Sunday, 17 June 2018

Floating Palaces

From The Londoness blog:
For more than 100 years, ocean liners were the primary mode of intercontinental transportation. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the jet age kicked in. Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Walt Disney and David Niven were just some of the celebrities who used these giant golden carcasses to cross the Atlantic.

The grande dames of ocean liners included the France, Normandie, Lusitania, Mauretania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Unsurprisingly, passengers opted for German, French and British liners over American ones, as whilst the Prohibition laws were in effect, the giggle water restrictions still applied on American ships...

...As shipping companies started marketing to wealthier clients, so the interiors started taking centre stage. And the more opulent, the better, with styles ranging from Beaux-Arts to Art Nouveau. During the interwar period, Art Deco became the interior style du jour... [and the grandest] liners included a grande descente, a staircase where the ladies could make a proper entrance dressed in all their finery.
And so it was, on Friday Hils, Crog and I were somehow strangely drawn to go and see the V&A's latest flagship exhibition Ocean Liners: Speed and Style before it closed (today).

It certainly didn't disappoint. With several rooms stuffed to the brim with every kind of artefact - from original promotional posters, tickets and booklets; to designs, plans and scale models of the ships themselves; to menus (First, Second and Third Class); to furniture, ornaments, carpets, lamps, friezes, wall panels and the assorted ornate ephemera that served to decorate these floating palaces; to the clothing, jewellery and suitcases used by the rich and the famous who became their regular passengers. Poignantly, there were some pieces that survived the Titanic disaster - a fragment of the panelling of the First Class lounge, and even a deckchair.

There were some absolute gems on display, such as Lanvin's 'Salambo' flapper dress (which was exhibited at the original Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs in Paris that launched the term "Art Deco"):

...the gigantic Art Deco lacquered wall frieze of athletes, from the smoking room of the Normandie:

...the opulent Louis Quatorze-style panels and door from the France:

...the centrepiece displays of elegant clothing as worn by the mega-rich passengers (such as heiress Emilie Busbey Grigsby and Marlene Dietrich), displayed around an imagined grande descente complete with silent movie footage of glamorous people descending; and, adjacent, the full-scale mock-up of an on-board swimming pool:

...and, of course, the Cartier tiara that survived the sinking of the Lusitania, thanks to the swift actions of Lady Marguerite Allen's maid to rescue it:

In common with so many of the V&A's big exhibitions, I imagine this one will be embarking on its own "grand tour" of the world - so catch it if you can!

More about the exhibition

Saturday, 9 June 2018


...Dame Emma Thompson!

"I have a nervous breakdown in [one film] and in one scene I get to stand at the top of the stairs waving an empty sherry bottle which is, of course, a typical scene from my daily life, so isn't much of a stretch."

"My husband is here and I'd like to thank him, for many things, but first of all for pointing out that I had a big hole in my frock and then that my nipples were pointing in different directions. It's good to have an expert there to help you with that sort of thing."

(On period costume posture coaching:) "We all stand about like parboiled spaghetti being straightened out.”

"Maybe I don't take myself so seriously any more. And I don't care how I'm judged. I'm past all that."

All hail.

HM The Queen's Birthday Honours

Friday, 8 June 2018

To be truly elegant

"Starch makes the gentleman, etiquette the lady."

"Fashions come and go; bad taste is timeless."

"To be truly elegant one should not be noticed."

From The Rake:
Born in 1778, [Beau] Brummell is celebrated as the originator of dandyism. A very British reaction to the excessive continental fashions that dominated early Georgian London. It was here that young affluent males adopted flamboyant ‘Macaroni’ fashions picked up from visiting Italy and France as part of The Grand Tour – a coming-of-age trip undertaken by British nobility and the landed gentry from the 17th century onwards. They’d wear high, powdered wigs, make-up, perfume, elaborate and rare fabrics and silk stockings. They were the fops.

Brummell advocated and championed good tailoring, sombre fabrics, a limited colour palette, personal hygiene, starch and polish. He was to Regency London what we would now call an ‘influencer’, albeit with more class...

...Tying the perfect knot in your cravat was a skill and Brummell would discard his failures that were imperfect or, indeed, too perfect. With the benefit of modern technology, Brummell could have made an instructional video for YouTube or a live video on Instagram. The Regency equivalent was to allow gentlemen to watch you prepare for the day live from your dressing room. It is reputed that Brummell could take up to five hours whilst attending to his ‘toilet’, so I hope the events were catered.

The perfectly polished shoe is still a good sign of character and Brummell famously requested that his boots should be polished with Champagne. I have heard that some devoted polishers use this method to create the desired patina. But to put this into context, we should remember that Brummell was a contemporary of The Napoleonic war and to use France’s finest export for cleaning boots was perhaps a personal gesture of patriotism.
He was quite a character, was George - he got the name "Beau" at an early age for his meticulous attention to detail when dressing - courting attention wherever he went, he famously gained entry to the "inner circle" of the Prince of Wales, then spectacularly fell out of it again with a few choice remarks which upset the then Regent (soon to become George IV). In the meantime, he enthralled a nation, and forever defined the key elements of men's fashion to this day (the plain shirt, the tie, long trousers, black shoes).

An inspiration to fashionistas everywhere, it is no wonder there's a stutue to him on Jermyn Street (home of tailoring)...

George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (7th June 1778 – 30th March 1840)

Sunday, 3 June 2018

God bless Lili St. Cyr

"Sex is currency. What's the use of being beautiful if you can't profit from it?"

It is the centenary today of Willis Marie Van Schaack, better known as the legendary Miss Lili St. Cyr, Queen of the Burlesque, the "Anatomic Bomb", and (alongside Miss Gypsy Rose Lee), one of the most famed strippers in history.

The things she could do with a fan!

Lili St. Cyr (3rd June 1918 – 19th January 1999)

Monday, 28 May 2018

They don't compare

"My gay audience has been with me from the beginning."

"I'm just a natural flirt, but I don't see it in a sexual way. A lot of the time I'm like an overexcited puppy."

"Let's just say that I am aware my style has meaning for some people."

"I've had a lot of tragic hairdos and outfits."

"I do dance music, and I can be pretty camp myself from time to time."

"I just can't help but see things differently."

"All the lovers, that have gone before, they don't compare... to you!"

Happy 50th birthday today to our ultimate Princess and Patron Saint, Miss Kylie Ann Minogue OBE (born 28th May 1968)!

[We still do "The Kylie Wave" (based upon that video) wherever and whenever we get the opportunity; most recently in the "Mens Bar" in La Nogalera, Torremolinos...]

And by way of a bonus, this:

Kylie, Queen of Camp? NEVER!

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Amazing Grace

The most scary woman on the planet - Miss Grace Jones is 70 years old today!

Time to get down on your knees...

Grace Beverly Jones (born 19th May 1948)

See our previous exhibit here.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

I even sang in my dreams

Was there ever a more truly Wagnerian singer than Birgit Nilsson..? It seems unlikely that her Isolde and Brünnhilde will ever be equalled, let alone surpassed. She brought to these roles all the qualities their composer could possibly have wished: a voice of heroic proportions, a remarkable musicality, an interpretative imagination as incandescent as the music itself and a technique as solid as the rock on which the latter heroine slept for 20 years. Even her laughter, though it was only heard offstage, rang like the Valkyries' "Ho-yo-to-ho". - The Guardian
We have a centenary today to celebrate - one of the greatest of all operatic singers, a national icon in her native Sweden, Miss Birgit Nilsson.
"You must always expect the very best. You must aim for the stars in order to hit the trees. One has to put the expectations very high, and sometimes it's a burden." - Birgit Nilsson
Renowned for her virtuosity as a Wagnerian soprano, her voice was admired for its overwhelming force, bountiful reserves of power, and the gleaming brilliance and clarity in the upper register. She once told an interviewer that she could sing before she could walk, adding, "I even sang in my dreams". She was also a very funny lady: after a disagreement with the Australian soprano Joan Sutherland, Nilsson was asked if she thought Sutherland's famous bouffant hairdo was real. She answered: "I don't know. I haven't pulled it yet."

She didn't just stick to high opera, either. She often ended a recital with a rousing - and unexpected - rendition of I Could Have Danced All Night from Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady - see my previous tribute to Miss Nilssen for that.

Here, for those of you who would like to wallow in the great lady's sumptuous voice for almost a full hour, is a centenary treat:

Song list:
Turandot (Puccini) In questa reggia
Tannhäuser (Wagner) Allmächt’ge Jungfrau
Im Prater blüh’n wieder die Bäume! (Stolz)
Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume (Sieczynski)
Messiah (Handel) Come unto Him
Stabat Mater (Rossini) Inflammatus
Macbeth (Verdi) Vieni, t’aff retta... Or tutti, sorgete
La Forza del Destino (Verdi) Pace, pace, mio Dio!
Tosca (Puccini) Vissi d’arte
Götterdämmerung (Wagner) Grane, mein Ross! (Immolation Scene finale)
Tannhäuser (Wagner) Dich, teure Halle
Turandot (Puccini) In questa reggia


As for (the signed) photo #2 at the top of this post, she nestles quite neatly between Joans Crawford and Collins, Miss Lipman and Al Pillay on the wall at Dolores Delargo Towers #4, n'est ce pas?

Märta Birgit Nilsson (17th May 1918 – 25th December 2005)

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Create a new style

"I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don't apply to those who live on the fringe."

"My goal is never to copy. Create a new style."

From The Art Story website:
Tamara de Lempicka was the lone traditional easel painter in the entirety of the Art Deco style. Her sources of inspiration ranged dramatically: she adored Italian Renaissance painting; she was characterized by critics as a sort of modern-day Ingres, although the comparisons were more often not intended to flatter; she absorbed the avant garde art of the era - particularly post-cubist abstraction but of a "softened" style. Perhaps most influential was Lempicka's desire to capitalize on her social connections to create a niche for her portraiture, which most often featured well-to-do, cosmopolitan types.

The Art Deco style, lavish in a less visually complex way than its predecessor, Art Nouveau, was probably the ideal vehicle for her trendy style. Most notably, despite its decorative quality, her work provided her with an outlet for unconventional self-expression: truly a product of her era, the libertine golden age between the two world wars, Lempicka, a bisexual, made bold, liberated female sexuality the lynchpin of her art.

Needless to say, we at Dolores Delargo Towers adore her - as does Google, paying tribute to her today with a Google Doodle on the occasion of her 120th birthday.

Tamara de Lempicka (born Maria Górska, 16 May 1898 – 18th March 1980)

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Life is a party. Dress for it.*

"The things that make us different, those are our superpowers - every day when you walk out the door and put on your imaginary cape and go out there and conquer the world; because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it."
- the extraordinary Lena Waithe, who wore a rainbow flag chasuble to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute annual Gala, which, to coincide with its new exhibition, was on the theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”

Among many others from the ranks of the great and the good and the not-so-good; also in attendance at this fanciest-of-fancy-dress parties were Rihanna as a diamanté Pope:

Queen Madge as... The Madonna:

Zendaya ["Whooooo?"] as Joan of Arc:

...and Katy Perry as a fallen angel:

My invitation obviously got lost in the post.

*quoth Audrey Hepburn.