Used Books, Hoopskirts, and Christmas circa 1900

photo(1)Instead of one longer post, I have several diverse things to talk about today. Hopefully all will be equally interesting.

Used Books: I went to an antique book and document fair for work yesterday, and I ended up spending almost everything I got paid to be there on used books. [I may be joking here, or I may not be. I really don’t want to commit either way. 😉 ] The first thing I bought was Literary London: A Reader’s Walking Tour by Andrew Davies (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988). As the title implies, the book is a guide to the spots in each area of London that have been associated with various writers and literary works throughout history. According to the inside flap, “Each chapter offers a walk in words through one of these neighborhoods, seeking out the places that gave inspiration as well as accommodation to poets, novelists, diarists, journalists, historians, and publishers.” I was interested from the minute I picked the book off the shelf, but it was seeing an entire chapter dedicated to Bloomsbury, the old meeting spot of my buddy Roger Fry and his friends, that really sold me.

The second book was Gothic Revival by Megan Aldrich (London: Phaidon Press Ltd., 1994). With my recent interest in Gothic Revival, I am really excited about owning an entire book on the subject, and Phaidon art books are, without exception, wonderful. The photographs are astoundingly beautiful. Even the patterning on the end pages is absolutely gorgeous. I’m so excited to read this.

I considered but did not buy a survey of Irish art and a book on ballroom dance by Vernon and Irene Castle. Both were extremely tempting, but I had to draw somewhere. As it was, I needed a Whole Foods bag to carry home all my acquisitions, and it ripped from the weight before I had even made it into the hallway.photo3

Hoop Skirts: I have been doing some research into mid-nineteenth century fashion for a costume I’m making for an upcoming party. (Would you be surprised to learn that I own numerous fashion history books and design/sew costumes regularly? Hopefully not.) Tonight, I was specifically looking at hoop skirts, since I am still trying to figure out how to make my dress full enough, and I can across the following passage, which really amused me:

“It seems to be one of the principles of fashion that once an exaggeration has been decided on it becomes ever more exaggerated. Thus, by the end of the decade, the crinoline-supported skirts were truly prodigious, until it was impossible for two women to enter the room together or sit on the same sofa, for the frills of one dress took up all available space. A woman was now a majestic ship, sailing proudly ahead, while a small tender — her male escort — sailed along behind.” (Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. London and New York: Thames & Hudson, 2007. p.179.)

The things people do for beauty, I will never understand. I’m more of a jeans, boots, and flack jacket girl myself. While I have enough sewing prowess to make a real crinoline (I think!), I am going to have to find another way to achieve the necessary look, because I will probably want to be able to sit down at this party, and I’m certainly not going to have an entire sofa to myself.

Make way for the USS Crinoline. Photo from Laver p.179.
Make way for the USS Crinoline.
Photo from Laver p.179.

Christmas circa 1900: I volunteer at a historic house museum in my free time, and we just put up our Christmas decorations this week. The museum has a strict no photos policy, but I was given a holiday card with a photograph of last year’s Christmas tree, which can be seen at the top of this post. The museum’s decorations are not completely historically accurate, but the curator does insist that all decorations (probably excluding the ornaments on the tree) are made of natural materials and that only live greenery is used. The house looks amazing, although I am told that many of the decorations unfortunately don’t stay fresh for long. Lots of historic houses have big Christmas displays, so wherever you live, I strongly encourage you to see what your local museums have planned for this holiday season.

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