Thursday, December 29, 2011

Favorite- 1630s Suit

As I've said before, the 17th century is really under-represented in film, television, and blogs. Perhaps it's because it gets overshadowed by the more gaudy ornamentation of the roccoco period, or because it follows fast on the heels of the heavily-detailed Elizabethans, but falling between the two of them it can appear a bit dark and plain. Whatever the reason, it is good to remember from time to time that the 17th century had it's beauty too, as I think this yellow suit of the 1730s shows. The original can be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I encourage you to check out their online collection for more lovely pieces. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Downton Abbey Christmas Special

I should beware lest this become a blog entirely about Downton Abbey, however, if you haven't yet seen the Christmas special, let me just say that without it you won't be prepared for Season 3. I personally loved it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Traditions- The five "C"s

During this holiday season as we dash towards the end of our preparations, and are hopefully met with a relaxing and merry event shared with those we love, let's take a moment to think about where some of our cherished traditions came from.

Christmas Trees- Many pagan traditions featured trees decorated or even lit by candles prior to the Victorian era, but it really became a mainstream event when in 1841 Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria of Britain, brought the tradition of a present-laden fir tree from his homeland of Germany to his children in England. In 1848 a picture of the tree, hung with gifts and candy, surrounded by the little princes and princesses was printed and re-printed, and families everywhere soon followed suit. It was not, however, the first Christmas tree to be displayed in Britain. As early as 1800 Queen Charlotte had set up a tree surrounded by presents, but it was much less-publicized.
Candy Canes- Though the sweet, colorful candies seem like a very modern addition to Christmas, they supposedly date back to 1670, when a choirmaster in Cologne, Germany needed to find a way to keep the children quiet during the long Christmas Eve service. He asked a local confection to create these white candies (for the purity of Christ's life), shaped like shepherd's crooks. Stripes were added in 1844.
Carols- It is no wonder that most older carols sounds so festive, since they were originally tunes to be danced to, and not necessarily of a religious nature. I think this is well-exemplified by such songs as Rui Riu Chiu, or Un Flambeau, Jeanette, Isabella. "Carole" is from the Old French for "a circle dance", and seem to have first appeared in the 1150s. Their use declined with the Protestant Reformation, since by that time they had become associated with, or even written for, religious events like Christmas or Mystery Plays; but they were revived in the nineteenth century.
Cards- You might expect the carol to be the oldest element on this list, but it is in fact the seemingly-modern greeting card. They were first sent by the ancient Egyptians, and later by the Chinese, though clearly not in honor of Christmas, but rather as greetings for the New Year. Handmade greeting cards were exchanged in Germany as early as 1400, using printed woodcuts. Even Valentine's day cards were sent in the mid-15th century. (And here I thought that was a modern concept for sure!)
Creche scenes- My family has had the same creche scene for as long as I can remember, and mercifully all of the pieces have survived. It is said that Saint Francis of Assisi created the first creche (a living one) in 1223. Soon living people and animals were replaced with statues of ever-grander ornamentation, and were eventually banned in England during the Puritan purge of the English Civil War. In France it is still traditional to make additional figures for the creche scene, adding to the holy family, angels, wise men, and shepherds figures such as village craftsmen, fishmongers, boulangers, even children and beggars. In this way every member of a village, every strata of life and occupation could be represented going to visit and revere the Christ-child. I like this inclusive tradition.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

And I Quote...Marie-Antoinette

“I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Suggested Blog- Before the Automobile

If you are interested in historical fashion, great sewing, or just beautiful things I suggest you check out Before the Automobile. She may describe herself as self-taught, but the author is far from an amateur, and makes everything from stockings, corsets, and shoes, to full nineteenth-century costumes. Her focus seems to be on the 18th and 19th centuries, but even if those aren't your usual cup of tea, I think you'll marvel at both the quality and the quantity of things she's made. I always look forward to her next post because I know it will contain something special.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Snow" from White Christmas

One of my family's favorites, and a good way to kick off December!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Favorites- Cocoon Coats

It's not hard to see where they got their name, and with those slinky dresses of the late nineteen-teens through the thirties not hard to see why cocoon coats stayed in fashion for so long either.

Whether it's an original or a modern take on the classic, like this blue velvet version, they are just stunning in their simple, sumptuous lines.

I have an emerald-green evening gown, and was inspired by this picture to get some teal-green and gold burn-out velvet to make a similar coat to wear with the dress.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pemberley Shoes from American Duchess

Good news everybody! Lauren at American Duchess, is not only a fabulous fellow blogger, but she's just released the latest in her line of historically-accurate footwear.

Not only are these beauties thoroughly-researched, but they are also made of dyeable satin so you can customize them to go with your outfits. Need more customization? She also sells shoe clips, and the hardware to make your own, on her website at

Is there a downside? Well, yes, if the minimum number of orders is not met the manufacturer won't be able to make the shoes, in which case everyone's money would be refunded, so what do you have to lose?

At only $80 per pair (during pre-sale), they would make a great gift for yourself or someone you know. While at the website check out her other two styles, the Georgiana's and the Devonshires. I have both and they are so comfortable and beautiful, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them.

Happy shopping!

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Honor of Veteran's Day/Rememberance Day

It is good to remember. It is right to honor. Let us do it every day, not just once a year. Thank you to veterans and active military, for their service past and present, and to everyone who serves their families, their communities, and their countries. Around the world, we stand proud and humbled by their sacrifice.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Downton Abbey Season 2 Review

Sad as I am that season 2 of Downton Abbey has come to it's conclusion, I was greatly heartened by this review from Jan Moir at Mail Online, which I simply had to share with all of you. WARNING: If you have not been watching season 2 the review does contain lots and lots of spoilers, I mean, it's a summary of the season, so how could it not?

Trust me, not only does it sum everything up, but it does so in uproarious fashion. Even my husband had a good laugh. Now we just have to wait for the Christmas special...and then season 3!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Women

Here's a little nugget of surprising information from about as far back as we can gauge history. We think of women's equality being a thing of recent development, but in ancient Egypt women could enter into a marriage of their own accord (be it with a non-relative, brother, or cousin), own their own property, manage said property even after marriage, buy and sell slaves, make their own will, adopt children, and divorce and remarry as they liked. They were even paid equal wages to men. That last one can't even be said of women working here in the United States today.

Adoption was not uncommon, and rather like in feudal Japan, if a family was unable to have children they would often adopt from a family that had too many, or just wanted their child to have a better life than they could give it. This breathes new life into the story of Moses, who was adopted by the wife of a Paraoh, but eventually rejected his adoptive family to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt.

Another interesting fact to me, is the way Egyptian tomb paintings show working class people, even in the afterlife- working! My first thought was that, like us, they would picture a happy afterlife as a place of rest and effortless enjoyment, but it was explained to me that for these people the process of planting and reaping and providing was a kind of happiness. They simply wanted life to continue, but in a pleasant unthreatened way, with no famine, sickness, or, presumeably, plague of locusts.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Book review- Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea

I had heard a lot about this book before I bought it, both positive and negative; how the author made many assumptions, it was a fun romp through early history, drew parallels and causality between ideas in history not previously connected. Seeing it at a book fair for a really low price I figured whatever the experience of reading it turned out to be, it was worth the cost.
 Turned out to be a good investment. I started this book at the beginning of the year, and the only reason it took me so long to finish it is that I have a habit of reading multiple books at a time; recently, however, I have been trying to finish all of my half-read books before starting any new ones, and once I got back into Wine-Dark Sea I couldn't put it down. The author, Thomas Cahill, reads like a lecture from a favorite professor, one who is passionate about his subject and wants to share what he loves with his students. It's not just a straightforward history, he breaks it up with categories like "The Warrior: How to Fight", and "The Artist: How to See".

There's also more source material than the writings of philosophers and early historians; there's poetry, sculpture, funeral orations, plays, and at times Cahill's own words take on a mesmerizing kind of cadence not unlike poetry themselves. Even when quoting the usual philosophers he doesn't stop there and includes lesser-known writers and thinkers of the time. So packed with information is the book that the reader, upon finishing, may find themself wondering how it was all contained in such a relatively slim volume, because while it is a sort of "Ancient Greek History for Dummies", it presents more than just the bare-bones essentials.

Quick in pace, broad in scope, easy to read without any condescension (you may still find yourself looking up a word or two), the experience of this book is like sitting at the feet of a beloved family friend, and hearing a great story, that just happens to be true. The only criticism to be made is that at times the author's own opinions about modern politics, culture, and belief show through rather forcefully, but that is also in the nature of storytelling. By the end you feel like you know him, and the Greeks, personally.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

And I Quote- George Bernard Shaw

“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.”      

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New Vender- The Rusty Zipper

I am working on a production of something set in the early 60s, and the designer sent a bunch of links to this site yesterday, at which point I was instantly smitten.

The Rusty Zipper homepage states that they opened in 1995 and were the first vintage clothing store on the net. The selection is pretty big and features pieces from the 1940s to the 1990s, as well as categories like shoes, accessories, vintage ties, and sewing patterns. I'm simultaneously intrigued and horrified by their entire category of Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

The prices can be kind of on the high side, but things are returnable (within 15 days) usually one-of-a-kind, and they are very clear about any damage the item has sustained prior to purchase. If clothing isn't your thing, but you're still looking for something retro it may be worth your time to check out their other odds and ends. I'm sure that someone has a need for ceramic ashtrays in any color and shape, an aluminium Christmas tree, or 1970s sitcom posters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The House of Worth

1905 aqua Worth gown
These days when many of us go clothing shopping we are liable to end up in a large department store surrounded by ready-made garments, perfumes, jewelry, shoes, and even housewares and furniture; but in the 19th century this was far from the experience of most shoppers.

Godey's 1874
Clothing then was still an individual creation for the most part. Magazines like Harper's Bazaar, La Mode, or Godey's showed illustrations of costumes (complete with hats, undergarments, and hair extensions and accessories) that could be ordered to be made, but going into a store still involved simply looking at fabric to be made into clothing.

This began to change in the late 1850's. A man by the name of Charles Frederick Worth was working as a draper in a dress shop called Maison Gagelin. He first introduced the idea of not merely swathing models in fabric for the customers to look at, but creating whole muslin outfits so that they could see the cut and decoration of something before choosing a fabric to make that same costume. His designs were soon amongst those on display at the shop, and despite their novel and (for the time) daring departure from accepted styles, won a gold medal for Gagelin.

Worth gown 1883-85
It wasn't long after that when he opened his own fashion house. He also started the practice of sewing labels with his brand into the garments that were made. This is part of how we know so many examples of his work today, and also because a gown from the House of Worth quickly became the absolute height of fashion, and anyone who was anybody had to have them.

He kept the tradition of using live models, but rather than draping them in fabric, or showing them in muslins, he moved to having shows at his atelier where they would model actual garments in full fabric and decoration and with appropriate accessories, all available for the patrons to have made in their own size and with their personal modifications if desired. His was also the first fashion house to offer perfume, and commissioned the famous glass-maker Rene Lallique to design a bottle to showcase it. The modern perfume industry was thus born, and more scents followed; though "Je Reviens"(1932) remains the most popular to this day, thanks in part to soldiers during WWII who likes to give it to their sweethearts, probably because it means "I will return".

Worth gown 1910
The House of Worth remained a leading style icon until 1956 when the firm was closed following it's sale by Charle's great-grandson. In more recent time, however, it has had a resurgence under new designers and a renewed interest in this once-innovative legacy. Worth gowns can be found in nearly all of the great museums of the world, and their decorative techniques, tailoring, body-conscious cut, and refined elegance make them timeless works of art. Charles Frederick Worth earned his title as "The Father of Haute Couture".

Monday, October 10, 2011

History in the News- The V&A

My husband came across an article recently that was of interest to me, and which I thought might interest others as well. How the Victoria and Albert Museum Dealt With the Dying of Christianity.

That's a lengthy title, but fairly straightforward. The museum, largely considered to be one of the best in the world, was surprised to find that people are posessed of very little relative knowledge about the history, doctrine, and stories of the Church and the Medieval and Renaissance eras in general. Of course it is nearly impossible to discuss any aspect of these time periods without mentioning Christianity, which was at the time in Europe very pervasive.

Having been raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools and religious education classes during much of my childhood, I had always assumed that I had a better understanding of the background and ritual of Christianity than non-Catholics, just as I am ignorant of the tenants and history of other religions (though I am learning). Two things surprised me, however; how much I didn't know, and how few people are actually practicing Christians of any sort.

I had always thought of certain countries as being enclaves of staunch Catholic adherence, but even in Italy only 36.6% of people are practicing Catholics, versus the 87.6% who claim it as their religion. How then, was the museum to help its patrons fully understand the intended meaning and history of its objects, when they had little or no specific knowledge base on which to build? The article tells the story of how the V&A strove to solve this problem, and what they learned along the way.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This Day In History- The Portuguese Revolution

October 5th, 1910. It seems like it should be the first rule of preventing revolution; do not let the military change sides. It happened in France, it would happen in 1917 in Russia, and it happened in 1910 in Portugal.

King Manuel II was in charge, but his political counterpart, Prime Minister Joao Franco was compelled to step down and go into exile, necessitating a new election. Unfortunately the void was not quickly filled as different political factions fought each other. In the midst of this struggle came a visit from the president of Brazil, which only provided further incentive for republican demonstrations.

As if things could not become more tumultuous, several of the warships anchored in the Tagus River broke into mutiny. Orders from Lisbon to put down the mutiny were ignored, and the ships took up position around Lisbon, causing the royal family to flee for their lives to Britain. With the king out of the way, a provisional republican government was finally formed, and elected Teofilo Braga, a writer, as president.

Eventually this First Republic would dissolve, like the the First French Republic before it, into a dictatorship, paving the way for further revolution.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Gray Elizabethan Project 1

Back on the Tudor Gown post I mentioned that while I was waiting to get new fabric for that nightmare of a misadventurous project, I had something else to work on- the Gray Elizabethan Men's Project. This fits into my attempt to finish all of the unfinished things sitting around my house because both the doublet and breeches have been cut out for about six years.

It started as part of an entire wardrobe I was making for a friend back in 2005, but after doing four complete costumes he really didn't need a fifth, so this one stayed in my sewing stash waiting to be finished. The problem with trying to sew something you cut out that long ago is that you no longer entirely remember how you were going to make it look. Fortunately at the time I was altering a commerical pattern to be (more) historically accurate, and I still remember how that pattern used to go together.

I also remember that I was going to edge the large silver and black trim I had for it in burgundy velvet ribbon, but the ribbon was re-appropriated for Christmas decorations only last year. So the silver and black trim, with matching buttons had to be used alone.

The breeches were made of a slightly mottled gray linen. From the photos it looks like a sweatshirt knit, but I promise it isn't. I started out by putting the pieces together, and estimated an appropriate waist measurement, since the top is gathered to a waistband. The pants are self-lined in gray linen as well, making them very dense. Initially I planned to do this because they would be worn while fencing rapier.

Once they were near to complete with only the waist and leg bands to turn and finish, and the buttons and buttonholes to add, I started placing the trim. I chose to pop the seams at top and bottom so that I could press the pleats into shape beforehand and have them stay in place. The trim was only attached top and bottom, and floats freely over the leg.

After sewing back the popped seams I finished the waist and leg bands, leaving an overlap for the buttons at the legbands and center front. I then stitched on the same trim I'd used previously, this time covering the entirety of the bands.

Finally, I attached the buttons and made buttonholes. The whole project was done by machine where able, as I intend this to be more of a costume than a recreation. Next up...the doublet!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Film Review- To Kill A King

"To Kill A King" is a film set in that rather under-represented era in English history, the Civil War. It details the relationship between Lord Thomas Fairfax, who has helped to lead the overthrow of King Charles I, and his deputy, Oliver Cromwell. The two commanders seek to implement a more egalitarian government, but almost from the start are at odds about how to achieve this, and what the new government should be.

Muddying the waters somewhat is the relationship that each man has with Fairfax' wife, Lady Anne. She's of noble birth, and she and her father don't make her husband's political decisions any easier. Neither does the fact that Cromwell, at least in the beginning, has a not-so-secret desire for the lady, though he himself is married.

Tim Roth gives an impassioned performance as Cromwell, the man history loves to hate, although his relative youth in the film did puzzle me a little as he would have been 49 when the majority of the events depicted took place. High marks go to costumes for managing to include even Cromwell's noted moles in all of the right places. His friend, Fairfax, who both in the film and in real life refused to sign the King's death warrant, is our protagonist played by the brooding Dougray Scott (Ever After).  He does a great job portraying a man torn in many different directions at once, who has to choose not only between his King and his politics, but also between his wife and his friend, his safety and the safety of others, his wealth and his beliefs, and finally between everything he wishes to protect and his own life. The friendship between the two men his made warm and real, and the complications that beset them are as much about the breakdown of that relationship, as they are about the future of England.

Strong marks go to the fast-paced nature of the story, which easily could have gotten bogged down with historical intricacies; however, the lack of clarity about these situations means that a strong understanding of the time period and politics is advisable. Rupert Everett, as King Charles I, manages in the few scenes that he's in to show us the full transformation of a man from Absolute Ruler to prisoner, defiant defendent to humble martyr. He's also far from archetypal as we see him scheme, threaten, and bait his opposition. It gives the audience an opportunity to feel equal disbelief that such a man could be so easily overcome.

Finally, I cannot end without mentioning the period-perfect Olivia Williams as Lady Anne Fairfax. Her looks are very like those of 17th-century portraiture which, added to her pitch-perfect performance, creates a character that is sympathetic and believeable. Her sorrows, fears, and bewilderment, caught between the machinations and expectations of many men are reminiscent of Ophelia in Hamlet, yet this is a woman with power and persuasive abilities of her own.

All in all, a good film and a welcome one. There are too few 17th-century movies out there, and this one is worth seeing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

And I Quote- Homer on Helen of Troy

"Weaving a growing web, a dark red folding robe,
working into the weft the endless bloody struggles
stallion-breaking Trojans and Argives armed in bronze
had suffered all for her at the god of battle's hands."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Downton Abbey Preview Report

For those, like me, who have been anxiously awaiting the new season of Downton Abbey (which will air in the USA in January), I bring you this preview report. Be forewarned, it does contain spoilers, but it tells you before you get to them so the first half is still safe to read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Advice for Young Women of the 1920s

I just love all of the references to how good health and hygiene make for good mothers, because that's the end goal; and if your children are blind or malformed it must be because you or your mate are unclean and lack virtue. So glad we don't think this way anymore.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tudor Outfit- Part 2

Things are not going smoothly, to say the least. Remember the tear in the back of the bodice that needed fixed? I went to check the seam and found a place on the inside where the seam was coming apart...then another...and a place where the skirt wasn't fully attached...and then a spot where the lining and outer fabric seams weren't lining up...and a gap where the "stomacher" part in the front didn't sit against the skirt, but left a gap.

In short, the dress was a mess and with fraying fabric and needing to take it all apart, well, it started to get worse the more I picked the seams apart and I finally just separated the skirt from the bodice and tossed the bodice. Unfortunately there isn't enough leftover fabric to re-cut the bodice, so I put the skirt away for future use and checked my pattern for fabric requirements.

10 yards of 45" wide fabric. That's a lot, and I do not have 10 yards of fabric lying around, so it'll be out the fabric store for that later. In the meantime I did pull out new fabric from my stash for the kirtle. I think a nice mellow mustard cotton for the body (interlined with canvas, of course), and a neckline in salmon shot-silk will work just fine.

Naturally I'm wondering if my one-week goal might not be a little ambitious at this point; but in the meantime there is the Gray Elizabethan Mens outfit to work on...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Green velvet Tudor outfit- Part 1

I'm trying to downsize my fabric stash and finish up old projects, and one of the things that I've wanted to finish for a while now is my green velvet Tudor gown.

Kirtle and forepart worn over chemise and farthingale

Back of gown on dressform
If it were simply a matter of moving forward on this outfit I'd only have to add closures to the front, make and attach oversleeves, and make a gable or a french hood. Heck, I could even forego the hood and wear a snood. Sadly, this outfit has been languishing in my closet for a long time because it is full of problems that need solving.

1) I made the kirtle from the Tudor Tailor pattern in the book, but this was years ago before I really knew how to scale up patterns properly, and I was in a crunch trying to get the outfit done for an event, so I skipped the mock-up and went straight into fabric. BIG MISTAKE! Always make time for a mock-up. The bodice came out a bit high in the neckline and large around. It fit, but it wasn't snug. I thought that it would "tighten-up" when I added in the boning and turned all the seams etc. Nope.
Kirtle neckline
2) Did that stop me? Did I go back and take it all apart? No. Bad costumer. I went right ahead with my forepart and undersleeves, and decorated the kirtle as if it were perfect. All of that came out pretty well, and I even had a separate forepart attached to the kirtle for some variety when I wanted to take off the pretty floral jacquard one, which tied on.
Forepart hem with decorative trim


3) The undersleeves I was pretty happy with and they only needed a finished edge at the elbow and ties.

4)The first problem with the gown came when I realized that I didn't have quite enough fabric. I had bought it years before on clearance and there was no possibility of getting more, and since velvet hass a directionality to it that's really obvious you really can't cheat it. I had been planning to cover the lower, turned-back sleeves with fur anyhow (nice, mottled, brown, bunny fur) so I decided that could be in a similarly-colored fabric and not need to be velvet on the backside. I also used less fullness in the skirt than originally called-for. I barely squeaked enough fabric out for everything else.

5) I started to put it together, and was very dismayed when it turned out that the fabric frayed and pulled apart at the seams. I tried to use different thread, stitch multiple times, back it with canvas (which the bodice was interlined with anyhow).

6)I finally got the bodice finished to the point where I could put the skirt on. I was really  in a time crunch by this point. So instead of figuring out the time-consuming cartridge-pleating which would have been historically accurate, and just pleated it symmetrically instead.

7) Then the fabric started to pull away from one of the back seams. I sighed, tried it on over the farthingale, kirtle, and forepart. Realized that the kirtle was too big in the bodice and was adding strain to the already-popping seams. The farthingale was to big and I should have made a smaller one. It was the night before the event.

So I threw up my hands, and wore something else to the event, and the misadventurous Tudor gown has never been finished. So now I am ready to tackle it again, and this will involve:-

1) Altering the farthingale to be smaller.

2) The kirtle was actually sold since it was fine except for being too big for me. I'll be making a new one.

3) Fixing the tear in the gown back.

4) Finishing the undersleeves, and the gown itself.

I give myself a week to do this, so updates will be forthcoming soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Nineteenth Amendment: Women's Suffrage

"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

After years of frustration when women's rights advocates had argued that the preceeding amendments granting suffrage regardless of race should include the same regardless of sex, finally a proposal was drafted and sent to the senate for consideration in 1878. The senate did not even vote on the proposal until 1887, at which time it was rejected by a vote of 16 to 34. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, women's rights again became a hotbed issue and suffragettes won support in many states, especially in the west where several states passed legislation granting "partial suffrage".

On August 18th, 1920, after much urging from President Wilson and a special session of Congress, it finally passed and was ratified by the states. Despite this it was not until the 1950s that women began to vote in large numbers whereas today, statistically, more women vote than men, especially in the 18-24 age range.

Other countries where women can vote include:
Isle of Man (since 1881)
New Zealand (since 1893)
South Australia (since 1895), Australia entire 1902
Finland (since 1906)
Denmark (1915)
Armenia (1917)
Azerbaijan (1918)
Burma (1922)
Chile (1934)
France (1944)
Ethiopia (1955)
Iran (1963)
Kenya (1963)
Switzerland (1971)
Bahrain (1973)
Iraq (1980)
Liechtenstein (1984)
Namibia (1989)
Qatar (1997)
Kuwait (2005)

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are some places in the world, like Saudi Arabia, where suffrage for women and men is severely limited or non-existant, but steps have been taken to see that it is eventually granted.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

This Day in History- September 11th 2001, a personal note

I am an American, so it's impossible for me not to reflect with feeling on a date that has had so much significance for my country and myself. I am not interested in discussing blame, or policy, or politics. I am not interested in being angry. I am grateful that my own father was not where he was supposed to be on that day, for he might have been killed. I grieve for the people who lost their lives, and for the families who lost them. I am sorry for anyone who suffers needlessly, and I think it only underscores the fact that humanity has very far to go still. I will always remember where I was when I heard the news, as will every American of my generation, and people around the world.

I deeply appreciate the support and solidarity of those everywhere who have given it, and I have more than one reason to know that tragedy has a way of bringing out the best in people. I remember, I am grateful, I am humbled and hopeful.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

This Day in History- John Gerrard's Escape from the Tower

I love a good prison break story like "The Shawshank Redemption", or "The Count of Monte Cristo", but sometimes the best stories are the true ones.

In 1597 a Jesuit missionary named John Gerrard was imprisoned in the Tower of London for all of the usual reasons; plotting against the queen, being the wrong religion etc. Tortured for four days by being hung from his wrists via chains, he steadfastly refused to name his co-conspirators, or even admit there was any kind of conspiracy. Taken down, finally, he was determined to escape.

First he knew that he would have to regain the use of his hands, which had been rendered immobile by the torture. He bribed his gaoler to bring him some oranges, which he squeezed, peeled, and ate. For three weeks he exercised his wrists by cutting the peels into small crosses, which he strung on a silken thread to make a rosary. Why squeeze the juice out, though?

He requested a piece of paper with which to wrap the rosary so that he could send it to his friends, and duly this was brought. A few words were written on the paper in charcoal, enough to ensure its delivery, and on the inside he used the juice from the orange to write an invisible message detailing his escape plans so that his friends would be ready to help him. He gambled that they would know to hold the note up to the fire, rendering the words visible.

His last preparations were to convince his gaoler to let him visit another Catholic prisoner who was held in another part of the prison known as the Cradle Tower, which was only across a moat from the lowest part of the outer wall.

On the night of September 9th, 1597 Gerrard and his companion waited on the inner wall, and in due course a small rock came sailing over the wall attached to a string. They pulled up the string, which was attached in turn to a rope which they secured inside the wall so that it stretched across the moat. With great difficulty, because of his weakened wrists and hands, Gerrard made his way across the moat to the top of the wall and descended, successfully effecting his escape.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Cloche Hat

Cloche is french for "bell" and the cloche hat of the 1920s was shaped just so. When one thinks of that era it is one of the most pervasive styles and the first to come to mind for me. They could be any color, and made out of velvet, felt, wool, straw, or even knitted, trimmed with flowers, bows, buttons, feathers, pretty much anything you can think of!

Strictly a day-wear item at first, they showed up in films, fashion plates, and advertisements, and many were in fact made specifically to match certain outfits. Invented by a milliner named Caroline Reboux in 1908, they continued in popularity until about 1933 and were sported by stars, socialites, and celebrities as well as regular working-class people and, of course, flappers.
In more recent years the cloche has made a comeback and versions for both day and eveningwear can be found everywhere from Etsy to in-store at Target and Macy's. This is one style that is far from gone.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

History on Film: Deadliest Warrior

I usually think of myself as fairly traditionally feminine, and I'm sure most people who know me would agree. On this blog I've reviewed a lot of shows and movies, usually costume dramas with a good dose of romance; but sometimes even I want to see something blow up or someone get soundly beaten. For those times, there's Deadliest Warrior, from Spike tv.

Do you like historical weapons and battle tactics? Have you ever gotten into a heated debate with your friends over who would win a fight between disparate opponents (a la pirate vs ninja)? Do you like to scream with glee during gory testosterone-dripping battle sequences? Yes? Then you'll like this show. I'm quite certain that it started with a bunch of historical weapons experts sitting around debating pirate vs ninja (or viking vs samurai etc), and realizing that they had the ability to scientifically test their theory.

Bring on the pig carcasses, ballistics gel, and foam torsos. Oh yeah, and blood packets, lots and lots of blood packets. Lest you think it's entirely a bunch of frats boys shooting things and making war cries, let me assure you that there is a core of scientists, computer experts, and a trauma doctor who are equally interested in the endurance of armor, effectiveness of tactics, and realistic lethality of weapons. But, yes, they whoop a lot when a Zande sword takes an anatomically correct head complete with skull and blood off of it's attached torso. So do I.

It is interesting to see how a Spartan soldier fares against a Ninja, or sometimes even specific historical figures like Alexander the Great vs Ghengis Khan, and more importantly why the match-ups end in the results they do. It debunks some myths, like that bullets will go through armor, and surprises you in other ways. Who knew cotton padding could be so effective?

All in all, it's a fun, if at times gross, show to watch. Usually predictable, but always entertaining. If you have Netflix you can find at least the first two seasons on Instant Queue.

Sunday, August 28, 2011