English Rose, Elizabethan Make-Up

As I’m currently part of an online course, Historic Royal Fashion, I really want to see how added knowledge has changed my views!

thevintagebeautyspot.

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Next in line for historic beauty regimes is a very traditional English look – The Elizabethan Era (1558-1603), or as I like to call it, the ‘English Rose’ look.
The first thing that comes to mind, for me, is like the later Victorian era, the majority of women in an Elizabethan society were fair skinned – however not all of this was purely natural. 13695150_10210011679751645_860193231_n
For instant, Queen Elizabeth is depicted with this white complexion which is actually enhanced with a heavy make-up base. Some may claim this is due to the famous ‘virgin status’ of the Queen, with the colour white being symbolic of this characteristic.  Additionally, women were inspired by the Queen’s presence that her style was also reflected in daily beauty regimes, a lot like celebrities nowadays being the style icons and trend setters.
As already mentioned in my Victorian regime, there is the additional factor of the…

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Humors, Herbals and Health: Cosmetic Beauty

The Elizabethan ‘look’ is iconic. An English Rose. The look of a noble and strong Queen. A white complexion, a blush of pink cheeks and red lips. It was considered the ideal concept of beauty of the Early Modern period and spread globally. How did this phase of beauty come about, and what does it signify?

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Coronation Portrait of Elizabeth I – 1559

For my module last term “Medicine and Spiritual Healing” I became really interested with female recipes for beauty and I found my evenings filled with digitized manuscripts and receipt books (thankyou Wellcome Collection)

Recipes demonstrate that beauty was synonymous with health, and was attached to the prominent medical theory of the time – the humoral theory. The four ‘central’ parts of the body; white phlegm, black bile, yellow bile and blood had colour associations as well as temperaments. (2 cold, 2 hot as well as having own characteristics)

The perfect ‘harmony’ of these humors throughout the body resulted in what was considered, perfect health. An imbalance of one, a lack of or excess, resulted in poor health and required the ‘curing’ properties of other ingredients. A popular remedy for humoral imbalance for Mercury – it purges the excess of heat and restores the balance of the two ‘hot’ humors – blood and yellow bile.

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Richard Haydocke: Frontispiece, in A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge (1598)

This internal balance inspired the visual depiction of ‘perfect’ health, resulting in various experiments such as alchemical recipes and domestic creations. This was partly responsible for the introduction of white led and vermillion (containing the most corrosive aspect of Mercury) onto the face. Richard Haydocke discussed the arts of colours within these chemicals and how they relate to the humoral theory.

In some cases early modern cosmetics were used to hide blemishes and scars– yet the chemicals within the same cosmetics were often the cause.

Herbal recipes were also popular due to accessibility to communal gardens and domestic confinement of women.  My favourite recipe so far is in fact a herbal based recipe created by Caterina Sforza – an elite Italian woman who documented a range of recipes from domestic recipe to alchemy.

to make the face white, beautiful and colourful: mix sugar with egg whites and red byrony (Bryonia diocia) water. With this mixture, you should wash your face.”[1]

It’s a meringue recipe!

This recipe demonstrates female intellect; the ability to know the manipulating properties of plants such as Red Bryony. The plant is recorded as drawing out two humors, yellow bile and white phlegm. Sforza was then able to manipulate the colour of the face – creating a version of ‘ideal beauty.’

In summary, Early Modern Beauty was really Early Modern Health, with the aspect of colour prominent in reflecting the ‘perfect’ complexion.

[1] Gigi Coulson, Caterina Sforza’s Gli Experimenti: A Translation (Printed by Amazon, 2016) 13.

Wonder Women of History

What do does Wonder Woman, Florence Nightingale and Rachel McAdams have in common?

My visual culture module this term is super interesting; public health campaigns and medical knowledge depicted in various mediums – films, comics, even stamps. This week’s task was a 2 minute presentation on a more recent campaign or method; I chose comic books because it gave me an excuse to scroll through Pinterest for a couple of hours. Seriously, Pinterest is a great source for this module.

The first quick search I did was ‘Nurses in comics’ because I was binge watching Call the Midwife (again) at the same time and came across this amazing comic illustration of Florence Nightingale. The comic was 4 pages long and details the entire story of Nightingale’s life in an inviting and aesthetically pleasing way.

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The title was “Wonder Women of History, told by Alice Marble.” Alice Marble is a famous American tennis player who on retirement became an associate editor for Sensation Comics. Inspired by the Wonder Woman comics which began in 1941 Marble ran the original comic from 1942 – 1954 and each week was dedicated to another “Wonder Woman of History.”

Marble realised the impact that comic books had on the youth, outlining in a letter to the Bureau of Internal Revenue that fifteen million comics were bought each month and that there was opportunity to develop the superhero genre into an educational benefit. During this time there was a significant divide and hesitation in mixing the mediums of education and entertainment; the glamour of Hollywood for example was prioritised over reality.  Marble recognised the positive aspects of the Wonder Woman comic stating “Wonder Woman marks the first time that daring strength and imagination have been featured as those womanly qualities. This has a lasting effect upon the minds.”

While not exclusively connected to any public health campaigns or strictly based on medicine, the first three ‘Wonder Women’ were nurses, specifically nurses within wars. The first comic was Florence Nightingale, the second Clara Barton ‘The Angel of the Battlefield’ and the creator of the Red Cross and the third, Edith Cavell.

It is not confirmed, yet I have a theory that the later Marvel series of “Night Nurse” takes inspiration from the successful “Wonder Women of History” series. Beginning in the 1970s, the series depicts three nurses, Christine Palmer, Georgia Jenkins and coincidently Linda Carter. (Although the Wonder Woman series starring Lynda Carter emerged 3 years later.)

The three nurses were depicted as having superhero powers (rightly so because nurses are real life superheroes) and being the ones to tend to injured superheroes. This echoes the lives of Nightingale, Barton and Cavell who tended to war heroes.

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Yet issues with “Night Nurse” are obvious. While a commendable effort in depicting nurses as Wonder Women, cultural stereotypes were still attached; the sexualised nature and ‘ditzy’ persona. There is evidence which implies this may be a reason for the series end. Young girls were more attracted to new mediums outside of comic books, such as more serious and realistic novella series such as Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames. With this in mind Marble’s original teaming of reality and the superhero genre appears to have reverted.

The characters of Night Nurse have popped up in more recent Marvel films; Rachel McAdams portraying Christine Palmer, this time as a surgeon, in Doctor Strange (2016) The occupational shift from nurse to doctor may be a topic of further research in the superhero genre – are comic books still fixed to nurse stereotypes? Yet the character development may be conceived as a step forward – or be applied to other campaigns such as the “Women in Science” – encouraging girls to enter into scientific areas and change stereotypes of what is considered ‘gendered.’ In a way this adds a new dimension to Marble’s original Wonder Women campaign, as an empowerment.

A vintage patchwork pattern

Manx Log Cabin was a popular quilt pattern in the Victorian era, along with the traditional hexagon pattern (variations include Grandmother’s Flower Garden) and the ‘Crazy Patchwork’; which uses all the scraps of fabric regardless of shape or design. The Victorians wasted nothing. The log cabin is an interesting pattern; the stitches hidden by folding the strips of fabric.

The pattern itself traditionally represents a log cabin; a red square in the middle symbolizing a fire with different sides (diagonally) representing the light and dark sides of the cabin. Different strips of fabric are layered; reversed (fabric side down) and sewn across one side before being folded over to reveal the right side of the fabric. Stitches are hidden, creating a very neat and interesting sewing pattern.

The Log Cabin quilt was preferred by members of the lower class of Victorian England for two practical reasons. The first is that the pattern is quick to construct; when getting into the hang of the pattern and sewing it can become really speedy. The second is the layered effect the pattern takes on –it becomes an insulator, helping to battle the surroundings due to a lack of central heating and in some extreme, but highly likely, situations of homelessness.

Log Cabin strips were often torn by hand and measured by own judgement or using measures of the hand – for example the width of the fabric strips were measured using the length of a finger to ensure equal sizing throughout the pattern.

Regardless of the practical purpose of quilt making, Log Cabin patchworks can be incredibly beautiful.

I’ve chosen to use the basis of the Log Cabin pattern to create a cushion cover. Due to spending a lot of my time making Log Cabin squares in a replica Victorian Drapers Shop (so realistic even down to replica light conditions!) and therefore hand stitching I’ve opted to use a sewing machine for this quick project! I’ve had quite a lot of people asking me how it works as I stitch, so I’m using this post as an attempt to explain online.

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Since I’ve gone crazy by buying the whole set of the new Beatrix Potter fabric, I’m going to make a bunny log cabin piece.

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What you need are:

  • One large piece of backing fabric, cut into a square. The bigger the square the more layers of the log cabin can fit.
  • Different fabrics. You can have two contrasting pieces used throughout, or a range of different pieces. Traditionally there are two ‘dark’ fabrics to contrast with two_MG_5618‘light’. I’ve decided to use pastel colours, two blue bunny fabrics to contrast with the pale pinks. Between each ‘bunny’ layer I’ve continued with the pastel theme; green accompanying the blue and yellow alongside the pink. This will help to break up the ‘busy fabrics.’ The central square is a peach shade to add definition to layered effect.
  • A needle or thread (if doing it by hand) or a sewing machine!

What you do is…

  1. Cut the strips into different lengths; the first four lengths of your chosen pattern should be a tiny bit longer than the central square to make sure there is no gaps. The following strips should also be a tiny bit longer than the growing layered

3. Take the first strip and place it on its reversed side. I want the bunnies to be facing the right way up, so make sure you position the fabric to be your preferred way when folded over. I’m working with the pink fabric first, on the top panel. Line the top edge of the fabric with the top edge of the central square. Pin in place and sew around half a centimetre in across that edge. When sewn, fold the fabric over and pin to keep the fabric flat (and the correct way up).

4. Take the second strip of fabric and place it on the right side of the central square, again matching the edges and partially layering the first strip. Pin again and repeat the sewing and folding.

5. Repeat on the remaining two sides of the square using the alternative fabrics.

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6. Once the first round of the pattern is complete, you can continue to layer the strips, positioning each new strip correctly over the previous fabric so it overlaps evenly. The central square is only a reference point in the first round as each layer builds on the previous folds, showing the pattern as it grows.

 

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Find and shop some of my vintage inspired sewing here!: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheVintageSewerShop

Customizing vintage outfits with Dinky Craft Brooches

I came across Dinky Craft one day, during my various daily scrolls of Twitter. I’m always attracted Dinky Craftto small craft businesses on any social media platform, and I was drawn in by the wonderful an
d innocent logo. On further investigation I thought to myself: what a hidden gem this account is!

Dinky Craft specializes in brooches and other accessories, inspired by the love of retro. The brooches are beautiful wooden designs, finished so elegantly. One thing which Dinky Craft explains so well is that there is no such thing as too much glitter!

Independent businesses take pride in all aspects of their products, even down to the packaging. For Dinky Craft, the aesthetics of the beautiful and ‘shimmering’ red packaging really went above and beyond the confines of normal packaging, suggesting a higher quality of treatment for customers.

Needless to say I was very impressed by this personal touch. This, with the addition of fast shipping made me a very happy customer.

I currently own 3 Dinky Craft Brooches and plan to expand my collection. I have _mg_4758my eye on the teapot and the umbrella and the unicorn – oh okay, I want all of them.

In regards to the vintage feel, Dinky Craft brooches are so ‘modern’ and quirky, yet have a strong retro charm. They are somewhat magical, accessorizing a vintage with these outfits only adds to the vintage feel, without taking away authenticity. Additionally, they add instant glitz and glam to any outfit, also transforming a modern day style into a vintage inspired look.

Without further ado, here are my suggestions of how to style an amazing Dinky Craft brooch.

How about, a cocktail on a cocktail dress?

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This Martini brooch appears to be a big seller, and I can understand why!

Just look at how fabulous this silver and a little flash of green looks against the hot pink material, emphasizing the bold and clashing features found in other retro looks.

It is a perfect addition to this reproduction Lindy Bop vintage dress, alongside a chain of 1940s beads. Quirky, but undeniably vintage!

 

Found that perfect combination but missing the final piece of accessory?

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The colours of these clothes items are perfect together; the pale blue cardigan accenting the cornflour blues and pastel yellows in this 150s inspired day dress. However, I feel this outfit on its own is missing something – the sunflower brooch is the solution!

It’s almost as if this brooch was made for this outfit, reflecting the summer feel and layering the tones of yellow and blue.

 

 

 

Moving on from summer, how about transforming a plain black knit dress – essential as a winter warmer!

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This little gem of colour and shine gives this outfit a character. Not to mention it’s feline shape – perfect for a cat lover *crazy cat lady* like me!

It’s a spin on the classic, understated look – yet presents elements of both mystery and confidence.

Note that this particular brooch is available in a variety of colours, all equally as perfect alongside a black garment.

 

 

 

For those who want to use brooches differently, how about this attachment to a vintage style hat? Equally as mesmerizing. (And Ebony the cat approves too!)

It is so so important to support small businesses. From experience independent businesses have that extra bit of quality making a product so special and useable.

I absolutely adore my Dinky Craft Brooches and I am so excited to purchase more!

 

Etsy: dinkycraft.etsy.com

Twitter: @dinkycraft

 

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Mathematical Beauty – Is the Golden Ratio really the key to beauty?

 

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Maths and beauty? Are the two really linked?

In a sense, yes.

The term ‘Golden Ratio’ was not used until the 1800s, but the mathematical
ratio, arguably, dates back to Ancient Greece.

It’s all to do with proportions. My limited knowledge of maths would be fibonacci-1601158__340.pngpoor at attempting to explain the real formulation, but a specific proportion also known as 1.618 is deemed to be ‘aesthetically pleasing.’ Rumour has it the proportions are embedded within the Parthenon, and the ratio has been proved to be within
nature – a spiral arrangement of leaves and ‘perfect flowers’.

Developments have extended the Golden Ratio to human faces, claiming to deem some human faces more pleasing than others. Historical examples which fit with the Golden ratio include the bust of Nefertiti and slightly later example of Audrey Hepburn – who ironically stated “I never thought I’d land in pictures with a face like mine.”
So what does this mean? That something is beautiful just because of it complies with the golden ratio? I mean, maths is either right or wrong…..

Nope, definitely not! golden-beauty

The formulation may be always right, and tested continually on different objects but what is ‘aesthetically pleasing’ is surely dependent on your own tastes or other individual qualities within those objects.

A flower may be beautiful with full petals which coincidentally falls into the proportion of the ratio – but so is a wilting flower, a brightly coloured flower, a fake flower.

And the Parthenon may be spectacular, perhaps for its equal columns, but also for its historical context and the beauty and interest of its ruins. Or maybe it’s not aesthetically pleasing to you at all.

As for faces – surely you are drawn to particular features of a face rather than proportion? You may be drawn to someone’s beautiful eyes or their unique beautiful smile. Individual qualities may not even be part of their face, but something deeper – their warmth, compassion or general personality.

Beauty is not dependent upon maths.

What do you think? 🙂

Making my own corset…part three – it’s finished!

 

Hello everyone, I hope you are well!

Just a quick update while I procrastinate from my studies….I finished my corset!15228010_10211232163622979_753013006_n

Eyelet punctures = not easy. I had to call in assistance in the form of my mother, which then ended up with a hammer, knitting needle and some good old ‘waggling’ to get the metal pieces into the eyelet hole.

It was all worth it, especially when I threaded the red ribbon through each hole. It ended up being a therapeutic exercise despite the fact that there is certain way to thread corsets, which in the past I became very agitated with!

The ribbon is adjustable, making the corset adaptable to any colour scheme. I just love these colours for now, it’s very Christmassy!

The corset itself is extremely comfy – a lot is said for nylon boning, which is padded out between the three layers of the corset. Being susceptible to shoulder and back ache due to slouching, the corset ‘forces’ my back to be straight – however in a natural and comfortable way.

I loved this project so much that I want to expand my corset making. Next time perhaps making a longer bodied one? With frills and lace? Or maybe make a more modern style which takes into account the bust – a heart shaped one? Who knows, I’ll have a think!

Let me know your creative ideas! x