23 November 2011

Thank you, Miss Scarlett

American Thanksgiving Day is almost upon us.  I am a big fan of being thankful on a daily basis for life's big things an small things alike, so forgive me if I use TD as a time to be thankful for something a little frivolous.  It takes away the sting of gluttony and family drama that seems to go hand in hand with holidays.  I think all of you stunners would agree, redheads are something to be thankful for.  Where would PRB painting be without them!?  It always pains me a little that, historically, redheads have gotten a bad rap.  Although one of my favorite PRB legends involves the theater usher's disgust and dismay at seeing TWO redheads in one aisle of the theater (dear Lizzie and naughty Swinburne).  There are some very special flaming beauties in my life, including my auburn husband (honey, just ignore that gray!), who apparently used to be called "copper top" (after batteries!) in his youth!  So here is my shout-out to all of you glorious redheads, by nature or by dye, we love you!
And here's to the new wave of 21st century stunning red roses, Florence Welch

and Saoirse Ronan, the face of The Cult of Beauty for the U. S. run of the exhibit (you will remember that Bonny Wright was the lovely red haired fashion muse when the exhibit opened in England).

Please do check out Grace's post on the Vogue fashion spread for CofB over at The Beautiful Necessity!  It is tremendously exciting to see more PRB-inspired fashion editorials so prominently featured.  And don't forget that the exhibit is coming to the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, and will run from February 18 - June 17.  I am going to do my very best to go to this exhibit and report back, and would certainly love to hear your impressions if you are able to go.

22 November 2011

Victorian Shawls

Autumn has enfolded us, and this week’s drippy rain and damp have me reaching for my shawl, one of my most prized and useful possessions.  It is prized because I love the gold, brown, and plum colors, and I purchased it on a fun shopping trip with my best friend (she bought a black shawl embroidered with colorful flowers).  
And it is useful for the obvious reason: it is made of warm wool!  It also layers well under coats for very chilly days, packs lightly and serves as an elegant wrap on trips, and it is great for snuggling with a certain lap-loving kitty while watching movies.

Shawls were an essential part of a Victorian woman’s wardrobe, regardless of station, and it is certain that they were valued for their style as much as their warmth, especially the beautifully woven shawls of Kashmir.  Textile historian Meg Andrews has a very informative article on shawls on the Victoriana website.
We see many representations of shawls in Pre-Raphaelite art, from the humble Scottish woman (Effie Gray) in Millais’ "The Order of Release," 

   Tate Britain

to the tender maiden in Arthur Hughes' "April Love,"
Tate Britain

and the boldly patterned shawl wrapped provocatively around the hips of the young mistress in Hunt's "The Awakening Conscience."

Tate Britain

Real-life representations of Stunners in shawls can be found in Elizabeth Siddal's beautifully hand-colored photograph,

The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

 and in Jane Morris’ portrait session (draped over the chair), styled by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Victoria and Albert Museum

In The Wife of Rossetti (admittedly a dubious source), Violet Hunt recounts how the beleaguered Ford Maddox Brown went so far as to pawn his wife Emma's handsome Indian shawl, which she wore while posing for his painting "The Last of England" (the original oil on wood version).  Violet reported that Brown was "...always in difficulties down there in St. Pancras visiting pawnshops every three days or so with family plate, jewellery, rare engravings, papier mache ornaments and articles of clothing. Poor Emma's good Indian shawl was oftener with " My Uncle " or pinned round Dummy than on her back and only returned to her shoulders while she was sitting for The Last of England."

Private Collection

And inPre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Volume 2  by William Holman Hunt, Hunt gives an account of the daring rescue from fire of his painting “The Temple” by a fearless lady and her costly Indian shawl!  Hunt  painted himself sporting a gorgeous green paisley shawl as a belt in his 1867 self-portrait.
Galleria degli Uffizi

While not as popular today as they were in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, shawls are certainly still easily found and procured, and they can add an instant hit of stunner style to your ensemble.  Mavens of PRB fashion are even creating their own shawls.  Embroideress Kimberly Servello has posted about her beautiful pattern for an embroidered shawl (inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite overtones of A. S. Byatt's The Children's Book) at her blog Antique Embellishments.  And Ravelry knitter Roxanne Yeun has created a delicate and gorgeous pattern for the evocatively named Raphaelite Shawl.

In other Pre-Raphaelite news, a new movie, “Effie,” will star Dakota Fanning as Effie Gray (Ruskin) Millais!  

Fanning would not be my first pick for Effie, but the movie is written by Emma Thompson (and also stars Thompson and her husband, Greg Wise), which sounds very promising!  The filming began last month, and IMDB notes that it will have a 2012 release in the U. K.  I hope it comes to America.  Note the shawl worn by Fanning in this scene with Greg Wise as John Ruskin.  Much like the marriage of Effie and John, the making of this movie is not without scandal and turmoil.  Let us hope it is resolved fairly for all.

22 September 2011

Willow Pattern 21st Century Style

GelaSkins are a cool way to protect your smart phone or mp3 player.  I have not personally used them yet, but they seem like a nifty product, especially considering that you can design your own with any image you can upload.  The PRB possibilities are limitless!  And I could not resist posting about the Blue Willow pattern designed by Colin Thompson ;-)   I'm sure, were Rossetti or Top tootling around London today, they would be sporting this GelaSkin on their iPhones.  Hmm, actually that seems so wrong to think of Morris with an iPhone, but anyway...

28 July 2011

Summer Updates

Hello dear readers, my apologies for the lack of posts.  Flaming June quickly turned into wilting July, and now August approaches and I am behind on many things.

First and foremost, if you have not already done so, please do check out the fundraiser for our dear Stephanie Pina, publisher of lizziesiddal.com and preraphaelitesisterhood.com, and shining light of PRB blog-land.  Her husband Tony suffered a serious accident, which is creating a great deal of financial hardship for their family.  Tony has undergone surgery and is on the mend, but their family could still use your support.  Stephanie gives so much to those of us with an interest in the PRB, including running her online book discussion group, so please take this opportunity to give back, if you are able to.   If you don't wish to contribute directly, the wonderful people of WAG Screen in the UK, creators of "The Lady of Shallott" short film, are donating proceeds from the sale of the "Lady of Shallott" towards the fundraiser for Stephanie and family. 50% of all sales of the film will be donated.

In PRB style round-up news:
Kirsty from The Kissed Mouth just posted a lovely selection of Stunner Style knitting patterns from the Rowan pattern books.  A definite must-see!

Medieval Muse's Arteffex Etsy shop is restocked!  Now is your chance to snatch up a fetching Medieval, Art Nouveau or Renaissance-style bag for summer.

Also spied on Etsy, this glorious Liberty ball gown.   Add it to your favorites, if nothing more than to ogle it longingly :-)

Lately I have been fantasizing about living near the sea.  Must be the day after day of heat indices above 100 degrees F.  This lovely jewel from Parrish Relics takes me to a cool and magical place beneath the ocean!

And finally, if you are a "beautiful image" addict like myself, you don't want to miss out on Pinterest.  It's a place to create style-boards, or just save images that you love, and share them with others.  It's the answer to my prayers!  For years I have been "starring" blog posts I like within my Google Reader, especially posts with lovely images that I wanted to save for inspiration.  But since Reader is viewed as one long list of posts, I found that I never went back to look at anything I had saved.  I would be scrolling forever!  With Pinterest, I can have all of my images in one place and easily viewable for much-needed infusions of beauty, and instant gratification :-)  One of the best features: it automatically links to the page where you found the image.  So no wondering where you first saw something, or forgetting to credit someone.
Feel free to follow me!
Follow Me on Pinterest

 I have a PRB board and a Style board, among others.

Stay cool, dear readers, and have a wonderful August.  Fondly, Robin

04 May 2011

Alexander McQueen

Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art premieres "Alexander McQueen. Savage Beauty" an exhibit that
"will celebrate the late Alexander McQueen’s extraordinary contributions to fashion. From his Central Saint Martins postgraduate collection of 1992 to his final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010, Mr. McQueen challenged and expanded the understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity. His iconic designs constitute the work of an artist whose medium of expression was fashion. The exhibition will feature approximately one hundred ensembles and seventy accessories from Mr. McQueen’s prolific nineteen-year career. "

Although his style included elements from many eras, I always felt that his synthesis of modern and vintage fashion was a wonderful distillation of magic and beauty, and was definitely a timeless interpretation of stunner style. Rich velvets, fantastical creatures and Beardsley-esque peacocks have all made an appearance in McQueen collections.You can peruse a selection of McQueen's designs included in the exhibit on the Met's webiste.

Here are some McQueen designs that made me think of some of our beloved PRB Stunners:
From the "Widows of Culloden" Collection, Autumn/Winter 2006-2007
Effie Gray (Ruskin) Millais in "The Order of Release" by Millais
From  "The Girl Who Lived in the Tree" Collection, Autumn/Winter 2008-2009
Jane Morris in a study for "Proserpina" by Rossetti
Well, o.k., perhaps if she were dressed in Beardsley's "Peacock Skirt" ;-)

From the "Highland Rape" Collection, Autumn / Winter 1995-1996
(and no, it's not about raping women, but regarding the rape of the Scottish Highlands)

The lovely ladies of Waterhouse's "Hylas and the Nymphs"

23 April 2011

Perfumed Pre-Raphaelites

Scent is a topic that I find fascinating, and I’m especially interested in the connection between fragrance and memory.  I’ll never forget stumbling across Flora Danica perfume in the 1980’s, and feeling a rush of memory flow through me upon realizing that it smelled exactly like something from my Great-Aunt Virgie’s dresser.  And I lovingly recall the smell of sun-warmed wood and dust in the upper floors of an antique store instantly transporting me back in time to my great-grandparents’ house.   For many of us, the ritual of applying scent, whether a single signature scent or daily whim, completes a mood, look or style, or perhaps all three.
Flora Danica
Internet shopping has opened up a world of fragrance to those who like to experiment, and there are a plethora of perfumes that might appeal to a PRB-lover.  The first company that comes to mind when I think Stunner Style is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, or BPAL.  BPAL offers a dizzying array of hand-blended perfume oils, many inspired by art, poetry and literature.  BPAL even has a “Salon” line of fragrances inspired directly by paintings, which includes Rossetti’s “Monna Vanna.”  This perfume oil includes notes of Russian rose, mimosa, gardenia, bois du rose, parma violet, calla lily, red currant, ambergris, and bourbon vanilla.

I have to admit, I was thrilled that that scent worked for me, and it has become one of my very favorite BPAL perfumes, along with the now-discontinued “Silence,” inspired by the Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer painting.  Other BPAL categories include perfume oils inspired by such familiar characters as La Belle Dame Sans Merci, The Lady of Shallot, Morgause, and Ophelia.
 "Monna Vanna" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lucky Scent, Aedes de Venustus and the Perfumed Court are great sources for hard-to-find and niche perfumes, and all offer samples for purchase so that you may try before you buy a full-sized perfume.  I recently obtained a sample of "Ophelia" by Heeley from Lucky Scent, and fell in love with its delicate beauty.  Designer James Heeley is directly inspired by nature, and “Ophelia” contains notes of Italian orange, green flower stems, jasmine, ylang ylang, tuberose, moss, and white musk. 

"Ophelia" by John Everett Millais

People and places of history and legend seem to inspire perfumers as much as they inspired the PRB.  Cathusia conjures the mythical siren with its Ligea "La Sirena," a blend of opoponax and mandarin.

  "Ligeia Siren" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Diptyque offers the evocative creation "L'eau des Hesperides", combining bitter orange from the Ivory Coast, Italian mandarin and lemon, red thyme, African rosemary, crinkle-leafed spearmint, peppermint, immortelle flower, georgy wood, and white musks.

"Garden of the Hesperides" by Edward Burne-Jones
The Victorian attraction to Italy and Ruskin’s love affair with the stones of Venice are recalled in glass blower Montgomery Taylor’s “Ambra di Venezia,” a fragrance based on French narcissus and jasmine, with the additions of mango, mandarin orange and lime.  The bottle is even decorated with lovely Venetian architecture.

Do you have any favorite fragrances that you feel embody stunner style?  I would love to hear about them.

05 April 2011

Updates and Aesthetes

This video includes a very interesting discussion on Aesthetic style (including dress) as a promotion for the V & A's The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 exhibit.  I would love to hear impressions of the exhibit, if any readers are able to visit.  I was just in England and missed the opening by a few of days :-(
But there is hope for those of us in North America; the exhibit should be coming to the de Young Museum (part of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco) in February 2012.  After having a glimpse at some of the works included in the exhibit, I will certainly be moving heaven and earth to get to San Francisco in 2012!
Even though I missed the exhibition London, I was still able to visit the wonderful V & A (thanks to my tolerant husband and sister-in-law), including the stunning William Morris room,

and had a lovely time perusing the gorgeous jewelry on display, like Andrew Fisher's Wagner Girdle.

Image copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

I also had the pleasure of finally visiting Liberty of London, which was just as lovely as I imagined it would be.

Recently sighted...a rare fashion treat!  Please do check out Herme's blog post at the Pre-Raphaelite Paintings blog on the restoration of Ellen Terry's beetle wing dress, worn in John Singer Sargent's Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth.

Image copyright Tate Britain Museum

20 February 2011

The Cult of Beauty

As I am sure most of you know by now, Stunner Style will soon be celebrated in a glorious exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900 will be on display from 2 April - 17 July 2011, and will feature "paintings, prints and drawings", and examples of "...all the 'artistic' decorative arts, together with drawings, designs and photographs, as well as portraits, fashionable dress and jewelery of the era."

You can see a beautiful Liberty dress in the V & A's curatorial blog for The Cult of Beauty.

Last week, the V & A posted a link on their Facebook page about this absolutely gorgeous fashion shoot styled by Damian Foxe and featuring actress Bonny Wright in modern interpretations of Aesthetic Dress. 
 Photography by Yuval Hen

And for some gentlemanly PRB style, check out V & A curator Stephen Calloway's feature!

02 February 2011

Young Edwardian Clothing Label

Like the Gunne Sax line, California designer Sue Wong's Young Edwardian clothing line (for Arpeja-California)  transformed young ladies of the 1970's and '80s into 20th century Stunners.  Sue Wong went on to design for her own clothing line, and still finds inspiration in retro styles.  Last year Wong launched the “Sue Wong for Walt Disney Signature" line, inspired by Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland."
Vintage Young Edwardian pieces can easily be found on Etsy and eBay.

Brown velvet and cotton paisley dress

Velvet maxi dress

Cotton maxi dress
Jumper dress