Wednesday, 24 April 2013

STYLE - Vintage Clothes on Celebrities

Pure Silk Flapper Dress of the 1920's - made by Martha Battaglia & Louise M. Battaglia
in their factory in New York City. Sold at auction in  2000

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s it was easy to come by the vintage treasures of the 20s/30s and 40s and even farther back to the Victorian era ethereal lace blouses with impossibly tiny mother of pearl buttons. Beaded embroidered dresses, velvet opera capes, oriental satin kimonos and fur coats could be picked up at flea markets for very little money. The items our Grandmothers wore were a far cry from the modern attire of the current day, and some of it was a little Hammer Horrorish, but fascinating. I remember the crocodile handbags with heads on the catches, and the fox fur stoles with heads and tails attached. I was tiny in those days and often wore unimaginably fine cotton children's smock dresses which were adorned with hand made lace and embroidery with my jeans and boots.  Over the years and the many moves they were lost in time.

Victorian child's dressvictorian elegance

Hammer Horrorish - Fox shawl

Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac rocks the top hat
with her own design clothes and vintage mix.

Many people wore vintage items, especially celebrities. The look for women was very feminine with a touch of Hollywood starlet. Although some were more restrained than others it was also okay to pile it all on together making for a real vintage queen bohemian look. Janis Joplin wore her vintage clothes all the time, not just onstage. Later this look would become known as 'Rock Chick' or even 'Groupie Couture' a term the infamous Los Angeles groupie Pamela Des Barres used for a label she came out with 30 years later.

Janis Joplin, the cover shot "Pearl" album cover,
Hollywood, California, 1970

Men went through a period of romantic revival as they strutted in their finery like the dandies of the Victorian and Georgian ages. Dickensian orphans meet steampunk before steampink was invented. The Kinks were resplendent in ruffled shirts. Some men took to wearing ladies blouses with mixed results. Roger Daltrey was one who really wore it well.

The Who shot by Jim Marshall. Roger is pretty in vintage pink. Pete is a Pearly King.


Victorian embroidered shawls and diamond patterned patchwork quilts were draped over sofas, hung at windows and piled high on beds with cushions. Sadly some were cut up to make clothes which perished with wear or were discarded as fashion moved on. (Yes, even I was guilty of this ....) But how bright they blazed while they lasted!

Vintage embroidered 'piano' shawl

Jimmy Page wearing a coat made from a vintage shawl and in his peacock chair adorned with one.

Victoria Vanderbuilt so rocked the Victorian patchwork blanket coat.


1920s lariat rope necklace
From Suzanne Duffy's Maisonette de Madness on Etsy

When I was a teenager I inherited  jewellery from one of my Grandmothers which included several 1920's beaded necklaces like the one above from Suzanne Duffy's lovely Etsy shop, Maisonette de Madness. They were good quality glass bead, all hand strung. Intricately put together necklaces, many strands twisted into plaited strings, long with tassles at the end. Brightly coloured with copper and silver beads woven in, they were definitely evening wear but I remember wearing them all of the time. Once while dancing a strand broke and the floor of the old Fillmore West dance hall was covered with tiny glistening beads. Some quite good looking boys helped me pick up some of the beads but as we were all immortal then it never occurred to me that it would be hard to find another necklace like that one. Or that one of the precious links with my Grandmother was gone forever.

Kate Middleton and the tiara
Of course the vintage look comes most naturally to those from old families. On her wedding day Catherine Middleton kept to the tradition of 'something borrowed' by wearing a tasteful but stunning tiara from the royal collection. The Cartier 'Halo’ tiara, lent to Miss Middleton by The Queen was made in 1936 and  purchased by King George VI for his wife, Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) just three weeks before he succeeded his brother as King. The tiara was presented to Elizabeth II by her mother on the occasion of her 18th birthday. As the tiara is part of the Crown Jewels, it can only be lent to Catherine, and will return there when she dies, or when the Queen requests. I always liked the way that the truly very wealthy, especially of the landed gentry variety, tend to hand things down rather than buy new and think nothing of wearing clothes and items which are from their relatives.


Over the years the vintage look peaked and was replaced by the power dressing of the 90s with the horribly large shoulder pads and the tight short skirts. I kept as many of my old items as my gypsy lifestyle allowed. After much searching for a wedding dress I decided to wear a 1960s Chanel style little black wool and lace dress I'd bought at Antiquarius in the King's Road for £6.00 many years before. I have always preferred vintage to modern. It's better made, the fabric is higher quality and it fits better. Unless you can afford couture the high street shops just do not compare to vintage. Of course vintage couture is the ultimate! Sadly Antiquarius is no more and now another fashion emporium is located there and does carry on the vision, Anthropologie.

Jo Wood wears a vintage green
beaded dress
Recent fashion saw the bohemian look return and vintage is massive with nearly everyone admitting they look in charity shops or at markets. It is nice to see but does make it harder to find bargains. I dream of finding out that a long lost Aunt has left me trunks full of her clothes and jewels.
Many modern celebrities have kept the vintage look alive for a new generation of fans, Kate Moss, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and still all of those rock stars and their ladies who rocked the vintage look so well that they remain icons 40 years later.  
Television and film wield a mighty influence on fashion - or is it the other around? The Victorian look has been in for sometime on television with  Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes and films continue to showcase vintage costume. I love the Dickens meets Vivienne Westwood look. Today the clothes which we wore in the 80's are making a comeback, but I will always prefer something older and more elegant.
Helena Bonham-Carter wears vintage costume
 for a photo shoot in North London in February 2013
Matt Smith as Doctor Who in the Tardis with the HG Wells Victorian time machine look
in a frock coat, bow tie, waistcoat and pocket watch.

And those victorian shawls? Some did survive and are still enthralling beautiful creative people (and cats!) today.

Jane Aldridge of Seaofshoes
Her blog

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

CELEBRATIONS - St George's Day

"St. George's Battle with the Dragon" (80 x 70cm) by Vitale da Bologna, dating c.1350, at Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna. Image from Web Gallery of Art.

Cry "God for Harry, England and Saint George!"

The year was 1415, Henry V and his soldiers, so outnumbered,  were about to fight and win the battle against the French at Agincourt. These famous lines, written by William Shakespeare and dear to so many, are from Henry's speech to those soldiers before the battle. That year following the battle of Agincourt St George became the Patron Saint of England.

But who was st George? And why is he most famous for having rescued the Damosel in Distress when he slayed that Dragon? 

The George And Dragon pub in Potterne, Wiltshire
Photo by Mrs Black

St George is among the most famous of Christian figures in many countries and yet almost nothing can be said to be certain about his origins.  It would appear that he was a soldier of noble birth who held the rank of tribune in the Roman army and was beheaded by Diocletian for protesting against the Emperor's persecution of Christians.  He died at Nicomedia on 23 April, 303 and rapidly became venerated throughout Christendom as an example of bravery in defence of the poor and the defenceless and of the Christian faith.

So little is known about the man and even early on in history Pope Gelasius in 'De libris recipiendis' mentions that he is among those saints 'whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God'.

By the eighth century George had become well known in England and The Acts of St George, written about his visits to Glastonbury, Somerset and to Caerleon in Wales while on service in England, were translated into Anglo-Saxon.  Because of his widespread following, particularly in the Near East, and the many miracles attributed to him, George became universally recognized as a saint sometime after 900.  Churches had begun to be dedciated to him as early as 1061.  At the Battle of Antioch in 1098 it is said that George appeared to the Crusader army who adopted him  as the patron saint of soldiers. Already myths and legends were circulated about George and  Richard I (the Lion-Heart) put the army under the protection of St George while campaigning in Palestine in 1191-92.  A lesser holiday in honour of St George, to be kept on 23 April, was declared by the Synod of Oxford in 1222; and St George had become acknowledged as Patron Saint of England by the end of the fourteenth century. In 1415, the year of Agincourt, Archbishop Chichele raised St George's Day to a great feast and ordered it to be observed like Christmas Day. In 1778 the holiday reverted to a simple day of devotion for English Catholics.

St George in stained glass window of The Wiltshire Regiment
photo by Mrs Black

St George is different to most saints in that he was a soldier and he bore arms. It is thought that for this reason he may have fallen out of favour despite the fact that his legend lives on in so many military honours. It is ironic that he was largely overlooked while the knightly deeds of King Arthur and his round table were being read by boys throughout the land. Arthur became the greater legend for those same virtues which were so admired in St George centuries before.  Living by a system of Chivalry which accords respect and kindess to those less fortunate, showing courage and honour and keeping the faith.

Today St George is still venerated in the Church of England and by Orthodox churches and by the Churches of the Near East and Ethiopia. South-east of Tel-Aviv thee lies the tomb belived to be his and in Cairo a convent has some objects claimed to have belonged to him.

Unlike St Patrick's Day in Ireland or St David's Day in Wales St George's Day is not a holiday in England. It seems sad that his flag has become associated with violent groups who he himself would not have condoned and that his memory and all he stood for is being eroded by them and by the sands of time. Perhaps that Dragon he slayed was the last of his kind, like St George and today the evils our society faces cannot be brought down by one gallant knight and his sword. More's the pity.

Although ..... there is a backlash and you do see the flag flying in places today. Perhaps there is hope after all.

The Royal Society of St George

The subject in more depth - link to the page at end.

ST GEORGE by Michael Collins MA (Oxon) MPhil

In this short essay compiled from secondary sources, I have identified three main themes:
  1. the historical St George
  2. the growth and influence of legends about him in England
  3. the place of St George in English history, literature and institutions
Because the themes are interrelated and affect each other, I present them chronologically

The banner of St George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers possibly in the reign of Richard 1, and later became the flag of England and the White Ensign of the Royal Navy. In a seal of Lyme Regis dating from 1284 a ship is depicted bearing a flag with a cross on a plain background. During Edward 111's campaigns in France in 1345-49, pennants bearing the red cross on a white background were ordered for the king's ship and uniforms in the same style for the men at arms. When Richard 11 invaded Scotland in 1385, every man was ordered to wear 'a signe (sic) of the arms of St George', both before and behind, whilst death was threatened against any of the enemy's soldiers 'who do bear the same crosse or token of Saint George, even if they be prisoners'.  

The fame of St George throughout Europe was greatly increased by the publication of the Legenda Sanctorum (Readings on the Saints), later known as the Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend) by James of Voragine in 1265. The name 'golden legend' does not refer to St George but to the whole collection of stories, which were said to be worth their weight in gold. It was this book which popularized the legend of George and the Dragon. The legend may have been particularly well received in England because of a similar legend in Anglo-Saxon literature.

St George became a stock figure in the secular miracle plays derived from pagan sources which continued to be performed at the beginning of spring. The origin of the legend remains obscure. It is first recorded in the late sixth century and may have been an allegory of the persecution of Diocletian, who was sometimes referred to as 'the dragon' in ancient texts. The story may also be a christianized version of the Greek legend of Perseus, who was said to have rescued the virgin Andromeda from a sea monster at Arsuf or Jaffa, near Lydda (Diospolis), where the cult of St George grew up around the site of his supposed tomb.  In 1348, George was adopted by Edward 111 as principal Patron of his new order of chivalry, the Knights of the Garter. Some believe that the Order took its name from a pendant badge or jewel traditionally shown in depictions of Saint George. The insignia of the Order include a Collar and Badge Appendant, known as the George. The badge is of gold and presents a richly enamelled representation of St George on horseback slaying the dragon. A second medal, the Lesser George, also depicting George and the dragon, is worn attached to the Sash. The objective of the Order was probably to focus the efforts of England on further Crusades to reconquer the Holy Land. The earliest records of the Order of the Garter were destroyed by fire, but it is believed that either in 1348 or in 1344 Edward proclaimed St George Patron Saint of England.

Although the cult of St George was suppressed in England at the Reformation, St George's Chapel, Windsor, completed in stages from 1483 to 1528, has remained the official seat of the Order, where its chapters assemble. The Monarch and the Prince of Wales are always members, together with 24 others and 26 Knights or Ladies Companion.  Much later, in 1818, the Prince Regent, later George IV, created the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George to recognize exemplary service in the diplomatic field. The Order was founded to commemorate the British protectorate of the Ionian islands and Malta, which had begun in 1814. Originally membership was limited to inhabitants of the islands and to Britons who had served locally. In 1879 membership was widened to include foreigners who had performed distinguished service in Commonwealth countries. The Order was reorganized by William 1V into three classes: Knight Grand Cross (GCMG); Knight Commander (KCMG); and Companion (CMG). Nowadays there are women members of each class with the title 'Dame'. The medal of the Order shows St George and the Dragon on one side, and St Michael confronting the Devil on the other with the inscription,'auspicium melioris aevi' ('augury of a better age'). The Chapel of the Order is St Paul's Cathedral. Saint George is a leading character in one of the greatest poems in the English language, Spencer's Faerie Queene (1590 and 1596). St George appears in Book 1 as the Redcrosse (sic) Knight of Holiness, protector of the Virgin. In this guise he may also be seen as the Anglican church upholding the monarchy of Elizabeth1:

But on his breast a bloody Cross he bore
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge we wore
And dead (as living) ever he adored.
The legend of St George and the dragon took on a new lease of life during the Counter Reformation. The discoveries in Africa, India and the Americas, in areas which maps had previously shown as populated by dragons, presented vast new fields for Church missionary endeavour, and St George was once again invoked as an example of danger faced and overcome for the good of the Church. Meanwhile, the Protestant author, John Bunyan (1628-88), recalled the story of George and the Dragon in the account of the fight between Christian and Apollyon in Pilgrim's Progress (1679 and 1684).

The cult of St George was ridiculed by Erasmus after his visit (sometime between 1511 and 1513) to the saint's shrine at Canterbury, where the supposed arm of George attracted a large pilgrim traffic. Edmund Gibbon claimed that St George was originally George of Cappadocia, the Arian opponent of St Athanasius, but this theory, says Gibbon's nineteenth-century editor, J.B.Bury, 'has nothing to be said for it'. Research which established what little we actually know about the historical George was carried out around the turn of the century by the Bollandists, a scholarly society within the Jesuits. On the evidence of fourth century inscriptions found in Syria, one dating from c346, and the testimony of the pilgrim Theodosius, who visited Lydda in 530 and is the first to mention the tomb of St George, they concluded that George had indeed actually existed. In more modern times, St George was chosen by Baden-Powell, its founder, to be patron of the Scouting Movement, and on St George's Day, scouts are bidden to remember their Promise and the Scout Law. Baden-Powell recounted in Scouting for Boys that the Knights of the Round Table 'had as their patron saint St George because he was the only one of all the saints who was a horseman.

He is the patron saint of cavalry, from which the word chivalry is derived'.  In 1940, when the civilian population of Britain was subjected to mass bombing by the Luftwaffe, King George V1 instituted the George Cross for 'acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger'. The award, which is second only to the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration, is usually given to civilians and can be given posthumously. The award consists of a silver cross. On one side is depicted St George slaying the dragon, with the inscription,'For Gallantry'; on the other appear the name of the holder and the date of the award. For lesser, but still outstanding acts of courage, the King created the George Medal. This also is a silver cross, with on one side the reigning monarch and on the other St George slaying the dragon. The island of Malta was awarded the George Cross for its heroism in resisting attack during World War 11.

Some confusion has arisen from the revision of its Calendar of Saints by the Roman Catholic Church in 1969. Saints have long been honoured with different degrees of solemnity. What the Catholic Church did was to downgrade the recollection of St George to the lowest category, commemoration, an optional memorial for local observance. The Church did not abolish St George. Indeed, it maintains a fine Cathedral named for him, opposite the Imperial War Museum in London. The reason the Church now simply commemorates St George is that, although he certainly existed, so little is definitely known about him. Most of the legends about George are apochryphal and indeed incredible. The Church has never officially held that these legends are literally true, but made use of them to illustrate some of its teachings in times when people were more comfortable with such materials. As early as 496, Pope Gelasius in De libris recipiendis includes George among those saints 'whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God'. The virtues associated with St George, such as courage, honour and fortitude in defence of the Christian faith, indeed remain as important as ever. St George is also, of course, venerated in the Church of England, by the Orthodox churches and by the Churches of the Near East and Ethiopia. The supposed tomb of St George can still be seen at Lod, south-east of Tel-Aviv; and a convent in Cairo preserves personal objects which are believed to have belonged to George.  

St George is still venerated in a large number of places, by followers of particular occupations and sufferers from certain diseases. George is the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to St Mark). He is patron of soldiers, cavalry and chivalry; of farmers and field workers, Boy Scouts and butchers; of horses, riders and saddlers; and of sufferers from leprosy, plague and syphilis. He is particularly the patron saint of archers, which gives special point to these famous lines from Shakespeare's Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1, l. 31:

'I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry God for Harry, England and St George!'.
Indirectly, the spirit of George the soldier saint played a part in modern English history when Sir Laurence Olivier's film of Henry V was issued in 1944 as an encouragement to our armies fighting for the liberation of France.

H.Delehaye, Les legendes grecques des saints militaires, Paris 1909 I.H.Elder, George of Lydda, 1949 E. Hoode, Guide to the Holy Land, Jerusalem 1962 G.J.Marcus, Saint George of England, 1939 Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend : Readings on the Saints, Tr. William Granger Ryan, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)

This article appears on the website -

Britannia History

Further Reading:

The Wiki page for St George

Friday, 19 April 2013

STYLE - The Fae

a house; Korte Beeldekensstraat (16may09)
Photo by
geert geenen

This charming house was found in Antwerp, Belgium. I wonder who lives there?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

ENCHANTED ~ Pink Houses

Shelter-To-Home Animal Rescue have made this Pink Victorian their home
Children inhabit an enchanted world. But some things remain magical no matter how old that we become. Perhaps the frozen winter we have come through has caused me to long for pink. Warm colours are such a comfort. Pink houses have long been an obsession of mine, I love to come upon them unexpectedly, it is always a joy. Mrs Black and her Kitten and I would like to live in one, at least for the summer. The husband is not keen. We can dream.

Pink Cottage at Gosbeck, Suffolk.

© Copyright Keith Evans and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Ancient Pink cob cottages twinkle in the English and Irish countryside like bright little jewels, but this spectacular Victorian gem is an American style fairytale house. It has a wonderful story too.

The headline reads, "Shelter-to-Home Animal Rescue finds purrfect house in Wyandotte."

By Calli McCain  Feb 2012

The idea of a ‘cat house‘ can conjure some pretty frightening images: cats crawling on everything, a thick layer of hair spread over furniture, litter and…other stuff…scattered across the floor. Shelter-to-Home Animal Rescue will challenge that concept in their new headquarters and save some local felines in need in the process. 

In the iconic Victorian Wyandotte home at the corner of 3rd and Oak, the non-profit has set up its first official office as well as a habitat to showcase adoptable cats. Inside the gorgeous house, a friendly grey and white cat—Annabelle—curls around visitors’ ankles as they enter the kitchen before she settles in the center of a sunny patch on the floor. Shelley Bawol of Wyandotte is the president and co-founder of Shelter-to-Home; she hopes the house will bring greater attention to a cause she’s been working on since 2007.

“Cats in shelters are not always comfortable so they appear to have a shy personality,” said Bawol. “People looking to adopt sometimes think they won’t do well in their homes and because of this these animals could die in the shelter.”

According to the ASPCA, each year approximately 5 to 7 million companion animals (dogs and cats, that is) enter shelters in the United States. Of those, about 3 to 4 million will end up being euthanized. Adoption rates are especially low for older or disabled animals, according to Bawol.

The main purpose of Shelter-to-Home is to rescue cats from shelters and help them to be fostered out and ideally adopted into permanent homes. According to Bawol, shelters are often so overwhelmed with animals that they have limited time and resources to properly showcase animals to potential adopters, which can result in cats spending months in a shelter without being adopted. By removing cats from the shelter and putting them in a more natural, comfortable environment, Shelter-to-Home allows future owners to see the cats as they would behave if adopted.

Establishing an official headquarters will hopefully help the group to accomplish even greater goals, says Phyllis Smith of Lincoln Park, Shelter-to-Home secretary.

“Hopefully it’s going to help us generate more donations and volunteers,” said Smith, who got involved with Shelter-to-Home after fostering and adopting through the group. “I like the fact that the house is a focal point in the community. Everybody knows the big pink house, now hopefully it will draw attention to the number of pets we’re able to save from shelters.”

The house serves a dual purpose with the downstairs being used as an office for the group and the upstairs a kind of boarding house for adoptable cats.

“The layout of the house isn’t ideal for a family,” said Bawol, pointing out the complete lack of counter and cupboard space in the kitchen and the small, detached rooms upstairs. “It suits us perfectly though, it has great curb appeal—it brings a lot of people in.”

Upstairs, a sleepy blonde cat, Meme, lounges in the front bay window. Around the corner, a new group of cats just arrived from a foster home. They were given the “Kitty Zen Room” complete with a Buddha statue.

The upstairs rooms all have themes and vintage prints of cats adorn the hallway walls along with plaques recognizing financial donors. The “Nursery Room” is scattered with vintage toys and will mostly house kittens and nursing mothers says Bawol. Cats who don’t play well with others will have their own rooms, cats who get along will live three to four to a room. There will also be a few free roaming cats throughout the house, like Meme and Annabelle.

“It’s a unique situation,” said Bawol. “We’re still growing into it, there aren’t any places like this around.”

The group faced slight adversity when they began the zoning process, mostly due to the negative image some neighbors had about a ‘cat house’ being in the neighborhood, like undesirable smells and noises, said Bawol. For the most part, though, the community has been very receptive.
“Wyandotte has a supportive network of volunteers,” said Bawol. “It’s a forward-thinking community and people are still trying new things despite the economy. We also wanted a city with a good, healthy, well-run shelter.”

At the Wyandotte animal shelter, home to Wyandotte Animal Control (WAC), volunteers have a similar philosophy to Shelter-to-Home when it comes to showing adoptable pets and saving animals from being euthanized. Anita Fegan is a local volunteer at WAC. She has been volunteering since she adopted a cat through WAC and appreciates the healthy, comfortable atmosphere at Wyandotte’s animal shelter.

“I like it here because it’s clean and spacious,” said Fegan. “We have community cages that give cats a way to interact with each other and show their personalities.”

However, because of the layout of the shelter, cats must remain in community or individual cages if not being held to prevent them from escaping into the front office, outside, or into the dog room. Ideally, Fegan said, potential adopters would be able to let the cats roam around to see how they move and play—which is when an environment like Shelter-to-Home’s new house can be beneficial.
Because of WAC and Shelter-to-Home’s similar ideologies, the two groups have developed a strong working relationship.

“I love what they [Shelter-to-Home] do, their protocol and their policies,” said WAC volunteer Alyssa Stafford. “I like that they only take animals from shelters. A lot of people won’t come into shelters and pounds because they’re largely seen as depressing. Shelter-to-Home brings positive attention to our shelter and shows that it’s a great environment for animals and for people to come in and adopt them.”
266 Oak St.

Original Article is Here:

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

PAINT BOX ~ Pink and Green

Shocking Pink and Green

Some colour combinations are so delightful, and this shocking pink and green chest of drawers we came across sitting outside an antiques shop really appeals to us. It's got a 1970s India type of vibe to it.  If only we had somewhere to put it in our cottage!

A few weeks ago the continued winter weather had us worried that Spring would not come, and Summer could not follow.

But we have seen our first Bumblebee of the season, a few Butterflies and glorious sunshine! The woods are now alive with magic.

Down in the woods ..... things are stirring!

A kitchen display at the Cath Kidston store in Marlborough

It's not pink, or green, but we love this cheerful kitchen display at our local Cath Kidston shop. It would fit perfectly into our tiny cottage - we may just have to take it away!

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