Saturday, 23 June 2018

I think today should be...

...a "Say Something Hat" day! Don't you?

Just like the "ladies" of this year's Royal Ascot Ladies' Day!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

The weight of flowers

The springy twigs arch over walls and beds
Of lilac buddleia, and the long flower-heads
Run down the air like valleys. Not by force
But weight, the flowers of summer bend our course.
- E.J. Scovell

It's Midsummer's Day, the solstice, the longest day. Enjoy it!

Downhill all the way from here, dear reader....

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)