Friday, June 28, 2013

Jujitsu Suffragettes

If you are at all like me, you probably read just the title itself and thought, "I have to know more about this."

While walking through the local library yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a more recent issue (Vol. 13, No. 12 for those interested) of the BBC History Magazine with the same title on the cover and just had to pick it up. We know about our sister suffragettes here in the states with their picketing, parades, and demonstrations, but a jujitsu suffragette? It definitely makes you want to know more, especially when it's accompanied by this illustration.

BBC History Magazine

I'll try not to make this too long-winded, but we know the basic origins of suffragettes - women who wanted equality at the polls and used various means to try and invoke a change. There were the peaceful women's advocate groups, and then there were those who were impatient for change and chose their own tactics. Enter the suffragette.

The subject of the women's vote at the turn of the century was a touchy subject, both in the states and across the pond. Often, the press would portray these ladies as "unhinged and disorganized" leading to violent reactions. For suffragettes involved in active demonstrations where crowds could quickly become unruly, they tried to fight this image by "combating any physical aggression with minimal aggression." Which meant the Edwardian hatpins were off-limits.

Others used dog-whips, but even these got a bad reputation as well, ranking up there with the hatpins and toffee hammers. Then the idea of protection via hand-to-hand combat began to surface.

Edith Garrud was an English suffragette whose husband was a jujitsu teacher and she assisted with his classes. Jujitsu became ideal because it was good for people who are smaller in stature. After a demonstration at the local chapter of the Women's Social and Political Union, the suffragettes took to the self-defense method faster than Alice Paul could yell, "Votes for Women!"

Soon, "ju-jutsuffragettes" became the new terror of the London Police. Because what's apparently worse than a rabid suffragette out for the vote? One who can defend herself, as the below cartoon from Punch implies.
BBC History Magazine
To the best of my knowledge, I have never heard of jujitsu suffragettes here in the states, so this was a rather interesting read. I've detailed the basics to hopefully give you a sample, but the full article itself is a fun and interesting read (trust the BBC to make history a cool topic). Also there's some great pictures of Ms. Garrud demonstrating how to throw a policeman to the ground in her 1910's clothing while keeping her enormous feathered hat on, yet remaining the respectable lady she was.

For the full article, check your local library or download the magazine issue to a digital device from the magazine's Website.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Night Circus review

I decided to wait a couple days before doing this review because the people I know who've already read it loved it, and then I've seen reviews from those who just didn't like it whatsoever. I myself picked it up on the recommendations of others and because it takes place during the Victorian period. The final conclusion though? I'm somewhere in the middle.

Written by Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus itself is the backdrop for a match between two magicians, their competitive guardians, and the outcome that perhaps none were expecting. Beginning in the 1870s, it jumps between different dates as integral characters are introduced and developed, finally ending in the modern day.

We meet Marco and Celia as children, two strangers whose only relation is the long standing rivalry between her father and his guardian. Both are trained at an early age in the art of magic, they meet years later against the backdrop of the newly developed Night Circus or Les Cirque des Reves. This is not your typical circus. There are numerous tents instead of one. Everything and everyone is in black and white, there is no color. And there is no schedule, it simply arrives without warning.

Morgenstern's writing style throughout the book is entrancing, transporting the reader to the dreamworld that the circus itself seems to be made of. The characters are well-developed, the story unique and intriguing, and the narrative absolutely beautiful. One part The Prestige, one part HBO's Carnival, and equal parts mystery and love story, the balance makes a good story.

However, the offset for me was the development of the story. The initial setup of everything and the necessary back stories was somewhat drawn out (over half the book) to the point that I kept putting it up and putting it down. With no huge plot twist or sudden turn of events, I was finding it hard to keep at the book. It wasn't until the last third that I suddenly found myself eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. So in the end, I did enjoy the book, but the rather slow beginning was a bit of a put off.

On the plus side, it must be noted that the movie rights have been optioned by Summit Entertainment and the screenplay is currently in production. If The Night Circus is made into a movie, I look forward to it to see how they adapted the story, but also for also those gorgeous black and white costumes that Celia wears in the book. 

Overall rating - 3 out of 5

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Corset

Once upon a time I decided that I needed a new corset (amongst a few other things, more on that later). I had bought one a few years ago at the local Renaissance Faire that was intended for being worn on the outside of clothing and then it ended up on the inside of most of my outfits after being bitten by the Victorian sewing bug. At the time, it was my first corset so there were a lot of things that got overlooked in my excitement. For starters, it didn't fit exactly (liveable at the time), but had great support (wow, there's no such thing as slouching in this thing), and did exactly what it was supposed to do (yay, my waist is eight inches smaller!).

Fast forward to about two years later. I've had dabblings in corset making at this point, seen a few originals for reference, and while my original corset has become well seasoned, the bones were starting to come out and the whole not fitting exactly thing is starting to get to me.

I ended up purchasing most of my materials and fabric in the summer of 2012, but only got around to sewing it this spring after it was determined that I would need it for attending a conference and for properly fitting some of the new dresses I would make. The end result though was I had a corset that was halfway finished when I went to conference. Out of time and running on only a couple hours of sleep, I simply wore it as is.

Now I've been home for about three weeks and it sits on the top of my sewing pile quietly calling, "Finish me!" All right I will, you demanding little thing.

The corset I made is inspired from an original 1880s corset in the Kyoto Costume Institute collection made of blue silk satin with lace and embroidery work. The pattern comes from Truly Victorian and has minor alterations to better fit my body (because no matter how much I want to try, I will never have Victorian lady curves).

KCI 1880s Corset

While the finished corset will be decorated, it will not have as many frothy frillies as the KCI original. I found some lace at the local fabric store that I liked against the blue and as soon as my bias fabric is sewed down completely, I will work on adding the lace as well. 

My corset in it's unfinished glory
Lace to go along edge

Perhaps the only thing I am not looking forward to is the task of hand sewing the lace on. I've examined all sorts of possibilities, but this seems to be the best method for attaching and making sure it lays correctly at the same time. For the official record, I hate hand sewing. There may be some mumbled curses coming out of northeast Ohio over the next week or so.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Greetings to Everyone!

I am beginning this blog after much pondering as well as numerous limited postings to Facebook. To introduce myself, the long and short of it is I am a lover of just about anything and everything Victorian with a particular passion for costume reproduction.

As of now, I have been sewing since I was in grade school - thanks to my mom who taught me how - but have only been actively costuming for about three and a half years. In regards to the Victorian obsession, it's been active for many years but became a full blown addiction after doing work with local historical society in college. So now not only do I sew Victorian clothing, but I collect materials and do some teaching on Victorian life.
Dress U 2013
Although I enjoy the historical costuming end, I also have a particular love of it even in the modern age. As a result, I'm usually coming up with creative and fun ways to cross over a fashion style that died out over a hundred years ago along with finding fashion pieces that have that Victoriana feel.

Furthering the obsession, I love to read books and watch movies set during the same time period as well. While this blog will mostly be focusing on costume creations and finds, there will no doubt be reviews popping up from time to time about the last best seller book, Masterpiece Theatre series, or Hollywood blockbuster.

So that's my life in a nutshell, a modern person who enjoys the stylish Victorian lady's life. I am looking forward to posting future entries on projects, things I discover with them, my little fashion findings, and other Victoriana tidbits that are bound to pop up. Happy reaading!