Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Great Sparkle Quest

As you may remember from this picture, I wear sparkles (usually a tiara) when I need a mood boost.  I also shop for sparkles when I need a mood boost, and in all of these ebay exploits I keep my eyes posted for kokoshnik tiaras.

Growing up I heard many fabulous stories about my family in Eastern Europe and their trials immigrating to America.  Maybe it's just in my blood, or maybe it's because of all those stories, but there's something about the Russian monarchs that really fascinates me.  It might also have something to do with how much I loved the animated movie Anastasia too.

Anyways, while I am always on the lookout for sparkles I can wear with various ballgowns, someday I would love to own at least one tiara in the kokoshnik style.  
Kokoshnik refers to the traditional headdress for Russian married women, which was worn into the 19th century.  Historically the kokoshnik is a decorated crescent (sometimes rounded and sometimes pointed, with appliques, embroideries, precious stones, etc.) tied with ribbon at the back in a bow.  The specific design for each kokoshnik was associated with a particular region of Russia (called gyberniya) and it was at times actually possible to tell where a woman was from based on her particular kokoshnik.

traditional dress of a wealthy peasant from the early 19th century

Ballerina Anna Pavlova in traditional dress c. 1920s
Naturally, during the cultural revival of the nineteenth century that meant the monarchs needed their own 'regional' version, which eventually took on the form of a tiara.  
The imperial family of Tsar Nicholas II in kokoshniks--see the similarity in shape to the tiaras?

The most famous of these are fringe tiaras: the George III Tiara (aka The Russian Fringe Tiara) and the Russian Kokoshnik Tiara.  Both are made of graduated stiff rows of diamonds (which is where the term fringe comes from).  
George III Tiara

The George III Tiara was originally commissioned in 1830 from diamonds in the collection previously belonging to King George III.  Worn by Queen Victoria multiple times throughout her reign, this tiara is still worn by the current Queen Elizabeth II.

Kokoshnik Tiara

The Russian Kokoshnik was an anniversary gift to Alexandra, Princess of Wales in 1888 on behalf of the peeresses of the kingdom.  The princess had specifically requested a kokoshnik tiara, as they were already quite fashionable.  In fact, the Empress of Russia, Maria Feodorovna (Alexandra's sister) also favored this style.

Empress Maria in her kokoshnik fringe, 1882
While the fringe tiaras are probably the most iconic of the kokoshnik tiaras, this is by far not the only type.  Here are some other favorites of mine!

Empress Consort Alexandra in Romanov Pearl Drop Tiara,  1896

Romanov Drop Pearl Tiara

Maria, Queen of Yugoslavia c. early 1920s

Maria's emerald and diamond kokoshnik, which originally belonged to Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna in the mid 19th century 

Empress Maria Feodorovna (formerly Dagmar) while Empress Consort, 1874

black diamond kokoshnik of Queen Maria of Romania

Westminster Kokoshnik by Chaumet, early 20th century
Aren't they lovely?  I will be ever-vigilant until I find the perfect one.  In the meantime, I will have to content myself with other beautiful sparkles.

Oh, and a little further proof that Anastasia was a formative film: the titular character and the Dowager Empress in their kokoshnik tiaras.

One is a fringe and one is the more rounded style--my two favorites. Hmm.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Lemony Centennial

My sister needed something for her bake sale this weekend and I volunteered to help her, which ended up leading on a jump through 100 years of cookbooks to accomplish two projects at once.  Yum! (Unfortunately, in the process of baking and dancing and celebrating I forgot to take a single picture...but the treats were such a hit I thought it was worth sharing the recipe anyway.)

the modern kitchen from "Choice and Care of Utensils," 1912

When she listed all the goodies already claimed, I suggested lemon bars as her/my contribution to the spread; I figured it would be easy to double the batch and bring the rest for the staff and volunteers at the museum.  Then I thought: Why not investigate some 1912 cookbooks and bake something period?

I need to learn how to shorten my adventures, not complicate them, I know.

I ended up on a fun interactive website which presented cooking as a timeline, and links to instructive texts for each point.  The twentieth century had some great selections, including a cooking/storybook for children and the original Jell-O brand recipe book, which I highly recommend taking a peak at.

I settled on the 1912 edition of The Dromedary Cookbook, which you can read for yourself here.

The recipe I used is for a "Lemon Cocoanut [sic] Pie" and is essentially a lemon meringue pie with shredded coconut in the lemon filling.  As the recipe did not include a particular crust, I used the Joy of Cooking* shortbread crust I used for my sister's lemon bars.  The original recipe is a cooked milk- and cornstarch- based filling, but in order to make things easier I used the egg- and flour- based recipe for the lemon bars, but with the additional seasonings. (I know, I know, cheating...)
After the batch was ready I poured out the lemon bars and folded in the shredded coconut before adding to the pre-baked shortbread crust.

pie trick: I always bake 1-crust pies in a tart pan.  The crust always comes out perfectly crinkled!

Overall, this recipe was super easy, and while not exactly the 1912 formula, the flavors are the same and it was perfect for the event.  Plus, my sister had very chic 2012 lemon squares for her bake sale.

Centennial Lemon Coconut Pie (or bars!), adapted from the Dromedary Cookbook and Joy of Baking
for the crust:
1 c. butter (2 sticks)
1/2 c. powdered (confectioner's) sugar
2 c. all-purpose whole wheat flour (white flour would work too)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. (or to taste) orange or lemon peel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  add dry ingredients until just together, but still crumbly.  press into pie or tart pan and bake for about 18 minutes, until edges are just browned. Remove from oven and let cool while making filling, but don't turn off the oven!

for the filling:
Depending on the size of your pan and how full you like your pies, this may need to be adjusted. I originally doubled this but ended up with extra so I'm halving it here.

1 c. granulated sugar
2 whole eggs
about 1/3 c. lemon juice (real lemons are always better than bottled juice!)
1 7 oz. bag of shredded coconut (or less, if you want to limit the coconut flavor.  The original recipe called for 2 c., which is around the amount in the bag)
2 tbs. all-purpose whole wheat (or white) flour

Beat sugar and eggs until light in color and fluffy.  Add the lemon juice and mix fully before folding in the flour.  When the flour is fully incorporated fold in the coconut and scoop into cooling pie crust.  Return to oven (still 350 F) for another 18 min or so, until crust has formed on top and the edges of the filling have started to brown.  At this point the filling should be set but still jiggly.  Let cool completely (overnight is best) before cutting.

*The Joy of Cooking was first published privately in 1931 before being picked up for national distribution in 1936.  Even my modern sources are vintage...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Baz Luhrmann Great Gatsby Trailer

I've had an eventful week (more on that later), which has slowed down my reading somewhat.
But don't worry, I'm still prepping for a summer of projects and working my way through Fitzgerald! I have a couple of posts on the author's life and letters to finish (along with my re-reading of Tender is the Night) but in the meantime the first trailer for the new Great Gatsby film has been released!

What do you think? I've watched it a couple of times and while the visuals are really interesting, I'm still having trouble getting behind the music.  Not because it's modern--that's a typical Luhrmann trope--but because it's so slow.  I also thought it was interesting that the narration at the opening is not actually from Gatsby but from a later piece by Fitzgerald.  That could be good, as it might signify a lot of reading and research from Luhrmann/the writers.  I guess we'll see at Christmas...

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Rush to 1912

I had grand plans for a 1912 ballgown that were scrapped in favor of finishing my school work, since I wasn't able to make it to Salem for the Titanic Weekend and would have nowhere else to wear it...but now I'm in need of a summery 1912 outfit for the Orchard House Centennial Celebration next Saturday!  I already have a hat, which I made in March as an experiment, but now I need a dress to go with it. Hmm...

Standard Fashion Book, Summer Fashions for 1912
Next weekend is also Memorial Day, which I associate with busy times at Orchard House--doubly so this year when we turn 100! While looking for outfit inspiration I found this neat article from the New York Times published in 1912, entitled "What Usually Happened on the Old-Fashioned Picnic" which I thought was worth sharing...I'll be putting this into action (especially coconut cake!) for the Fourth of July, which is my picnic holiday.

We weren't hard to please. A few cold fried chickens, some peanut sandwiches, a big paper sack full of Saratoga chips, some potato salad in a fruit jar, tw or three kinds of jelly and bread and butter, a couple of chocolate cakes and a cocoanut cake and a freeze of strawberry ice cream and a few accessories were practically all we expected at a picnic dinner in those days...
The day after the picnic the local paper would write it up, and close by saying that 'a delightful time was had'--and that was the truth.

For more, you can read the full article scanned from the NYT here.  I love the description of "jaunty little shirtwaist outfits." How lovely! That shall be my goal for Saturday.

If you're in the Boston area, like Little Women, the Alcott family, 1912, or just celebrating history, stop by the museum for a wonderful day! The schedule is on their website (linked above).

Postcard of Orchard House, c.1900-1907

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Inner Monologue 5: Completing the Rites of Spring

I have more to say about Fitzgerald and the jazz age, but in the meantime I spent the weekend celebrating my college's annual end-of-year festival, which is aptly named Bacchanalia in honor of the original Greek tradition to the god Bacchus.

The Andrians (Bacchanalia), Titian 1525
We don't enter a trance-like state and rip a poet limb from limb (quite, there was some lawn moshing that got a bit violent), so our Bacchanalia is really nothing like the original...

On the lawn (I'm in white cotton), with my plaid homespun blanket, purchased from a sutler at Gettysburg.  Picture courtesy of my lovely friend KP. 
...well, it's maybe a little bit similar.

Betty Medill, Snake Charmer: Tales of the Jazz Age (2)

I'm still enraptured by the circus ball in Fitzgerald's story "The Camel's Back."  In particular, I love the costume his accidental-on-purpose bride Betty wears as a snake charmer!  Fitzgerald describes it thus:

"She was dressed in the costume of an Egyptian snake-charmer: her tawny hair was braided and drawn through brass rings, the effect crowned with a glittering Oriental tiara. Her fair face was stained to a warm olive glow and on her arms and the half
moon of her back writhed painted serpents with single eyes of venomous green. Her feet were in sandals and her skirt was slit to the knees, so that when she walked one caught a glimpse of other slim serpents painted just above her bare ankles. Wound about her neck was a glittering cobra. Altogether a charming costume--one that caused the more nervous among the older women to shrink away from her when she passed, and the more troublesome ones to make great talk about "shouldn't be allowed" and "perfectly disgraceful.""

How fabulous! I do always approve of sparkle, and body-paint snakes sounds pretty cool.

A 1920s postcard
I a firm Slytherin (although apparently now I am a Ravenclaw), and so I also tend to keep an eye out for snake-related things...I bet Betty could have used a few of these! Actually, so could you--the first two are currently for sale on Etsy.

1920s gold core bracelet

1920s mesh snake bracelet, Whiting and Davis

1835-1840 necklace, Victoria and Albert Museum
Also, while I know Betty is described as wearing a dress, the Met has a fabulous collection of "harem dresses," which are the look I would go for if dressing as a circus performer! They move in a really interesting way, and I bet would be neat for dancing.

harem suit, 1919

harem skirt design, 1927

harem dress, 1920s
If you are ever invited to a circus ball, you could be just like Betty! (although hopefully without the accidental marriage...)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Love Affair with Tales from the Jazz Age (1)

As cliche as it might be, I have an ongoing love for the '20s speakeasy aesthetic, especially as it is depicted in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  As I have now turned in all of my work and have nothing to do besides clean my room (which I am studiously procrastinating), do life-related chores (which are stressful), and run my current study (YAY SCIENCE), I've been reading for fun for the first time since August.  Hooray!
I'm currently savoring The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories by the aforementioned Fitzgerald.  I'm working on a series of posts surrounding this topic (I'm also planning to sew a 1920s party dress this summer, so stay tuned), but one particular passage struck me today that I wanted to share.

In the story "The Camel's Back," Perry Parkhurst and his fiancee break up rather terribly and as a result he ends up getting drunk and flirting at the Townsends' "circus ball."  Costumes are under much discussion:

""Lookit!" he commanded. In his hands he held a truncated garment of pink gingham.
"Pants," he exclaimed gravely. "Lookit!"
This was a pink blouse, a red tie, and a Buster Brown collar.
"Lookit!" he repeated. "Costume for the Townsends' circus ball. I'm li'l' boy carries water for the elephants."
Perry was impressed in spite of himself.
"I'm going to be Julius Caesar," he announced after a moment of concentration.
"Thought you weren't going!" said Macy.
"Me? Sure I'm goin', Never miss a party. Good for the nerves—like celery."
"Caesar!" scoffed Baily. "Can't be Caesar! He is not about a circus.
Caesar's Shakespeare. Go as a clown."...
"Hm," said Perry. An idea struck him suddenly. "If you've got a piece of canvas I could go's a tent."
"Sorry, but we haven't anything like that. A hardware store is where you'd have to go to. We have some very nice Confederate soldiers."...
"Several of the gentlemen" she continued hopefully, "are wearing stovepipe hats and swallow-tail coats and going as ringmasters—but we're all out of tall hats. I can let you have some crape hair for a mustache."
"Want somep'n 'stinctive."
"Something—let's see. Well, we have a lion's head, and a goose, and a camel—"
"Camel?" The idea seized Perry's imagination, gripped it fiercely."

I spent a lot of time last summer researching the history of the early twentieth century circus, so on top of the fabulous highjinks that ensue during the evening for Perry and his comrades, the idea of a 1920s circus costume ball well, "seized my imagination, gripped it fiercely."  In honor of that, here is a selection of some of my favorite period circus images.

Big Cats trainer Mabel Stark, poster c.1922

High wire walkers c.1920s

performer with the Escalante Bros. Travelling Circus

Hogdini Sisters, 1920s Vaudeville act

Irene and Trixie, 1920s circus duo

circus cigarette girl

Circus Procession, by Victor Anderson

an elephant girl

Fred and Ella Bradna, c.1903 (ringmaster and horse trick rider--also married!)
Madison Garden Circus, c.1936
If there is ever a '20s-circus-themed party, I definitely want to go as a trick rider ballerina.  They are so darling!