The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"How to be Handsome," from 1891.

Photo: Linda Bigelow. ca. 1891.
Where is the woman who would not be beautiful? If such there be—but no, she does not exist. From that memorable day when the Queen of Sheba made a formal call on the late lamented King Solomon until the recent advent of the Jersey Lily, the power of beauty has controlled the fate of dynasties and the lives of men. How to be beautiful, and consequently powerful, is a question of far greater importance to the feminine mind than predestination or any other abstract subject. If women are to govern, control, manage, influence, and retain the adoration of husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers, or even cousins, they must look their prettiest at all times. All women cannot have good features, but they can look well, and it is possible to a great extent to correct deformity and develop much of the figure. The first step to good looks is good health, and the first element of health is cleanliness. Keep clean—wash freely, bathe regularly. All the skin wants is leave to act, and it takes care of itself."
-- from The Every Day Cook and Recipe Book, 1891. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Godey tells us why we should wear real flowers instead of fake ones.

La Mode Illustree, 1867.
“Natural Ornaments.

‘The month of roses’ reminds us how few ladies make use of the most charming of all ornaments for the hair and dress, natural flowers.  They load themselves with impossible clusters of muslin roses and jessamine, with dangling pendants of glass and wax, called jet and coral by courtesy; they flash bugles and spangles into your eyes with every turn of the head, while the pendant wreaths of the Spicra Reevsi, and the graceful racemes of the laburnum and the ‘bleeding heart’, or the perfumed cups of the valley lily, are perishing, unnoticed, in the lawn and garden.
But they fade so soon?
A little experience and judgment will teach you how many blossoms will outlast the evening, and what foliage will shade them most effectively.
They are only suited to young girls?
from Lise's Garden clipart
Some of them may seem more appropriate for maidenhood, it is true; but must the young wife forego the tuft of snowy hawthorn, or the crimson petals of rose and carnation?  the glossy ivy leaf, and the fragrant tips of the arbor vitae and ground laurel?  A single spray of rosebuds, a branch of golden-hued laburnum, or snowy acacia, is far more effective as an ornament, if tastefully disposed, than all the stiff, glittering, hollow, gaudy baubles that one could find at Bordman’s or Crenange’s.  Try it for your next party, and do not ask your intimate female friend, or your showy neighbor, with her diamond spray, what the effect is, but depend on the judgment of your husband or lover.” 
-- from Godey's Lady's Book, June 1860.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beauty tips from "Aunt Deborah", Civil War-style.

Godey fashion plate, 1860.  The Costumer's Manifesto.
I dare say many ladies will set me down for a very plain and old-fashiond person, when I say that, for cleansing and softening the skin, the most simple and the most useful articles are soft water and soap, followed by the use of a coarse cloth.  Rain-water is the best, but most water may be rendered sufficiently soft by putting into it a small pinch of the washing or bleaching powders now so much in use.  Soap, in addition to a proper proportion of alkali, should contain so much oily matter as may mechanically soften the skin and promote its smoothness.  I will furnish a receipt or two for the manufacture of suitable soap, or wash-balls, though good almond or Castile soap will generally answer the purpose.  The process will be rendered still more easy and pleasant, if lukewarm water be used instead of cold, but a final rinsing in cold water will be an improvement. 
-- from Godey's Lady' Book, February 1860. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dress up and walk in the parade on the 4th of July!

This is for San Jose, CA-area residents only: A friend of mine told me that the people who are organizing the Rose, White & Blue 4th of July parade in San Jose were looking for more groups to participate, and suggested a group of costumers. I think it's a great idea so I'm getting together some friends from my tea guild and various other groups to dress up and walk in the parade.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New costume finished: 1849 day dress.

Photo: Virginia Urbach.
This is a costume I've had on my "to do" list for quite a while.  Although I don't really have a favorite period of history, I do have a few favorite fashion history periods, and the late 1840s are one of those favorite periods.  Other people think the 1840s are boring because the styles are comparatively plain, but my taste runs to the simple, and I find the fashion of other parts of the Victorian era way too over-decorated.  I think the 1840s are elegant, and the styles flattering to almost everyone's figure: petticoats add softness to people who are too thin, and conceal hip, butt, and stomach bulk for the rest of us, and corsets control and smooth out the lumps and bumps everyone else has, plus make you stand up straight, which makes you look thinner anyway.  It's not about having an 18-inch waist (we all know teeny-tiny teenage girls who are that small naturally), but smoothing out the figure and above all, *optical illusion*!  I look like a blob in my regular clothing, but in a corset and petticoats, I have an hourglass figure.  It's like a magic trick!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It's Iced Tea Month -- despite the rain!

Moroccan Mint tea by Nicolas Mailfait.
June is Iced Tea Month here in the United States, and while the recent rain reminds us that it's technically still spring, the month of June can experience temperatures high enough here in the Santa Clara Valley to make iced tea really refreshing.  While cold tea, served with or without ice in the glass, has been a familiar drink in the United States since the middle of the 1800s, especially in the warm Southern states, “iced” tea is generally agreed to have been “invented” – at least formally introduced – to Americans at the 1906 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.  Iced tea became a sensation and has remained a popular warm-weather beverage ever since then. 

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)