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Entries in 1910s (32)


Cherry Picking

Last year I stumbled across a fantastical image by fashion illustrator Helen Dryden, featuring a lady wearing a cherry hat and surrounded by butterflies. It was a serendipitous discovery, for I had recently purchased a delicious little burnt orange straw hat trimmed with cherries on eBay from Tarnished Past.

Cover illustration by Helen Dryden, British Vogue, July 1914I decided to make a picture in homage to Dryden, for I had also bought a cherry print vintage dress on Etsy (I had gone on a bit of a cherry rampage). Both hat and dress are 1940s, and the cherries on the hat are made of celluloid. They make a lovely clicking sound when I move my head, and although the glaze is cracked and they feel terribly fragile yet heavy, I adore the hat. The onyx bauble earrings match quite nicely. I couldn’t match all the colours exactly however. The red paper umbrella is one I purchased from Chinatown last Chinese New Year for a couple of dollars.

It was difficult trying to match the pose of the woman in the illustration, contorting my body without being able to look through the viewfinder. It was almost impossible to hold the umbrella at that angle, nor could I manage to defy gravity and tip the hat on end – and my neck certainly is not quite that long! It goes to show that sometimes illustration can do a little more than photography. 


The Seventh Veil


Salomé – an icon of dangerous female seductiveness – has inspired centuries of artists to create paintings, operas, films, ballets, poetry, songs and even video games. For some she is the frivolous and foolish young woman who caused the death of John the Baptist, for others she is revered as the classic femme fatale, able to both fascinate and repulse simultaneously.

Aubrey Beardsley’s Salomé, 1907She danced before King Herod and his court and abstracted a promise from the king to grant a wish. Her dance is thought to have had an erotic element to it and is the precursor to the famous Dance of the Seven Veils during which six outer veils are flung off. Having seduced the king, and prompted by her mother, Salomé demanded the head of John to be served to her on a platter. If you ask me, it was rather foolish of the besotted king to have agreed to grant her wish before having heard it.

My seventh veil consists of portions of an Arabian dancing costume, a vintage sequin encrusted showgirl bra and lots of vintage pearls and silver jewellery. Plus loads of kohl, the essential accessory of any dancing girl worth her salt.

All Nazimova, Russian American actress, plays Salomé in 1923George Barbier’s portrait of Tamara Karsavina as Salomé, 1914Theda Bara in a rather awesome costume, as Salomé, 1918


Springtime Fantasies

Vogue, April 1928, illustrated by George Lepape, from In Vogue (Rizzoli 2006)

I always enjoy looking at vintage fashion illustrations, especially of the nineteen-teensies and twenties. The linework is so elegant – sometimes austere in a geometric Art Deco style, and sometimes extravagant, such as the carefree handwriting that forms the masthead and the lady driver’s scarf on this spring 1928 cover. The colour palette is often subtle or minimal, the imagery fanciful and very romantic.

But what was inside? I’ve never seen one of these early issues in hard copy, and must refer to Norbeto Angeletti and Alberto Oliva’s book In Vogue (Rizzoli, 2006) for a few spreads (below). Condé Nast’s intentions for the magazine he proclaimed thus: ‘Vogue is the technical adviser – the consulting specialist – to the woman of fashion in the matter of her clothes and of her personal adornment.’

… the English were ‘considered to be the most elegant and to have the best taste, especially if they had noble titles.’

Back then, it was paramount to report on the London scene, as the English were ‘considered to be the most elegant and to have the best taste, especially if they had noble titles.’ This is rather amusing considering that the French Chambre syndicale de la haute couture is the holiest of holies today, and French women supposedly the chicest of all! The Paris fashion scene was still of course covered exhaustively. 

With the outbreak of World War I, French couture was in a state of crisis, as many designers and dressmakers joined the ranks or the Red Cross, and their ateliers were fashioning bandages and uniforms instead of fantasies. In America, this lead to an opportunity for local designers. Following are pages from the December 1914 issue showcasing the designs of Bendel, Gunther, Tappé, Maison Jacquelin and Bergdorf Goodman.

It’s lovely to see these pictorials, but for me, it is still the delightful cover artwork – French or not – that makes me sigh ooh la la! Enjoy these lovely springtime covers.

See more vintage Vogue covers in the Vintage Vogue 2011 gallery of my calendar from last year, or visit Miss Moss or Musie.

Vogue April 1910, illustrated by Helen Dryden, from my 2011 calendarVogue March 1916, illustrated by Helen Dryden, from In Vogue (Rizzoli 2006)Vogue April 1914, illustrated by Helen Dryden, from MusieVogue March 1914, from Musie


A Sashbuckling Romance

Merchant Ivory’s 1985 film A Room With a View always makes me smile in goofish romance whenever I watch it. It is so light and frothy and sweet, yet filled with cheeky moments (excuse the pun) that make one chuckle. I do enjoy my swoon laced with a little sauce.

Helena Bonham-Carter’s wardrobe is so pretty, particularly her summer blouses and long white or cream skirts that are cinched in at the waist with delicate belts or ribbons. Her silk evening skirts make such a lovely rustle as she swishes away from Cecil after giving him his congé.

The costumes for A Room With a View were designed by Jenny Beaven and John Bright, who won both an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Costume Design. This polka-dotted bodice and skirt (above) are particular favourites of mine – I love the Wedgwood blue colour. The bodice is of machine-embroidered voile with appliquéd sprigs, and Broderie Anglaise collar, yoke and cuffs. The waistband is of silk and the skirt of linen. Just delicious! 

I had long hankered after an original Edwardian white blouse, and found one last year in Barcelona (read about that fashionable adventure here). To really complete this fin de siècle picture of romance however, a sash was required. Sashes are so storybookish and quaint, especially when tied in a giant bow and worn with soulful looks.

I searched high and low for a vintage or antique sash or ribbon. I wanted it to be silk, wide, and preferably blue (inspired by Bonham-Carter’s costumes). If it was striped that would be an additional bonus. I saw a beautiful blue and white striped Victorian ribbon on Etsy, but it wasn’t nearly long enough, and it was very expensive. I kept looking and finally found striped 1940s purple and white taffeta ribbon on eBay – in rayon, which is almost as good as silk. I purchased three yards for less than $40. Then, while rummaging around in my props suitcase, I came across a large rhinestone buckle I had forgotten about. It was threaded onto a black velvet ribbon that I had never finished sewing into a choker. This would look rather nice on the striped ribbon as an alternative to a simple sashed bow, I decided.

My own room with a view from Casa Miradouro, in Sintra, Portugal last year

Vintage 1940s striped rayon ribbon, found on eBayAntique-style oxidised sterling silver, marcasite and amythest necklace, poison ring of sterling silver, rose gold and amethyst, sterling silver and amethyst ring all from Palm Beads, a jewellery boutique in MelbourneTo complete the picture I unearthed from the bottom of my jewellery box an oxidised silver, marcasite and amethyst necklace designed in an antique style, and two matching rings – one of which is a poison ring and actually flips open! The onyx earrings are my own make, and the skirt is modern, from Australian label Witchery. The perfect finishing touch is a book of the era, entitled Helen With the High Hand, which my sister Star thought would be an amusing book to gift me.

Well, I have the outfit, now I just need to get me to a barley field in Italy. 

The infamous kiss

Background of main images are of the gardens in the National Palace of Sintra, Portugal.


The Importance of Wearing One’s Chin High

Last December, I saw MTC’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. It has always been one of my favourite plays, ever since I saw the 1952 version of the film as a child. This time I was much struck by one of Lady Bracknell’s lines – I found it exquisitely humorous.

She instructs Cecily Cardew to raise her chin, for chins are being worn high nowadays, and her daughter Gwendolyn Fairfax obligingly demonstrates the correct angle.

Here, in the inimitable Oscar Wilde’s words:

Lady Bracknell: [Glares at Jack for a few moments. Then bends, with a practised smile, to Cecily.] Kindly turn round, sweet child. [Cecily turns completely round.] No, the side view is what I want. [Cecily presents her profile.] Yes, quite as I expected. There are distinct social possibilities in your profile. The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present.

Further research discovered another amusing influence on the height of chins. Earnest was written in August 1894, but just 25 or so years later, chins were once more being worn high – brought back into fashion along with the cloche hat:

[The cloche], fashionable from 1908 to 1933, was one of the most extreme forms of millinery ever, with an appearance that resembled a helmet. It was the iconic hat of the twenties decade and will ever be associated with the flappers of the era. It was responsible for the period stance we associate with the era. To wear one correctly the hat had to be all but pulled over the eyes, making the wearer have to lift up the head, whilst peering snootily down the nose. (From Fashion Era.)

How wonderful! I have a couple of cloches among my repertoire and hereby resolve to practice the stance.

Some examples of cloche hats – and appropriate chin inclination

Making the Picture

I had a lot of fun dressing up for this picture. To evoke the look of the era, I pulled out my oldest hat, from 1910, navy wool felt trimmed with a baby blue ostrich feather; a vintage bandeau/collar/sleep mask (the Etsy seller from whom I bought it was undecided as to its original purpose); a newish royal purple blouse by Cue that would set off the collar to admiration; a pair of 70s lace gloves with frilled cuffs; and finally a pair of amazonite oblong earrings. A low camera angle helps to achieve the correct degree of snootiness.

The background image is an amazing Art Nouveau door I photographed in Barcelona, situated on the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes. It’s carved from beautiful golden wood and inset with stained glass.