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.

A Vintage-Inspired Work Uniform

Vintage-Inspired Work Uniform

 

With my new jobs comes both a long commute and a new office environment. Gone are the days when I’m dressed up if I wear a blazer with my jeans. Now I have to wear business casual every day. In order to make mornings run as smoothly as possible, I’ve opted for a version of the work uniform, made popular by minimalist bloggers. But, being that I love vintage style, I couldn’t be satisfied with a neutral skirt/slacks, blouse, sweater/blazer combo.
No, my work uniform keeps my personal style in it, while being very, very simple. I’ve based it around a dress because with a dress, you don’t need to match a top and a bottom. Despite the fact that they look put together and stylish, a dress requires minimal input when I choose it in the morning. I found the a-line flounce dress at Land’s End and rejoiced, as it is long enough to cover my knees, but fits well enough to look attractive and not dowdy. The sleeves are capped enough that if I get warm in the office, I can wear it without a cardigan, and I don’t feel uncomfortable going outside on a warm day without a cover. It also comes in a variety of colors and prints. I have it in four colors right now: blue, purple, berry, and black.
But, being that offices are cold year-round where I live, I’ve decided to add a neutral cardigan. Most of my dressed are jewel-toned and look perfectly lovely with a plain black cardigan. But the black dresses I pair with a white cardigan for something different, and to avoid the all-black look. I may also buy some grey and tan cardigans to add to my rotation.
For autumn and winter, I pair my dress and cardigan with black opaque tights and a pair of black Oxford shoes with a bit of a heel. The heels feels a bit more feminine than Oxfords alone, but Born shoes are fantastically well-made and comfortable. I will probably look for a pair of their ballet flats for spring and summer. And, of course, no winter look would be complete without a tweed coat and a crocheted scarf to keep the chill at bay. When it is bitterly cold, I add a hat and gloves.
So here is my work uniform. Yes, I wear approximately the same thing every day to work. It is not stylish or current, but it looks good on me and it marries my vintage aesthetic with my minimalist needs. And of course, I always pair it with a swipe of bright red lipstick.

A Quick Old-Fashioned Treat

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Although the weather has been cooling, I have still had a taste for ice cream. Lately, I’ve been having ice cream sodas. I remember when I was a girl, my mother bought me my first ice cream soda, made with soda water, syrup, and ice cream, at a local old-fashioned ice cream parlour. It was coffee flavored and delicious.

Since then, floats and sodas have been one of my favorite things to do with ice cream. The soda brings a lightness to the drink that makes it easier to drink than a heavy milkshake, and doesn’t hold the problem of ice cream against one’s teeth that arises when one eats an ice cream cone or a bowl of ice cream. Plus the ice cream just lasts so much longer. I’m seriously considering buying a soda siphon to be able to make ice cream sodas whenever I want.

To make a soda, you can simply add a scoop of ice cream to a flavored soda, as in a root beer float, but I like to mix flavored syrup into plain soda water and add a scoop of ice cream at the end. The stainless steel straw has the double benefit of serving as a stirring rod. I add chocolate syrup to the bottom of the glass, as though I were making a chocolate milk, and then add a splash of soda water to get the syrup thinned out a bit. I mix in the soda little by little so it doesn’t froth out of the glass, leaving about two inches of headroom so I don’t make a mess when I drop in the scoop of ice cream. Topping with whipped cream is optional, but pretty.

Channeling Agent Carter’s Strength

It’s been a busy week for me. I’ve been moving into a new role at work, and it comes with a lot of new skills to learn, a lot of things to take care of, and a lot of people with whom I must interact. I’ve talked about the confidence boost that red lipstick gives me in the past, but I thought I’d mention a new lipstick I bought, along with a new television show I’m watching.

I finally started watching Marvel’s Agent Carter last week, and I love it. From the opening sequence of each show, they make it clear that this show is about a strong woman who’s been relegated to the background by a chauvinist society, much the same way I talked about the women of The Bletchley Circle found after the war. I mean, this was a woman who fought with Captain America, and now she’s mostly getting coffee in the SSR office.

I could talk about the plot, but it’s such a comic-book-perfect blend of intrigue and action that I leave it to the reader to check out this show. Also, I was unfortunate enough to wait until only the final five episodes of the 8-episode first season were available for free. So I came into the plot in the middle, but still found it gripping.

No, instead, I think I’ll talk about Peggy Carter’s faces. She makes the most amazing disapproving faces whenever she’s ignored or talked over. The show is faithful enough to the ethos of the era that she can’t just shout out and say “Hey guys, I know what I’m talking about and you’re being a bunch of jerks!” She has to keep her mouth shut and find a way to subtly maneuver situations to her advantage. It’s eye-opening, but also familiar in a way. When she finally saves the day and that is taken from her by a pompous colleague, she is able to maintain poise, even while another colleague becomes indignant on her behalf. And she does it all with her signature dark-red lip.

Hayley Atwell, the actress who plays Carter, announced last December that Agent Carter’s lip color is none other than Besame Cosmetics’ Red Velvet. While on my search for the perfect red, I happened to email a rep at Besame asking about their lipstick, and Red Velvet was one of the shades they recommended, along with Red Hot Red, a bright, warm red inspired by Marilyn Monroe. Well, when I saw Besame lipsticks were now available at Sephora, I jumped. I’ve been dissatisfied with the feathering of my go-to Poppy red, and Red Velvet is different enough from anything I currently have.

I have to say, I love the formula, the packaging, and the experience. I also love the color. It’s a very serious red, and makes me feel like a serious person, which has been fantastic this week, when I have to hold my own in meetings. Sometimes I have to keep my mouth shut when a superior is talking, even if I disagree with what he or she is saying. But just because I’m quiet, doesn’t mean I’m submissive, just like Peggy.

And I’ve gone ahead and ordered Red Hot Red, too!

A New Addition to the Boudoir

As someone who loves vintage style, particularly the Victorian aesthetic, I’ve started wearing nightgowns to sleep instead of t-shirt and shorts. I had my favorite Etsy seller, Sue Bradbury at Ellaina Boutique make me a three-quarter-sleeved nightgown in a lightweight purple material with cream lace trim. It has served me well, but as the days grow longer and warmer and the nights no longer chill me, I found I was in need of something lighter still.
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So I contacted Sue and we discussed using some new lightweight printed material she had gotten in. She had three floral prints that just shouted my name. So I chose one and had her make me a summer nightgown. It arrived earlier this week, and I’ve been wearing it to sleep ever since. I may have to order a couple more soon.

The material is so soft and light and doesn’t hang awkwardly, but also doesn’t cling. While it is a loose design, and somewhat old-fashioned, I find the delicious fabric drapes around me in a way that is not entirely unenticing. And it feels lovely against my skin. I find myself sweating less. The cream lace around the neckline and the hemline give it the perfect touch of something extra, but Sue is careful to sew the lace in where it won’t get ragged from wear.

Anyone looking for new, comfy clothing for the summer should definitely give Sue’s shop a look! I don’t receive anything for free from Sue, but I’ve bought much of my wardrobe from her.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine: The Quick Morning

This morning, I woke up and did not feel like getting out of bed. As the minutes ticked by and I still lounged in my nightgown, I realized I was going to have to get ready for work very, very quickly. Luckily, I have the precedent of the past to offer a quick bed-to-car routine (plus the modern advantage of fast food for breakfast!). So here is my morning routine for those days when you absolutely have to be ready in 15 minutes.

First, I did not shower. I gave myself a little scrub with a dry wash cloth, and then washed my armpits with soap and water. At the same time, I washed my face with cold water and brushed my teeth. From there, I put on deodorant and clothing. My dresses from Ellaina Boutique are perfect for days like today because I can throw one on and look instantly put-together. I didn’t even grab a necklace, just a couple earrings. Then, I brushed out my hair with a boar-bristled brush and put it into a ponytail with a little Pompadour in the front (so it doesn’t look greasy and slicked-back). I applied my tinted moisturizer and didn’t bother with a powder because I can blot shine later in the day. A swipe of red lipstick, shoes, and glasses complete the look. And I’m out the door, through the drive-through, and at work at my normal time, even though I got up over an hour later.

I hope this serves as inspiration for those of you who sometimes feel you don’t have time to indulge your vintage style. I hit the high points (a vintage-appropriate style of dress, red lipstick, vintage-inspired hair) without having time for too many details (jewelry, scent, eye makeup, powder).

Vintage Exercise: Ballet Class

You don’t get a whole lot more old-fashioned than dance. It’s probably one of the oldest forms of human expression. And as far as dance goes, ballet is the epitome of old-fashioned grace to me. It seriously took a lot of doing to update ballet even a little, and even then, most of the updates are considered “modern dance” instead of ballet and are kept separate from classical training. There’s a reason it’s called “classical training.”

Well, like Zelda Fitzgerald, I’ve come to ballet late in life. I did my turn as an adorable a 5-year-old, but decided not to pursue it. Then, when I turned 30, I decided to take a class with a friend of mine from my original ballet class, at the original studio where we took classes. She’s since fallen out of the habit, but I’ve continued to go. Since starting theater a year ago, I’ve lapsed a bit, but I still love class whenever I get to it.

I finally got back to my favorite mid-week class this week, and loved it. The teacher is tough and doesn’t go easy on the combinations. Her only concession to the fact that it’s called a “beginner” class is that she’ll take an extra minute explaining the steps. Sometimes. But I like that. I’ve taken other dance classes and over the years have decided that I’d rather be the lowest level dancer in a class than the highest level. I learn more.

Ballet, and dance in general, has given me a strong sense of poise and body awareness. The costumier of a show I did over the winter commented on how I was able to wear her beautiful vintage 40s and 60s costumes so well, and I credit a lot of that to my dance training. It makes you look taller and more confident. And, given that I’m actually quite clumsy, can disguise a multitude of awkwardnesses under a veneer of control.

Dance is one of my favorite forms of vintage exercise. In addition to ballet, I also do some modern. I’ve taken classes with a company, but I also do some freestyle dancing on my own. When I read the autobiography of Isadora Duncan, her approach to movement as something that is inherently natural resonated with me, and now when I have my own private dance time, I try to mirror her philosophy, if not her exact movements.

Sadly, this week, upon my return to ballet class, I learned that the nagging soreness I’ve been having in my toe while jogging is not just stiffness that needs stretching out and loosening up. It’s probably a sprain. So I will have to take a few weeks off both jogging and dancing while it heals. But I’m excited to return once more.

In My Queue: The Bletchley Circle

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Netflix find that I thought my readers would appreciate. I’ve been terribly busy with rehearsals and such, but I have found the occasional moment to toy with Netflix and find new shows. One that I’d had in my queue for a long time was The Bletchley Circle. As a woman with a technical background, I was intrigued by a show I thought was about women working at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Well, I was wrong, it’s actually about a group of women who used to work at Bletchley Park, but the show’s main action follows them several years later as they’ve tried to return to “normal life” after the war. None of them can say what they did during the war, and instead are officially named as secretaries and bookkeepers. For the first series, they solve a series of murders when the first-series main character, Susan, notices a pattern while listening about the killings on the radio. She gathers together Millie, Lucy, and Jean, her old colleagues from Bletchley, to help her. Each has a specific skill that helps put together the clues they find.

It blends a period drama with a crime procedural, something I’ve pointed out before as a particular favorite genre. But it then goes a step further and instead of introducing strong (but peripheral) female characters, it bases the entire show on four women’s experiences. And it captures the frustration of intelligent women being underestimated by the men in their lives.

The show also captures the atmosphere of post-war England well. While the US was celebrating victory in a war that virtually never touched their own land, England was picking up the pieces from having its major cities bombed and all their supply chains disrupted. Luxuries, like perfume and lipstick, were hard, if not illegal, to come by. So the women of The Bletchley Circle are not the carefree, red-lipped women of the 50s that we might picture, but instead are, for the most part, honest, unglamorous, and relatively free of makeup. The only character that regularly wears lipstick is Millie, the “bad girl” of the group.

The Bletchley Circle has sadly only made seven episodes that are on Netflix right now, so it’s a quickly-consumed series, but the characters and the plots are worth waiting for more.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine: New Beauty Finds

I’ve written previously about my vintage-inspired beauty routines, but I thought I’d add some updates and new finds. I alluded to some of these in my last post about my face prep for red lipstick, but I thought I’d give specifics.

I recently got a sample pack of lipsticks from Vapour Beauty, in my attempt to find a non-toxic lipstick that I could feel comfortable eating when it ends up as lip prints on my sandwich at lunch. Sadly, none of their red lipsticks were at all what I wanted, and I was at a loss for what I might use the $10 off code from the sample pack to buy. I decided to take a chance and buy one of their Aura Multi-Use color sticks in the color Courtesan, a lovely rose pink. I simply adore this shade. It’s rosy and neither too warm nor too cool a pink. It looks like a natural flush, and blends easily because the cream formula slips like a powder once you get it on your skin. It’s a little dry on the lips, so I only use it as a blush.

I’ve also upgraded my face makeup. I now use three separate products to conceal imperfections. I mentioned BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Gel Cream, which I adore, especially with the sun out in full force again. I’ve also found a stick makeup, W3ll People’s Narcissist foundation stick. I use it mostly as a concealer, but it will work as a fuller-coverage foundation for days when I need to look tip-top, like when I have an audition. I use that for spot-concealing most days; the formula is fairly matte, although I do get a bit greasy under it after several hours. For my undereye circles, however, I prefer Tarte’s Maracuja Creaseless Concealer. I found a shade that looks slightly too orange on my hand, but blends perfectly under my eyes. It kind of sinks in and just looks velvety instead of like makeup. This gives me an everyday flawless look without looking too perfect, like when I’m in my stage makeup.

On top of all that, I set my makeup with a rose-scented rice powder based on a 1908 recipe, made by Little Bits Historical on Etsy. Her shop is a treasure trove of vintage-recipe beauty goodies, and I was drawn to this powder in one of my favorite scents, rose. The powder itself is a lovely, fine-milled rice powder that buffs into my skin easily and keeps me from getting shiny or greasy all day. It also has the most intoxicating scent: roses, but a little deeper note from the sandalwood she includes. And it’s very lightly pink to help brighten my warm complexion. I only wish she had a mini version that I could keep with me at work for touch-ups, maybe with a mini powder puff!

Just a note: None of the links above are affiliate links. I get nothing for raving about these products, just the satisfaction of sharing things I’ve enjoyed. Also, stay tuned for next week, when I’ll share my all-time favorite Etsy seller!