Monday, January 30, 2012

Gossip at Chatsworth

Eliza Sheridan was certainly aware of her husband's tendencies to be, oh how do we say this delicately, a slut.  When she first found out about his affair with Fanny Crewe, Eliza threw a fit, but sadly Sheridan was not a man to be controlled and Eliza ended up admitting defeat (although she had her own vengeful affairs).  Her letter to her friend Mary Anne Canning in 1785 is very revealing of for genteel women had to constantly deal with their husband's infidelities:
"S is in Town—and so is Mrs Crewe. I am in the Country and so is Mr Crewe—a very convenient Arrangement, is it not? Oh the Tiddlings and Fiddlings that have been going on at Chatsworth. 'Twas quite a Comedy to see it."

Ob-sessed: Coiffure Products

Oh marketing gimmicks!  While looking for hairspray this weekend I came across a product with the image you see above.  Did I need Umberto Gianni's Backcomb in a Bottle? No.  Did I want it? You know it!

More marketing
Luckily the company puts out travel sizes of their products which is ideal for impulse buyers like myself.  Well, it looks like I will be buying the normal-size version in the future too, this stuff is great!  Take a few strands of hair that need some pouf action and spritz them and  style your glorious locks into the coiffure of your choice.  It does have hairspray-like elements in it so it will harden hair.  For extra 18th century action you can pair it with Bumble and Bumble white hair powder (one of my essential hair products) and you will really be indulging in your inner eighteenth-century fashionista/o. 

I found Backcomb in a Bottle at Boots, North American peeps will sadly have order them from overseas, because I haven't yet found any US suppliers- let me know if you do find it stateside though!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Duchess of Gordon's Sim City

The Duchess of Gordon was known as being the quintessential Tory political hostess in fashionable London society.  However, like many politicians today, she had a soft spot that didn't get exposed in the public area as much.  The duchess was an economic stimulator! 

The little highland estates of Badenoch and Strathspey didn't have much going on in terms of economy but when Jane Gordon looked across those rolling fields she saw an opportunity to roll in the pounds.  Either that or this was how eighteenth century aristocrats played Sim City.  She hired instructors to teach the locals how to raise crops of flaxen and linen (to make all those fashionable gualle gowns Marie Antoinette had popularized!).  The duchess then pulled some threads to get supplies to the area. 

There was only one problem, Badenoch and Strathspey weren't actual towns and therefore couldn't sustain this new influx of economy.  So what did Jane do?  She damn-well built a village.  Because she was a duchess and duchesses have money to build their own villages if it suits their fancy.

Jane seems to have been very good at establishing and tending to villages for Kingussie (look you can have a pretty wedding there and eat haggis in the pubs and other fun things!) is still alive and well today thanks to the Duchess of Gordon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

18th Century Fashion on the Streets: Muffs

 I have been very pleased that every since the north wind began blowing this season that I began to see the resurrection of the muff both in shops and on the street.  Not only does this allow many cleverly crass puns on your part but also another means of exhibiting an 18th century fashion trend.

In the beginning of the 18th century muffs were rather small and cozy, allowing for efficient hand-warming.  Mary Robinson sports one of the smaller muffs in her 1782 Romney portrait which is similar to muffs I've seen for sale at John Lewis and Top Shop (the later of which I own and love!).  Toward the end of the century muffs became bigger and bigger, escalating in size until they nearly hung to the wearers knees, turning practical hand warmers into a quite cumbersome fashion accessory.  I've noticed these in the shops as well (not knee-length, thank goodness) in the form of the "snood."  Snoods are circular scarves meant for your neck but it wasn't until I saw my friend using her faux fur snood as a muff on a night out that I realized furry snoods are ideal late-18th/early-19th century muffs.  Check out my finds below!  Not only are muffs fashionable, but they're also quite handy for texting on cold winter walks- no pulling off gloves to respond to texts anymore!
Remember Darlings, just because it is cold outside doesn't mean you have to sacrifice fashion! Keep those dainty fingers covered.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Guest Post: Talia Felix talks Poufs and Pompadours

I am delighted to start of this new year with a guest post from illustrator, author and blogger, Talia Felix.  Talia's newest adventure is her blog, The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamor which details the toils of being a fabulous lady of fashion in the Edwardian age.  Talia is here today to shed insight on the similar hairstyles that graced both the Georgian and Edwardian Ages and how you too can create these fabulous coiffures.

Can you spot the differences between these two hairstyles?

They are actually very slight, and while the Edwardian girl is trying to model herself on the Georgian look, she's made a small alteration which makes her true era quite easy to identify. It mostly just amounts to her having set her pompadour about 2 or 3 inches further forward on her crown -- all the difference there is between a pompadour and a pouf.

This observation is mostly of interest to those people who enjoy recreating historical hairdos. Hair styling methods from the Edwardian era are much better documented than those of the Georgian period, and if the methods of one also apply to the other, that's good news for the reenactor!

There is a reputation that the tall "Marie Antoinette" hairdos were achieved by simply wearing a wig. While this may have been true in some cases, examination of portraits don't usually show women with that same telltale wig-line the men's pictures tend to have. And how many women do you know who'd be willing to shave their heads entirely, even if they would be covered with a wig?

One of the few actual Georgian-era sources I've come across, that produces any sort of attempt to give a realistic description of the period's hairdressing practices, is the book Evelina. (Maybe it has the honor just because it was actually written by a woman, who knew something about the subject.) In fact Evelina and her friends get into plenty of hairy situations. It describes use of "cushions" and of false hair to supplement the natural locks, as well as ratting or "frizzling" the hair for volume, but makes clear that the women's own natural hair is the basis for all the styles. Edwardians had similar ways of gaining the amount of volume needed for the fashionable styles of their time -- ratting the hair, adding artificial rats (often cultivated from their brushes and combs, and saved till a nice mass was had) or purchasing pieces of false hair to weave or pin in. It is a fact that until the 1920s, most women kept their hair as long as possible; but really, when you think about it, even those with very long hair are unlikely to have enough of it to not only pad out a full pouf but to also have been able to achieve all the external supplementary rolls and curls as well.

The best-remembered styles of the 18th century, tall as one or two more heads stacked onto your own, didn't seem to be super-popular in England as on the continent, judging by the styles English ladies preferred to wear in their own portraits. The mere 3/4 of your own head looked like it was the standard for active English ladies, like Frances Abington and the Waldegreve girls. This is actually a fairly easy style to achieve -- and it's done with the same base as the Edwardian pompadour.

These demo pictures are being done in a very loose and messy fashion since I'm trying to style my hair myself with no mirror, and without using any pomade (if you do want to go all out yourself though, I recommend Murray's pomade. It really holds those Antoinette curls in place!) My own hair is, functionally, about hip-length -- wet and held straight the longest point goes roughly a quarter way down my thigh. This is to give some idea what's being worked with.

To make the pompadour/pouf, I'm using a hair rat made of my own hair, saved for a couple months from combs, and formed into a crescent shape.

1.Testing the rat. You'll want to comb your hair over it, but here it's just set on top of my own hair, and almost looks like a complete style.

2. Hair combed and pinned up over the rat. A ponytail is left over.

3. That ponytail gets used to create two rolls going down toward the neck. It's interesting to see how flat the style actually looks from the side.

4. Front view of the 3/4 head pouf.

Now I am sure if I had not used that rat I'd not have had hair enough remaining for the two neck curls. But if the Edwardians are anything to go by, there's a second cheat for this: if you want to rat your own hair, or for some other reason don't end up with enough hair remaining for the curls, you can just pin on pre-curled pieces of false hair. I have dark hair so we're not getting much contrast for the photo, but right over my ear in picture 5 is a pinned-in roll made entirely of false hair. Buns, coils and whatever else you want of false hair can also be thrown in. 

This just goes to show that, firstly, it is possible to achieve these styles without a full wig: but also, that the fashionable 'dos might not always have been entirely one's own hair either. Let's face it, even nowadays the most fashionable hair style are made with hair extensions. But just as the Edwardians made use of "transformations" to gain the needed abundance of hair, so can we assume did the Georgians with their at least equally complicated tresses.