Friday, December 28, 2012

Through the Happy New Years

In honor of the turning of the year, let's time travel back through the ages to look at New Years depictions of the past!

In the 1940s celebrations could be a little sexier than in previous eras, and indeed most of the time images are of pretty young women. No Father Times or Baby New Years here!

In the 20s prohibition didn't stop people from having a swinging good time, as with the Sam Bonner band, seen here.

The early 1900s were a little more tame, but dramatic nonetheless; as this beauty with her very, ahem, timely costume can attest.

This print from Harper's Weekly 1864, on the other hand, speaks clealry of strife and division, since the American Civil War was still raging. A family from the North is seen celebrating in wholesome comfort, while a family from the South mourns their lost loved one in cold misery. I wonder what side the artist was on?

Happily the Regency toasts the New Year more merrily, with family members old and young and a wealth of good cheer.

Happy New Year to you and yours, with wishes for a safe and pleasant 2013!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Last time the question was:- "Requisitioned during WWII and unavailable to most women, when this item was back in stock and available to the public it caused riots as women scrambled to stock up."

Banker Chick chimed in with the correct answer, which was "Nylons". Yes, I have trouble explaining to my students sometimes why women went so crazy over nylon stockings, and they think the images of girls painting seams into the back of their legs are very funny. Come to think of it, I find that amusing as well.

This week I'm asking:- What is a morgengifu? (Hint: It's an anglo-saxon word)

Monday, November 19, 2012


Time for more trivia!

Requisitioned during WWII and unavailable to most women, when this item was back in stock and available to the public it caused riots as women scrambled to stock up.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Liebster Award

Well color me flattered! labluebonnet has kindly given Amphorae a Libester Blog Award. This award is meant to recognize and honor blogs with 200 followers or less; and given that I have been quite remiss in posting this year, I am surprised and touched to have merited a mention. Thank you!

The recipients of the award are to pass it along to five other blogs with similar credentials to help spread the word about relatively unknown bloggers. How to choose? Fortunately some of my favorite blogs have far too many followers to qualify, so that did help to narrow it down a bit.

1) Bankerchick's Scratchings. I never know what she'll write about, but it's always interesting.

2) I like historical clothing. As do I! It would be worth it to visit this blog just for the wonderful photos of extant garments that she posts, many of which I have not seen before.

3) Idlewild Illustre. She's an artist, and a seamstress, who goes to events and sketches or paints people in situ. Far less obtrusive than a camera, and her skill is undeniable. I always enjoy seeing her work.

4) Possessions of a Lady. I learn more about the minutiae of the past from this blog than almost anywhere else.

5) The Treasures of Dawn. Handmade fans! Fans, people! They are stunning, I only wish I could afford one...or a dozen.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Met Publications Online

Just a reminder for anyone who doesn't already know, that the Metropolitan Museum of Art puts many of their publications online; some with fully-downloadable text! Go to this link to search for your favorite textiles topics, like The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789–1815.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012


lahbluebonnet made a valiant attempt at guessing the answer to the last trivia question (which was far too long ago, my apologies):- "The name of this architectural feature comes from the old french word for "throat" as they were used to channel water. Their usefulness in warding off evil spirits came later and is up for debate."

The answer is "gargoyle", which comes from the old French for "throat". If you think of words like "gargle" and "gorget" it makes sense. A close look at the photo to the left will reveal that the water was channeled off of and away from the building through a spout in the mouth of the figure. This one is from St. Vitus' cathedral, and is appropriately scary as we approach Halloween.

The trivia for today is more of a question for all of you:- What character, historical or otherwise, are you dressing as for Halloween? Or, if you don't participate in such a holiday (as I know many of my European friends do not), what is your current project?

Ironically I, like most of my fellow professional costumers, do not tend to dress in costume for Halloween. There's never any time to make something, it seems.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


The name of this architectural feature comes from the old french word for "throat" as they were used to channel water. Their usefulness in warding off evil spirits came later and is up for debate.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Medieval Bras encore

For anyone who didn't get enough info about the stash of Medieval bras found recently in Tyrol, there is a follow-up article with more details here. The new information includes a replica of what they might have looked like in their original condition.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Regency Events Upcoming

1805 silk knit parasol
For any of you on the east coast of the U.S. or planning to visit that area in the next few months, there are some Regency events that might pique your interest. Don't have a costume? Don't worry, many of them are costume-optional.

August 25, 11AM- Ladies' Regency Tea (Olde World Tea Shop, 327 Main St., Smithfield, VA)

September 14, 8AM - 7PM - Living History Day at Hope Plantation (132 Hope House Rd., Windsor, NC

October 13, 11AM - ? - Regency Picnic at Poplar Forest  (1542 Bateman Bridge Road, Forest, VA)

I'm going to try and make it to the Poplar Forest Picnic, but that is the weekend of my brother's birthday so it will depend on his plans. For more information about the events, costs, or Regency Society of Virginia you can visit their page at .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trivia- The St Bart Massacre

Last week I asked:- "What bloody event, following the wedding of Marguerite de Valois and Henri Roi de Navarre, is depicted in both "La Reine Margot" and "Princesse Montpensier"?"

Isis correctly answered that it was the St Bartholomew Day Massacre.

This bloody event occurred  in 1572 beginning on August 23rd, but extended for weeks. Tensions between French Catholics and Protestants were brought to a head by two major events; the marriage of Marguerite de Valois (daughter of Catherine de Medici, and sister of the King of France, Charles IX) to a Protestant, Henri de Navarre, and the failed assassination of Admiral Coligny, who was the political and military leader of the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants). Due to the wedding a large number of wealthy and prominent Huguenots had gathered in Paris, despite an uneasy calm created by the Treaty of St Germain, which had only recently ended a costly war between the two religious factions. Many Catholics found both the treaty and the marriage to be unacceptable.

To this day it is not known from whence the order came to assassinate Coligny, who had regained a place on the King's council, but many blame the King's mother, Catherine de Medici, who feared that Coligny's influence would lead to war with Spain over the Netherlands. Coligny already planned to campaign in the Netherlands to ensure that Dutch Protestants would be free of the control of Catholic Spain.

When the assassination failed, Catholics in Paris became concerned that Protestants would take revenge, and since Coligny had an army of 4,000 men outside the city there was a heightened sense of tension. The King and his mother made the decision to ward off this threat by killing a few of the leading Protestants. The citizenry of Paris were also armed in fear of a Protestant uprising and the city gates were shut. They began by killing Coligny, whom the King had personally promised that he would find the people responsible for the assassination attempt. Then as more leaders and their bodyguards, servants, and followers were killed the mob took over and violence against Protestants swept through the city regardless of age or sex.

The King attempted to stop the killings, but it was too late and the massacre lasted for three days afterwards. In order to spin the event to his advantage rather than have it appear as a failure, the King decreed that it had been in order to prevent a Huguenot plot, and held a jubilee celebration, while the killings continued elsewhere, spreading out into the country for weeks and even months afterwards. Estimates of the death toll range widely from 2,000 to 70,000.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Trivia returns, and this time we marry history with entertainment.

What bloody event, following the wedding of Marguerite de Valois and Henri Roi de Navarre, is depicted in both "La Reine Margot" and "Princesse Montpensier"?

Bon chance!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Breaking News! 15th century bras found in Tyrol

Well, this is exciting news, because while bra and panty-like garments have been theorized, discussed, dismissed, debated-anew, and generally considered a modern invention there has never been any evidence to prove their existence as far back as the 15th century. This find changes everything, indeed.

Read more.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trivia Monday!

Well, I either had you stumped or, more likely, I just didn't give you enough time to answer last week's trivia question:- Samuel Pepys is famous as a 17th-century diarist, in particular for writing about what two major misfortunes in British history?

The answers were The Great Fire of London, and what is commonly called The Great Plague Outbreak. Though the diary was only kept from 1660-1669 it provides a fascinating and detailed account of life during those difficult times, and was only published in the 19th century. It makes one wonder what other valuable writing have yet to be discovered.

This week I ask:- This first aniline dye color was named in 1856 and is more esoterically known as "mallow".

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In Their Words- Marcus Aurelius on Living Well

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” - Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Internship Opportunity

For any of you who may find this interesting, an internship opportunity was brought to my attention recently:-

Volunteer Intern
Museum Textile Services, Andover, MA
Museum Textile Services, a private textile conservation studio located in Andover, Massachusetts, is seeking applicants for two types of volunteer internships. Up to three Conservation Internships are available for beginner to intermediate applicants. They provide a sound introduction to art conservation philosophy, literature, and treatments and require excellent eyesight, sewing skills, and museum sensibilities. Current conservation projects include European tapestry, Asian art, and 19th-century costume. One collections management internship is also available for a volunteer seeking hands-on cataloguing and rehousing experience. This intern would be working primarily with the MTS study collection but would also assume collections management responsibilities for our active projects with opportunities for off-site visits. MTS internships require a minimum commitment of one day per week from 9:30 to 5:30 for a minimum of 120 hours. Internships are available beginning in June, 2012. Museum Textile Services is convenient to routes 495 and 93, and a 3-minute walk from the commuter rail line. To learn more about us please visit To apply, please send your resume and a brief email of introduction to Camille Myers Breeze at

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Last week's question was a visual clue, and I asked:- What famous artisan is honored by today's Google Doodle, seen above?

Banker Chick correctly identified Faberge as the artisan in question, and the eggs are indeed famous for being the traditional (and costly) gifts made for the Czar of Russia who traditionally gave them to members of his family. Anyone admitted to the pleasure of seeing them in person knows how truly stunning they are.

This week's question is:- Samuel Pepys is famous as a 17th-century diarist, in particular for writing about what two major misfortunes in British history?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Well, I am a little late with the trivia question this week due to a holiday on Monday and the busyness of working two jobs at present. Last week's query was:- What 17th century composer was portrayed by Gerard and Guillaume Depardieu in the movie Tous Les Matins du Monde?

Solene, in France, correctly answered that it was Marin Marais. If you haven't seen the movie, Solene and I both highly recommend it.

This week I'll give you an easy one since there is less time to guess:- What famous artisan is honored by today's Google Doodle, seen above?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Trivia Monday

Well, no one was able to guess the answer to last week's trivia question, which is understandable since it was a tough one. "What Roman Emperor was found dead on May 15th, 392 in Vienne, Gaul?" The answer is Emperor Valentinian II, who was found hanged in his residence. Interestingly, he was accorded a Christian burial, as he had requested baptism, which could indicate that the belief was that he was murdered. On the other hand, no inquiry into his death was made yielding suspects.

For this week we'll skip ahead to the 17th century:- What 17th century composer was portrayed by Gerard and Guillaume Depardieu in the movie Tous Les Matins du Monde?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Regency Picnic Event Photos

Well, I never did get to make my outfit and attend the Virginia Regency Society's picnic today, due to work obligations; but for those of you who, like me, still want to see how much fun was had and how splendid everyone looked photos can be found here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Trivia Monday

Last week's question was:- Edmund Spenser's poem The Faerie Queene was written as an allegorical work in favor of what monarch?

Sarah, it turns out, is quite the expert on the poem and she answered "The Faerie Queene was written in favor of Queen Elizabeth I, whose multi-faceted personality was represented variously as Una, Britomart, the eponymous Faerie Queene herself, etc...!"

Quite right!

Now onto the trivia for this week, and for this one we're reaching very far back:- What Roman Emperor was found dead on May 15th, 392 in Vienne, Gaul?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Emerson On Beauty

“Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trivia Monday!

Trivia Monday got off to a good start with the question "What were the two styles of women's hoods prevalent at the court of Henry VIII?" An Anonymous visitor responded with the correct answer, which is the Gable hood and the French hood, as seen below respectively.

The Gable hood came first and was gradually replaced in popularity by the French hood, which was rumored to be a fashion brought back to England by the young Anne Boleyn, who had served at the French court.

On to the trivia question for this week:- Edmund Spenser's poem The Faerie Queene was written as an allegorical work in favor of what monarch?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fim Review- The Songcatcher

The Songcatcher is set in 1907 and follows the experience of a female Professor of Musicology, Lily Penleric, who when once again rejected for tenure decides to visit her sister, Eleanore, who has a school in the wilds of Appalachia. Once there Lily discovers that the people of the region have handed down Old English ballads from generation to generation without adulteration by the outside world. She begins to collect these works by recording them on gramaphone cylinders and writing the songs out, but there are more than a few challenges to contend with.

Viewers are not likely to recognize many of the actors in the film, with the exception of Aidan Quinn who plays a war veteran named Tom Bledsoe. He is initially very suspicious of Lily, and their relationship gets off to a rocky start, but soon becomes just what you expect. Things you might not expect include; Lesbianism, stripping naked while running from wild animals, cars driving up the mountains, and Bible-tent murder.

The screenplay was written and directed by Maggie Greenwald, for whom this was her best-known film. I found it at times very predictable with a lot of stock characters, like Earl Giddens, the representative of a Coal-mining firm that wants to buy everyone's land, and the ending was exactly what I was expecting from the start.

Having said that there were some things that I very much enjoyed about the film. It was not another Edwardian comedy of polite society, and the plaintive songs were just what I was craving when I selected the movie. I liked that Lily never entirely became just one of the mountain folk, that would have been too easy and wrong for the character of someone who has struggled her whole life for professional recognition; but she did bring a perspective of value to something which they took for granted almost, and that in turn gave her a certain standing in their community.

In short, don't watch this film for it's award-winning performances, there aren't any. Watch it for a story more rarely told, and music beautifully and realistically rendered.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tudor Fashions for Women

In light of our trivia question for this week I thought we'd take a look at some images of Tudor dress for women.
English noblewoman 1538
This first image is from a small portrait miniature, which seem to have been very popular at the time. She wears the square-necked gown and bell-shaped sleeves of the typical Tudor dress, with slightly puffed undersleeves which would date this gown to the earlier part of the reign of Henry VIII. Her French hood and double parure necklace are also typical features of Tudor costume from Henry VIII's reign.

Princess Elizabeth 1546
Red was a popular color in Tudor England and in this famous portrait of the future queen we see that the square neck and conical bodice are still in vogue, but the neckline has become much wider moving out almost off the shoulders. The undersleeves have grown much larger and are now clearly false, not attached continuing past the narrow portion of the oversleeve. The french hood is smaller with an almost-imperceptible veil. To change up this look all you'd have to do is switch the undersleeves and forepart (visible underskirt panel).

Queen Mary 1554
By 1554 Elizabeth's sister Mary was Queen of England, and her devotion to the Catholic Church showed itself in many things. In this portrait we can see not only very large cross at her neck, but her body itself is much more covered in giving with a modest approach to dress. The sleeves themselves seem to have shrunk somewhat, though it is hard to tell since she stands behind something. The dress itself is a rich glowing brown velvet with a white wing collar that is distinctive to Mary's reign and would morph into the giant ruff collars of Elizabeth's.

Elizabeth I 1563
Here we have Elizabeth once more in a red dress, but this time the neckline, which has returned to a squarish shape sits more firmly on the shoulders, and is even flanked by large padded rolls at the head of the sleeves. There is still a split in the skirt showing a forepart, but the neckline is filled in with a sheer partlet and the standing collar has more formally become the ruff. Perhaps the most striking difference is in the sleeves, which have done away entirely with the bell shape and become close-fitting, all the puffing and slashing being moved to the outside.

This last dress really begins to show signs of what we would more properly call the Elizabethan style. Under Elizabeth dress would reach incredible excesses in proportion, variety, and decorative technique. Here we see the last vestiges of the slightly more subdued lines of the Tudor "triangles"; the conical bodice, bell skirt, and by this time we've already lost the flared sleeves. Perhaps next we'll look at Elizabethan styles; they definitely are too varied to have anything but a post of their own.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Trivia Monday- All Eras Edition

I do a weekly post on my other blog, Letters from the Enlightenment, that is a trivia question relating to the 18th century history. I enjoy it, and other people seem to enjoy responding and trying to guess the answer, so I thought I'd do the same thing here. The advantage here is that it can related to history from any other time period, so we have a lot to choose from.

We'll start with a really easy one:- What were the two styles of women's hoods prevalent at the court of Henry VIII?

Good luck, and have a great week!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

History in the News- The Wealth of Medieval England

In these times of economic struggle (the complaint of which I'm sure would be striking to those who lived during the Great Depression), it is fascinating to reflect on how people in poorer times and places have managed to live. Research out of the University of Warwick, in England, suggests that though we associate Medieval England with abject poverty, it wasn't necessarily so. Read more here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Honeymoon Recap Part 2- Venice

View from the Doge's Palace
We kicked off our honeymoon tour with three days in Venice, which turned out to be the best part of an overall lovely trip. We'd attempted to learn some Italian before going, as I always feel badly about asking people to speak my language in their country, but between work and the whirlwind that was wedding planning we just didn't get that far and ended up having to rely on others to understand us much of the time.

Arriving on a Wednesday afternoon at Marco Polo airport we caught a bus from the mainland across the bridge to the Piazzale Roma, which is the main depot for people arriving or departing Venice by bus, boat, or train. I'd heard from a few people who had traveled to Venice previously that there could at times be a strange smell from the canals, but the only thing I noticed was the smell of water, which I love. The red-tiled roofs of the Piazzale Roma were very pretty, and despite it being very crowded we had no trouble purchasing a Vaporetto (water bus) card and catching a ride to the stop nearest to our hotel. The views of the Grand Canal were wonderful even during such a short ride, but then it was our first visit so we were delighted just to be there.

The weather for almost the entirety of our stay was beautiful, with temperatures moderately warm, but not too hot, and sunny skies and a light breeze. Perfect. One of the wonderful things about Venice is that it is such a small city that it's hard to get lost, I mean, eventually you will always run into water, and from there you can easily find your way. We had no trouble finding our hotel, although the small alleyway leading to it from the main street was a little dark and graffiti-marked, and when we passed through the big wooden doors and found ourselves in the private garden we were entranced.

The Palazzo Abadessa, where we stayed, was situated away from the main tourist areas near the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco, so it was very quiet and in the mornings we awoke to the chimes from a nearby church. This the kind of experience Americans dream of when traveling in Italy, possibly because that kind of old-world charm is hard to find here. Our room was comfortable with wood furnishings, Venitian damask on the walls, Murano glass light fixtures, and a large modern private bathroom. The floor was parquet with, best of all, a double set of doors that opened onto a balcony overlooking the garden. Since the room was located on a corner with the bathroom facing perpendicular to the balcony we got a lot of light, and liked to have the doors open when we were in residence. When we arrived we were greeted with great warmth by our concierge, Darwin, (my first attempt- and failure- at using the Italian I had learned) and found prosecco and sweets awaiting us in our room. Breakfast was part of our hotel package, and the food was very good, with beverage service provided by the hotel staff, and we ate in the garden every morning to the sound of bells, birds, and children playing nearby; except for the morning that the kitchen staff were playing old american doo-wop classics, but that just amused us all the more.

Naturally the first day we spent exploring the usual tourist attractions; Piazza San Marco, the Doge's Palace, San Marco itself, and the Correr Museum. My husband and I are both very interested in history, so our itinerary really focused on historic landmarks and museums. We loved the Roman statuary, maps, coins, chopines (!), paintings, and enormous globes at the Correr Museum, but as with many of the places with visited we could neither take photos (which is completely understandable) nor were there postcard photos or photo-heavy books available for purchase, so our memories of the items in the collection will have to suffice. 

Piazza San Marco from the lagoon
Rialto Bridge
Campanile facade
 We were not permitted to take photos inside the Doge's Palace, but we could take one from the palace looking out onto the courtyard. Fortunately, the internet is also a pretty good source for images of the inside. There was so much beauty in the palace that it would be impossible to tell you all about it in one post, much less a post shared with so many other sites, but below are some of our favorite features.

The so-called "Giant's Staircase" at the top of which the Doges were crowned
Hall of the Great Council. Around the walls are images of every Doge, except for one who was painted out for being a traitor.
The Scala D'Oro, or Golden Staircase. Yes, that's all gold on the ceiling.
Weaponry exhibit
The first night we had sought out the old Jewish Ghetto and a highly-recommended pizza place where my husband tried a horsemeat-topped pizza (it was kind of smoky), then we went back to the hotel and indulged our jet-lag. The second night we dressed up nicely and went to a more upscale seafood restaurant, where we sat outside and tried things we'd never had, couldn't identify, and which were probably swimming that morning. Now, I may not speak much Italian, but my French is pretty decent. When we went to ask for the check I was having trouble remembering how to say it, and I said to my husband that I knew it wasn't similar to the same phrase in French or I'd remember it better. He then asked me what it was in French and I told him, whereupon the man sitting at the table next to us, whom I'd already heard to be speaking French to his companion, said to her in French "That's probably all that American knows how to say." I always feel that people are ambassadors of their countries and cultures when we're abroad, so I try to be as polite as possible. It therefore bothers me when other people are rude, but I like to think that they are not representative of the majority of people.

After our dinner we ran a few streets over to enjoy an evening of opera arias, performed in an 18th-century building by singers and instrumentalists in 18th century costume. That made a lovely end to our evening. Sadly we had assumed that no photos could be taken and left our camera at the hotel, when in fact we could have.

Leather-wrapped cannon, 16th century
Napoleonic naval uniform
The next day Darwin arranged for a water taxi to take us to Murano, the glass-making island, where we took a tour of a forge and bought some souvenirs for our parents and ourselves, then it was back to Venice proper, where we had fun getting lost, and eventually found our way to the Naval History Museum, where we could take photos.

Ca Rezzonico Staircase from entryway
Finally we walked over to the 18th century museum which is housed in the Ca' Rezzonico. Trust me, if you want to know how the super-wealthy lived in 18th century Venice this is the place to go. From the grand marble staircase to the views of the canal, the perfectly preserved decor to the original 18th-century furnishings, it is a complete trip back in time. Sadly, once again, neither photography nor any photos for sale, but again we turn to the internet to solve that problem.
Ca Rezzonico ballroom

We enjoyed some streetfood (and about our third helping of gelato), but were just too tired from walking around to make it to anymore museums, even though it meant missing the Costume and Textiles museum at Ca Mocenigo. It's good to leave something for the next trip. The next day we rolled our suitcases back to the Piazzale Roma and took the train from there to the cruise port to catch our ship, the Norwegian Jade, for the next leg of our journey.