricature. Clearly it wasn’t normal dress. No woman would show her lower limbs in public in 1832.* 

Eventually, we translated.  Fancy dress!  Of course! Masquerades allowed ladies to express their wild side.

Frankly—though I’m not sure what, if anything, it’s supposed to represent—I love this costume:  the jaunty angle of her hat, the plaid, the scarf, her belt . . . her expression. We were especially entranced by the bloomers and what seem to be argyle stockings.  Or were the bloomers & stockings meant to imitate the trews that our friends at Irish Historical Textiles recently showed?

So far, I haven’t turned up a contemporary fashion description, so if there’s more to this than meets the eye, I hope that our historical dress experts will offer enlightenment. 

On the other hand, it could be just for fun.

Examples of pre-Victorian fancy dress are not thick on the ground.  I think the only one I've posted was this 1829 ensemble, with its daring harem pants—daring because they’re trousers—on a woman!—not because she’s showing parts that should otherwise be covered.

Want more examples of how daring 1830s fancy dress could get?  Look here and here.

Illustration © Los Angeles Public Library—from its marvelous collection of fashion prints.

*Note: The same print on Tumblr lists it for 1831. This might be the correct date.  Certain English magazines reprinted directly from French ones; this might have been a December 1831 print in La Mode, which reappeared in February 1832 in The Lady's Magazine, for instance.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Button, Button: A Tiny Example of Fashionable French Artistry, c.1775

Sunday, June 17, 2012
Isabella/Susan* reporting:

One of the things I admire most about 18th c fashion is the incredible attention to the details. In an era when every cut and stitch was done by hand (and when even highly skilled labor cost less than the raw materials), the level of craftsmanship to be found in the embroidery on a wealthy gentleman's coat pocket or even in the meticulous stitches outlining the bones of a lady's stays (corset) has seldom been equaled.

I came across this button, left, while browsing through the excellent site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because there's very little written about the button on the site, I'm guessing that it must have been part of a set of buttons at one time, leaving it now as the lone survivor after nearly 250 years. This photograph is very much enlarged (and you can click on the image to enlarge it further); compared with other buttons of the time, this one is probably less than an inch in diameter at most, or roughly the size of a modern penny - and again I'm guessing, since the site doesn't give a measurement. Most likely it appeared on a gentleman's waistcoat or coat.

The button shows a girl playing a French hurdy gurdy, a popular street instrument of the time, balanced across her knees. (Forget that hiccup-y old 1960s song by Donovan; here is a YouTube video featuring a  traditional hurdy gurdy, and it's really a lovely, evocative sound.) It's possible the rest of the buttons on the garment showed other girls playing other kinds of instruments, since unmatched buttons with similar themes were popular in the late 18th c., such as this set or this one.

The girl, the hurdy gurdy, and the setting are carved from a single disk of ivory. A glass or clear crystal covers the carving and protects it, and everything is encased within a metal ring. Most astonishing to me are the blue stripes in the background. Each stripe is a pierced cut into the ivory, permitting the blue metallic backing to show through and give color and liveliness to the button. I can't begin to imagine the skill and patience necessary to execute that kind of virtuoso carving – and all for the sake of a single button!

Above: Button, French, c 1775, from the Hanna S. Kohn Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photography courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

*Why the double name? Yes, I'm a Gemini (so is Loretta), but this is the real reason.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of June 11, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012
Mysterious watercolors of a Georgian lady: the secret world of Marianne Rush.
• New twist on street-style photography: NYC subway riders and what they're reading.
• Bacon-shaped jelly, fake maggots, & other historical culinary slapstick.
• Very young Coco Chanel in 1909, with delightfully plaited bun.
• Lovely story for June: one wedding dress worn by seven brides in three generations.
• Salem, MA justly proud of replica of 1797 East Indiaman.
• Pit lasses: the truth about Britain's early female coal miners.
• Bricklaying adultery, and bizarre love triangles: all part of the fortunes & misfortunes of young Ben Jonson.
• More news on those Jane Austen "portraits."
• Confession of Charles I's executioner, rewarded with a stuck orange & a hankie for killing the king.
• Astonishing range of photographs of 19th c Americans on this tumblr.
• Beautiful 1876 corset embroidered with symbols of well-being and prosperity.
• From Quacks to Quaaludes: Three Centuries of Drug Advertising.
• Can you help identify portraits of unknown children found on Civil War battlefields?
• Awesome find: Victoria's mourning dress, complete to the shoes.
• History myth-busting, or eBay buyers beware: No real proof for "Suffragette Jewelry" with secret message.
• "Sallied forth in you drawers": Fascinating thoughts & images regarding Irish national dress.
• "Vaselinos": How Valentino changed the way Americans thought about sex.
• Discovering an 18th c female shoemaker in Boston.
• The unnatural history of the Dixie Cup.
• Strawberry season: 18th c recipe for Strawberry Fritters, plus version for modern cooks to try.
• "She seemed to realize...the intense loneliness of her lot": 19th c working children.
• Playing the now-forgotten game of Pope Joan in Georgian England.
• Early evidence of reading glasses found imprinted into medieval book.
• The haunting beauty of the Palladian Bridge at Prior Park, Bath.
• The seven plagues of the ancient Roman dweller.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday video: a Georgian Cook-along

Friday, June 15, 2012
Kitchen of Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Loretta reports:

Following my blog on 18th dessert settings, Susan showed some tempting 18th century desserts.

Here, for your delectation, is a Georgian cook-along from Historic Royal Palaces.

Here’s more on late Georgian era dining.

And here’s more on chocolate.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see only a rectangle or square where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Of Hoops & Heels & Wardrobe Malfunctions

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Isabella/Susan reporting:

For nearly four hundred years, it's the fashion that won't go away. Farthingales, bum rolls, hoops, crinolines, and bustles: the name changes, but the basic style of spreading skirts supported from beneath stayed the same.

Eighteenth century ladies loved their hoops. These were a light-weight frame of bent cane, covered in linen, that tied around around the waist to support the petticoats. The shape and size of the hoops could be modest for day, or spreading grandly for formal evening dress; the mid-century hoops for wear at Court gave a lady a considerable wing-span, extending her skirts two additional feet on each side of her hips. Regardless of the size, hoops were all about display. They showed off the fabric and elaborately decorated petticoat of the gown, visually narrowed the waist, and gave a sexy bounce to the skirts with each step.

But sometimes hoops displayed a bit too much. Climbing from carriages, sidling through narrow doors, and staying steady on a windy day all required practice and vigilance. As a rule, Georgian ladies did not wear any kind of underpants, and relied only on their knee-length shifts to protect their modesty. Unruly hoops could - and did - flip up at the wrong moments, contributing to major wardrobe malfunctions.

The young lady, above, has just received some grievous news. In her distress has ceased to manage her hoops over the arms of her chair, and given us quite a glimpse of her clocked stockings and high-heeled mules in the process.

I don't doubt that rakes and rogues (okay, most men) probably lived for such moments, and they appear again and again in the caricatures of Rowlandson and Gillray.

While this little poem from a men's magazine pretends to be offering advice, it's more salacious than cautionary. To 18th c minds, the sensible notion that ladies could wear breeches was almost unthinkably forbidden, and therefore titillating beyond measure. It's whichever wicked image the gentleman fancied: the lady completely uncovered, or gender-bending in tight-fitting breeches and high heels.

The Petticoat's of modest Use;
  But should a Lady chance to fall, 
The Hoop forbidden Secrets shows,
  And lo! our Eyes discover all.
Then Breeches with High Heels, I trow,
  All hooped modest Ladies wear;
For it is plain, these Modes we owe
  To Cupid and the willing Fair.
      – from The Gentleman's Magazine, or, The Monthly Intelligencer, Vol. III, 1733.

The lower photograph shows our friends from the Margaret Hunter shop, Colonial Williamsburg, explaining hoops and under 18th c undergarments to a school-group; the modern girls look less than impressed, and much happier in their shorts and jeans.

Above: La Mauvaise Nouvell (The Bad News), by Jean-Baptist-Marie Pierre, 1740.
Below: Scene from the Margaret Hunter shop, Colonial Williamsburg. photograph copyright Susan Holloway Scott.
Many thanks to Chris Woodyard for sharing the poem!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Risqué bathing at Bath in 1825

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Loretta reports:
Who would ever have thought, in these moralizing times, when the puritans are raising conventicles in every town and village, and the cant of vice societies has spread itself over the land, that in one of our most celebrated places of fashionable resort, there should be found baths where the young and the old, the beauteous female and the gay spark, are all indiscriminately permitted to enjoy the luxurious pleasure together. That such is the case in Bath no one who has recently participated in the pleasures of immersion will dispute, and in order to perpetuate that gratification, Bob Transit has here faithfully delineated the scene which occurred upon our entering the King's Bath, through the opening from the Queen's, where, to our great amusement and delight, we found ourselves surrounded by many a sportive nymph, whose beauteous form was partially hidden by the loose flannel gown, it is true; but now and then the action of the water, produced by the continued movements of a number of persons all bathing at the same time, discovered charms, the which to have caught a glimpse of in any other situation might have proved of dangerous consequences to the fair possessors. The baths, it must be admitted, are delightful, both from their great extent and their peculiar properties, as, on entering from the Queen's Bath you may enjoy the water at from 90 to 96 degrees, or requiring more heat have only to walk forward, through the archway, to obtain a temperature of 116.  . .  The notices to prevent gentlemen from swimming in the baths are, in my opinion, so many inducements or suggestions for every young visitor to attempt it. Among our mad wags, Horace Eglantine was more than once remonstrated with by the old bathing women for indulging in this pleasure, to the great alarm of the ladies, who, crowding together in one corner with their aged attendants, appeared to be in a high state of apprehension lest the loose flannel covering that guards frail mortality upon these occasions should be drawn aside, and discover nature in all her pristine purity—an accident that had very nearly happened to myself, when, in endeavouring to turn round quickly, I found the water had disencumbered my frame of the yellow bathing robe, which floated on the surface behind me.
The English Spy, by Bernard Blackmantle, illustr. by G. Cruikshank.  (To read the full piece, please scroll down to page 320.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Nécessaire in Your Pocket, c 1770

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Isabella/Susan reporting:

One of my favorite galleries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, is also one of the smallest: the tiny, glittering gallery filled with the equally glittering objects that were indispensable to 18th c ladies and gentlemen. Boxes for patches and snuff and powder, combs and mirrors and fans, all made from the most precious of metals and covered with bright enamels, jewels, and pastes. Everything is small enough to fit into a pocket, yet big enough to create maximum impact when casually pulled out in a ballroom or playhouse.

A necessaire - French for necessary - like the one, left, was the rococo equivalent to a Swiss Army knife. Packed into a tiny case that's less than 3" tall are all the things necessary for a lady away from home.  (A larger form of necessaire like the one Loretta showed us here was meant for longer journeys.) The enameled copper case with the fanciful scene is from Staffordshire, with gilded fittings and utensils that include scissors, a folding knife, and grooming implements. The narrow white item is an ingenious writing tablet. Thin strips of ivory are fastened together at one end to make them able to fan apart. The owner could write on the ivory pages with the matching pencil (only the top of the holder for lead remains), then wipe the pages clean for reuse.

Another example, right, may be less colorful, but it makes equally efficient use of the small space (only 2"x3") to pack two crystal scent bottles, a patch box and mirror, tweezers, and an ear spoon. The green covering is shagreen, a hard-wearing luxury material in the 18th c that was either actual sharkskin or untanned leather treated to resemble sharkskin. The fittings are gold and gold-plate, with porcelain stoppers on the bottles. I particularly like the tiny swan on one of the stoppers - how marvelous that such a delicate trinket has managed to survive through the centuries!

Left: Necessaire, English (Staffordshire, c. 1760-1800, Enameled copper. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Right: Necessaire, French, third quarter of the 18th c. Shagreen on wood; fittings of gold, porcelain, glass,  & steel. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
All photographs by Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Frozen Yeomen of Hampton Court Palace

Monday, June 11, 2012
Loretta reports:

I had so much fun visiting Hampton Court Palace last year that I had the characters in my latest book, Scandal Wears Satin, make a stop there.

On of the palace’s many delights (I’ve blogged about others here and here and here and here) were these stone yeomen, who support the chimneypiece in The Queen’s Guard Chamber.

The room is one of Queen Mary II’s (of William & Mary) Apartments and part of a palace renovation, abandoned when the queen died in 1694.  No major work was done until 1717, when the Prince & Princess of Wales—the future King George II and Queen Caroline—hired Christopher Wren to bring the place back to life.  He designed this pair of figures in honor of the Yeomen of the Guard—the soldiers who guarded the monarch’s private rooms in a palace.  In the Guard Room, according to Historic Royal Palaces, they “met courtiers on their way to meet the sovereign. Their job was to ensure that no ‘idle, mean or unknown persons’ would pass through into the more important rooms beyond.”

I love that Wren gave them personalities.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Shameless Self-Promotion: Our Latest Pinterest Boards

Sunday, June 10, 2012
As much as we try to pack in lots of interesting historical drawings, paintings, and photographs here on the blog, there's still much more that we've never been able to share - until we discovered Pinterest, that is.

Have you ever wondered what fashionable creations Loretta's 1830s dressmakers were stitching in Silk for Scandal? Are you curious about which 18th c London town house inspired Isabella for When You Wish Upon a Duke? On our constantly updated (we can't help ourselves) Pinterest site, you'll discover boards devoted to "illustrating" our latest books. You'll also find other boards filled with everything from paintings of the Vauxhall pleasure gardens to Thomas Rowlandson cartoons, 18th c shoes to 19th c corsets, wedding dresses of every era to Queen Victoria's famous white wedding. We'll even show you what we'd keep in our jewel box if price and history were no object (and if HRH Queen Elizabeth wouldn't mind sharing a few diamonds from her own collection.) Please come check us out here, or better yet, follow us on Pinterest at TwoNerdyHistoryGirls*** (and yes, those asterisks are part of our "address.:)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of June 4, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Here's another serving of our favorite links of the week, highlighting other blogs, web sites, and articles, and all collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
• Celebrating the 1809.
Lament for a 19th c wayward wife: "Perhaps she's gone to Bringham Young, a Mormon saint to be..."
• Lost 1918 NYC "Cadillac Salon" where princes and movie idols bought custom automobile bodies.
• Thomas Jefferson's spectacles.
• Half a million golden buttons, sewn with 31 miles of thread? Why, for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Banner, of course!
• A 1945 dress with highlights of D-Day printed on the fabric.
• You know you want one: Edwardian-style steampunk laptop.
• "Miss Monroe refused to wear underclothes."
• Do you recognize this happy, giggling toddler with her parents? Eighty-four years later, she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee.
• The historical truth about General Tso's Chicken, the most popular Hunanese dish in the US.
• Remains of Shakespeare's Curtain Theatre unearthed in East London.
• A fabulous find! In 1896, Liverpool Council began to photograph old streets & neighborhoods.
• 180 panorama of inside of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, London.
• All the animals come to the marriage and coronation of Babar & Celeste: draft for the story of Babar.
• American Civil War hero Alonzo H. Cushing may yet get a Medal of Honor for Gettysburg.
• Be afraid! Poisonous shoes in Paris!
• Edwardian problems with the "depraved" sex life of penguins during Scott's arctic expedition.
• The fascinating (and unexpected) history of a female shipwright.
• History of the humble broom.
• Happy birthday to rather snooty dandy George "Beau" Brummell, born this week in 1778.
• Watch your step! 19th c San Francisco tombstones wash up on Ocean Beach.
• Beautiful and unusual. One of the earliest surviving tarot card sets is the Visconti Tarot Deck.
• A fine perambulation: strollers & prams through history.
Wartime swimsuits hit the beaches.
• The Etiquette of Appropriate Dress, 1900.
Lace and needlework charts from 1587.
• This cross-dressing squirrel was a stylish & popular fashion plate in the 1940s.
Georgian ices: pictures & recipes.
• A time-capsule, untouched for 70 years. Paris apartment vacated before WWII, unentered since.

Crave more than a once-a-week update? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls for the freshest tweets every day.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Friday Video: That First Screen Kiss, 1896

Friday, June 8, 2012

Isabella/Susan reporting:

Thomas Edison invented so many things that have improved modern lives that his work as a pioneer film-maker is often overlooked. Working in his Black Maria studio in West Orange, New Jersey, he experimented exuberantly with the new technology, creating short, silent films of everything from Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show to boxing cats. He also filmed the first screen kiss, all twenty-six seconds of it, featuring Canadian actress May Irwin and a mustachioed gallant. In an era when Public Displays of Affection of any sort were strongly discouraged, this must have been scandalous stuff indeed - especially since, after a bit of flirtatious reluctance, the couple appears to enjoy their performance with relish.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Fountain in the Window 1826

Thursday, June 7, 2012
Illustration from Hone's Every-day Book, 1826
Loretta reports:

It seems seasonable to introduce an engraving of a very appropriate ornament of a shop window, which will not surprise any one so much as the proprietor, who, whatever may be thought to the contrary, is wholly unknown to the editor of this work.

As a summer decoration, there is scarcely any thing prettier than this little fountain. Gilt fish on the edge of the lower basin spout jets of water into the upper one, which constantly overflows, and, washing the moss on its stand, falls into its first receiver.  These vessels are of glass, and contain live fish; and on the surface of the larger, white waxen swans continue in gentle motion.  Vases of flowers and other elegancies are its surrounding accompaniments.

This representation exemplifies the rivalry of London tradesmen to attract attention.  Their endeavours have not attained the height they are capable of reaching, but the beautiful forms and graceful displays continually submitted to the sight of passengers, evince a disposition which renders our shops the most elegant in Europe.
William Hone, The Every Day Book: Or, A Guide to the Year: Describing the Popular Amusements, Sports, Ceremonies, Manners, Customs, and Events, Incident to the Three Hundred and Sixty-five Days, in Past and Present Times, Volume 2. 1826

For quite a bit more from The Every-Day Book, please use our blog’s search feature and type in “Hone.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All that Glitters Isn't Gold: It's 18th c Paste

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Isabella/Susan reporting:

When I first came across the term paste used to describe jewelry, I could only imagine the sticky white stuff from elementary school. But in the 18th c, paste jewels belonged in the ballroom, not the schoolroom, and the more, the better.

Paste was the name for faux jewels, cut leaded glass faceted to mimic precious gems. Most often paste jewels imitated clear diamonds, but with colored foil placed behind them, they could also stand in for sapphires, emeralds, and other colored precious stones.

Just as the Duchess of Windsor wore costume jewelry in the 20th c, there was no stigma for the Georgians to wearing paste, and the settings were elegantly designed and often crafted in silver. Even the French Queen Marie-Antoinette mingled paste jewels with her real diamonds, and only a practiced eye could tell the difference.

What mattered was the sparkle, especially when even the most luxurious room lit by candles could be a murky, shadowy place. Clothes for evening were made of gleaming silk and embroidered with metallic threads and sequins, all designed to seize every glimmer of light and reflect it back. The more bling, the higher the fashion, and the higher the wearer's status, too, which led to the craze for paste.

Worn by both men and women, paste stones appeared not only in earrings, necklaces, and rings, but also were pinned into elaborate hair styles, set into buttons and stomachers (large jeweled pieces that were pinned to the front of bodices), and outlined buckles on shoes. By the 1850s, paste had been replaced with other kinds of imitations, but as these examples show, the beauty of paste remains undiminished.

Top left: Women's Fichu Buckle, c 1780-1790, England. Paste stones, silver, & gilt metal, engraved steel. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Right: Earrings, late 18th c, French, paste & silver. (Screw backs modern.) Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Lower left: Shoe buckle, c 1760, English, silver set with pastes. Victoria & Albert Museum.

Like to see more historical jewelry? Check out our latest board on Pinterest: In Our Jewel Box.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fashions for June 1824

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Loretta reports:

June fashions from the Ladies monthly Museum.  You may notice a similarity to the the 1821 plate I posted in April, yet there’s quite a difference in fashion details.  Interesting, too, that the General Monthly Statement of Fashion includes a report on weather & its influence on fashion. (Please click on pictures to enlarge for readability.)

Ladies’ Monthly Museum, Vol XIX, 1824 (June issue)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another 18th c Gown Make-Over - With the Scraps to Prove it

Sunday, June 3, 2012
Isabella/Susan reports:

I find recycled and remade clothes fascinating. As a "handwork" person myself, I'm in complete sympathy with the desire to make something new and usable from an older garment that's just too beautiful to toss. I've shared several such dresses before - here and here and here - but this one has an unusual twist.

Most of the examples in museums are 19th c dresses refashioned from 18th c silks, and the one shown here, upper left,  falls into that category, too. The silk is a lovely mushroom-colored damask from c 1760-70 (here's a similar damask, used in a gown from 1770), an elegantly subdued color that was once again in fashion in the mid-19th c. Consider these two silk dresses c. 1850, right. With the addition of a small lace collar, ruffled lace sleeve-cuffs, and a full hoop petticoat, the remodeled gown must have been quite stylish.

In most cases, it's far more difficult to guess at the appearance of the original gown. But this recycled dress comes with a bonus: all the pieces and scraps of fabric that were removed were carefully saved in a bag, lower left.

In the middle of the photograph is the original gown's compere stomacher, a kind of false-front with buttons like this (from one of our new Pinterest boards.) Lying on either side are the original elbow-length sleeves - too narrow to have been remodeled - with their gathered, serpentine trim (like this) on the outside of the flaring cuffs (like this.) Without examining the pieces, it's difficult to guess the rest of the 18th c gown, but I'm sure that with the pieces spread out like a jigsaw puzzle, a costume historian could do exactly that.

And, perhaps, a costume historian soon will. The recycled gown and the "extras" will be sold by Kerry Taylor Auctions later this month, with an estimated price of around £400-£600 - though I wouldn't be surprised if it runs higher. If one of you is the lucky buyer, I hope you'll let us know!

Above & lower left: Mid-19th c dress, made of 18th c silk damask. Photographs courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Right: A pair of silk day gowns, c 1850. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Breakfast Links: Week of May 28, 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012
Here's another serving of our favorite links of the week to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
• How George III's Golden Jubilee was celebrated.
• Plenty of room for Beau Brummell, you, AND all your friends: entire Georgian crescent in Bath goes on sale.
• For historical shoe-fans: these 17th c gilded and painted mules are insanely gorgeous/gorgeously insane.
• Georgian cookery: To Make a Cheshire Pork Pie: 18th c recipe, plus 21st c version and instruction video.
• Staggering 19th c images of old London. Step into the time machine.
Commute like royalty: French rail trains decked out with images from Versailles.
• Remembering the 54th Regiment that inspired Glory.
• Lovely 18th c Pavillon d'amour, Neuville-sur-Oise (but why, why is the chateau in ruins?)
Richard the Lionheart's death to be investigated 812 years after an infection killed him.
Top Ten Tourist Attractions in London - in 1780.
Historical video game: help Queen Victoria escape childhood oppression in Kensington Palace.
• Why no memorial at Epsom for suffragist Emily Wilding Davison - when there are ones for horses?
• Sixty years ago: Her Majesty's coronation gown by Norman Hartnell; for comparison, Queen Victoria in her coronation robes, 1837.
• Who can resist a great pig photo - especially of a great pig like Big Dave?
• From Captain Cook to playboy Prince Bertie: the appeal of the tattoo among high society.
• Grim Dickensian views of 19th c Newgate Prison.
Joan of Arc was burned this week in 1431.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy's 1953 wedding dress.
• What folly is this? Animal welfare in Georgian London.
Out in the sun: John Singer Sargent paintings, plus Emily Dickinson on Parasols.
Mirror sold: used by tragic 18th c society beauty who died of make-up poisoning at 27.
• Toilet humor: the case of Thomas Crapper.
• More 18th c trade cards from London.
• Revealed: the true colors of Henry VIII's tapestries at Hampton Court.

Want more? Follow us on Twitter at @2nerdyhistgirls.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday video: Yma Sumac

Friday, June 1, 2012
Loretta reports:

I vividly remember a moment in my childhood when, at my grandparents’ house, I happened upon the record album (and it was an actual album in those days), "Voice of the Xtabay."  The picture of Yma Sumac, so utterly exotic-looking, completely enthralled me.  At some point, I got to hear the record, and that was equally astounding.  Many years later, I wondered if she and her music were as strange and wonderful as I remembered, so I bought myself a copy.  It was still strange & wonderful.

You can hear a very clear recording of "Chuncho" & other cuts from the album at a site devoted to her.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see only a rectangle or square where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.
Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket