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Entries in victorian (27)


Box Clever

Ever since I collected these vintage leather lace-up gloves from my old club one clean-up day, I have wanted to do a boxing story especially for Boxing Day. Originally I wanted to wear the gloves, but was never quick enough to organise a friend to come press the shutter for me (as I obviously could not operate a camera shutter remote wearing gloves). Finally I decided to go ahead anyway, as I love the way the laces allow the gloves to hang around the neck – a classic look not possible with modern gloves that fasten with Velcro.

Hattie Stewart, from the Bronx, New York (image from Pinterest)Researching women’s vintage boxing attire was extremely entertaining as of course with the Victorian mania for keeping women as covered up as much as possible during sporting activities, this meant donning all sorts of paraphernalia, such as silk sashes around the waist, ribbons in the hair, and pretty frilled socks and shoes. The image of Hattie Stewart from the Bronx, New York was my main inspiration for my outfit – it was the ribbons and the multi-coloured sash that sold me on it.

The only vintage items I am sporting are the gloves themselves, the silk ribbon in my hair, and a silk kimono I bought in an antique store in Vietnam years ago. I had to make do with a Gap tank and Adidas shorts, and leather fold-up ballet flats by Yosi Samra (super soft and comfortable, by the way). I laugh every time I see the lace socks paired with running shorts!

The Bennett Sisters, c1910–15

I haven’t done any boxing classes for a year or two – martial arts having given way to fine arts – but I still do a bit of shadow-boxing as part of my warm-up when I go running. Doing this shoot reminded me how much I miss sparring, although if I do take it up again in the New Year, I think I will be wearing more practical garments!

Photos: A few days ago

Clara Bow in Rough House Rosie, 1927Women boxing in heels in the 1920s (click through for more images of women boxing)Fraulein Kussin and Mrs Edwards fought on 7 March, 1912


Don’t Mess With Me

Don’t mess with me on Boxing Day. I mean business. I have fists and I know how to make fisticuffs. I AM READY TO DO BATTLE.

Oh … what? It’s not that kind of boxing day? Boo. Hiss.

Traditionally, Boxing Day was when the feudal lords gave out gifts, known as a Christmas Box, to their peasants, and also leftovers from Christmas Day feasting. I am afraid I am eating all my leftovers myself, and I don’t have any peasants anyway.

As for that other revered tradition, attending the Boxing Day sales – I have eschewed them this year. The crowds and the rampant commercialism are more wont to make me break out with a quick one-two to get people out of my way! I am spending a relaxed day at home perusing presents given me yesterday (a lovely vintage 1930s book, and a great art book), watching films, and eating the aforementioned cakes. I really ought to fit in a workout to work off all those extra desserts …

Photo: Today


Keeping Up With the Ironing

My third New Year’s resolution this year was to keep on top of my ironing – rather than letting it pile and pile into monstrous proportions for months on end. I am happy to report that my habits have improved (cough, cough) to the point where they pile up for only weeks on end. The garments in this picture taken in January, for example, have long since been pressed and put away.

At least we can be thankful irons have evolved from this cast-iron monstrosity from 1850! I once lifted an antique iron and it was incredibly heavy – you really would have got a workout using one of those!Ironing is such a boring chore. I know many people who find it so boring they don’t even bother with it at all. But I hate to wear wrinkled clothing, especially to work. It looks so slovenly. (Sorry, but it does.) Click here for an object lesson. Others (fashion editors) swear by the efficacy of hanging unironed clothing in the bathroom while they shower, saying that the wrinkles magically drop out with the steam. Pfffft! That is an outright fantasy. I’ve tried it, and it does not work at all.

A work colleague swears by her steam iron, a magical laundry gadget judging by her description. Sadly, I do not have room in my tiny studio apartment to store such a piece of machinery, although I suppose I could consider a portable version. 

Making ironing look beautiful: A Laundry Maid Ironing, Henry Morland 1716–1797This Victorian woman uses an iron similar to the cast iron version pictured aboveObviously a good iron is preferable, but one thing that really makes a huge difference in completing this tedious business is a high-quality ironing board that doesn’t wobble and threaten to collapse with every movement, and which has a good cover on it with plenty of padding. Little padding beneath the cover means quite often you can iron the grill pattern of the board into your clothes.

one thing that really makes a huge difference … is a high-quality ironing board

Once I determine to tackle one of these big mothers (as above) though, I set to with a will. Often I will put on a DVD for entertainment relief, although it’s better I choose something I have watched before, so that I am not pulled into the story and distracted from the main task at hand. This was how one year I got through all the documentaries and commentaries on The Lord of the Rings. I’m vaguely interested in the commentaries, but I certainly don’t want to sit down and watch them exclusively. Another time I found myself rediscovering that old classic, Dirty Dancing very late at night. I hadn’t watched that film since I was a teenager!

Sometimes I will simply listen to quiet music while I iron, and find that combined with the hush and hiss of the iron put me into a soothing, meditative state where my mind wanders down pathways I seldom visit during busy days. It’s a great way to do some creative thinking.

Even Ava Gardner did the ironing (in heels of course)!I have this childhood memory of my mother doing the ironing in the lounge room in the evenings: she would turn on the radio to the old 3AK radio station, an easy-listening music station, and work at one end of the L-shaped room under the lights, while I would lounge on a couch at the other end of the room in the dimness, daydreaming in a somnolent state prior to going to bed. There is something very comforting about that memory. That’s probably why to this day I prefer to do my ironing late at night, with the lights turned down low.

Speaking of which, I just happen to have one of these monsters breeding on an armchair: something I should tackle this weekend. I will wear slippers however.


A Bevy of Burlesque Beauties

Rose Hamilton in a fetching striped corsetThe other day, while doing some research online, I came across this bevy of burlesque beauties from 1890. These risqué Victorian pictures of ‘loose women in tights’ come from the Charles H. McCaghey Collection.

The pictures were mass-produced on tobacco and cabinet cards for the delectation of Victorian men everywhere starved for images that showed the female form. It was not the quantity of naked flesh that was titillating – there barely was any on show – but rather that shapely and curvaceous limbs were revealed encased only in tights, tightly-laced corsets and outlandish costumes.

Miss Murdock plays Cupid – undeniably the slimmest of this lot, and arguably the prettiestBurlesque took off in the US after Lydia Thompson brought her troupe, the British Blondes to New York City in 1868. Proper ladies dismissed them as common as street prostitutes, but men adored them. But by the 1920s, burlesque was out of fashion when moving pictures, vaudevillian theatre and Broadway revues took off.

Perceptions of beauty have certainly changed over the centuries – Dita von Teese and her ilk are as different from these voluptuous ladies as chalk from cheese. The costumes are still enormous fun however – I can’t decide which is my favourite however – a knight in shining armour, a horse, or a striped sailor outfit?

Scroll through this little selection below, or click through and visit the Ohio State University Library for more. 

I love how cross and defiant Viola Clifton looks!Eliza Blasina in horse costumeMademoiselle Conalba sports a fetching take on a policeman’s uniformElla Chapman is a knight in shining armourRoman gladiator Emma Burgess means businessJennie Lee is draped in tissue lamé and pearlsAn unidentified woman (possibly Camille) is wearing an adorable striped sailor-inspired outfit


Clutching at Straws

Here’s the perfect summer bag for a summer picnic: vintage woven straw embroidered with orange blossoms on front and top. All the more perfect because it looks just like an Asian lunchbox! At 20cm x 20cm (8" x 8"), it’s also large enough to take on a Sunday stroll through a flea market, and to be filled with more vintage goodies.

Too adorable and inexpensive to resist, I recently purchased the bag for $20 from Etsy store Junky Monkey (who specialise in vintage clothing patterns). The seller listed it as a 70s item, although to me it is more reminiscent of the 1960s for some reason – how cute would it look with a vintage silk cheongsam of that era?

Here’s to delicious sunny days … bon appétit!