When Fashion is Your Muse – Part 3- (Fashionphile Focus)

If you love fashion, then I’m sure some part of you loves history- am I right?  Well, that’s certainly the case for me- period costumes will get me every time; whether it’s at the museum, online, or at the movies (hello Netflix).  Jaw-dropping gorgeousness that swifts you back in time…

I’ve grown attached (historically that is😉 to not only the fantastic outfits of the past, but also the ‘fashionistas’ of the time.  Creating a style that went hand in hand with their rank, but even moreso with their large personalities, these historical figures have also become my fashion Muses.

Setting the pace as human fashion plates, styling their looks according to their ‘personal stylists’ (more about these in another post!).  Ravishing, often decadent and certainly luxurious- the craftmanship of their garments has no such comparison.  Clothes definitely made to last!

So- without taking you into a History of Fashion course here (I could though- because that’s one of the courses I do teach!)- Here are some of my favourite historical figures and a bit about them- Check out their style!

Well, you just know I’m gonna start with Marie Antoinette, how could I not?!  Reigning queen of fashion, the beautiful and much- maligned queen of the French was hated from the beginning (primarily because she was Austrian) but also because she was thought of as an over-indulging and frivolous queen.  If you do drop Hollywood and read the real history- you’ll see that she was wrongly accused in so many ways- But, now onto fashion!  Yes- she was the ultimate fashionista with the most superb style (thanks to her stylist- for another post!)  Next…

Do you know Diane de Poitiers?  She was the gorgeous (and much older) mistress of the French King Henri II.  Known for her beauty, brain and style- this fashion icon led the scene even more so than the queen (Catherine de Medici) herself!  Her beauty potions to keep her young included washing her skin with pure gold ( and ingesting too…which leads to speculations about her death).  Next…

Madame de Pompadour (Louis XV’s mistress) was a breathtaking beauty.  Tending and doting on the King was a never ending, all-consuming task (due to his insatiable sexual appetite).  Not always upto it, especially since she was becoming ill and very frail- Madame de Pompadour still enjoyed the king’s company as he did hers.  But a king needs to be satisfied…What does she do?  She selects a group of young, very, very willing seductresses (that weren’t too bright at all).  Thus satisfying the king’s lusts without ever wanting to replace his mistress for he loved her mind so much.  (BTW, the king was not even aware of de Pompadour’s setting this all up!).  Oh did I mention (sorry for going astray there)- she was the best dressed lady in court.  Her fashion reputation still stands today. Next…

Veronica Franco the great Venetian courtesan of the 16th c was known (amongst other qualities) for her literary and artistic accomplishments.  But- we’re talking fashion- so!  Obviously wearing more audacious and seductive attire, courtesans of the day were ornately styled up!  Expensive and sought out materials adorned their bodies- and often set trends way before nobility and royalty…Not very difficult to believe if you think that their lovers were mostly men of the highest ranks who could muster up the most exquisite gifts at a whim in exchange for the courtesan’s art. Veronica Franco was also a mistress to King Henry III of France.  Let’s just say her wardrobe must have been over the top. Next…

Let’s get into history’s influencer muse…the Countess of Castiglione.  This beauty set up her own photo shoots- leaving a lasting  legacy that still follows her today.  The photo shoots were way ahead of her times, artistically speaking, and she made quite the reputation for herself.  She came from a highly aristocratic family.  Her beauty was immeasurable and so was her charm.  So much so that her uncle sent her to France to butter up Napoleon III to reunify Italy.  Suffice it to say that the liaison was short , but worked!  In the meantime, she made quite an impression as she became the icon to follow.  The French relished in her looks – she became known as the Queen of hearts- again, because of a famous photo-shoot (above left). Next…

Oh dear, have you heard of Marchesa Luisa Caschi? Eccentricity to the max! Muse to several artist of the early 19th c,  the Marchesa was an outrageous fashionista.  She collected a menagerie of exotic animals- and could be found walking them in the parks.  Anyway- her style was incomparable and trend setting as well! Next…

Looking for some good od Renaissance fashion.  Look no further than the utterly breathtaking Giulia Farnese (seductress to the Pope)- you may have seen her on the Borgia’s (but that’s Hollywood).  In reality, she was forced into that relationship.  And- being in a relationship with the most powerful man (probably on the planet back then – there was no higher rank)- Giulia got what Giulia wanted in exchange.  And what did Giulia love more than jewels and the latest fashion (not much more really).  Being the beauty she was- Giulia was the trend setting Madonna of the Roman hills; with a scandalous painting of her representing the Virgin… Next…

How can we look at historical fashionistas and not talk about Cleopatra!  Oh my goodness- this Greek sublimeness (yes she was Greek; from the line of Ptolemy- descendants of Alexander the Great)- No other woman on earth could have been more powerful.  She had first pick on everything and gold was her element of choice!  Ornate you say?  Who would I pick as her doppelganger…Cher of course!  What do you think? Next…

Leaving you with my two favourite historical women in fashion.  Starting with Alienore (Eleanor) of Aquitaine.  Power you ask?  Notorious Fashion Queen of the Mideival.  She was all about silk, fine wool and gems, gold…lots of gold.  Her beauty matched her unharnessed strength.  There’s a recounting of her while married to the French King Louis VII on their trip through Palestine during the Crusades, where Alienore rode with her ladies through battle, loose long hair looking like Amazons.  There’s so much to her power and strength, every girl and woman should read up on her. Next…

Lastly, Josephine Bonaparte- my all time favourite muse!  Impeccable style this Martinique beauty (the Rose of Martinique) was the Viktoria Beckham fashionista of the 18thc.  She caught Bonaparte’s fancy and that was it!  He made her Empress.  She is well-known for the ‘empire’ style dress (more on her stylist as well in a later post!) Empire because she was an empress.

There are more! But I didn’t want this post to be never-ending! If you want to see more, please visit my Historical Fashion Muses Board on Pinterest- can check it out HERE

Here’s just a glimpse:

#Confessionoftheday: There’s a bit of each of these muses in every woman I believe…but I’d rather just pick colorful elements from their fashion sense rather than their lifestyle- oof!

MY LATEST POSTS…

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What Did Lucy Read? The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn- Review

Have you ever read a Kate Quinn book? She writes some of the best historical fiction books ever. I just finished “The Alice Network” by her. Not only do I jump on all her books as soon as they’re out- but as well, this one came highly recommended by Reese Witherspoon for her book club. Reese raved about it. I love Quinn’s books, so here I am to rave about this one myself.

Set about a few years after 1945, The Alice Network (the renowned network of women spies who helped fight the Germans and end WW1), is brought to us through the retelling of Eve’s own life as a spy in that First World War. Eve, somewhere in her late 50’s when she meets the young and pregnant Charlie ( Charlotte) while the latter is on the search for her lost cousin- who is presumed to have died in WW2 ( Charlie is on a mission to prove she isn’t).

The book portrays Eve as a bitter and angry woman for all the danger, abuse and horrors she suffered as a spy. Could the retelling of the history and incidents in her life help Charlie solve the puzzle to find her cousin? There’s much that Charlie learns- about herself, life, the baby she is not sure whether she will keep…she may even find love…enter the Scottish rake, Finn;) And, finally, I can’t omit another pivotal character, the horrible and retched Rene Bordelon.

Running the lives, thoughts and experiences of both these women, by switching back and forth between characters and eras, is Kate Quinn’s specialty. This adds so much tension and need to read more. Quinn sails us through their lives from past to present while we relive both wars and the twists of fate and danger; Let’s just say it makes for an incredibly exciting read. I was totally hooked.

But what grabbed me the most though, was that network of spies that Eve was a part of. Women who dedicated their lives, their being and self for true patriotic commitment to their country; Especially the ring leader who is the focus of The Alice Network. A commemorated and glorified heroin, Louise de Bettignies, a real historical figure, is highlighted by Quinn throughout the book. In fact, most of the characters in The Alice Network are based on true historical figures. Most of the scenes that help tell the story are also factual; taking you back to the times, making you feel like all of it really did happen.

I became obsessed with this book, which led me to doing my own researching afterwards. It fascinates me when I think about the power and strength that can grow within a network of women committed for a truly good and heroic cause. Dismissed as frail and feeble minded, they trudged on and fooled everyone by becoming the greatest spy network ever -still talked about today.

A quick and fast-paced read- You gotta get this book.

#confessionoftheday: snuck downstairs in the middle of the night to finish those last twenty pages.

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