Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

Turquerie was the fashion for all things Turkish. It started in the late sixteenth century and lasted well into the nineteenth. unconcerned with the realities of life in the east it was rather a product of European fantasies about the luxuries of the Orient. Turkey was a supplier of exotic goods such as coffee, perfumes, spices, and tea.

First diplomatic relations with the far east started near the end of the sixteenth century with Sir Robert Shirley going to Persia in 1599 to train the Persian army in the ways of English military warfare.

The West had a growing interest in Turkish-made products and art, including music, visual arts, architecture, and sculptures.

This fashionable phenomenon became more popular through trading routes and increased diplomatic relationships between the Ottomans and the European nations, exemplified by the Franco-Ottoman alliance in 1715 when Louis XIV received the first Persian ambassadors to France.

European portraits of the 18th century were used to portray social position and wealth. Dress, posture, and props were carefully selected in order to communicate the appropriate status. Choosing the exotic turquerie style to express one’s elite position in society involved wearing loose, flowing gowns belted with ornate bands of embroidered cloth. Some sitters donned ermine-trimmed robes while others chose tasselled turbans. Scandalously, most have abandoned their corsets and attached strings of pearls to their hair. (There has always been one law for the rich and one for the lower classes when it comes to letting one’s social hair down.) Many portraits have Turkish carpets displayed on the floor, woven with bright colours and exotic designs. The loose clothing and the unorthodox styles added to the lewd perceptions of the Ottomans.

At the same time portraits of real Turkish people by European artists were a la mode. They were often depicted as exotic, and it was rare that portraits were painted without wearing their traditional cultural clothing.

Perhaps the most influential transformation into the turquerie vogue in Europe was done by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Montagu went to Turkey in 1717 when her husband was posted as ambassador there. Her collected letters while there, describing Turkish fashion were distributed widely in manuscript form. They were then printed after her death in 1762. These letters helped shape how Europeans interpreted the Turkish fashion and how to dress. This phenomenon eventually found its way across the Atlantic and in colonial America, where Montagu’s letters were also published.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Coco, Blue Jeans and Fashion’s Glass Ceiling

Coco, Blue Jeans and Fashion’s Glass Ceiling

The origins of Haute Couture are English!  Charles Frederick Worth established the first haute couture house in Paris in 1858, championing exclusive luxury fashion for the upper-class woman and coining the term ‘fashion designer’ and upgrading himself from a basic dressmaker. Ten years later Le Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture was first established as the safeguard of high-fashion. Designers were required to earn the right to label themselves a couture house according to certain specifications although at the time the requirements were rather vague but being male was certainly an essential part of the package

The phrase “haute couture” was used for the first time in 1908 and shortly afterward, in 1910, Gabrielle Chanel set up her milliner’s studio at 21 rue Cambon in Paris, and in 1913 she opened a boutique in Deauville devoted to hats and a small range of clothes, made predominantly from jersey. In 1915 she reached new heights when she opened her Maison de Couture in Biarritz, in the Villa Larralde just opposite the Casino.

From the gamine fashions of the 1920s, Coco Chanel progressed to the womanly fashions in the 1930s: evening-dress designs were characterised by an elongated feminine style, and summer dresses featured contrasts such as silver eyelets, and shoulder straps decorated with rhinestones – drawing from Renaissance style. In 1932, Chanel presented an exhibition of jewellery dedicated to the diamond as a fashion accessory; it featured the Comet and Fountain necklaces of diamonds, which were of such original design, that Chanel S.A. re-presented them in 1993. Moreover, by 1937, the House of Chanel had expanded the range of its clothes to more women and presented prêt-à-porter clothes designed and cut for the petite woman. Among fashion designers, only the clothes created by Elsa Schiaparelli could compete with the clothes of Chanel.  Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her couture house closed in 1954. Her brand has recently been revived led by designer Bertrand Guyon.

It is now over a hundred years since Coco Channel challenged convention, the key feature of today’s fashion is gender neutrality but there is nothing neutral about who’s in charge in these bastions of fashion and wealth. “Who’s Who in Fashion,” a directory published by Fairchild Publications, is split 60-40 in favor of men, and “The Encyclopaedia of Clothing and Fashion,” published last year by Charles Scribner’s Sons, included entries on 36 female and 69 male designers. There is still a glass ceiling for women when it comes to the fashion industry.

With two films and several books about her life and legacy, Coco Chanel has become a style icon. In the 1920’s and 30’s, there were many female designers — Alix Grès, Elsa Schiaparelli and Chanel — but after World War II, the big names were male — Bill Blass, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Cardin even though the number of women entering the profession is more than ten to one in favour of the girls they are not making the progress they should.

Karl Lagerfeld has been the artistic director of the House of Chanel since 1983. He said of the brand founder,” Coco did a lot, but not as much as people think – or as much she herself taught at the end of her career.  She wasn’t only a designer – she was a woman of her time.’ He said didn’t like women and that she made two great mistakes towards the end of her long career; that she believed men did not like to see women in miniskirts and she took against blue jeans.

Coco Chanel was certainly a talented and controversial character, she spent the Second World War in bed with Baron Hans Günther von Dincklagea at the Hotel Ritz. In 1939, she took revenge on her staff who had struck for fairer wages in 1936 by closing her shops making 4000 of her mainly female staff redundant and she was well known for her dislike of Jews believing them to be a threat to Europe because of the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union. I would say that not taking the blue jeans was the least of her mistakes.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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How is the Modern-day Hipster like a Macaroni?

How is the Modern-day Hipster like a Macaroni?

The emergence of the modern day Hipster is the antithesis of the 18th century macaroni but they did have some things in common.The Macaroni was a fashionable fellow who dressed and even spoke in an outlandishly affected manner. The term pejoratively referred to a man who “exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion” in terms of clothes, fastidious eating, and gambling and was the object of some savage British satire. In the Middlesex Journal for November 7th, 1772 Juventis commented on the use of the term Macaroni:

“If I consult the prints, ’tis a figure with something uncommon in its dress or appearance; if the ladies, an effeminate fop; but if the ’prentice-boys, a queer fellow with a great large tail.”

Basically this meant that if a woman looked at an illustration of a Macaroni she would think it was an effeminate dandy, but a working class boy would say the man was a homosexual.

Hipster men, gay and straight, have made Retro their cool, the environment they say is precious to them; they have turned their backs on the ‘the new’. Hipsters want to wear Sylvia Plath’s cardigans and Buddy Holly’s glasses, have beards, wear their hair in ponytails and buns; they revel in the irony of making something nerdy cool. They want to live hi-tech and sustainably; eat organic gluten-free grains and preen themselves in the Edwardian style barbers shops springing up in every town to groom these latter day Dandies. Above all, they want to be recognised for being different, just like the Marcaroni . For the Hipster the way to be cool isn’t to look like a television star: it was to look like as though you’ve never seen a television.The Macaroni on the other hand was only interested in the new, the lavish and the expensive.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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Joshua Reynolds’ Muse Fanny Barton

Joshua Reynolds’ Muse Fanny Barton

Frances Barton or Frances “Fanny” Barton was the daughter of a private soldier and started her working life as a flower girl and a street singer. She performed in taverns and resorted to selling herself as many hard up women did in those days before she made it onto the stage. Her first step to success came when she got a job as a servant to a French milliner, there she learned about costume and acquired some French which afterwards stood her in good stead as she mingled in London’s high society.

Her first appearance on the stage was at Haymarket in 1755 as Miranda in Mrs Centlivre’s play, Busybody. Following that she became a member of the Drury Lane Company, where she was overshadowed by its more established actresses Hannah Pritchard and Kitty Clive. However she was ambitious and travelled to Ireland where she had her first major success Lady Townley in The Provok’d Husband by Vanbrugh and Cibber. She worked at her trade and five years late received an invitation from David Garrick to return to Drury Lane.

Fanny married her music teacher, James Abington, a royal trumpeter, in 1759. It was not a happy and the pair separated but she retained his name calling herself Mrs Abington. She remained at Drury Lane for eighteen years.

Mrs Abington as Miss Prue, Joshua Reynolds

Fanny played Mrs Teasel in Sheridan’s School for Scandal making the role her own. She also played Shakespearean heroines – Beatrice, Portia, Desdemona and Ophelia and the comic characters  Miss Hoyden, Biddy Tipkin, Lucy Lockit and Miss Prue. Mrs. Abington’s Kitty in “High Life Below Stairs” put her in the foremost rank of comic actresses, making the mop cap she wore in the role the reigning fashion“. This cap was soon referred to as the “Abington Cap” and frequently seen on stage as well as in hat shops across Ireland and England. Adoring fans donned copies of this cap and it became an essential part of the well-appointed woman’s wardrobe. The actress soon became known for her avant-garde fashion and she even came up with a way of making the female figure appear taller. She began to wear a tall-hat called a ziggurat adorned with long flowing feathers and began to follow the French custom of putting red powder on her hair.

An example of Fanny’s influence on fashion – the high ziggurat style hat.

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted her as Miss Prue a character from Congreve’s Love for Love. The portrait is the the best-known of his half-dozen or more portraits of her. In 1782 she left Drury Lane for Covent Garden. After an absence from the stage from 1790 until 1797, she reappeared, quitting it finally in 1799. Her ambition, personal wit and cleverness won her a distinguished position in society, in spite of her humble origin.

Source; Wikipedia

Illustrations: Fanny Abington, Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Marie-Dauncey,1789, James-Northcote, Fanny as Miss Prue, Joshua Reynolds.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

Amazon Australia

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