Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mastery of Design: Parasol Fittings, 1900-1910

Parasol Handle
English, 1900-1910
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This gleaming handle is part of a set of parasol fittings which includes a handle of wood and gilt covers for the ends of the ribs which support the parasol’s fabric cover. The handle is fashioned of rock crystal which has been engraved with flowers and set with amethysts in gold collets. It is supported by a neck of gold with translucent purple enamel and an applied frieze of laurel swags and ribbon.

Though I can’t find a picture of it, the parasol is still kept in its original rectangular case of dark green leather that has been lined with cream velvet. On the lid of the case, a gold stamp bears the retailers mark: J.C. VICKERY/ 179, 181 & 183 REGENT ST.W.

Antique Image of the Day: Princess Alice of Albany, 1886

Princess Alice of Albany
George Piner Cartland
April, 1886
A gift to Queen Victoria
The Royal Collection

The eldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Albany, Princess Alice married Prince Alexander of Teck (brother of Mary of Teck, Queen Mary, the wife of King George V) in 1904. Prince Alexander would become Earl of Althone thereby making his wife Princess Alice, Countess of Althone—a title which she maintained until her death in 1981.

Here, we see Princess Alice as a young girl of three in this photograph taken in April of 1886. The photograph was presented as a gift to Queen Victoria who had a special fondness for the girl. The little princess poses in her wee coat, holding an umbrella. She is joined by her favorite companion, a little terrier.

Until her death, she was the only remaining grandchild of Queen Victoria, having lived through six reigns: Victoria (her grandmother), Edward VII (her uncle), George V (her cousin and brother-in-law), Edward VIII (her nephew), George VI (her nephew) and Elizabeth II (her grand-niece).

Film of the Week: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964

Let me begin by saying that I adore this film. In my opinion it is one of the most breathtaking color films ever made. Visually, it is a symphony of color. Adding the haunting music of Michel Legrand only makes the experience more powerful.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg was directed by the talented Jacques Demy. Technically an operetta, all of the dialogue is sung—set to music by the brilliant Legrand. Famous songs such as “I Will Wait Forever,” and “Watch What Happens”—staples of the Legrand portfolio—received their start in this gorgeous production.

The film is actually the second in what Jacques Demy considered to be a romantic trilogy. The first was 1961’s Lola and the third was 1967’s Les Desmoiselles de Rochefort. While each film stands up as an individual piece, viewing all three enriches the experience as all of the threads form a dazzling tapestry.

Les Parapluies de Cherbourg stars Catherine Deneuve as a young woman, Genevieve, who is in love. She finds herself sneaking out of her modest home above her mother’s umbrella shop to meet her beloved, Guy, played by Nino Castelnuovo. When Guy finds himself deployed to the Algerian War, Genevieve realizes that she is pregnant. Her mother, though supportive, is also in a terrible situation financially and seeks to make a better life for her daughter. What follows is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

I think I’ll let the film speak for itself. Here is a brief clip of the film’s opening credits and the song, “I Will Wait Forever.” The moving performances, exceptional music and amazing color imagery make Les Parapluies de Cherbourgand unforgettable film.  Its recent restoration has returned the film's original clarity and vibrancy, so, fortunately, many more generations will be able to fall in love with it.

At the Music Hall: Any Umbrellas to Mend Today, 1939

Music Hall Caricature
George Cooke, 1907
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Umbrellas, umbrellas for men
Men's umbrella, Lady
Mend by hand, Lady
Umbrellas to mend

Any umbrellas, any umbrellas to mend today?

Bring your parasol
It may be small, it may be big
He repairs them all
With what you call a thingamajig

Pitter patter patter, pitter patter patter,
Here comes the rain
Let it pitter patter, let it pitter patter,
Don't mind the rain.

He'll mend your umbrella
Then go on his way singing
Any umbrellas to mend today?

When there's a lull
And things are dull
I sharpen knives for all the wives
In the neighbourhood
And I'm very good

I darn a sock
I'll mend a clock
An apple cart
A broken heart
I mend anything

But he'd rather sing
Any umbrellas, any umbrellas to mend today?

He'll patch up your troubles
Then go on his way singing
Any umbrellas to mend today?

He'll patch up your troubles
Then go on his way singing
Any umbrellas to mend today?

Umbrellas for men
Umbrellas for men

“Any Umbrellas To Mend Today?” also known as “The Umbrella Man” was written in 1939 by the team of Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and James Cavanaugh. Recorded by many an artist from that time until today, this comic song remains a popular favorite. 

Enjoy this version by Flanagan and Allen.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 320

Chapter 320 

Oh, it’s quiet.” Maude sighed as she walked into the servants’ hall.

“Enjoy it,” Georgie smiled.

“That’s right.” Ethel said following Maude. “Before you know it, Mrs. P’s gonna want you back in there helpin’ with the tea.”

“Right.” Maude nodded. “It’s to be ever so special today since Miss Lennie’s gentleman suitor is comin’.”

“Fancy Miss Lennie havin’ a suitor.” Georgie grinned.

“Why shouldn’t she?” Ethel frowned.

“No reason.” George shook his head nervously.

“She’s a handsome woman, Miss Lennie is. And, there ain’t a lady what’s got a bigger heart than she.” Ethel said firmly.

“I know.” George replied.

“Then, why’d you say that?” Ethel asked.

“It’s just that…dunno…I think that it’s nice, is all.”

“Well, be careful what you say ‘bout Miss Lennie.” Ethel answered.

“Cor! The two of you. You fight like old marrieds.” Maudie laughed.

“No, we don’t.” George squinted.

“Fancy me marryin’ the likes o’ you.” Ethel muttered.

Maudie sighed.

“What’s so wrong with me?” Georgie scowled.

“No, nothin’.” Ethel shrugged. “If ya like your sort.”

“What sort is that?”

“Oh, ya know.”

“No, I don’t.” George replied.

“So…” Maude interrupted. “The masters are out? I guess that means His Grace is feeling better.”

“He is.” George said. “They’ve gone to the palace to see Their Majesties. Took Miss Lennie with ‘em and all.”

“Well, ain’t you just full o’ information?” Ethel smiled.

“I’m a footman in trainin’.” George answered. “I listen when Charles and Gerard tell me somethin’. It’s a footman’s job to know where the master is, and to know when he’ll be back so he don’t want for nothin’.”

“That’s real clever, Georgie.” Maudie smiled. “What’s the masters doin’ with the Queen?”

“They’re friends.” Ethel answered. “She’s been here to this ‘ouse and all.”

“Cor!” Maude exclaimed.

“Jenny and me, we got paper what the Queen had a present for His Grace wrapped in.” Ethel said proudly, but, soon, her smile faded.

“I’ll bet that was right nice.” Maude said gently, knowing Ethel was thinking of Jenny.

“It was.” Ethel nodded. She cleared her throat.

“Imagine bein’ at the palace.” Maude sighed. “Wonder what it’s like.”

“Prob’ly a lot like them rooms upstairs.” George smiled. “Only bigger.”

“What must it be like to be so rich?” Maudie tilted her head to one side.

“Ain’t no use in dreamin’ o’ it because it ain’t gonna happen.” Ethel chuckled.

“It might.” Maude replied.

“Sure, because Prince Albert Edward is gonna come knockin’ on the area door and say, ‘Pardon me, but I’ve come for Maudie as I wish to make her my bride so that she will be the Princess of Wales.” George teased.

“Well, maybe not the Prince of Wales.” Maude pouted, “but look at Miss Lennie…she didn’t always live in a place like this? Least that’s what Vi told me.”

“No, but she found out she had a brother what’s a Duke.” Georgie laughed. “You have any brothers what you don’t know ‘bout?”

“No.” Maudie shook her head. “But, if I don’t know ‘bout ‘em, how could I know? Maybe I do. Maybe I do at that. Could be ma was the love of a great foreign prince and she gave him a son.”

“Ya think?”

“Have you seen my ma?” Maude smiled.

“No.” Georgie shook his head.

“The only prince who’d ever love her would have to be a blind one.” Maudie giggled.

Suddenly, the area door rattled with the sound of frenzied pounding.

“There’s the Prince of Wales come for you now, Maude.” Georgie stood up.

“You gonna get it?” Ethel asked. “Shouldn’t ya oughta wait for Charles or Gerry or Mr. Speaight?”

“They’re all tendin’ to the upstairs.” George said.

“But, Mr. Speaight said ‘til things calm down, we oughtn’t answer the doors downstairs lest one o’ the senior staff is here.” Ethel said.

“It’s the middle of a bright day. Ain’t no trouble gonna come now.” George shook his head and went to the area door. He opened it cautiously and was nearly knocked over as Fern ran into the servants’ hall.

Did you miss Chapters 1-319 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 321.


Painting of the Day: "Palpitation" by Charles West Cope, 1844

Charles West Cope, 1844
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Considered somewhat scandalous at the time of its creation in 1844, “Palpitation” is as much of a mystery as when it was first exhibited by Charles West Cope. The curators of the Victoria & Albert Museum point out that, “This is an early example of a 'problem picture', in which the subject is rendered in a deliberately ambiguous way to provoke interest and argument among its audience.”

So, what’s the “problem” here? A young woman is waiting for something. It appears to be the delivery of a letter. I don’t know if people get excited about letters anymore. I do. I love finding a letter or a card amongst the usual bills that arrive in the day’s post. But, think about this. Our mail systems—for the most part—are relatively reliable. And, it’s something we’ve come to expect. But, in Britain in the 1840’s, receiving a letter in the post was quite exciting, and still somewhat new. The regular delivery of letters began in 1840. That makes this intense domestic scene all the more topical for the day.

Still, there’s nothing particularly scandalous about that. Is there? Why all the kerfuffle? And, why the title—“Palpitation”? What’s making the young lady so excited?

Well, like all “problem pictures,” there is ambiguity in the meaning of the scene. In this case, it concerns the reason for the “palpitation” of the title. From whom is the lady awaiting a message? Is it from an illicit lover? As the V&A puts it, is it, “a letter she must intercept before others in the household are aware.” Is she trying to hide her lover from her husband? Could be. Let’s look at the clues.

There’s a whip hanging on the stag's horns (themselves a traditional symbol of cuckoldry) and there’s a hat on the table. These indicate a man's presence in the home. These could, of course, belong to a father or brother—even an uncle. So, it may not be a husband. In fact, the sender of the missive may be a legitimate suitor.

Still, there’s plenty of suspense which is all the more heightened by such details as the phial of smelling salts, the bag, umbrella and glove dropped on the floor, and the emphasis on the lock, chain casing and bolts on the door.

She’s palpitating. We’re just not sure if it’s from guilt, fear, or sheer delight. And, that’s the problem.

Cope described this scene as “a young lady waiting for her letter, while the postman and servant are gossiping on the doorstep.” But, there’s a lot more to it than that, and he knew it. I trust he gleefully suffered the scandal, all the while delighting in the trouble he caused with this very handsome work of art.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Victorian Fairing, 19th C.

Porcelain Fairing
Germany, 19th C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Fairings were small porcelain objects (boxes, little cups, vases, etc) of a figural design which were given out as prizes and trinkets at village fairs in Victorian England.  They’re relatively difficult to come by these days since they weren’t really as appreciated at the time as they are today.

The body of this Nineteenth Century fairing is of white porcelain with two figures on the base. One shows a seated man in a dressing gown and night-cap while the other is depicts a woman in casual day attire and a hat, carrying a folded umbrella.  A wee chest of drawers stands behind the figures. The front of the base is outlined in gilding, inscribed with “Missus is Master.”  Ha!

This, like most of the fairings used at British fairs was made in Germany.  Of the factories making them by far the most prolific was Conta and Boehme of Pössneck in Saxony. The subjects of these pieces vary from the innocent (playing children or animals or puns) to the saucy (bedroom frolics or the purely suggestive).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Louise of Denmark "Fly" Box, Early Nineteenth Century

Silver Gilt Box set with European Cut Diamonds and Table-Cut Rubies and Emeralds
Bequest of Queen Louise of Denmark
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In 1926, Queen Mary was bequeathed this handsome, jeweled box from Queen Louise of Denmark.  The silver-gilt box is set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds within a black enamel border.  Curiously, the jewels form the shape of a fly.  

While we know that the box was made in Denmark, it's hard to decide on the year of creation, but all signs point to it having been made in the early Nineteenth Century or Late Eighteenth.

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

Why is the devil riding a mouse like one and the same thing? 

And the answer is... Sin on a Mouse (synonymous).  Oh...for fun.  So, I confess, this was a confusing one.  But,  you all did so well.  Special mention to Darcy, Dashwood, Matt, all of  you, really.

Come back next Friday for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles!

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store.  

Print of the Day: Sheet music cover for "Punchinello Lancers," 1896

Sheet Music for the Punchinello Lancers, 1896
from the George Speaight Punch & Judy Archive
The Victoria & Albert Museum 

Here, we see the sheet music cover for “Punchinello Lancers” by Warwick Williams, published by Francis, Day & Hunter, 1896.  The cover depicts our Mr. Punch holding a puppet labeled “A Wall Flower.” 

The following texts accompanies the music:  


Friday Fun: A Comedy Tonight!

Something familiar,
Something peculiar,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

Nothing with kings, nothing with crowns;
Bring on the lovers, liars and clowns!

Old situations,
New complications,
Nothing portentous or polite;
Tragedy tomorrow,
Comedy tonight!

Something convulsive,
Something repulsive,
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!

There's so much to love about this clip from a 1974 episode of The Carol Burnett Show which features Joel Grey and Vincent Price.  Here, the company begins with a favorite Sondheim tune and launches into a routine which I find wholly amusing.  


Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 319

Chapter 319 
Sure Enough 

You’re sure?” Lennie asked, touching the back of her elaborate coiffure.

“You look like a picture,” Mr. Punch smiled.

“I agree.” Robert nodded.

“I did it without Violet’s help.” Lennie shook her head. “I should have asked Gamilla to dress my hair. But, she’s still training Ruthy, and…well, with Violet recovering I…I…had to do it myself.”

“You did a splendid job.” Robert affirmed her.

“I still can’t believe it.” Lennie fluttered past the men toward the pier mirror in between the two tall windows in Punch’s library.

“That’s just the way I felt when I first went to the palace.” Robert replied.

“But, why…why would Her Majesty request that I come?” Lennie shook her head.

“Because she wants to meet me sister.” Punch answered.

“Did the letter say that?”

“Her Majesty said that since we were coming, we should bring you because she’d like to make your acquaintance.” Robert chimed in.

“How does she even know I exist?” Lennie mumbled.

“We’ve told Their Majesties of you.” Robert responded.

“What’s there to tell?” Lennie shook her head again.

“Much. Much good.” Punch replied.

“Oh…this dress. I’m not sure about this dress. I wish the dove grey one had arrived. I…I don’t know.”

“It’s a beautiful dress.” Punch interrupted.

“The color. I’m not sure about the color. This… It’s probably too bright for court.”

“It’s a lovely color.” Robert smiled.

“But, it’s so…green!” Lennie sighed.

“Lennie.” Punch began.

“I know.” Lennie sat down. “I’m sorry.”

“Ain’t nothin’ to be sorry for. I understand, I do. You’re nervous. It’s daunting, it is, to go the palace at any time, but the first time is always the most frightenin’. But, Her Majesty wants to meet ya because of the good things we said ‘bout ya.”

“What if I act a fool?”

“You won’t.” Robert shook his head.

“Listen, Lennie, if she don’t think me a fool, she’s not gonna think you one.” Punch joked. “Just think of it as meetin’ an old friend of your brother’s.”

“Who happens to be the Queen.” Lennie replied.

“We showed ya what to do and you know how to address Her Majesty.” Punch said gently. “Otherwise, just talk to her as you would a trusted lady.”

Speaight entered the library. “Your Grace, the carriage is at the ready.”

“We’ll be down in a moment.” Punch nodded.

After Speaight exited, Lennie shivered. “I think I may be sick. My corset is too tight.”

“You will not be sick.” Punch shook his head. “What your’e gonna be is brilliant. I’m sure of it.”

“I wish I could be so sure.”

“You don’t gotta be sure.” Punch smiled. “I’m sure ‘nough for both of us.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-318 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 320. 


Drawing of the Day: The George Scharf Punch and Judy Show

Drawing by George Scharf
The British Museum

This sketch was drawn from life in the early Nineteenth Century. 
 It depicts a Punch and Judy puppet show being watched in the street.  The drawing is the work of George Scharf and does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of these street-side performances which are still performed to this day.

Punch and Judy "professors" still use the same kind of fit-ups (booths).  In fact, I've seen some which were modeled on this drawing with its decorative figures of Mr. Punch and his wife and "Joey the Clown" who acts as something of a Master of Ceremonies and interpreter for the show.  Even the misspelled sign is indicative of the joy of these wonderful shows.  I think it's marvelous that three and a half centuries (to the day, today) after Punch and Judy was first recorded as being performed in Britain, that he's being kept alive.  We need to do all that we can to ensure that this tradition remains strong and thriving for another three centuries and beyond.  

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Monsieur Mazurier as Punchinello, 19th C.

Monsieur Mazurier in the Character of Punchinello
Nineteenth Century
W. Day & Co.
Harry Beard Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Let’s begin this sniffly-snuffly, pollen-filled day with another print from the V&A. This one, is not from the George Speaight Punch and Judy Archive, however. It is part of the Harry Beard Collection. My springtime allergies are so extreme today, my eyes are crossed and burning, so, let’s see if I can actually make out the image at all. Yes. I’m ready.

This Nineteenth Century print depicts the celebrated (at the time) actor Monsieur Mazurier dressed as Mr. Punch.

Admittedly, the image is a little odd. The original artist is unknown. However, the lithograph was created by the W. Day and Co. where it was hand-tinted with watercolors.

I like it quite a lot. Monsieur Mazurier is shows in two poses. The pose in the back is shown in lighter, fuzzier colors to give the impression of motion and shows Mr. Punch perfoming a feat of acrobatics with a tree limb.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: King Bertie I

"Move over.  You smell like gin."

Image:  King George IV, after Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830_. c. 1822-30, Oil on Panel, Acquired by Queen Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-1901), 1899, Crown Copyright, The Royal Collection, Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

You, too, could have a cup of tea with Bertie. Or, you could wear his picture proudly. Visit our online store to see our range of Gratuitous Bertie Dog products.

Mastery of Design: The Sailor's Hat Brooch, 1900

Reverse Crystal Intaglio Brooch
England, 1900
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A reverse crystal intaglio of a sailor's hat with the ribbon inscribed: HMS MINOTAUR is the central jewel of this brooch. The intaglio is set on a gold bar brooch. The piece was made in England in 1900. 

Not much is known about the piece. Most likely, it was made to commemorate the naval service of a loved one for whom the brooch was made. 

Bertie's Pet-itations: C'Mon Get Happy

Here's Bertie's weekly opportunity to share his ideas for creating our new "Beautiful Age."  Bertie's advice, I'm sure, can be applied to many different areas of our lives.

And, so, I happily hand the computer over to him.

Bertie says:

Sometimes, just sitting together is the best treat.

History's Runway: The Mirman Amoeboid Cocktail Hat, 1950

Cocktail Hat
Simone Mirman, 1950s
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The famed English Simone Mirman designed custom-made hats to coordinate with any dress or ensemble. Additionally, her boutique offered a vast array of ready-to-wear evening and cocktail hats in various unusual shapes which would have not only been versatile accessories for any sort of outfit, but would have sat neatly upon the popular sleek hairstyles of fashionable women.

Mirman was inspired by mid-Twentieth Century scientific discoveries. Her fascination with science of the day--atoms and cell structures—served as a muse for patterns and original forms such as the shape of this bejeweled silk cap which was inspired by the undulating shape of an amoeba.

Mirman created this clasp hat of beige embroidered silk twill, lace and beads in the early 1950s as part of the line of amoeboid-shaped pieces offered in her boutique. 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 318

Chapter 318 

Oh, oh, oh.” Ulrika chirped as she came down the stairs. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Fern turned around, red-faced, and pressed her back against the tall front door of Hamish House. “Nowhere.”

“Just polishing the doorknob, are you?” Ulrika grinned.


“Really, Fern.” Ulrika chortled. “I know you think you’re clever, but, really, there’s nothing you can do that I’ve not already done—and much better. We told you that we weren’t going to lock you up, but if you’re going to be a little imp, well…”

“Please…” Fern pleaded. “Please, just let me go.”

“Go?” Ulrika howled. “Go where?”

“I’d like to go back to the Duke of Fallbridge.”

“Really?” Ulrika laughed. “If I recall correctly, dear, didn’t I open the door last night to find you running from there?”

“I was wrong.” Fern said.

“Oh, poor dear.” Ulrika feigned a pout. “Don’t you like it here?”


“What can we do to make you more comfortable?” Ulrika winked. “Would you like me to talk like a servant? Shall I fancy that I’m a puppet? Maybe I’ll be Judy. Yes, you can call me Judy. Then, perhaps you’ll feel at home.”

Fern whimpered.

“Really, Fern. You have no reason to complain. This is the very house in which you lived with your mother.”


“Well, either way. You’re familiar with the place. We’ve even given you your old room. And, I’m sure the house is filled with memories.”

“It is.”

“Were you here when your mother hanged herself?” Ulrika grinned. She pointed above herself. “I didn’t get to see it. But, the noose was still here. Hanging from that pillar…just there. She must have tied it around and jumped from the balcony. Now, that, Fern, is true cleverness.”

Fern began to sob.

“And, just think, dear. Both of your parents died in this house.” She sighed. “Ah…well, not everyone can be as fortunate.” Her eyes brightened. “Speaking of your father, Giovanni spent most of the night reassembling him. You did a fine, fine job collecting his pieces. Have you seen him yet? He’s almost whole. Go and look. He’s in the dining room.”

“No!” Fern shouted.

“Really, nothing is good enough for you, is it?” Ulrika inhaled.

“If you let me go,” Fern sobbed, “the Duke will give you anything you want. He’s very, very wealthy.”

“I know.” Ulrika nodded. “One of the wealthiest men in your country.”

“He’ll give you anything. Just let me go.”

“Will he?” Ulrika laughed. “First of all, your puppet Duke mandrake hates me. And, then, there’s another problem. Why would he want you back? It’s not as if you’re a relative of his. You were just some orphan who was given to him. He already has one orphan. And, that one has his own blood in him. He’s got a son and heir because of it. What good is some weasel of a girl to him?”

“He wants me.”

“Does he? Really? Is it because you were so kind and sweet while you were there? Were you helpful and gentile? Did you make everyone love you with your charm?”

Fern was silent.

“I didn’t think so.” Ulrika laughed. “Now, if you don’t want to visit with your father, you’d best go see Marduk. He’s waiting for you with your Auntie Orpha. You know…you look a bit like her. If you had one hand, you’d look even more like her.”

Fern gasped and pressed her hands together.

“I should like you to look more like your Auntie.” Ulrika grinned. “And, if I ever see you touching the knob of that front door again, well…let’s just say you’ll be twins.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-317 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them
here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 319.

Unusual Artifacts: A Horsehair Hat by Simone Mirman, 1953

Simone Mirman, 1953
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Paris-born milliner Simone Mirman began her career working with fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris before coming to London in 1947. Mirman took an unusual approach to her millinery practice, preferring to think of her hats as ‘objects d’art’ as opposed to utilitarian objects. Her business began slowly, but from her attic workshop she soon gained momentum and was able to open a couture millinery salon in London. Of her many famous clients, she was most popular with the Royal family—making unusual hats for Princess Margaret Rose from 1953 and, later, for the Queen and the Queen Mother from the 1960s onward.

This hat made for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 shows Simone Mirman’s sense of play and artistry. Here, we see that she’s adorned this horsehair creation with diminutive rosebuds . Made in the “coolie-style,” this hat was meant to transition from summer to chillier seasons. Creations such as this brought a great deal of attention to Mirman, and her popularity soared during the 1953 coronation year when her work was considered the utmost of chic. 

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Silk Top Hat, 1900-1910

Frequently a silk hat is never seen between Sunday and Sunday. Churchgoers still, to a certain extent, affect it, but in these days of outdoor life, bicycling, and so on, the costume worn by men in church is experiencing the same modifications that characterise it in other department.
--“Manners for Men,” by Mrs Humphry ('Madge of Truth')

Top Hat
James Locke & Co.
The Victoria & Albert Museum
No Nineteenth or Early Twentieth Century gentleman’s evening attire was complete without the proper headgear—a top hat. Tall, high-crowned hats with a narrow brim (which was most often slightly turned up on the sides), top hats, in the Nineteenth Century, were worn in black for evenings, but sometimes, for sporting and casual events, they could be grey or brown. For a brief period in the early Nineteenth Century, pale colors between off-white and gray were worn with sporting dress from about 1820, and into the 1840s were acceptable for a man’s daily wardrobe. 

The top hat reached the apex of its popularity during the 1840s and 1850s as the middle classes had greater access to manufactured attire. After 1850, new styles emerged, such as the straw boater and soft felt hat, but the most popular of the trendy new styles was the bowler. The rise of the bowler challenged the predominance of the top hat in daily use, but they remained the height of evening fashion. 

The advent of the collapsible top hat (called a “gibus”) came in the 1840s and was often worn with evening dress. The gibus worked by means of an accordion of corded silk or cloth over a metal framework, allowing it to be opened easily and closed so that it could easily be carried under the arm.

This particular hat is made of silk as opposed to some which were made from felted beaver fur (and consequently called “beavers). This model by the English firm James Locke and Co. dates between 1900 and 1910.