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!

A Clean Slate for a Red Lip

So today is the first day of my personal Lipstick Challenge. My goal is to wear a red lip every day, so that I can get a good idea of where my collection stands before I buy new lippies. In order to really make the red shine, I like to keep the rest of my makeup incredibly simple. A nice clean slate for the lip to shine.

I’ve talked about my beauty routine in the past, so I won’t go into detail here. I rinse in the shower with warm and then cold water and then pat in a couple drops of facial oil. This soaks in while I eat breakfast and have my tea. Then, when I’m ready, I brush my teeth, do my hair, and finish my makeup.

I’ve actually stopped wearing eye makeup since I started wearing my glasses all the time, partially because it makes my eyes itch a little, and partially because I don’t really need the emphasis when I wear bold frames. So my makeup routine, before my bold lip, focuses on creating even-toned, but naturally-beautiful looking skin.

I prep with a swipe of rose toner to remove excess oil, then apply BareMinerals Complexion Rescue gel cream. It’s an oil-free, silicone-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free tinted moisturizer that leaves my skin glowing and slightly evened out. The lovely thing is that they make all three undertones in all their shades, so I can finally embrace my proper pale skin (I’m light but warm, so generally have to go with “medium” shades to keep from looking chalky or too pink). I apply my gel cream, undereye concealer, and concealer on any spots, and let that sink in. Then, I blend out the concealer and apply a bit of cream blush on the apples of my cheeks. I follow this with a dusting of rose-scented rice powder made from an historical recipe from 1908. I promise I’ll go into detail in the future about these last two, as they are recent discoveries.

This leaves me with soft, clean skin that’s ready for a bold lip! And it’s not just for red lips, either. Because I knew I was bidding au revoir to my non-reds yesterday, I decided to rock a deep berry lip. Against pale skin with just a hint of blush, it was very Gothic looking without looking Goth.

Updates and Musings

So it’s been over a month since I’ve posted here. The weather has warmed. We’ve all thawed out. And some things have changed.

The tweeds have gone away, even my beloved tweed overcoat. And the rain coats have come out. I’m moving to spring dresses. I’ve even ordered some new dresses from a dressmaker I’m excited to tell you about, once I have my most recent batch of dresses, and photos. And I have new tea adventures to tell you about. I’ve joined Simple Loose Leaf’s tea subscription service, and have been enjoying their teas.

I’m still doing theater. Right now, I’m in a play set in the 1940s, so I’m having a blast with costumes, hair, and makeup. I even put one of the other ladies’ hair in a victory roll during rehearsal one night and she was so tickled because she thought her hair was too fine for it. I was excited to have my own vintage background to draw from to make suggestions.

That said, I’m moving more towards vintage-inspired and vintage-appropriate pieces rather than actual vintage. For one, vintage pieces just aren’t realistic for my day job, and I need pieces for which I can care easily.

Which brings me to another change: I’ve started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up about the Kon-Mari method of tidying. While I’m not ready to do the whole house, I’ve put some of her suggestions into place, and for the first time in a while, I’ve got my clothing managed.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m still crocheting, drinking tea, and loving all things vintage and British. So I hope to get back to posting on a more regular schedule and sharing my vintage life as it warms up!

A Brief Update and Taste of Things to Come

Hello, there! I’ve once again been remiss in my blogging. It’s a little bit of personal responsibilities, a little bit of ennui, and a bit of just general hectic-ness (hecticity?). You see, my birthday was yesterday, and I was having so much fun planning and executing my small festive gathering. I’ve also had rehearsals for a new show. But I have some posts on deck in my mind that will come out in the next couple of weeks.

To Come:

1.) Tea subscriptions: I’ve recently started looking into tea subscription services. Now I’ve found that so many of them focus on flavored teas that I’ve had to really hunt around. I ordered a sample box from one company, and have decided to order a three-month subscription to another. The first sample box has come and has been consumed and I took notes to share my thoughts. And I’ll share thoughts on the other as soon as my first box arrives.

2.) Makeup and skincare updates: It’s not been long since I posted my series on vintage-inspired beauty, but my routines are an evolving beast. I’ve recently made two pretty major modifications. I’ve started using almost entirely homemade products for my skin, and I’ve started using almost exclusively natural lipsticks with food-grade ingredients. To come are posts detailing both of these developments.

3.) Recipes: I had to develop some recipes for my birthday gathering and I’ve gotten some new baking supplies that will bring more recipe development. Once I have something good, I’ll be sharing. I also have some cocktail recipes I might share.

Time Spent in the Kitchen

One of my favorite things to do is to cook and bake. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I have it, and I love to play around with recipes and food. A lot of time, I don’t even use a recipe, but come up with my own versions of classic dishes. My mother really taught me to cook, and I have fond memories following her about in the kitchen, learning how to make a Bechamel sauce or gravy, and learning about seasonings. Most of our family traditions still revolve around food.


But the best thing my mother taught me was when to go to a cookbook. My favorite cookbook is The Settlement Cookbook. Our family copy when I was growing up was a constant reference, with its aged mustard yellow cover and spotted pages. Some of the pages were more well-worn than others, such as the baked pancake I used to make often. When I moved out and was on my own, it was my one wish, and my mother came through, finding another old copy of it, which I still have. I’ve memorized most of my go-to recipes, but the referene is still there.

I’ve also had some luck finding old, public-domain cookbooks online. One in particular that is adorable is 1001 Ways to Please a Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes. It’s a sweet book that follows a fictional newly-married couple. The wife is ingenious when it comes to the kitchen and seems to be able to put together a four-course meal from an old boot and a tin of sardines. The book is written in little stories that follow the seasons and highlight a menu. They have casual dinners en famille, and big dinner parties. She even teaches her neighbor how to cook and plays matchmaker.

Now, this book was written in 1917, so don’t expect progressive political ideas. But, as another blogger I read has said, one could easily see Bettina in the modern world playing the role of a party planner. And when it comes down to it, you don’t need to cook for a man to cook from scratch. While I do cook for Boyfriend most nights when I’m not at rehearsal, I spent years living on my own cooking simple, delicious food for myself. And that’s where books like these come into play. I’m not necessarily going to cook myself something fancy and complicated, but I will cook a roast chicken that will keep me in meat for a week, or a baked pancake on the weekend, or a batch of biscuits.

And if I need something a little kitschy or vintage? I can go to the older books for colorful fruit and jello salads, or a fun party spread. And since I managed to fry my last meat thermometer, it’s nice to have an outside estimate of how long to roast certain cuts of meat by time (although vintage roasting times are notoriously over-estimated). But simple food never goes out of style.

A Day at the Opera

Yesterday I had a treat. Boyfriend’s family friend has a box at the Metropolitan Opera and invited us to join her at a matinee of La Traviata. Although I’d seen teaser performances as a child and went to a performance of La Boheme at my university, I’d never been to a full-length, professional opera, much less at the Met. I was extremely excited.

IMG_0143I was certainly excited to dress up for the opera. I had found a great late-50s green brocade jacket the week before while out shopping, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring it out. We had lunch at the opera house restaurant first, which was delicious. I had a lobster pasta dish, and shared some of Boyfriend’s octopus starter, and the plate of cookies the table ordered. The waiter did try to mess with my tea (Earl Grey) before it was done steeping, but I fixed it.

And then, the opera. It was not a traditional staging, but a new one, first premiered in 2010. The stage is almost completely blank, with a huge clock that serves as a focal point, and a man who started the performance sitting on the stage the whole time we took our seats. Boyfriend and I spent a little time with the opera glasses trying to decide if he was real. He was. He was ostensibly the performer who sang the role of the doctor, but he stayed on stage silent throughout most of the play, to represent death. The clock and the death character highlighted that the play is not really about a romance, but about a death.

The singing was amazing. Obviously, I’d never seen a full-length professional opera before, but I was amazed at how pure Marina Rebeka, the soprano playing the role of Violetta, sounded. And the baritone Quinn Kelsey as Germont was fantastic as well. And Rebeka’s acting was great as well. I saw that the director really wanted to bring out the pain she was in from the beginning, to make both her facade as a courtesan and her seeming-recovery while in love with Alfredo more poignant.

The technical aspect of the play really drove home the vision. Above the curving upper level of the plain white set was a black screen that was replaced with a cheerful floral pattern at the beginning of the second act. When Giorgio Germont comes in to tell Violetta that she must give up Alfredo, and she realizes that he is right, the floral pattern’s colors started to fade to almost completely black and white, highlighting the third-act line about the flowers fading from her cheeks toward the end of her illness. The floral returns again at the end of the third act, as Alfredo returns and she has her illusion, but goes completely red just as she dies at the end of the show. It was very moving.

All in all, I so enjoyed my first excursion to the opera. It was a wonderful show, and a fantastic experience. I might have liked to have seen a more traditionally staged opera, but hopefully I will have my chance in years to come!


Cozy Winter Style

As you can tell by the title of my blog, I love to wrap up in warm fabrics and drink hot tea. I really do like tweed, in all its scratchy woolen glory. And this time of year, my collection of tweeds and knits and scarves really gets to shine.

Monday, I was thrilled to receive my new winter coat, a brown herringbone tweed overcoat from a vintage seller on Etsy. It has nubs of blue and orange in it, and a subtle tartan pattern. Not only did the photographs on Etsy not do it justice at all, it fit perfectly, with just enough room that I might layer it over sweaters. It makes me glad the weather has started to taken on more of a chill.

Holiday Weekend Shopping

Underneath my coat, my cold-weather staples are long trousers and blue jeans, cabled sweaters, scarves, and my wonderful knee-length black riding boots. A pair of leather boots zipped up over a pair of slim-fitting straight-leg jeans, with a cabled sweater and a squishy scarf is the quintessential winter style to me. On the rare occasion I venture out into the cold air in a skirt, I wear a pair of thick tights or leggings, with socks over top, all tucked into my riding boots.

Cozy Workday Outfit

My favorite sweater is a fisherman-cabled sweater in a mottled oatmeal color that I wear most weekends, but it lacks the necessary elan for the office. To that end, I have a cream-colored cabled sweater in a butter-soft wool blend, a collection of cardigans, and two cowl-necked merino wool sweaters. Paired with a pair of jeans on the weekend, or a pair of vintage tweed trousers for work, my sweaters are vital for keeping warm while I walk from place to place. Whether I’m taking a stroll around the lake, or a hurried walk from my car, parked ages away from my building, I need to keep from suffering the bite of winter air.

I’ve put together some sets in Polyvore to show what I mean. Of course, I chose items mostly based on looks, so some are quite expensive, but it is the look of the thing I mean to convey. Hopefully, they will help inspire your cozy winter wardrobe!

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 1: Skincare

I’ve decided I ought to post a little about my beauty routine, since it is such a large part of my personal style. First, I’ll talk about my skincare routine, since it is the most complicated part of my beauty practices. I’ve based my skincare routine on what I’ve read of Victorian women. I cleanse with a cream instead of soap and use warm and cold water to close pores. I also focus on natural ingredients, like rosewater and lavender, and homemade treatments. I do most of my skincare in the evening before bed and wash only with water in the mornings before applying makeup.


Nightly Routine:

I start by removing my makeup and cleansing. I use Andalou Naturals Lash and Lid Remover and their Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk. Both are thick creams, almost like a cold cream but without the nasty chemicals in Pond’s. Even though my skin tends towards oiliness, I find the cleansing milk leaves my skin clean without drying it out, so I don’t need to worry about too much in the way of moisturizer. And it has a lovely apricot smell.

After that, I rinse and pat dry. I might mist with rosewater if I’m feeling luxuriant. Then, I simply massage in some oil. I alternate rosehip seed oil and a homemade oil blend of grapeseed oil, sea buckthorn oil, a little carrot seed oil, and lavender oil. The rosehip seed oil has vitamin A, but is not recommended for daily use on acne-prone skin. I’ve noticed a big improvement in the quality of my skin since I started using it half the time. The homemade oil blend is based on a recipe from Crunchy Betty. I use a base of grapeseed oil because it’s got a lot of linoleic acid, which is better for acne-prone skin. I add sea buckthorn oil for the vitamins and beneficial fatty acids. Carrot seed oil can heal and protect against sun damage, so I add a good deal of that. But it is strong-smelling stuff, so I add lavender for scent, and because it’s mildly anti-bacterial.

This whole routine probably takes about five minutes, but I don’t notice the time. Having an enjoyable, yet not-too-complicated routine makes me look forward to my bedtime ritual. I find that my skin is pretty good, with the occasional blemish when my hormones swing, or when I’m lazy about washing my face. I also like the glow from massaging in my oil right before I go to bed. It makes me feel like a Victorian beauty. Right before I go to sleep, I massage a little homemade beeswax balm into my lips and cuticles.

Weekly Treatments:

Because I wash with a washcloth in the morning, I don’t do a lot of exfoliation otherwise, but I do find my skin gets a bit dull sometimes. I try to exfoliate once or twice a week, with a mixture of 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tsp. olive oil. This makes a very gritty scrub, so I apply it and massage it gently after removing my eye makeup but before cleansing. I rinse with hot water, and then cleanse as usual.

Once a week, I do a mask. I mix about a tablespoon of French green clay with a capsule of activated charcoal powder and enough water to make a creamy paste. I apply this after exfoliating and cleansing and let it stay on 10-15 minutes. The clay and charcoal draw out impurities and definitely shrink blemishes. I then remove the mask and tone with Thayer’s Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel before applying oil. This weekly ritual leaves my skin soft and clear and helps draw out any makeup that was left behind during the week. I especially make sure to do it after I’ve been on stage that week in heavier makeup.

A somewhat involved evening routine gives way to my incredibly simple morning routine: I massage my face with a wet washcloth and then rinse with warm and cool water. I sometimes mist my face with rosewater when I get out of the shower. On the rare morning that I don’t shower, I often just splash my face with water from the sink to remove any traces of oil from the night before that didn’t soak in. This leaves me with a clean canvas for whatever makeup I want for the day ahead.