Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Patriot's Underwear

"Is there any Britisher who would accept in these days the 'protection' of German woolens?

BRITISH in name, in idea, in appearance, and in every detail of manufacture, there is no Underwear more worthy of wear by all good patriots than the All-British PESCO

...genuine BRITISH satisfaction is assured to every wearer”

Monday, 26 November 2012

No better than she should be

"I was one of the first anti-heroines - not particularly good looking and no better than I should be."

Pat Phoenix (aka Coronation Street's Elsie Tanner), 26th November 1923 – 17th September 1986.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Drop the Turkey Trot

Maria Ley

"Remember you are at a social gathering, not a gymnasium.

Drop the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear, the Bunny Hug, etc. These dances are ugly, ungraceful, and out of fashion."

Vernon and Irene Castle brought elegance and good manners to ballroom dancing. We would probably hate them.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Party time!

"Whether a party can have much success without a woman present I must ask others to decide, but one thing is certain, no party is any fun unless seasoned with folly." - Desiderius Erasmus

Friday, 23 November 2012

It is the duty of every human being to make himself as attractive as possible

Symphony in Black

The Nile

Contesse de Hoffmann

Freedom and Captivity

Her Secret Admirers

Loge de Theatre

The North Sea

Queen of the Night

Top Hats, for Harpers Bazaar

Wings of Victory

Costume for Gaby Deslys


In 1926, when Erté made an electrifying appearance at the Paris Opera costume ball, he was dressed in a toreador outfit of varying shades of gold lame. "That night," he recalls, "the huge cape I designed was completely lined with fresh red roses which I tossed, one by one, at my audience as I descended the grand staircase."

In his 1975 biography Things I Remember, Erte wrote: "it is the duty of every human being to make himself as attractive as possible".

“Not only do I do what I want to do, but I do my work in my own way and never have been influenced by another artist.”

Romaine de Tirtoff, known as Erté, the “Father of Art Deco” (23rd November 1892 – 21st April 1990)

Read my previous blog about Erté

More Erté designs

Erté on Wikipedia

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Not a wife and mother highly respected in Market Snodsbury

"Are you in pain, sir?" he asked, observing me writhe.

"No, just chafing. This has shocked me, Jeeves. I wouldn't have thought such an idea would ever have occurred to her. One could understand Professor Moriarty, and possibly Doctor Fu Manchu, thinking along these lines, but not a wife and mother highly respected in Market Snodsbury, Worcestershire."

"The female of the species is more deadly than the male, sir."

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

There just aren’t any juicy bits

Beverley Nichols on Radclyffe Hall
(written in 1958)
“But in the twenties it [the term ‘homosexual’] was taboo, and I think it is correct to say that the first time it came into general circulation was during the case of The Well of Loneliness, by Radcylffe Hall.

“This book – though not as fine a novel as Adam’s Breed, for which she was awarded the Femina Vie Heureuse prize – is one of the most austerely moral works ever written. And yet fate has ordained that it should be stocked in shady Parisian bookshops cheek by jowl with such erotica as The Harems of Harlem and Pleasures of the Rod. It is placed there, of course, with the idea that young persons who have heard of its reputation may purchase it in the hope of finding passages of lurid vice. In fact, it is about as vicious as Pride and Prejudice and its powers of corruption are hardly equal to those of a grocer’s catalogue.

“And yet…what an uproar it made! Such a hullabaloo is unthinkable in the fifties, and for this reason it may perhaps be instructive to recall some of the personalities in a case which though it was an affaire de scandale was not without its humour.

“Radclyffe Hall was a very virtuous woman. She was brave, honourable, and deeply religious, and had it not been for that unfortunate accident of nature she might have ended up as a bishop or a field marshal.

“But she was embarrassing to meet in public. She used to attend many first nights wearing a black military cape, with a high stiff collar and a man’s stock. Her grey hair was cut and parted like a man’s. Her entry into the theatre always caused a minor sensation, and whenever I saw her striding towards me I used to beat a rapid retreat into the one place where, ironically enough, she was unable to follow me.

“At home, it was a different matter. She had a pretty house at Rye, where she was accepted by the locals as an amiable eccentric. Rye is an almost hysterically picturesque town in Sussex. When you walk down its narrow streets you feel that at any moment a horde of Morris dancers may burst through the doors of one of the oldy-worldy cafes. Sometimes, to your alarm, they do. The bonne bouche of Rye is Henry James’ old house at the top of the High Street. It was later occupied by the Edwardian novelist, E. F. Benson, who made it the setting for the Lucia novels, which are among the minor neglected masterpieces of English comic literature. They are worthy of a shelf not so very much lower than the novels of Jane herself, but most of them, alas, are out of print.

“At home, Radclyffe Hall impressed one as a person of passionate integrity and almost overwhelming moral rectitude…provided that one did not regard her as a woman. How could one regard her as a woman? There was nothing in the least feminine about her. I can see her now, standing in front of the fireplace at Rye, doing what some of us called her ‘British policeman act’. This is the symbolic gesture associated with the conventional music-hall cop…hands clasped behind the back, chin thrust up, knees bent and jerked outward in a springy, aggressive motion. While indulging in these callisthenics she would discourse intelligently about the latest novel. It was her boat that she knew nothing about housekeeping. She must have regarded this ignorance as a sign of virility, because she so often referred to it. ‘Couldn’t boil an egg,’ she would proclaim gruffly, jerking her knees out with extra gusto. ‘Couldn’t light a fire, couldn’t dust a chimneypiece.’

“The man who chose the name of this eccentric but honourable woman in the mud, and whose ‘revelations’ were responsible for banishing her book to the shelves of shady libraries in Paris, was called James Douglas. He wrote a weekly column in a Sunday newspaper with a bombastic fervour that marked him as the spiritual heir to Horatio Bottomley. He had a turgidly rhetorical style, in which he made a farcical use of the apt aid of alliteration. He was unctuously moral and a great champion of the muscular Christian.

“This was the man who launched his attack on The Well of Loneliness…a novel which had already been soberly and generously reviewed in such journals as The Times, and had been received without a flutter of protest by the majority of the subscription libraries. If anybody were ever to compile an Anthology of Overstatement, one sentence in Douglas’s article would deserve a page to itself. Here it is:

’I would rather give a healthy boy or girl a phial or prussic acid than this novel.’

“The young reader of today may well ask himself ‘but what was all the fuss about? Was there really anything in the book that might cause anybody harm?’ I can answer that question with precision. On the day after the storm burst I happened to be lunching in Fleet Street with a young journalist whose editor had given him the not very elevating task of going through The Well of Loneliness and extracting what he was pleased to call ‘the juicy bits’, in order that they might be relayed to a greater public. He was in a state of great depression.

“ ‘There just aren’t any juicy bits,’ he said sadly.

“ ‘But surely,’ I said – for my ears were still stinging from the assaults of James Douglas’s article – ‘there must be some?’

“He shook his head. ‘There’s a lot about a girl reading bits of Freud in the library of a country house, but that could all be published in the Church Times. Then there’s a lot of rather starry-eyed talk about the girl friend. That could go straight into the Methodist Recorder. There’s only one solitary sentence of seven words in the whole book that could possibly be regarded as objectionable.’

“ ‘Yes?’ I listened breathlessly.

“ ‘It’s at the end of a chapter where they go away together, and walk about in the field. The daylight fades, the moon rises, and they talk interminably…it couldn’t be more starry-eyed, till those seven words.’

“ ‘But what are they?’

“ ‘I’ll show you.’ He opened the book and pointed to a sentence that he had underlined. I read it…

‘And that night they were not divided.’
Radclyffe Hall (12th August 1880 – 7th October 1943)

Beverley Nichols (9th September 1898 – 15th September 1983)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


To mark what would have been the centenary of Prince Otto von Habsburg (who only died last year) the last crowned head of one of Europe's greatest dynasties - whose territories once spanned from Flanders and Spain to Italy and Hungary as well as Austria - I thought it appropriate to reflect on the Habsburgs' impressive collection of some of the finest jewelled pieces in history, which were still in the possession of Otto's family until the dismantling of their empire in 1919.

[top of page] The Imperial Crown of Austria, made in Prague in 1602 as the personal crown of Emperor Rudolf II, who had been Holy Roman Emperor since 1576 (and king of Bohemia and Hungary as well as Austrian Emperor).

Crown of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from the High Middle Ages. It was probably made ​​somewhere in Western Germany, either under Otto I (with additions by Conrad II ), by Conrad II or Conrad III during the late 10th and early 11th centuries.

The "Emerald Unguentarium" was commissioned by Emperor Ferdinand III in 1641, and was carved out of a single large emerald crystal of Colombian origin, probably over 3,000 carats in weight, perhaps the largest emerald crystal discovered in the world at that time.

Love Brooch, first documented in the inventory of Emperor Ferdinand I. It probably came into Habsburg possession through his grandmother, Archduchess Mary of Burgundy in the fifteenth century.

One of a pair of jewelled ceremonial gloves made for the coronation of Frederick II in 1220.

Emperor Leopold I acquired the "incomparably precious stone called Hyacynth La Bella" from an aristocratic Hungarian family in 1687, and a richly enamelled double eagle with the imperial crown was added to the existing early 15th century setting of the Zircon stone.

Jewelled medallion (1870 to 1890) of the Order of the Golden Fleece - an order of chivalry founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to the Portuguese princess Infanta Isabella of Portugal, and the extension of his Habsburg territories across Europe.

All these wonders and more may be seen at the Vienna History Museum

Sunday, 18 November 2012

"I played on their need for a drunken, nightclubbing vamp"

"People only know me as a celebrity in show business. They don’t know how much more important art is to me compared to makeup and set costumes."

"In Italy I'm big because they're all so sex-obsessed. In Germany I succeeded because they've been waiting for someone like Marlene Dietrich to come along ever since the war. I played on their need for a drunken, nightclubbing vamp. And I've won the gays, who are crucial because they have all the best discos, entirely because of the extraordinary legends about me."

"I hate to spread rumours, but what else can one do with them?"

Amanda Lear (real name Amanda Tapp, born 18th November 1939 or 1946, in British Hong Kong, or 1950 in Saigon)