In connection with an upcoming historical redevelopment, the history team at York Castle Museum recently hosted a series of object “speed dating” events, which introduced the public to a range of unique pieces within the museum’s extensive collection – and only having four minutes to connect the public with the object. I was quick to accept an invitation to help out at one of these events – it was such great fun and full of really enthusiastic attendees with brilliant ideas for redevelopment.
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?
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.
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.
I came across Dinky Craft one day, during my various daily scrolls of Twitter. I’m always attracted to small craft businesses on any social media platform, and I was drawn in by the wonderful and innocent logo. On further investigation I thought to myself: what a hidden gem this account is!
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 poor 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!
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? 🙂
I blogged about the beauty of this era – I thought I may as well mention the fashion!
I am lucky enough to volunteer at a local museum – as a shop assistant in a range of replica Victorian shops. In this role I get to wear a range of different Victorian outfits – representing different class and workplace.
Like today, the Victorian society had numerous styles of fashion, however all fashions were adapted and based on a generic style. This is the idea of long sleeved blouses or shirts and hats and for women, ankle length skirts.
Different patterns were developed and exchanged by some members of society. For example the writer ‘Mrs Beeton’ put together a book named ‘Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management’ which gives an overview of many aspects of Victorian life, including fashion and a series of patterns for one to make clothes.
There is a common assumption that Victorians had dark clothing, monochrome and grey shades. This is certainly true in the later days of Queen Victoria who after the death of her husband in 1861 spent the rest of her days in mourning wear. However unlike the photographs of the era which reflect all light and figures as black and white the Victorian fashions were actually a colourful array of patterns and ‘brave’ clashing ensembles. This excluded schoolchildren and those in house service (servants) who were expected to wear black accompanied by a white pinafore or apron.
Prior to the mid-1800s shopping was not a leisure activity we know today. Shopping for clothes involved going to a dress makers, also known as a Draper’s Shop. (A draper is an individual who trades in cloth and later other materials)
One would be measured for a bespoke suit or dress by the Draper, if a man, or a draper’s assistant if a woman. Lower classes would either purchase fabric or gain hand downs from other relatives or employers (if a good employer of course) and make their own clothes in their own time.
Browsing for fabrics or accessories was limited, and most products were actually hidden under the counter with the Draper choosing possible patterns or material for the customer.
1849 was the year where department stores began to surface, starting with a Newcastle company named Bainbridge’s. This was a shock to me, as I had always had in mind the department store originated from either the States or Paris (I watched too much Mr Selfridge). Bainbridge had the evolutionary thought to give each product its own department alongside visible price tags. This began the leisure activity of shopping we know today. (Bainbridge’s still exists, under the name John Lewis)
‘Quick’ facts about Victorian fashion
The 1851 Great Exhibition in London inspired department stores to flourish and develop in France. (By develop, one Frenchmen made department store shopping more applicable to everyone, but creating separate reading and leisure rooms for men and children)
Hat etiquette gets very All Victorian men would wear hats outdoors. Those who did not would be the centre of contrasting gossip. When it came to indoor spaces, it depended on the place. Public places recommended keeping the hat on, with the exception of restaurants where part of one’s routine would be to remove the hat before sitting at the table. Public speakers also took off hats, and this was to divert the attention from the hat to the words and expressions of
that one speaking.
Contrasting, women wore hats as nothing more than keeping their hair out of their face and complimenting an outfit. Their hats were normally not removed due to the carefully placed hat
Some employers were good, others were not. If the latter young girls and apprenti
ces may not receive any wage whatsoever for their work –
especially in the clothes
industry. Good employers would support other issues (however this may be to advertise and promote their business) – for example some Draper’s would set change their window displays to the outfits of Suffragettes – promoting their cause while stocking the relevant coloured fabrics (Purple and Green)
Corsets automatically bring to mind their purpose in gaining that perfect silhouette shape in the waist. As ‘beauty’ developed into a war of personal vanity this became the main reason for a corset. However the original purpose of a corset was to take the weight of the top of the heavy and durable skirts. Victorian skirts were usually made of a wool or felt type material, which, along with the lining made the item extremely heavy. Corsets would take part of this weight and forcing the woman to having a strong straight back to keep upright.
The top two images represent the fashions of the middle class. In an attempt to look the part and present oneself as a having a high social standard working class women who had jobs such as Drapers Assistants would wear similar styles. On one hand it was used as advertisement of that working establishment, on the other women had more confident and given more respect dressing in this way.
The bottom images are a reflection of the working class or casual wear in society. White blouses were a must for all workplaces along with small straw hats which for women were worn at all times.
Next up for my Breakfast at Tiffanys challenge is the party scene! This is probably one of my favourite outfits of the movie (bar a later one which involves a pretty orange coat, but we will get to that…)
The dress in this specific scene is very similar to the previous recreation of another black dress – however I wanted each outfit to be different. I had no other access to a black dress at the time but had a perfect white ballerina style which would look perfect at a party hosted by Holly Golightly…
The white dress is a Topshop dress which I have owned for a few years. The ballerina style dress was popular in the 1960s, note the distant similarities to the wedding dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.
Although a longer dress and a fuller shape, it must be remembered that a wedding dress is obviously part of a more formal occasion, and therefore the traditional aspects of fashion and femininity where reflected in the event. By this I mean that dresses would be at a certain length, contrasting with the party in the film, which is an informal social affair. This allows dresses to be shorter and more casual.
Additionally, ballerina dresses were popular as dress patterns prior to the 1960s. The picture below this shows two covers to pattern sheets; the image to the right is of a 1960s addition, showing the ballerina style alongside more fitted and glamorous dress styles. In contrast, however not entirely different is a 1940s cover, again showing how the ballerina skirt is common of the time.
The outfit I am wearing is clearly not a direct recreation, however it carries a similar style in reflecting the event in question. For example the hair is not exactly the same. Instead of the twisted messy yet sophisticated look, I opted for a top knot bun, teasing part of my fringe into a little raised quiff, similar to the effect given by Holly’s twisted hair do.
I managed to find jewellery which are very similar to the necklace and earrings used. The blue and green earrings are from Accessorize and the necklace from Claires. The earrings are probably my favourite thing about the whole of the outfit because of the art deco style and peacock colours reflecting in the light. Despite buying both pieces of jewellery from different places they compliment each other really well and could even pass as as a set!
I did my make up as I normally would for both day to day and evening wear. I always opt for blush cheeks, pink lip and my trusty sleek eyebrow kit!
I hope you enjoyed! x
This post focuses on “beauty” within 19th century society. This time period is a favourite of mine due to elements of social development, that of fashion, medicine and ideals. The Consumptive Look is of particular interest to me as it integrates all these elements and became central in my academic and personal research interests and projects.