The Victorian with an X-Factor

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When it comes to style in today’s world, there’s not too much that shocks us to our core that we’d banish anyone from our sight. Just recall how we’ve reacted to celebrities and entertainers and their choice of garments in just the last 20 years. Sure we are sometimes in awe (good and bad) by the choice of style that someone may wear but it’s not too often an outfit sends us into a tailspin.

Unfortunately, this non-nonchalant attitude towards fashion wasn’t the same during the Victorian Era. This was put to the test when John Singer Sargent, an American Artist, decided to capture the beauty of socialite, Virginie Avegno Gautreau, in 1800s Paris, France.

You may have seen this painting before in an art or history class:

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The famous painting received it’s notoriety because of the brazen way the artist painted his subject by showing so much skin (something we’re definitely not shocked by in today’s age). Both the artist and the model did not receive the reception they were hoping. The painting was debuted in 1884 under the title Portrait de Mme *** at the Paris Salon.  Viewers were shocked by the “distastefulness” this portrait portrayed of a beautiful married socialite. Sargent was asked by her mother to withdraw the exhibition but he refused by saying he painted her, “exactly as she was dressed, that nothing could be said of the canvas worse than had been said in print of her appearance.”  He later altered the painting by raising the shoulder strap up to make it seem more securely fastened as opposed to practically falling off her body; which apparently must have sent many people into fainting spells. He also changed the title from Portrait de Mme *** to what it is known as today, Madame X.

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The model and muse, Gautreau, was humiliated by the ordeal and Sargent permanently moved to London. Sargent remained proud of his work as he displayed it in his studio and later sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gautreau did not allow the humiliation to linger too many years as she posed for another artist,  Gustave Courtois, in another setting in a similar dress that revealed a bit more skin. She rounded out her modeling career by posing for Antonio de la Gandara in the late 1800s.

So as you can see, art and fashion have come a long way throughout the 20th century and “Madame X” may have started it all with her Victorian x-factor.

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An Enchantment with the Edwardian Era

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You may have heard the term, “Old Soul.” Typically it’s used to describe a person that is wise beyond their years, has one foot in the past or celebrates history in some kind of way. Buzzfeed has a great checklist for signs you’re an old soul which you can read here (I said yes to some of these; can’t say I didn’t partake in a party phase in my twenties 😉 ).

If you’ve perused my blog you may have gathered that I’m kind of an old soul. I love history and feverishly can’t get enough of anything between the late 1800s up until the 1940s. It’s who I am and I’ve had a love for all things historical for a long time.

I bought an Edwardian blouse from Wildfell Hall Vintage a few months ago. She is delicate and I knew she deserved another spot in the limelight. So what better way to give her this than a photo shoot?! So I talked to my friends of And How! Imaging and we made some Edwardian magic.

Check out the photos from our recent photo shoot where we channeled my inner-Gibson girl. 🙂

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A precious, mouldering pleasure ‘t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think

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Because I could not stop for Death–
He kindly stopped for me– 
The Carriage held but just Ourselves– 
And Immortality

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Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay

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By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,
On a black throne reigns upright

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“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
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A Toast to Trousers!

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“The silhouette is the most important thing in clothes. Every French girl knows that. High-waisted trousers give you long legs and a pretty bum which, after all, is what we all want.” ~ Lou Doillon

I must confess about my love of 1940s trousers. Which is why I am raising my glass in honor of trousers; women’s trousers specifically. Because they’re just so damn awesome. 🙂

My mom once told me that when I was a kid my family called me Cindy Lauper. Simply because I insisted on dressing myself and would throw together quite an eclectic ensemble. As I evolved as a teenager, my eclectic-ness grew to gothic, hippie, preppy and vintage. My high school photos are evidence of this. But of all these different styles, vintage was one that was always the constant as I always included something vintage in my style or wardrobe.

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As an adult, I continued my love for vintage style and its pretty much been how I dress myself. I even compare vintage clothes shopping as if I was planning an exquisite trip. It’s a big deal and something I thoroughly look forward to. I’m more inclined to wear a vintage or vintage re-production dress or skirt, although, I do done the occasional pants as well.

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Over the past several years I’ve closely abandoned wearing jeans. I do occasionally but not frequently. I hate hip-hugger jeans as I think they do quite the opposite as to what they were invented to do; flatter. Because, sorry (not sorry), I have hips. My natural waist, on the other hand, I’ve grown to love. Wearing your pants at your natural waist while growing up in the 1990s was a fashion faux-pas. Because, as mentioned before, hip hugger jeans where all the rage and anything else was jeans taboo. But if you’re a vintage clothing aficionado like me, you’ve realized that vintage clothing and the natural waist were a match made in heaven. I’m so glad because I’ve learned how much more flattering it is to wear your bottom separate pieces there and not like a hula hoop around your hips.

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So like anything else I’m determined about, I set sail on the internet’s vast ocean to find the perfect 1940s trousers. My search didn’t take me too long as I came across a United Kingdom company called Vivien of Holloway. I hit the jackpot because this vintage clothing-inspired UK company carries a plethora of 1940s women’s trousers. Here are a few pictures of one of the pairs I own (I’m quickly acquiring a collection).

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These terrific trousers are the most flattering and best of all, comfortable! The high waist, side buttons, front and back ironed crease and cuffs at the bottom scream sophistication. They are the epitome of an androgynous style. Which I’ve always considered my style androgynous. You can wear them with an array of tops and mix and match. Vivien of Holloway has a great collection of colors. These pants aren’t just for the colder seasons either; there are many colors that can be worn in the spring or summer seasons too. So go ahead and step into a pair of these vintage-inspired gems!

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Take A Brow

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I started wearing makeup at an early age. When I was 13 I asked if I could and my request was granted. I was then taken to the nearest store in search of mascara and eyeliner because I had no idea the various types of makeup to wear. Those were the only two items I bought. It was a start and proof that I had a lot to learn about the cosmetic world.

There are times when I wish I could go back and tell my 14-year old self not to over-pluck my eyebrows. I present to you Exhibit A: my freshman high school picture.

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Here I am with my black, heavy-rimmed eyes and tons of black mascara. No foundation, no blush and no lip gloss or lipstick of any kind. It was the mid-90s and I was super gothic so there’s my explanation.

When I was 16 I bought Kevyn Aucoin‘s makeup book, Making Faces. I’m sure I saw it on MTV or some fashion show that featured it. I devoured that book when I got it. I read it cover to cover learning all about cosmetics and the different looks I could achieve. That book was, and still is to this day, like magic to me.

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So back to my over-plucked brows. I seriously wish I could tell the teenage girl me to knock it off with the over-tweasing. But since I can’t I time travel, I had to come up with another solution. Luckily, I’ve met some great professional makeup artists over the years that have shown me the way to be a makeup Jedi. I learned that I didn’t have to continue to be ashamed of my lack of eyebrows and I learned how important they are. So much that if it’s a day I’m not going to wear any makeup, I’ll fill in my brows at least. It’s amazing how much your eyebrows define your face.

I was recently given the most lovely gift from my sister from another mister, Johnnie Mae‘s brother, Ryan. He is a professional makeup artist in California. He gave me Too Faced‘s Brow Envy brow shaping & defining kit. I could not wait to try it! Below is some before and after and photos of the product.
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The case is so pretty and the kind you can nicely display on a vanity if you wanted to. It’ll also be vintage gold in about 50 years because of it’s timeless look. It came with a fold-out tutorial and three individual eyebrow stencils: So Sweet, Too Pretty and Super Sexy. The tutorial gives great and easy step-by-step instructions to create a classic Hollywood eyebrow. I LOVE the setting wax and highlighter. Makeup tip: the highlighter is a great way to shape up the eyebrow and basically make the lovely eyebrow you just created pop. 🙂
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