A Day Going Back In Time

As longtime readers of this blog may know, one of my interests is vintage lifestyle, especially vintage style from the U.K. Well, this weekend’s excursion goes back pretty far, even for my tastes. This weekend, I paid a visit to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, a living history festival that presents a themed fair revolving around the court of King Henry VIII. While there are all the typical food stalls, vendors, and shows, the main cast of the festival is the Royal Court and the villagers. The faire itself is held in its own, permanent structure, called the Tudor Village, which is used solely for the faire and its rehearsals. It’s a fantastic experience, and somehow even better when you come back over the years. I typically go one or two times per season, which runs from late August to mid-October. And I know enough people involved in the faire that I often can get discounted tickets!

This year, we decided to go on opening day to see the King approach, the village gates open, and the cannons sound. They’re not kidding when they say to cover your ears! Immediately inside the gates is the fountain and the Gatehouse Stage, where you can learn about the plot of the year when they present the Royal Welcome every morning. This year’s plot involves King Henry’s desire to divorce Queen Katharine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. They brought back an Anne Boleyn storyline last year for the first time in years, and it seems they’re sticking with it for a while. Of course, both the other courtiers and the common folk have their own dramas outside of the Royal family. The whole thing makes a complex tapestry of performance and history, which would be impossible to catch with even just one day’s visit to the faire.

That said, one of my favorite parts of faire was also one of my first stops of the morning: Scotch Eggs! I love this supremely unhealthy faire staple that takes a boiled egg, wraps it in sausage, and deep fries it to perfection. I managed to show up the first time just as they’d run out, but that meant that when I came back ten minute later, I got a fresh-out-of-the-fryer Scotch egg. Yum. I offset the Scotch egg with a fresh pressed beet-carrot-apple-ginger juice from the adorable juice vendors.

From there, it was time to wander. We met up with friends, saw a couple shows, and did some shopping. Oh, the shopping. Despite having attended faire since I was in high school, I’ve never actually had my own proper Renaissance Festival garb before. I always put something together that looked suitably “Renaissance” out of my closet, usually just involving a long skirt and some layered tops and jewelry. But I wanted to go legit, so one of our stops was to Moresca, where I got a cropped corest top, a flowy split blouse, and some harem pants to make the perfect warm-weather outfit for a day at the faire. And of course this means that I have to come back this season to get more use out of it! I also managed to find a new matcha bowl at a pottery vendor, which will definitely be getting some Instagram time this week.

After a day of shopping, walking, mingling, and eating, Mr. Tweed and I were pretty exhausted, so we decided to head home after about five hours at the faire. But the nice thing about faire is that whenever you leave, it’s always going to be a temporary parting!

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The Tea Leaves and Tweed Wedding, Part One: The Ceremony

I’m finally going to post a recap of my wedding to Mr. Tweed! Those of you who follow the blog know that we celebrated our wedding over a month ago, but what with travel and things, I haven’t had time to go through the photos until now. Our wedding celebration was a bit non-traditional, although I like to think of it as very traditional. We decided to get married at the local courthouse, which meant that our ceremony would be quite a small affair, but Mr. Tweed wanted to have a dance party for all his friends, so we planned a separate reception the next day for a larger group of people.

During our wedding planning, I drew inspiration from vintage wedding traditions. In Emily Post’s Etiquette, the wedding ceremony and celebration is described as a brief, private ceremony, followed by a breakfast or luncheon at the bride’s family home. To that end, I planned our wedding weekend to be as simple and traditional as possible in this vein. We would be married at the court house, as we don’t attend church regularly and wouldn’t have a local family chapel to stop by. And, of course, we would want to have lunch with those who attended our ceremony. But we also wanted to have a midday party for our bigger reception, since many of our guests were coming from just a two-hour drive away, and having a reception that ended earlier in the day would mean they wouldn’t need to pay for a hotel if they didn’t want.

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We chose to have our ceremony at the historic Annapolis court house because it’s a beautiful building in a beautiful part of town. The “theme” of our wedding actually ended up being the 18th century, as we were married in an 18th-century court house, had lunch in an 18th-century tavern, and our reception the next day was in an 18th-century mill building. Mr. Tweed’s parents were generous enough to offer to pay for our post-wedding luncheon, as well as a night in the tavern’s Jefferson Suite the night before, so we could wake up on our wedding day and simply walk next door to the court house.

Leading up to the wedding, it seemed the ceremony would be simple, quick, and unremarkable. But I decided to throw a bit of a spanner in the works when I decided I didn’t want to wear the dress I had bought for our ceremony. The dress I had was lovely, but it was full-skirted and designed for dancing, and I had something a bit sleeker in mind when I thought of my ceremony. Against all advice, I put off listening to my gut feeling and ended up buying a new wedding dress two days before the wedding. I had it overnighted from Nordstroms, and received it the day before the wedding. While it wasn’t tailored to me, it was still very close to perfect, especially when I found a friend with a steamer that I could borrow to relax the wrinkles from shipping. With the dress in hand, I packed everything up, and Mr. Tweed and I drove to Annapolis.

 

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The Jefferson Suite was beautiful, even though the doorways were a bit short for Mr. Tweed. But it was a lovely place to spend our last night before the wedding, and appealed deeply to my sense of vintage whimsy. We spoke to the owner and they agreed to bring us up a tray of breakfast quite early the next morning, as we needed to be getting dressed around the time breakfast would normally be served. We had dinner with my sister and her partner, newly arrived in town from Australia, and then slipped into bed for a good night’s sleep before the weekend’s festivities began.

The next morning, I was so excited, I woke up before 6 a.m. I turned over and chatted with a very groggy Mr. Tweed, and then checked my phone. As the sun came up over the city, I could feel myself getting even more excited for the day. Around 7 a.m., we both showered, and at 8 a.m., our breakfast tray arrived.

 

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It was fresh scones, cream, jam, tea and coffee, and orange juice! Such a perfect breakfast for a big day. It was light enough (and one of my favorite things) that I was able to eat a good breakfast even on a nervous stomach. And of course I treated myself to plenty of tea. Thoroughly fed and caffeinated, I set to doing my hair and makeup and getting into my dress. As a final touch, I pinned my lovely, custom-made whimsy from Tanith Rowan into my hair. Our photographer Josh arrived at 9:30 and we were off to the court house.

We only had a short wait for the ceremony, but it felt like ages. The ceremony itself was short and sweet. Mr. Tweed and I shared a few moments where we tried not to make each other giggle. Afterwards, we made sure to have photographs with all our various family and friends. Then, we wandered off with Josh for some shots with the two of us before lunch. It was a nice little retreat from the group of family and friends who had come to our ceremony, and gave us some “us” time, even though it was being photographed the whole time. Towards the end, Josh showed us a little secret garden path where we got some beautiful, intimate shots.

 

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From there, we went back to the tavern and had lunch, which passed in a blur of fried chicken, speeches, prosecco, and caramel cake. But the food was delicious and the company heartfelt. Honestly, it would have been a perfect wedding right there, without anything else. But of course, this is only Part One…

Image Credits: All photos by Joshua McKerrow [website]

The Post-Wedding Chop

When I first planned to get my hair cut drastically, I had no idea that cutting one’s hair immediately after the wedding was a common phenomenon. But there it is. Personally, I’ve gone several years without a haircut and felt it was time, plus if Mr. Tweed and I decide to start a family soon, I’ll probably want more manageable hair, at least for a while. So I booked my appointment for the day I took off after our wedding weekend. I had plenty of hair to work with, so I also busied myself deciding just how much of this I wanted to cut:

It had been almost five years since the last time my favorite hairdresser had seen my hair, and I could see the glee in his eyes when I showed him the length my hair had achieved. It was lovely for Pygmalion and the wedding, but I do find it a bit unwieldy to wear down and putting it up every day does put some strain on my head. I was ready for a haircut that I could wear loose a little more often. As I sat down in the chair, I told Riccardo that I wanted a pretty big change and I was willing to go as short as my chin, but at least as short as my shoulders. He started cutting and as he went along, I said “Do you think we could go shorter?” So he went a bit shorter.

The end result is almost like an updated version of a vintage middy haircut, shoulder-length with some shorter layers in the front. This was even more apparent when Riccardo decided to curl it after drying it, giving me a very glamorous, Liz-Taylor-esque style. I spent the rest of the day swanning around the city with my giant sunglasses, red lipstick, and gorgeous hair, feeling like a movie star. And then came home to gather compliments from my new husband. A thoroughly productive day, all told.

In my Queue: Z: The Beginning of Everything

Recently, I heard an interview with Cristina Ricci on NPR about her new series following the life of Zelda Fitzgerald (née Sayre). The show is called Z: The Beginning of Everything and it is at least loosely based on the novel Z: A Novel of Selda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. Now, as a lover of the cultural and fashion history of the 1920s, Zelda Fitzgerald has come up in my wanderings around the internet. She is often treated as an idolized figure of glamour and a kind of hedonistic debauchery, which is somewhat missing the point. Rather like a Great Gatsby themed wedding.

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I had originally picked up the book for some light reading during a trip to Fiance’s parents’ lake house, but never really got very far in it. After watching the series, I picked it back up again, but was mildly struck with the inconsistencies between the two. Because the two works cannot be separated, I thought I ought to comment on both of them, though I’m focusing on the show, as I still haven’t finished the book.

The first thing that struck me about the show is that it opened up, in the pilot episode, on a shot of the burned-out hospital where Zelda met her untimely and tragic end. This is not taken from the book, though I appreciate how it highlights Zelda as a tragic figure rather than an aspirational one. But for the most part, the show glosses over the darker aspects of Zelda’s early life. For one, there are references to the abuse she suffered at Scott’s hands in the novelization, but those are absent from the first season of the show. The show also seems to suggest that Scott’s infidelity, shown only as a one-off, impulsive act on screen, is somehow partially Zelda’s fault for fueling his jealousy through her close relationship with his friend.

That bothered me a bit because history has made clear that Scott repeatedly and shamelessly cheated on his wife, as she did on him. I wonder how the show will treat her affairs in later seasons. And to bring in the figure of Scott’s friend, whose relationship with Zelda acts as the primary conflict between the two in the first season, and who did not seem to exist in history, somewhat lets him off the hook. And, of course, the glossing over of the physical abuse that Zelda endured at his hands paints less of a complete picture of the domestic life that led her to a series of stays in sanitoriums.

The one place the show does try to add drama is in the relationship between Zelda and her family. Unfortunately, the show injects drama where none exists in the book, which seems odd considering that they delete drama elsewhere. The show also gives Zelda somewhat more agency, moving the revelation that Scott has been using her diary for “inspiration” to an earlier point their lives. It almost seems like the show’s creators wanted to apologetically give her more agency than she ended up having in a life where a jealous, bitter, and abusive husband thwarted her attempts to make more of her life than being a society wife.

That said, I found the show enjoyable. The episodes are short, easily-digested bits of fluff, and the acting and characterization is superb. I was impressed with Ricci’s ability to communicate the naivete of a teenage and early-20s woman in the first season and I look forward to seeing what they do with the later seasons. I just wouldn’t recommend necessarily reading the book and expecting the series to follow it very closely at all.

Unexpected Vintage Inspiration: Love for a Thousand More

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about vintage fashion, and I realize it’s been some time since I’ve talked about what I’ve been watching when I have the spare time. Part of the reason for this is that 1.) I’ve been less focused on vintage fashion right now and more focused on using what I have so I can spend my money on wedding stuff and 2.) I’ve been reading a lot and spending most of my screen time sharing shows with Fiancé, whose tastes are decidedly different. But the other day, I happened upon a Korean drama online that I’ve never encountered before and it reminded me of something important: Vintage style is not just about the West.

Most of the vintage bloggers I follow take their inspiration from Americana or the vintage styles of European countries, and a large part of that is because they themselves are American or of European decent. The problem of diversity in vintage blogging has been talked about by better bloggers than I, so I won’t get into that too much. But what I do want to talk about is the main character of the Korean drama Love for a Thousand More.

The premise of the show is that Mijo is an woman who was made immortal sometime during the Koryo Dynasty and is currently 999 years old. In that time, she has had many lovers, and all relationships have ended sadly for her. So she has decided to give up on love. But of course, she’s a love counselor by profession (who could have more experience?). From there, in typical Korean drama fashion, the demands of love cannot be denied and our heroine finds herself with a choice between two men who represent different worlds or philosophies.

But the costumes she wears! Mijo is a woman who, from the outside, looks like a young woman who is very into vintage fashion. While Westerners often think of “Asian fashion” as being the traditional styles that are not widely worn anymore, especially by the younger generation, this drama puts Mijo’s dated attire in start contrast with the other character’s more modern sense of fashion. Indeed, not only does Mijo dress like a granny and wear old-fashioned, sensible pumps, she also knits, drinks tea traditionally, and does old-fashioned exercises with the older people in the park.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

And her specific flavor of vintage fashion is drawn from the traditional hanbok clothing of Korea. Her skirts are shorter and she doesn’t wear sandals, but the styling is unmistakably hanbok. Her uniform of a crisp, wrap blouse with a full skirt, her hair tied into a demure bun at the nape of her neck is utterly relatable to someone who has found their own Western-style vintage uniform.

Meanwhile, her makeup would not be out of place on Empress Ki. She wears minimal eye makeup and occasionally has her lips stained a slightly brighter shade of pink, but always within the bounds of tradition. And all of this happens in contrast to the other characters, who present a modern, trendy picture of Korean fashion.

I haven’t made a secret of the fact that I’ve found myself drawn to Korean-style beauty routines over the last year, and anyone who reads this blog knows that my tea appreciation spans the globe, but this drama has now reopened my eyes to the beauty of Korean-inspired vintage fashion. Watching true period dramas is fun and beautiful, but not terribly practical. Love for a Thousand More takes the beauty of period Korean clothing and fits it nicely into a more modern world. Perhaps I shall consider adding some of that inspiration to my own wardrobe in the future.

[Image Source]

On Helping Friends in their Time of Need

One of my favorite bloggers and all-around lovely person is Jessica Cangiano of Chronically Vintage. I’ve written about her before because she was a wonderful guide when I first got started blogging about vintage-inspired style. She also has an Etsy store with the most fabulous variety of vintage baubles that I love to browse. In fact, my favorite necklace, the one that gains me the most compliments when I wear it, came from her shop.

It was this weekend that I was browsing said baubles, toying with making a little purchase of a gift for myself. And then I saw a post on Instagram saying that Jessica and her husband Tony lost their house and all their possessions and likely their cat. It was devastating. I’m not a crier, but I found tears in my eyes as I read about this tragedy that struck them. I saw that a friend of theirs has started a crowdfunding page to help them get back on their feet and I naturally went on to donate. After all, I was just about to give Jess money by making a purchase, so why not use that money to help her now that her business has had this setback?

Here is a link to the site, if you would like to help out this pillar of the vintage blogging community and wonderful, friendly woman who has been a bright spot in my life over the last year or so. I hope you will consider it. And Jess, I wish so much love and luck in rebuilding after this.

On Major Life Events, Planning, and Falling Down the Rabbit Hole

As those of you who follow me on Instagram know, I have a bit of a reason for not blogging for a month.

Boyfriend is no longer Boyfriend. Instead, he is Fiancé. He asked me to marry him just before our vacation at the beginning of August. So I have spent the last month, yes, in Montreal for a week, but also in a flurry of preparation. Since we have just booked our venue, I hope I can calm down and devote mental energy to other things.

Just don’t bet on it.

In the meantime, here is the ring, in case you missed in on Instagram:

Because Fiancé knows me very well, he found a simple, vintage ring from the early 20th century in rosy gold with two moonstones, in a setting called “Toi et Moi,” or “You and Me.” It’s simple, lovely, and just a bit old-fashioned, while also seeming very different from many engagement rings I see so often.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month. While I still have plenty of planning yet to do, hopefully, I find some time to update this space a bit more regularly.

 

How a Complicated Asian-Style Skin Care Routine Fits into a Vintage-Inspired Lifestyle

As I mentioned before, I’ve recently re-investigated Asian or Korean skin care and started developing my own multi-step routine. Currently, I mostly use relatively ordinary, Western products, but both the outlandish products and the ritual of the routine fit into my vintage-inspired mindset for my lifestyle. So many people have memories of their grandmothers or mothers sitting in front of the vanity and carefully doing their skin care routine. My own grandmother, though she is not fussy or vain in any way, had her vanity with her jars of creams. I used to play with them sometimes when I was over there, and had to be reminded that grandmother’s room is not for children.

Vintage-style beauty hearkens back to days when makeup was neither widely commercially available nor socially acceptable. While the red lipsticks of the mid-20th century are well-loved, and the feminist makeup boom of the 1920s is known, before that, women were expected to at least look like they were bare-faced and came by their glow honestly. What better way to do this, at least in part, than by having lovely, tended-to skin? And this philosophy is explicitly shared by Korean skin care devotees. The idea is to spend more time on your skin care so you don’t need as much makeup.

Obviously, some of us do just need makeup for things that skin care alone cannot entirely fix. I know I personally have inherited dark circles that no amount of eye cream will diminish, and so I use concealer as well as eye cream. But the idea that the right combination of skin care products will leave you with a perfect, makeup-free glow is an old idea indeed. And while so many “vintage beauty” guides focus on the fact that historical skin care products were made from pre-industrial ingredients, human beings have always had a fascination with the new and outlandish. Before widespread cosmetic manufacturing, odd ingredients or the odd use of ingredients piqued the interest of historical beauties. Rumors about beautiful women bathing in this or that showed that there was an idea that seemingly extreme beauty products were the secret to eternally youthful skin. Cleopatra and Empress Sisi were both said to have bathed in milk. Empress Sisi even wore raw meat sheet masks to enhance her beauty. So is snail secretion or donkey’s milk really that different or new?

And once cosmetic ingredients started to become industrially synthesized, such as the 19th-century discovery of fatty alcohols, people were fascinated by these new ingredients. Perhaps one of the reasons women would put radioactive materials on their skin was because such things were a novelty and thought to be the next big thing. I promise you that if Empress Sisi could have gotten her hands on a peptide serum, she would have tried to bathe in the stuff.

Finally, all this involved skin care helps me stay connected to the practice of enhancing one’s beauty through care and attention. Women in history, particularly in the upper classes, had to engage in elaborate routines to get their hair to curl or even to get in and out of the clothing they wore. So much of modern convenience has meant that some of us no longer spend that time on ourselves. And reconnecting with that bit of self-appreciation has been highly therapeutic to someone to whom “getting ready” used to mean pulling on jeans and a t-shirt and putting her hair into a ponytail (or pinning back a third-day-unwashed pixie cut). Becoming the kind of woman who has a skin care routine has helped me feel better about myself, even when I don’t bother putting on makeup. And that has always been the goal of a beauty routine, throughout history, I think.

Vintage-Inspired Amusements: The Lady Magazine

I’ve discovered something new online! The internet is lovely for lovers of the vintage because you can find all sorts of original documents and vintage-inspired webpages so much more easily than when you had to go to the library and make a date with the microfiche viewer to see them.

The Lady magazine is apparently where Wodehouse got his inspiration for Aunt Dahlia’s Milady’s Boudoir periodical. And it’s not hard to see the resemblance. They even maintain a classified section for those seeking housekeepers, nannies, and other service personnel. Apart from those, they run articles about timeless style and a series of columns. They have a good old-fashioned agony aunt column, as well as an advice column for excellent manners that rivals the Grande Dame Judith Martin herself.

They also tend to provide styling, fashion, and interviews perhaps geared toward a more traditional audience. Rather than following trends, they focus on timeless advice for elegance. And they interviewed the current star of my new favorite show recently.

The magazine has been around since the 19th century and has the distinction of being Britain’s longest-running lady’s magazine. And issues appear weekly online. I love to read the features occasionally as they highlight a more timeless and elegant style than many American publications, particularly when it comes to home and fashion.

Reading such a publication gives me a profound sense of being connected to the history of publishing for ladies. Rather than being a magazine that pigeonholes us into assumptions about our interests in beauty or fashion or lace curtains, The Lady allows that ladies may have diverse interests and as such publishes diverse features, sometimes discussing food, or travel. The columns even target a range of ages, leaving few gaps in the possibilities that one will find something interesting to them. And the style is vintage and understated, rather than loud and trendy. All in all, it is a magazine that suits my style perfectly.

The Freedom of a Bicycle

Since starting my new job, I have discovered the joys of getting around a city, not only by the subway, but also under my own power. Most days, this means walking, about an hour every day. But my city also has a bicycle sharing program, which I have joined. So now, with a minimal cash outlay at the beginning, I can check out a bicycle whenever I want from one of the numerous stands around where I work, and take short trips around the city. It has come in marvelously handy when I miss an early train and get downtown a bit later than expected, or when I feel like stopping for breakfast and have less time to get to work. I can hop on a bicycle and be at work in less than half the time it takes me to walk.

But the most striking thing about bicycling is how it opens up your boundaries. Before, I was limited in my dining options to those places nearby where I worked or on the way to the train. By taking a bicycle, I can easily extend this reach many times over, taking weekday lunches at new local restaurants, or even meeting my mother at a tea room that would be an untenable walk. And when I stop for takeaway for dinner before rehearsal, I can give myself some extra time and distance and not be limited to the one sandwich shop right outside the train station.

It puts me in mind of something I saw when I first saw a film of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the late 1990s: There was a statement that the film set the play in the Victorian era, around the time of the advent of the bicycle, when men and women found themselves with a new sense of freedom not afforded by more expensive modes of transportation. There was some truth to this in history, and indeed the bicycle was praised by such women’s rights leaders as Susan B. Anthony.

Personally, I like knowing that I can get around the city more quickly without resorting to bringing my car into downtown traffic. The step-through styling of the bikeshare bicycles are also something new. I can ride in my workday uniform of a below-the-knee dress without discomfort. On the rare occasion that a gust of wind pushes my skirt up a bit, I can simply stop and adjust quickly. The bicycles also have fenders and guards so I don’t arrive splashed with mud. I’m excited to be taking part in bicycle culture and it helps me feel much more urban.