Archive | April, 2015

My Inspiration for April II

30 Apr

In April my mind wandered from Regency era to the 1840s. I read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen again, and I watched the film, but at the same time I started writing my story again so I had to be absorbed in the 1840s.

Films that inspired me in April are Effie Gray (2014), Cry Baby (1990) and Submarine (2010). I’ve watched documentary The Real Jane Austen, In Search of the Brontes and BBC’s Family Life in the 1960s. And I’ve also watched television series Lost in Austen (2008) which turned out to be rather interesting and it gave me some ideas too. I haven’t been listening much to music in April, only Pulp and Manics (From Despair to Where). Though, a piece of classical music had enchanted me – Liebestraum (Love dream) by Franz Liszt; I’ve been listening to it while writing my story. In art, my interests ranged from Modigliani, Jeanne Hebuterne and Watehouse’s Nymphs to Thomas Lawrence, John Constable and other 18th century British painters.

1830’s and 1840’s fashion plates have given me hours of fun. I really immerse myself into all the details; shape of the sleeves, decorations, bonnets, lace, trims, and colours. I focused on colours this time. Knowing different shades of colours gives you much more variety than just thinking or saying that something is green, when you have lime, pear, emerald, moss, fern green. Colours are so exciting, are they not?!

I’m so sad that yet another April has vanished, but the sweet and flowery month of May is still ahead of us. Lament for my dearest months – April and May…

1857. The Sister’s Grave by Thomas Brooks

1840s Charlotte Augusta Whale (1819–1858), Wife of George Richmond Collis by Louis Henri Sebbersjane austen sense and sensibility book cover 1sense and sensibility 14

1795. Frankland Sisters by John Hoppner 1

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1825-28. Carl Gustav Carus (1789–1869), Oybin window at the moonlight

1840. November fashion

Haddon Hall, Derbyshire - Jane Eyre 'Thornfield Hall' 1

1848. fashion 17

jane eyre 25

jane eyre 41

1848. January ballgowns, France

effie gray millais 2

1829-30. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows - John Constable

1843. Fashions for April1960s marianne faithfull 125

1960s twiggy 209

1965. Catherine Deneuve And David Bailey on their wedding day

1966. Mod Save The Queen

1960s mini dresses 22

1960s mini dresses 41richey 149Source of the photo.

1840s – ‘Fashion of Sombre and Wilting Demureness’

28 Apr

Since the story I am writing is set in the 1840s, I came up with a cunning plan to write a post about women’s fashion at the time! Decade of 1840s represents both the first, and the simplest and most romantic decade of Victorian fashion.

1848. fashion 17

In cultural dimension, the 1840s were a fruitful period for Bronte sisters (1847 in particular), Chopin, Franz Liszt, Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Tennyson, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, the Pre-Raphaelites, and it also the first decade of applicable photography (Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill were active in this decade).

This is also the the first decade of Victorian era; Queen Victoria married Albert in 1840 and six out of their nine children were born in this decade. Movies set in the 1840s with accurate fashion are: The Young Victoria (2009), Jane Eyre (2011), Effie Gray (2014), La Dame aux Camélias’ (1980), Cranford (TV Series) and Return to Cranford (2009). Costumes in Sweeney Todd (2007) bear resemblance to the 1840s fashion as well.

young victoria blue gown 5

1840s Queen Victoria by Franz Winterhalten1846. Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, duchesse d'Aumale by W.

Fashion in the 1840s represents a muted version of the romantic and flamboyant fashion of the 1830s. Sombre colours and simplicity were in vogue after a decade of exaggeration and flashy colours. The biggest changes in the silhouette occurred in two spheres – firstly, natural waistline came into fashion after more than forty years of high-empire waists, and, secondly, the volume of the sleeves had collapsed.

1843-1848. Elizabeth (née Rigby), Lady Eastlake by David Octavius Hill, and Robert Adamson calotype1845. three dreamy ladies

1841. May court fashions (England)1841. May court fashions (England)

The silhouette of the 1840s was that of a bell shaped skirt, narrow waist and slopping shoulders. Sleeves were tight and simple, without excess decoration, as was the bodice. Skirt was simple as well; bell shaped, sometimes with delicate flounces of lace, but for day wear the appearance was kept modest. The fashionable look of the 1840s could be described as modest, sombre and demure, and, I’d dare to say, a bit gothic, especially with evening dresses, accesorise and details such as black lace, mitts, roses.

1843. house dress1840s grey silk satin gown 2

1840s Dresses, Striped and Bonnets

In the early years of the decade sleeves still resembled those of the late 1830s; fulness of the sleeves has moved from the shoulder to the lower part of the arm. From about 1843. narrow sleeves were fashionable, and they continued to be so until the late 1850s. Skirts faced changes too; they were gradually becoming wider and wider, richer in flounces and details, and worn with many layers of petticoats to achieve the desirable fulness.

1840. November fashion

To keep in touch with the overall moderate and dark spirit of the decade, popular colours were rather gloomy and toned down, especially for the day wear. Rich shades were popular for evening dresses, but white was favourable as it symbolised innocence and naivety and was therefor perfect for debutantes. ‘In the 1840’s, soft shades of yellow, greenish gold, blues and pinks were worn; but from the late forties stripes, plaids and the more brilliant shades of blues, greens red, and yellows came into fashion.‘ I have also noticed plaid being a popular fabric for day dresses. As for walking and outdoor dresses, my personal remark is that eggplant purple, cobalt blue and dark greens (darker colours in general) were common, at least judging by the fashion plates.

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An interesting and accurate description of colours in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre which was written and set in the 1840s. Blanche Ingram’s evening dress at a small gathering at Thornfield Hall:

She was dressed in pure white; an amber-coloured scarf was passed over her shoulder and across her breast, tied at the side, and descending in long, fringed ends below her knee. She wore an amber-coloured flower, too, in her hair: it contrasted well with the jetty mass of her curls.‘ (Chapter 16)

Dresses that Mr Rochester wanted to buy for Jane Eyre:

‘The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr. Rochester obliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was ordered to choose half-a-dozen dresses. (…) I reduced the half-dozen to two: these however, he vowed he would select himself. With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: he fixed on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pink satin. (…) With infinite difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, I persuaded him to make an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk.’ (Chapter 24)

1842. eveninng dresses,  Petit Courrier Des Dames 1848. fashion 20

To balance out the dreariness of the day wear, evening dresses were, although simple in cut, often in rich shades of colours, usually decorated with a deep flounce of black lace and roses – the particular look is evident on many portraits of the time. Evening dresses were worn with lace mitts, opera gloves and sheer shawls which were quite popular during the decade.

Colours that I have noticed being popular for evening or dinner dresses are different shades of green such as lime and emerald green, raspberry pink, lilac, silver grey, sapphire and sky blue, amber and honey yellow. I have also observed that red wasn’t as popular in the 1840s as it shall be in the following decade; if worn, currant and garnet red were favourable.

1848. January ballgowns, France

Hairstyles of the 1840s are rather distinctive; hair was centrally parted and, while the back of the hair was shaped into a bun, front tresses could either be curled tightly or smoothed back over the ears and looped or braided. Compared to the hairstyles of the 1830s, these are quite simple.

Bonnets were toned down too; they became smaller and less extravagant and were decorated only by subtle flowers and tied with ribbons. For evening wear hair was in most cases worn curled and decorated with flowers, and occasionally, by the most fashionable ladies, little turban style caps were also worn.

1840s Back view of a Victorian coiffure 1840s headdress1847. Abendfrisur

The wedding dresses of this decade are, in my opinion, the most beautiful Victorian wedding dresses. They were worn with long veils, and a dash of lace, with the hair decorated with roses or other small flowers. Queen Victoria married Prince Albert on 10 February 1840, and successfully started a trend for white wedding dresses. However, wearing white for wedding wasn’t as special and new as it seems now; white wedding dresses were worn in the Regency era too as white was the most fashionable colour, and, in addition, white was, as already mentioned, extremely popular choice for evening dresses, especially for young women.

1844. march wedding dress and day dress

1844. nice shawl, Le Moniteur de la Mode1844. December Le Follet.

Still, as a Queen, Victoria popularised white for brides and made it a standard colour for wedding dresses, but also strengthened the Ideal of Womanhood. ‘Women were told from all quarters that their job was to stay close to the home and shape the world only through their calm and morally pure influences on the men in their domestic circle.’ Therefore, white colour for wedding dresses was more symbolic than ever. Image of Queen Victoria as an adoring and innocent bride, really captured the public’s imagination and along with the common character of a ‘modest bride in white’ often found Dicken’s novels, she cemented the ideal image of a bride.

1844. April Le Follet.

Mr Rochester remarked, upon seeing Jane in a white wedding dress and a simple white veil, that she was ‘fair as a lily, and not only the pride of his life, but the desire of his eyes.

Queen Victoria described her wedding dress in her journal: ‘I wore a white satin dress, with a deep flounce of Honiton lace, an imitation of an old design. My jewels were my Turkish diamond necklace & earrings & dear Albert’s beautiful sapphire brooch.

1842. A young Queen Victoria 1840. Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress 1839. sketch by Queen Victoria, Design for her bridesmaids dresses                                      1839. sketch by Queen Victoria, Design for her                                                                                       bridesmaids dresses

Shawl was very fashionable for outwear as it fitted perfectly with the silhouette of sloping shoulders and a bell shaped skirt, and it gives, if I may add, a romantic touch to the outfit. As the sleeves were tight, jackets and coats came into fashion again, but for walking dresses, especially on the north where the Brontës lived, pelerine was both fashionable and practical as it protected the wearer from the strong wind.

1840s Blue plaid winter cloak1845. Dress and mantle, England

As for footwear, 1840s are sadly the last decade of flat shoes. Fashionable shoes for women were satin slippers tied with ribbons around the ankle, and decorated with bows or lace.

1845. evening slippers, england 1845-1865. Evening slippers Queen Victoria's wedding shoes

That’s it! I sincerely hope that this decade of fashion appealed to you and captivated you as much as it captivated me.

My Story – Aesthetics

26 Apr

I am quite absorbed in my story right now. I started writing it last spring, then I stopped, and I found it rather difficult to start writing it again. I forgot some of the character so I had to read my tale again, and I decided to put all the pictures related to the story here, in one post, aiming to get my inspiration back. Luckily, after seeing all these paintings, dresses, fashion plates and photos all in once place, I recaptured the spirit of my story and successfully continued writing it. In fact, writing the story gives me more amusement than living my own life.

I often lie in bed at night and can not sleep because the story occupies my mind; I see my characters dancing and writing letters, I hear them talking, I see what they’re wearing, I hear them playing Chopin; those pictures are so vivid in my mind that most of the times I just write what I see.

1857. The Sister’s Grave by Thomas BrooksNew church seen through ruins jane eyre 66 northanger abbey 1 1843. house dress 1840s grey silk satin gown 2 1840s Dresses, Striped and Bonnets 1840. wedding dress, ivory colour 1840s Charlotte Augusta Whale (1819–1858), Wife of George Richmond Collis by Louis Henri Sebbers 1829-30. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows - John Constable 1850s Young woman with parasol 1841. February fashion 1841. walking dress 1840s Fashion plate showing hair styles and accessories of the 1840s 1840s Le Bon Ton, Fashions & hairstyles 4 1843. Evening Dresses, Le Follet, December 1844. Evening Dresses, Le Follet, September 1845. Fashion, Le Follet 7 1845. Evening Dresses, Magasin des Demoiselles, November, The ladies are wearing gowns with a neckline en coeur 1828. Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (1797–1855), Procession in the Fog 1840s Lingerie Set, Petticoat and Chemise Corset 1600. View of Toledo by El Greco Lismore castle in ireland as Northanger Abbey a 1816. Grecian vs Gothic - Neoclassical vs Romantic Style Contrast 1845. evening ensemble 1845. Dress and mantle, England 1847. evening dresses, Le Follet, february 1844. march wedding dress and day dress 1844. nice shawl, Le Moniteur de la Mode 1844. April Le Follet.

Effie Gray (2014) – A Review

24 Apr

dakota fanning as effie gray 1

I watched Effie Gray about a month ago and I fairly enjoyed it so I thought I’d share my impressions with my readers.

First of all, I was drawn by the story because I love the Pre-Raphaelites and I have been fascinated by this ‘Victorian Love Triangle’ for quite a while. The scandalous love triangle involves Effie Gray, played by Dakota Fanning, art critic John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and the young Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais played by Tom Sturridge whom you may have watched in Waste of Shame (2004). Secondly, the costumes allured me even before I watched the movie, and I was naturally curious about Effie’s wardrobe since I am very fond of the early Victorian era fashion. Effie’s dresses and hairstyles were in the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites, and her green dinner dress with details of black lace was splendid.

Even thought I had doubts about Effie being played by Dakota Fanning, I changed my mind after ten minutes of watching the movie. What I liked the most about the movie is the portrayal of Effie’s loneliness and isolation. I never actually thought about it, despite being familiar with the story and Effie’s marriage. This movie really made me symphatise with Effie; being very young and naive she must have felt confused and lonely living with Ruskin and his dominating parents, not even sure of his affection towards her anymore, away from home and cut off from all of her loved ones.

dakota fanning as effie gray 13

My favourite part of the movie is when Effie, Millais and Ruskin travel to Scotland where Effie is to improve her health, and Millais is to paint a portrait of Ruskin. In those gloomy days of solitary and rain Effie and Everett fell in love. I think Tom Sturridge portrayed Millais very well; he seemed shy, sweet and caring, especially in comparison with Ruskin’s aloofness and general disinterest. Along with his amiable nature, Everett was young and passionate, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that Effie fell in love with him, who wouldn’t? The Scottish landscapes are exquisite, wild, gloomy and picturesque! And it rained all the time, could there have been a better background for a love story?

Lastly, I thought the ending was vague. To those who are acquainted with the story of Effie and Millais the everything will be clear; Effie’s marriage to Ruskin will be annuled and she’ll eventually marry Everett. But not everybody is familiar with the story, and to those who are not the ending might seem confusing and disappointing. We mustn’t forget that divorce wasn’t as easy in Victorian era as it is now. Effie was fortunate enough to get her marriage annulled, but things could have played out differently. I just think that the movie could have ended in a better way, a scene of Effie marrying Millais might have been appropriate?

As for Ruskin, I think he shouldn’t have married Effie and then deny her love. He seems rather selfish, cold and aloof. Marriage to him must have been a condemnation to solitude. It is clear from the beginning that Ruskin’s true bride was art. Fortunately, Effie managed to get away from the sad life that was ahead of her.

All in all, I liked the film and I’d give it 4/5 just because there are better period dramas such as Jane Eyre (2011) and Sense and Sensibility (1995) which would earn all five stars on my scale, but I still liked the film very much and I’ll probably watch it again.

John Constable – Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows

22 Apr

1829-30. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows - John Constable1829-30. Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows – John Constable

The beauty and value of this painting were overlooked because it was thought that a fan had painted it in homage to the celebrated landscape painter John Constable. However, it was revealed only a few months earlier that this painting was indeed painted by Constable. This is certainly not the reason why this painting allured me, I’d love it even if it was painted by a fan and not Constable himself.

Despite the fact that Constable was a Romantic painter, he did not strive to paint from his imagination which was a habit of all Romanticists, he always painted what he saw but his visions of sweet little cottages, trees, skies and the Salisbury Cathedral which he had painted so many times obviously posses a certain charisma because they haven’t been forgotten even after two centuries. Constable said ‘The world is wide, no two days are alike, nor even two hours; neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of all the world; and the genuine productions of art, like those of nature, are all distinct from each other.

First glance at this painting filled me with excitement. I have a great deal of affection for powerful and tranquil landscapes; storms, wild trees, mystical buildings in the background, old ruins… Sky plays an important role in all of Constable’s paintings. Here, it is painted in wild and energetic brushstrokes. Dark and massive clouds seem threatening. Trees look so crooked and strange and the mysterious cathedral in the background, painted in sharp lines and grey tones, only adds to the overall gloomy atmosphere. I started writing my story again and this painting is my main inspiration for describing landscapes.

Marianne Dashwood – A Romantic Heroine

18 Apr

Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything: her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent. The resemblance between her and her mother was strikingly great.

jane austen sense and sensibility book cover 1

‘Sense and Sensibility’ was Jane Austen’s first published work and is my favourite novel by Jane Austen. Both the movie Sense and Sensibility (1995) and the novel are amusing and interesting, a real nourishment for imagination. Even if you throw out the romance, you’re still left with witty dialogues, interesting Regency fashion, insight into social customs and daily life in Regency era. There’s something so exciting in imagining that perhaps there once was a Marianne Dashwood out there, with all her romantic adventures and sensibilities!

The character of Marianne Dashwood is probably the main reason why I love this book so much. I feel I can relate to her, much more than I can to Elizabeth Bennet, despite the general admiration and affection readers usually have for Miss Lizzy. I think Marianne is a very interesting character, a typical heroine of Romanticism. Embodying the ‘sensibility’ of the title, Marianne is spontaneous, impulsive, idealistic, excessively sensitive, amiable and generous; she’s everything but ‘sensible’. Marianne’s romantic and passionate nature has shaped her interests and hobbies, as well as her attitudes towards love and life; she loves reading poetry, playing pianoforte and singing, living passionately in general, long strolls, romantic adventures, and, keeping in touch with Romanticism, she loves nature. Like Marianne, I am exceedingly romantic, because I’ve listened to Chopin’s Nocturnes one too many a time, read too many Victorian novels, and I daydream too much.

marianne 31

marianne 33

No voice divine the storm allay’d,
No light propitious shone;
When, snatch’d from all effectual aid,
We perish’d, each alone;
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulphs than he.

       The Castaway, 1799, lines 61–66 (William Cowper)

Marianne is particularly fond of William Cowper who is considered one of the forerunners of Romanticism. His thoughtful and emotional celebration of the beauty of nature was very appealing to Jane Austen herself. I think it’s very appropriate that they included a recitation of Cowper’s poem in the movie because it perfectly demonstrated the difference between two sisters, their worldviews and qualities they value. During discussions about Edward Ferrars, Marianne proclaimed: ‘I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter in all my feelings; the same books, the same music must charm us both.

marianne 24

marianne 28

Kate Winslet is the only Marianne Dashwood for me! She perfectly embodied Marianne’s romantic idealism, spontaneity, and passion for wild flowers and poetry! I have not doubted for a moment that who I’m watching on the screen is a real Marianne Dashwood coming to life. Even her appearance coincided with my own vision of Marianne! Kate’s appearance in the movie was pure embodiment of the word ‘romantic’; her sparkling eyes, golden curls and heart-shaped lips were all perfectly suitable for the image of a romantic heroine.

Every romantic heroine needs a romantic hero. Marianne’s first romantic adventure began the moment Mr Willoughby carried her to the house, in the rain, after she had sprained her ankle. The next morning he brought her wildflowers, and the two bonded over the shared love of poetry. Still, the story would have been too perfect if it had stopped there. Willoughby had secrets of his own. It seemed sad to me at first, but after finding about Willoughby’s immoral behavior and corruptible nature, I was delighted that he abandoned Marianne for I would not want a person like that to be her husband.

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Even though some, or rather, most of the readers have expressed disappointment on Marianne falling in love and marrying Colonel Brandon, I actually liked the ending. Willoughby seems a better partner for Marianne at first; he’s young, handsome and charming, but it is maturity and wisdom of Colonel Brandon that enabled him to deeply love and appreciate Marianne in a way Willoughby never could. It’s just my opinion though, perhaps somewhat shaped by the fact that Brandon was portrayed by Alan Rickman in the film, and I like him, and his voice.

In the end, Marianne realised that Colonel Brandon was very much capable of falling in love or inspiring love in someone else. I think it’s very romantic how he fell in love with Marianne at first sight, as she reminded him of his unforgotten love Eliza, without even hoping or expecting Marianne to return his feelings.

William Shakespeare – Sonnet 116

16 Apr

sense and sensibility 14

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.