6/30/2008

Fashion of the week - Riding habit and walking dress of 1856


One lady in a riding habit and one in a walking dress, 1856. The fashion-plate is French, but I do not know the exact origin, what magazine it is from.

The riding habit for ladies differed little from the usual fashion, this was after all the time when ladies were supposed to know how to ride - but do it in a lady-like manner, that is to say to use a side-saddle with both legs on one side of the horse's back. That way the woman did not risk to expose too much of her legs. The colouring of the habit was often in some dark colour - after all the most practical thing if you did not wish to look dirty just after leaving home. The dresses were often inspired by the male fashion of the day when it came to the upper part of it, at least. There was no extra frilliness and the hats looked like an ordinary male top-hat, but often with a veil.

The other dress is a walking dress, which is kind of a vague name. Most people did, of course, not have a specific type of dress for just walking outdoors. But you had dresses that were more or less well suited for the purpose of walking on muddy roads. In this case the dress is quite typical of the ordinary fashion of day-dresses, but accompanied by a jacket and bonnet - of course not meant to be worn indoors. The influence of male fashion can be clearly seen on the light gray jacket which is obviously influenced by military jackets. (That is an ongoing thing in 19th century fashion for lady and can be seen now and then.)

6/29/2008

Pop-culture woman of the week - Anne Shirley

Name: Anne Shirley
Appearance: Anne of Green-Gables (1908)
Creator: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Weapon/ability: A vivid imagination
Race: Canadian
Age: Eleven at the start of the story

Anne Shirley is the heroine of a series of books written by the Canadian author L.M. Montgomery. The first book, Anne of Green-Gables, was published in 1908 - though set in the 1870's. This book met with great success and it was followed by a whole series of books following Anne into adulthood and onto having children on her own. The last book, Rilla of Ingleside, is set with the First World War as the back-drop (and focusing more on her youngest daughter).

Anne Shirley is orphaned at an early age with her parents dying of typhoid fever. After some shorter stops she is brought to Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, living in Avonlea, Prince Edwards Island. (Avonlea is a wholly fictional but inspired by places like Cavendish). They had decided on adopting a young boy to help out the elderly siblings with their farm. But there is a mix-up and instead they get a red-headed girl with a lot of freckles and a very vivid imagination. Their first thought is to send her back since they really have no need for her, but in the end they relent and let her stay on - never to regret their decision (or really Marilla's decision, since she is the one in charge when it comes to everything practical).

The rest of the book is devoted to Anne's everyday life in the village, going to school and making good friends (especially Diana Barry). She is kind, eager to please and fun which makes her everyone's favourite. The book ends when she is 16 and she has decide on her future - she has got a prize that would allow her to go away to study, but Matthew dies and Marilla has a failing eye-sight making her need Anne's help even more. It ends with her giving up the price to start teaching instead.

The later books are (in order of the story, not when they were written):
Anne of Avonlea (1909), Anne of the Island (1915), Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), Anne's House of Dreams (1917), Anne of Ingleside (1939), Rainbow Valley (1919) and Rilla of Ingleside (1921). The books follows Anne's career as a teacher and her going away to finally get her B.A., followed by her marriage. The last three books focuses almost solely on her children.

Anne's story was, according to the author's diary, inspired by relatives who was going to adopt a boy but ended up with a girl instead (though the outcome of that mistake is not known). Anne's looks were based on a paper-clipping Montgomery had on her desk about the chorus girl and model Evelyn Nesbit (who was known for her looks - and for being involved somehow in her husbands murder of a lover of hers).

There has been several adaptions of Anne of Green Gables, both as movies and TV-series. The movie from 1934 is worth mentioning if so only for the fact of the actress who played Anne after the filming changed her stage-name to Anne Shirley. The most popular TV-adaption is in all probability Anne of Green Gables (1985) by CBC and the follow-up Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987), both with Megan Follows as Anne (as seen on the picture above). There has been later continuations of the series, but they have been criticized for being both being sloppy with following the original story and being contradictory to the earlier series.

6/28/2008

Photo of the week - Rosy, 1912

























Date: 1912
Photographer: Unknown
Sitter: Rosy
Provenience: Prague, the Czech republic

This photograph is only identified by the hand-writing in ink on the back of the card - a card in the form of a post-card. It says 'Rosy - Prag. 12 Mai 1912'. 'Prag' is the German spelling of Prague, the capital of the Czech republic, but back then it was 'just' another big city in the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Still, it was a very important cultural city. There is no reason to believe that the sitter is not the so called Rosy, and that it is not the date and place of when the photo was taken. The clothes she is wearing is also consistent with such a date, and the photo was bought in Prague which makes it reasonable that it has something to do with the place.

Doing personal photos into post-cards was quite a common thing at the beginning of the last century (and long before and after that time). They were made to send out to friends and family and quite popular.

The photo has some unusual qualities, both with her pose and her smile - it was not usual to smile at photos at this time, still. It was an inheritance from the good old days when dental hygiene left much to wish for and people in general did not have very bright smiles - and perhaps not even all teeth there.

Rosy is dressed according to the highest fashion at the time, dark colours (she is in all probability not in mourning) and a very tight skirt - a skirt not to meant to work in, and not even to walk any long distances in any kind of speed in. They were meant to high-lighten the slim and well-shaped body of the perfect female figure, this woman not too far away from the intended ideal in all probability. She also wears a dark pearl-necklace and a bracelet in some kind of metal. It is impossible to see if she is wearing any rings. The photo is taken in a studio, with the popular backdrop that was supposed to make the photo look like it was taken outdoors - with perhaps not the most spectacular of successes.

6/27/2008

Hair-do of the week - Japanese Americans in 1943


The pin-curls was the one thing that really defines the fashion of female hair of the 1940's. Almost every woman, or at least every woman who cared the tiniest bit about fashion, had them - some way or another. This picture shows three different ways to interpret the pin-curl fashion, with rather different results.

The hair-dos were made in a way, generally speaking and not just in this example, to show off as much forehead as possible. This meant that the hair was either combed back or there was a bang, but it was combed upwards and back to create a look similar to a wave. The bangs could be either straight or curled and sometimes there was a ribbon or a bow-tie attached to it.

The hair itself was somewhat longer than to the shoulder and kept straight at the back and almost always curled (this achieved by pin-curls, worn mostly during the night) at the edges. Since it was curled the resulting hair-do reached the shoulders but not much more than that. it was a rather practical hair-do, but was kept even more practical by the women often wearing a net around the hair to keep it out of the way.

The photo shows three Japanese American women, who studied biology - and very ostentatiously showing their acceptance of the American culture.

Portrait of the week - The doctor's visit


The doctor's visit, painted by Jan Steen, circa 1660.

This portrait of a sick woman, accompanied by a doctor and a maid, is a perfect example of painting in the Netherlands of the 17th century - paintings primarily aimed at the up-and-coming bourgeoisie and showing interiors (most commonly, but sometimes exteriors) with ordinary scenes and situations.
Showing ill women were not thought of as an unsuitable motif, but appears several times by different artists, for example by Caspar Netscher, and Jan Steen also painted 'The love-sick woman' with an almost identical setting.

The woman is seen in an upper-class setting, with large paintings on the walls and thick fabrics on the furniture. In the corner a four-poster-bed is seen. The woman is dressed in fur-trimmed jacket and a dress made of grey silk. This was not what a proper woman would wear in at a more formal occasion, this was a dress made for home, and suitable to wear when ill. The doctor is checking her pulse, and the maid is holding a urine-sample in a glass-bottle. The medical art of the 17th century was not the most advanced, that must be admitted, but they had by now come to the conclusion that checking the heart-beat and the urine was vital for understanding a patients well-being. Just as a doctor would nowadays. The difference might be more in the remedies that were prescribed, like bloodletting and sweatings (to get the body in balance).

The maid is shown as helping out the doctor, holding things for him and talking to him. That she is merely a servant-woman and not, for example, the sick woman's mother, is clearly shown by the difference of clothing, this woman's dress is much simpler and she even has an apron, though in a bright, blue colour.

6/24/2008

Goddess of the week - Vesna

Name: Vesna
Location: Eastern Europe
Sphere of influence: Spring
Famous portraits: None - the picture here is a painting called 'Spring' by the famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha.

Vesna is one of the most well-known of the Slavonic goddesses, particularly in Serbia and Slovenia. There is very little written about the Slavic gods and goddesses and some of the things that are, are actually later fabrications of more or less well-intending folklore-interested persons (like the goddess Lada, the goddess of love who has been interpreted as a version of the Roman Leto).

Vesna on the other hand, did exist. She was the goddess of spring and youth and rites in her honour were still celebrated in the 19th century. In Russia the labourers went into the fields on the 1st of March, carrying a lark made of clay, decorated with flowers, as they were singing songs to the spring named 'Vesna'.

In Slovenia Vesna was not a single being but a group of godly women. They lived on hilltops, in castles, where they discussed and decided the fate of both humans and crops. It was possible to sneak up to them to try to hear of ones own fate, but it was dangerous and you had to avoid getting caught by the vesnas since they would give you a gruesome fate. The vesnas could only leave their place during the month of February and then they would travel around the land in a cart and sing - but only a chosen few humans could hear them.

In the Slovene language 'vesna' is a poetical word for spring.

6/23/2008

Woman of the week - Margery Kempe

Name: Margery Kempe
Born: circa 1373, King's Lynn, England
Dead: after 1438, place unkown
Married to: John Kempe of Lynn
Children: 14
Occupation: Writer and mystic

Margery Kempe was born as the daughter of John de Brunham, a merchant and merchant in King's Lynn. At the age of about twenty she married John Kempe, the son of a skinner or possibly a fur merchant.

At the birth of the first child Margery suffered from severe fever, during which she had visions of God leading her to recovery. During the next ten years she lived on in a quite normal way, giving birth to children and running both a mill and a brewery (with little economical success). Around 1405-1410 she started to have visions that made her think that she led her life the wrong way, that she was too full of the pleasures of life, too fond of sexual pleasures and too prone to be interested in social status. In the end she wanted to take a vow of chastity and her husband reluctantly agreed to this.

After this her life turned away from that of a normal woman of the middle classes and towards that of a woman wholly devoted to her religion. She made several pilgrimages to important places like Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago di Compostela. She was very outspoken in her religiousness which caught the attention of people around her, sometimes in a less welcome way and she was accused of being a lollard, though there is no reason to suspect that she really was one.

In the 1420's she remained in King's Lynn, though living in a different household than that of her husband. He had an accident in which he was severely injured and Margery took him in and cared for him for the rest of his life. He died somewhere around 1431. At that time her son, who by now lived in Danzig, had come to visit with his wife - but he died unexpectedly. Margery escorted her daughter-in-law all the way home, and then returned home by land - and by now she had no money left and had to travel in poverty and all alone.

She had made a first draft of her spiritual journey around 1430, dictated to someone else who could write it down. After her return from the continent she did a second version, which was written down by a priest in 1436-1438 - and it is this writing that has survived to our time as The book of Margery Kempe. This is the last time her name appears in the records and we do not know how she lived the rest of her life or when and where she died.

The book was lost during the Reformation and resurfaced again only in 1934 in the private library of the Butler-Bowden family in Lancashire. It was published in a modern version in 1936 and in original middle English in 1940.

There is no known portraits of Margery Kempe. The picture is of St. Margaret's church in King's Lynn. The picture (and others of the same church) can be found here.

Fashion of the week - Coat from circa 1877


I am trying to keep this blog rather free of my own biases, but I have to admit that this is one of my favourite pieces of historical clothing. It is a coat in black, with buttons in the front, lacing in the back and embroidery all over it (please click on the picture to see all the pretty details).

It clearly shows the workmanship that went into all types of clothings, coats included. It was of course meant to be worn by someone with a lot of money that did not have to work and who had servants who could take care of the dirt on the train that would have been unavoidable if the coat was worn in the streets of the 19th century.

6/22/2008

Pop-culture woman of the week - Kagome Higurashi

Name: Kagome Higurashi (日暮 かごめ)
Appearance: InuYasha, manga in 56 volumes, also in the anime with the same name
Creator: Rumiko Takahashi
Weapon/ability: Archery/nursing
Race: Human
Age: 15 years

Kagome is an ordinary girl living in today's Tokyo with her mother, grand-father and younger brother - next to a holy shrine. One day she enters the sealed off well on the premises in search of the family cat. Instead of the cat she finds a demon who drags her into the well and she ends up in Feudal Age Japan - a time full of war, and demons.

In this world she meets the dog-demon InuYasha (who's name literally means 'dog spirit' and who is actually just a half-demon) who has spent the last 50 years nailed to a tree with a holy arrow. He thinks at first that she is the woman that shot him, and a woman he was in love with (but who was tricked into doing this by a demon). He gets released from the tree, but his relationship with Kagome gets a really rocky start. Still they have to work together to find the Jewel of four Souls, a jewel that was lodged in Kagome's body and got split into a lot of shards. The jewel is very powerful and any demon who posses the tiniest shard can at once get extremely powerful. But Kagome has the ability to spot the shards from a long distance and is therefor essential for finding them.

The travels take them all over the landscape and after a while they meet others to help them and they form a little party. Kagome's relationship with InuYasha gets better as the story progresses, and his initial hatred for her turns to protectiveness and caring, feelings that are quite new to him which he attributes to her good influence over him.

But at the same time as Kagome is trying to save Japan of old she is a modern day school-student, working hard to get into high school and she often returns to her own world to study. The family is very understanding of her going between the two worlds and try to make excuses to school and friends for her being so much absent, often attributing to strange illnesses (which she of course does not suffer from).

The manga was written over the course of eight years, in the end numbering to 558 chapters - the last published on June 18, 2008. The manga won the Shoakukan Manga Award for best Shōnen-manga of the year in 2002 (shōnen is manga mostly aimed at teenage boys).

Photo of the week - The Krügers

Date: Early 1900's
Photographer: F. Vogel
Sitter: Maria and Martha Krüger
Provenience: Germany

After a long break it is about time to return to my own collection of old photos. This I got at a flee-market in Berlin (when on a hunt for old photos flee-markets are the best place to go; that or odd vintage shops, there is a lovely one in Prague, close to the great square that I can recommend - though they are mainly aimed at the Art Deco-era they have some older photos too which you can buy for a rather small sum).

The print on the front of the photo says 'F. Vogel, Gr. Lichterfelde, O., Jungfernstieg 3' and on the back someone has written (and judging by the lack of steadiness in the writing it is done by an elderly person) 'Maria + Martha Krüger'.

Gr. Lichterfelde (or Gross Lichterfelde as it is really called) is a part of Berlin, now in the borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf in the south most part of the town. Lichterfelde was, in the 19th century, growing considerably because of all the the wealthy Berliners who moved there and built fancy villas, and the two new parts of the village that was founded were named Lichterfelde West and Lichterfelde Ost. In the 1880's the parts were all gathered under the name of Gross Lichterfeld - and this photo studio was situated in that part that was Lichterfelde Ost. It became a part of Berlin in 1920 - years after this photo was taken.

The sitters are probably mother and daughter (or possibly two sisters with a great age-difference but that is impossible to tell for sure). That they are closely related is obvious, even without the writing on the photo, the two have very similar faces. That they are rather well off is obvious, both from the way they are dressed and were the photo is taken, it is a district of the well to do, and at the turn of the last century photo-studios was a very common thing so it is most likely that the photo is taken close to home.

The two are well-dressed, but not too fancy, the woman in a dark, long-sleeved dress and hat. This should not be viewed as a sign of her being in mourning, at the time black was a colour of fashion and the girl is dressed in a white dress - which she would not have done had they lost someone close enough for the woman to dress in all black for. It should rather be seen as a typical example of how a woman and a girl of the upper classes dressed in the first years of the 20th century.

Hair-do of the week - Married woman, 1435


Married women of the late medieval ages (and early Renaissance) was not supposed to show their hair in any way but cover it all up. This was to show that they were decent women, that they had no interest in tempting men and were good Christians.

(That unmarried women could go with their hair uncovered was not because it would be alright for them to try to tempt men. Unmarried women were regarded as virgins - and in an ideal world they were, though not always in reality - and as virgins their sexuality had not yet awoken and they were therefor much less dangerous. Married women on the other hand, who obviously were not virgins - except in some really rare cases - knew how to tempt and seduce since their sexuality was awoken.)

This portrait shows a woman of a clearly married state, this is shown not only bu the veil but also by the really obvious sign of a wedding-ring on her hand. Women did not have to be quite so wrapped up like this one to be considered decent, but it was not uncommon either. As in most aspects of dressing of both the female and male body it had become a fashion how to do the veils. The veil itself was just meant in the beginning to be a piece of fabric to cover the hair, but it developed into something more, as a way to show how artistically you could arrange your attire, how good you were at folding and forming.

A popular feature at the time was to make the veil stand out a bit to the side at the forehead, which made the face looking more like a triangle turned upside-down. This was achieved by for example by having a hairnet in the appropriate shape, which is a common sight on pictures from this time. But in this example it looks more like the lady has achieved it trough folding the veil in many layers.

And note the pins that keeps the whole arrangement in place.

6/21/2008

Portrait of the week - A lady wearing a white dress with a paisley shawl and holding a glove

Portrait of a lady wearing a white dress with a paisley shawl and holding a glove, painted by Francois Henri Mulard around 1810. Sitter unknown.

The painter is French which makes it rather safe to assume that so is the sitter, but by now the French fashion had a safe and firm grip on the whole of the western fashion so when looking at her dress this lady might as well be English or Italian.

She is wearing a morning dress in white. This is most clearly shown by the shawl that is wrapped around her neck. Regency clothing was rather revealing when it came to the bust, but when in morning-wear this what not the case, rather the idea was to hide the décolletage away - in a way that was not even done at a simple dinner-party at home.

The dress is still the preferred white, colours were by now coming into the fashion again, but they were often bright and white was still very common.

The long sleeves are another sure sign of this being a morning-gown. Evening-wear should always have short sleeves, and in short expose a lot of skin, in a way that a dress worn during the day just never did. Morning-dresses did not have to have long sleeves though.

The regency fashion was not all deprived of patterns though, as can be seen on both the checkered blue shawl around her shoulders and the paisley shawl that is draped around her. Paisley shawls were the thing to wear at this time. They were imported from the far East and could cost a small fortune, but if you had the money (and even sometimes even if you had not) you had no excuse not to get one.

The painting was sold at Christies in January, 1999.

6/20/2008

Goddess of the week - Amaterasu

Name: Amaterasu (天照) or Ōhiru-menomuchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神)
Location: Japan
Sphere of influence: The sun and accredited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, among other things.
Famous portraits: She is one of the most both important and popular Japanese gods and therefor a common motif.

The sun-goddess Amaterasu in Japanese Shinto-religion is one of the most important figures of this mythology. She is the sun and without her life cannot exist.

She was born from the left eye of the god Izanagi, when he washed it with some holy water, and she had two siblings from this washing-process, the moon-god Tsukuyomi came from the right eye and the storm-god Susanoo from his nose.

In the beginning the three gods could live together peacefully, but there was a rivalry between the goddess and her brother Susanoo. In a try to settle the matter once and for all they had a competition which all ended very bad - Susanoo got drunk and went on a rampage where he destroyed the sister's rice fields, threw excrements at her shrines and actually killed one of her hand-maidens. Amaterasu got both angry and sad and hid herself in a cave. The result of this was that the world did not see any sun and things withered and died and things got rather desperate. 8000 kamis gathered outside the cave to persuade her to come out. She was stubborn but in the end she was lured out when another one of the goddesses - Ame-no-Uzume, the goddess of dawn and revelry - made all the other gods laugh and Amaterasu wanted to see what all the merriment was about. Once she was out the others closed the cave behind her so that she could not return. The others persuaded her to return to the celestial plains, which she did and life could return to normal. And Susanoo was banned from heaven.

Amaterasu was attributed with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat. She found out how to use silkworms in order to make silk and to weave with a loom. Her great-grandson was emperor Jimmu - according to legend - the first emperor of Japan.

Her most important shrine is that in Ise on Honshu, but it is not open to the public. The shrine is torn down every twenty years and rebuilt again. In that shrine she is represented by a mirror. She has two major festive days, one being on June 17 and the other being on December 21, the winter solstice, when her emerging from the cave is commemorated.

6/19/2008

Information in between

After a few days of recreation in Berlin I am now back to take care of my women-blog - beginning tomorrow!

6/13/2008

Woman of the week - Poppaea Sabina

Name: Poppaea Sabina
Born: 30 AD, Pompeii, Italy
Dead: 65 AD
Married to: 1 - Rufruius Crispinus
2 - Marcus Salvius Otho
3 - Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Children: One son in her first marriage, one daughter by her third
Occupation: Empress

Poppaea Sabina is one of those women who has not been treated to kindly by historians - much due to how she is described by ancient historians like Tacitus and Suetonius. The problem is that ancient historians were not very interested in being unbiased and wrote with an agenda, and she was married to emperor Nero, one of the most hated Roman emperors of all times. It might be true that she was a horrible person who only strove to get as far as possible, and it might all be lies - we just have no way of knowing. Much that was written about her is there no way for any historian to know.

Poppaea's father was a questor who had managed to get into scandal before reaching any important positions in society and her mother was a noted beauty. Her father died when she was a year old and the mother remarried a man who became both consul and senator. Poppaea's mother was later forced to commit suicide by the intrigues of the empress Valeria Messalina in 47 AD. By then Poppaea had left home, she married Rufruius Crispinus, of equestrian rank, in 44 AD. They were married for some years and had a son before they eventually got divorced and Poppaea married her second husband.

This man was the one who would have a short career as emperor Otho in 69 AD, but that was all in the future at this stage. But he was a friend of the emperor Nero and Nero fell in love with Poppaea and forced Otho to divorce her so that he could make her his mistress, which happened in 58 AD.

Nero eventually divorced is his first wife and married Poppaea in 62. This was probably due less to the woman's persuasive charms and more to do with the fact that she by now was pregnant and his first wife of eight years had failed to give him a child. The child Poppaea gave birth to was a daughter, Claudia Augusta, who died aged just 4 months. After the birth Poppaea was honoured by Nero with the title of Augusta.

Poppaea died in 65, while pregnant with her and Nero's second child. Ancient historians have it that Nero killed her in a fit if rage, for example by jumping on her. The truth is that we do not know but the historians were partial against Nero and had every reason to speak ill of him and knowing the health situation of ancient Rome it is not at all unlikely that she died due to some complication with the pregnancy. After her death Nero went into deep mourning and refused to have her cremated and instead she was embalmed and placed in Augustus mausoleum in a state funeral and she was given divine status.

Poppaea's son by her first marriage was killed on a fishing-trip on orders from Nero and her first husband was executed - all of this after her death.

Fashion of the week - Reception gown 1900


Reception gown from 1900, from the French fashion magazine La Mode Artistique. A reception dress was a more sombre affair than a ball gown, but much more elaborate than an ordinary day dress and in style much resembles the dinner dress of the upper classes - this is at a time when it was a must to slip into something fancy at dinner-time.

The evening-wear of the very late Victorian and Edwardian era could very well have sleeves (which they often did not have earlier), but they often just went to the elbow and were accompanied by long gloves.

The dress is in a green material with a floral pattern of the less subtle kind, and has a train. Many dresses of the time was rather simple when it came to colouring but as can be seen here, it was not a must. The colours were often very dark (even black, and that in cases that had nothing to do with mourning) or very light. This dress falls into the later category.

The dress also clearly shows another typical theme of the time, the S-bend silhouette that had very little to do with the actual form of the female body, did little to flatter it and was achieved by corsets that went all the way from the bust down to the thighs. A slim waist was the ideal, and a very full bosom.

This picture is a little unusual in that it does not show an imagined dress, or a dress from a specific shop or maker, but instead shows what was worn by a certain person (Mlle Delagny) at a certain event and was meant to be an inspiration for others to copy.

6/10/2008

Pop-culture woman of the week - Dita Von Teese


Name: Dita Von Teese
Born: September 28, 1972, West Branch, Michigan
Married to: Marilyn Manson (2005-2007)
Children: None
Occupation: Burlesque artist

She was born as Heather Sweet in Michigan and was from an early age fascinated with the classic retro style, glamour models like Bettie Page and fancy lingerie. She began at an early age to work in a lingerie shop and her fascination and knowledge of the subject started there.

She went to college and studied historical costuming with the goal of becoming a stylist for period films. She is a trained costume designer. Her knowledge of clothing and her retro-style she is now a regular feature on 'best dressed'-lists at important parties and gatherings in the US and she has done much to make the retro-look popular in main stream circles.

At the age of 19 she started to work as a stripper, found the regular acts that was performed boring and made her own style shine through there too. She eventually turned to be a glamour and fetish model and also did some soft porn. She did some shoots for Playboy, which also literally made her name. She had before been known as Dita, but they wanted a last name and she picked 'Von Treese' in the phone book. They misspelled it, but she liked it so much that she kept it. According to Dita herself it was the modelling for Playboy that finally made her father accept her career.

She is most famous for her great efforts in helping with the revival of the Neo-Burlesque with elaborate dance-numbers much inspired by the old musicals of the 1930's and 40's. One of her most famous numbers include the ending with her submerged in a giant martini glass, complete with a gigantic olive. She is also the first ever guest star to perform at the Crazy Horse in Paris.

She has been in a few films in recent years, one being The Death of Salvador Dali, but claims that acting is not something she is very interested in pursuing and just does it when she finds a part that she really likes. She claims not to use stylists since they would fail to understand her clothing style, she dyes her hair black herself (she is actually a blond) and she does her own makeup.

She met her future husband Marilyn Manson through her web-site and he was a fan of hers who wanted her to perform in one of his music videos. They kept in touch and on his birthday in 2001 they became a couple. They got engaged (him giving her a diamond ring from the 1930's) in 2004 and got married a year later at a private ceremony. In January 2007 Marilyn Manson as given the divorce papers (Dita having left their home at Christmas) after he was having an affair with another woman. She has received no financial support after the divorce, nor has she sought to do so.

Photo of the week - At the milliner

Date: Early 1900's
Photographer: Unknown
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: The US

This is, obviously, not a studio photo, taken to show a certain someone at the best possible angle but instead aims at showing a real life moment, to document ordinary life.

The motif chosen is a visit to a milliner, a place to go to to buy hats. In this particular picture it shows to customers - recognized by them both wearing coats and hats - and three shop clerks, showing off some goods .

Above all the picture serves to emphasize the flat hat-fashion at the time. The hats that are stacked behind the three sales-women are all flat, all perfect for stacking, and easy to store. On the top shelf are big boxes that contain stuff less suited for stacking, be it bigger hats or just material to use to make them.

The customers look rather amused at the situation, smiling and pretending to act as normal, in spite of the presence of a camera. The three ladies behind the counter seems less inclined to relax. They all look serious and two of them look straight at the camera while showing off the goods - they don't even try to act as if everything is normal.

Hair-do of the week -- Young girls, circa 1900


This detail from an American photo taken about 1900 clearly shows how the hair was supposed to look like on young girls at the time.

To have your hair pinned up meant that you were a grown up, and it was something to long for - at least if contemporary books aimed at girls are anything to go by. It was also a sign of availability on the marrying market. If your hair was up it meant that you were grown up and if you were grown up you were old enough to get married. If your hair was not pinned up it meant that you were still a girl.

That these two girls were far from grown up is of course obvious even if you do not go by the signals of the hair.

The absolutely most common thing for girls was to have long hair - the only time it was alright for a woman to not have long hair was if she had been sick or been in some kind of accident. other options were not given (which is part of the reason the 1920's and their hair-dos came as quite a shock to many, especially from older generations). And long hair is perhaps pretty to look at, but rather cumbersome in ordinary life, which meant that it had to be gathered in some way. The simplest and most common way of doing that was be braiding, as can be seen here.

The hair was kept very flat on top of the skull and drawn back to lay straight against the side of the face. Sometime you had bangs, but it was quite common not to have it. When the hair was safely pulled back it was gathered in, usually, two braids left to dangle on the back, tied together with ribbons. To have them gathered with just one ribbon as on this photo is a tad bit more artistic than what was common at the time.

The braiding was all in all very practical and little to enhance the beauty of the bearer - but on the other hand, that was not the point.

Portrait of the week - Karin Månsdotter

Karin Månsdotter, second half of the 16th century by an unknown (probably Swedish) artist.

Karin Månsdotter was born in 1550 and died 1612 in Finland. She was the daughter of a soldier (Månsdotter means 'daughter of Måns', the usual way to name persons that was not nobles in Sweden at the time - and would continue to be so all the way up to 19th century) but got a place at court as lady in waiting to a princess.

There she caught the eye of the king, Erik XIV, who made her his mistress. She must have had some extraordinary charms since she first became his sole mistress, and in 1567 the secretly married. She was officially made his wife and queen of Sweden 1568, after the birth of their second child (who was a boy - in 1566 she had given birth to a girl).

But Erik XIV was forced to leave the throne by his brother Johan at the end of the same year, due to both power struggles withing the family and Erik's increasingly obvious madness.

At first Karin accompanied the king in his imprisonment, and they had two more children, two sons who both died young. In 1573 the couple was separated and Karin was kept at Åbo castle, Finland, where things were rather lenient for her. The hardest blow for her was that she was separated from her son. In 1577 Erik died and Karin was released with her daughter from the prison and instead given farms and land and could lead a quite good life. In 1582 she was given even more land and property that had once belonged to Erik. By now she was quite a wealthy lady and lived a good life in Finland, despite the hardship she had went through.

She is buried in Åbo, the only Swedish queen to be buried in Finland (which for several hundred years was a part of the Swedish realm).

This is the only formal portrait of the queen that is known, apart from that on her grave. The fashion she is wearing, including the collar and the head-wear and the slit open arms has by some been taken as an indication that it was painted as late as the 1580's . She was by then not a queen, but she was very wealthy and treated with respect by the current king so it would not have been impossible for her to be painted in this manner. The other possible date for this picture, but for different reasons less likely, is 1567-1568. The text on the painting says Catrina Månsdoter, and (translated to English from the original Swedish) wife of Erik XIV.

Goddess of the week - Guan Yin

Name: Guan Yin
Location: China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea etcetera.
Sphere of influence: Compassion - she is also linked to women and the birth of children
Famous portraits: She is a popular figure in religious art in the areas where she is venerated.

She is the Bodhisattva of compassion in the Eastern Buddhist tradition. The name Guan Yin (觀音) is Mandarin, in Japanese she is known as Kan'non (観音), in Korean as Gwan-eum (관음), in Vietnamese as Quan Âm and in Thai as Kuan Eim ( กวนอิม). Her names means '(She who) observes the sounds [cries] of the world'.

The goddess is originally evolved from an Indian Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, who was male. But once the tradition reached China, sometime prior to the 13th century A.D., she turned distinctively female.

She as seen as someone who heard prayers and is often invoked at post-burial rites to make sure that the soul of those who passed away will not come to any harm. She is also important in the area of child-bearing. It is believed that she can grant the family to have a son, but if they pray for a daughter she will be very beautiful.

Her main temple is
on the island of Putuoshan, in the Chusan Archipelago, where she is believed to have stayed for nine years, reigning as the queen of the Southern Seas. The island was an important Buddhist shrine, but during the 20th century the number of monks and temples on the island has declined.

The goddess is often portrayed in a white flowing robe and a necklace of a type worn by Indian and Chinese royalty. In the right hand she holds a jug with pure water and in the left a willow branch (just as she is in the picture here). She often wears a crown that depicts the Amitabha Buddha, her spiritual leader before she herself became a Bodhisattva. There are some regional differences in how she is depicted, though. Pictures from the Fukien region often portrays as her a young maiden in Tang dynasty clothing with a basket of fish.


6/08/2008

Woman of the week - Jane Austen

Name: Jane Austen
Born: 16 December 1775, Steventon, England
Dead: 18 July 1817, Winchester, England
Married to: None
Children: None
Occupation: Writer

Jane Austen was born as the youngest daughter, and the seventh of eighth children (all of whom survived) to the vicar Charles Austen and his wife Cassandra. Jane was raised in the rural area of Steventon, apart from two different times when she went to school with her sister - also named Cassandra, like the mother. Most of her education was, in the end, done at home by the father. The young Austen was much encouraged to read and write in a family where literary pursuits were common, with playwriting, poems and magazines. Among her favourite authors were Samuel Richardson and above all his Charles Grandison. She started to write at an early age, and was given notebooks by her father to do so - her writing was always encouraged by her family. 

The Austens, and thereby Jane, did not stay just at home. Parties and gatherings at friends and neighbours was a common thing and she also had opportunities to visit Bath (where she had an aunt and uncle) and London (where her favourite brother Henry lived). She had a flirt with a young man named Tom Lefroy, but it never turned to anything serious. In 1802 she received a marriage proposal from Harris Bigg-Wither, a wealthy young man who was her junior. At first she accepted, but after a night of deliberations she turned him down. She did meet a man, at about the same time, at the sea-side. His name is not preserved but according to Cassandra there was a mutual attraction and they had agreed to meet again next year. But the man died.

Instead of getting married Austen lived with her parents and her sister (who never got married after the death of her fiancé). They moved to Bath in 1800, a choice Jane Austen was not very happy with - according to legend she fainted when she heard the news. After the death of her father the sisters and their mother eventually moved to the village of Chawton where her brother Edward, who had been adopted by wealthy relatives without children of their own, had an estate.

The first manuscript to be sent to a publisher was Susan. It was bought and advertised, but never published. Later the manuscript would be bought back, revised and published under the new title Northanger Abbey. The first one to get published was Sense & Sensibility (1811) - without her name though, just as 'By a lady'. It was followed by Pride & Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Her last, finished, novel was Persuasion, which was published posthumously by her brother Henry, together with Northanger Abbey and a biography about her in 1818. 

It was never made official in her lifetime that she was an author, but neither was it a well-kept secret. All her friends and family knew about it and it is reasonable to believe that all acquaintances knew about it as well. There is a myth that there was a door at the house in Chawton that was left to creak so that Austen would be warned if there was unexpected visitors in order to give her time to hide her work. But that is really just a myth - there was no need to keep something that was common knowledge a secret.

Jane Austen died in 1817 , in Winchester, where she was staying in the hope of getting treatment. It has been assumed that she suffered from Addisons disease, though that illness was not known at the time and she never did get a proper diagnosis. She was the first of the siblings to die, and her beloved sister Cassandra (who inherited her) lived to 1845, and died aged 72.

The picture is the only known frontal portrait of Jane Austen. It is drawn by her sister Cassandra - but according to a niece the picture did not really resemble her. 

6/05/2008

Fashion of the week - Evening costume, 1826

This evening-dress from the summer of 1826 clearly shows how the regency fashion turned into the Victorian which was going to be the most central for the rest of the century. The white dress is made of Urlington lace and has only slight signs of the heritage from the regency. The waist has returned to its normal place (or at least very close to it) making the bodice sit tight on the female body and giving it shape. But the silhouette of the dress is still rather thin. This is is a dress for the evening and it was in the evenings that the fashion could turn to the more extreme forms, but still the skirt is rather slim around the legs of the wearer.

By today’s standards we would probably see the skirt as both big and cumbersome, but compared to the crinolines that were to come this was a breeze, close to easy to wear. Another thing that connects the dress with the times that were was the colour. By now the dresses could be very dark in colour, but this dress is white – and made of lace which makes it light.

All in all an excellent example of the transitional time that was the 1820’s when it comes to female fashion.

This dress is from the English fashion magazine ‘La Belle Assemble’, published in June, 1826

6/03/2008

Pop-culture woman of the week - Lady Macbeth

Name: Lady Macbeth
Appearance: Macbeth (written circa 1603-1606)
Creator: William Shakespeare
Weapon/ability: Ambition
Race: Scottish nobles
Age: Adult

Lady Macbeth is one of the central characters of the play about the political struggle in Scotland in the Middle Ages. In short the story is about Macbeth who starts out as a rather noble man, but who is prophisied to commit regicide. This is much due to the ambitions of his wife, lady Macbeth. She can see no reason for her husband to hold back and urges him on to do what he can to get rid of those who stand between him and the Scottish throne.

After she has urged her husband to kill the Scottish king to himself take the throne he has lost most of his more humane traits and does no longer need his wife to tell him to do the dirty work necessary to keep holding on to the throne.

The play is a tragedy and to so utterly disregard common sense and moral means that you will pay your price for it. In the case of lady Macbeth this turns into something close to madness, she starts to walk in her sleep and imagines that she can see blood on her hands, the blood of innocent victims and no matter how hard she tries to wash it off it cannot be done. She even starts blaming herself for acts committed by her husband alone since she feel responsible for turning him into what he now is. At the end of the play she commits suicide (though it is not clear how).

The play was in all probability written as a tribute to James I of England at his ascension to the throne, which would explain the glorification of the ancestors of said king.

The painting shows Lady Macbeth taking the crown to place on her head, as she was portrayed by the English actress Ellen Terry and was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1889.

6/01/2008

Photo of the week - Mabel Edith Baring, lady Ashburton

Date: 1900
Photographer: Lafayette studios
Sitter: Mabel Edith Baring, Lady Ashburton
Provenience: London, England

This is a portrait that seems rather intimate and almost cosy, like a photo you could take at home of someone in your family. But it is actually a studio photo, carefully arranged and one of a series showing the sitter with and without her only son - this one being the one without.

Mabel Edith Baring is here shown reclining on a pile of big cushions in a way that was not the most common way to show off one of the noble ladies of the nation. She has a bright coloured dress, she has a pearl necklace and is on top of this wrapped in a fur cape. Her hair is pinned up and carefully curled to form waves on her head. On the forehead there is some curls showing.

All in all this means that though the sitting might not be the most typical one the lady's appearance is.

The sitter is Hon. Mabel Edith Hood, born in 1866, and the daughter of a viscount. In 1889 she married Francis Denzil Edward Baring, 5th Baron Ashburton, making her Baroness Ashburton. Between the years 1890 and 1898 the couple had five children. First came four daughters - Venetia Marjorie Mabel (who became a maid of honour to queen Mary), Aurea Versa (who married major Charles James Balfour), Angela Mildred (who died unmarried at the age of 101) and Violet Alma Madeline (who died unmarried at the age of 28) and then the son Alexander Francis St Vincent. She died in 1904, just 37 years old.

Hairdo of the week - Greek unmarried women around 530 BC

























This is not two angles of the same statue, but it is back and front of two statues showing the same motif, from the same place and the same time.

This is two examples of 'Kore'-statues, a common motif in Archaic Greece, showing a young, maiden girl, and these two both date to circa 530 B.C. They have some differences, but at the same time they also show great similarities that says quite a lot about the ideals of the time, and what the hair on a (probably) unmarried girl would have looked like it.

The most striking thing about both these figures is the curls. They are rather slim and hang loose on the woman's back. The hair is long and compared to later statues the waves could indicate that the hair was curled in some way - but the very even look of the waves could also be due to artistic freedom. Even the fringe is curly on the second statue. The first one does not have a fringe at all.

The ears are exposed and not hidden away by the hair and it would appear that you could use some kind of head-band to keep the hair at least somewhat in place.