Monday, February 27, 2012

Sipping Vintage

Louise Brooks pouring Irish whiskey.

Here in Las Vegas, we have a zillion bars and places of get drinks. Whatever kind you want and whatever atmosphere. I gravitate to restaurants. And about a year or so ago, Sage in Aria opened up. The food I don't remember so well, but the bar is amazing! They have an entire page of "vintage drinks." Click here to see the menu. Scroll down to Classic Cocktails.

The bar at Sage in the Aria. Via.

The first time my husband and I went, the bartender... ahem... mixologist, was eager to explain the history behind these drinks. I had always heard that cocktails came about during prohibition, when cheap liquor was so unpalatable that people started mixing, but our mixologist explained that mixed drinks were around long before that, and drinks that come to mind from the prohibition era are usually from Europe, where people could drink as much as they like.

Ever since, my husband and I have made an effort to try all kinds of these vintage drinks, which are coincidentally popping up more and more on menus around town. Our favorite so far is the Last Word, a bright green and very strong drink, concocted of equal parts gin, lime juice, maraschino liqueur and green chartreuse. The history of this drink, as said by Ted Saucier in Bottoms Up (1951), is it's a prohibition era cocktail, attributed to the Detroit Athletic Club. Wherever it comes from, cheers!

Recently, in the Ralph Lauren store at the Palazzo, I found two reproduction 1895 bar books: The Mixicologist by C. F. Lawlor and Modern American Drinks by George J. Kappeler. I absolutely love them! The covers are like the originals! And so are the insides. You can buy them online as well, at Cocktail Kingdom

Some other great books for vintage drinks are Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie and Vintage Cocktails by Assoulin.

And a couple recipes to try out...

Last Word (My favorite)
Equal parts gin, lime juice, maraschino liqueur, and green chartreuse. Shake with ice and strain. Serve up. 

Negroni (My second favorite)
Equal parts campari, gin and sweet vermouth. Shake with ice and strain. Serve up with a burnt orange twist. Or serve over ice fora daytime drink.
(This drink is a little bitter. For a smoother drink, you can use Aperol instead of Campari and Lillet Blanc instead of sweet vermouth. This is how they make it at The Mandarin Oriental Bar).

To Frappe Champagne (from The Mixicologist, 1895)
Place the bottle in the champagne pail, fill with fine ice and salt; whirl or twist the bottle several times, and it will become almost frozen.
(My notes: you should of course use a champagne saucer or coupe for that vintage experience. Champagne flutes did not become popular until later. Flutes show off the bubbles. Actually, according to Arthur Inch in Dinner is Served, gentlemen used to carry around their own swizzle stick to remove the bubbles from their champagne!)

Brandy Sangaree (From Modern American Drinks, 1895)
Fill a mixing glass half-full of fine ice, add half a tablespoon of fine sugar, one jigger brandy; shake well and strain, grate nutmeg on top.
(Can also be made with gin, port wine or sherry in place of brandy)


Thursday, February 23, 2012

If Grace Kelly lived in the 1700's, or Dior does panniers.



In the Spring Couture 2012 collection, Dior does some fabulous ball gowns, some with some very 18th century silhouettes. But in true Dior style, 1950's glamour shines as well. 

See the whole fashion show here on Coco Perez. Some really beautiful pieces!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Calisthenics for Ladies and Turn of the Century Gym Clothes

From Cassell's Household Guide
via Victorian London.

From Cassell's Household Guide, Volume One:

"THE word "calisthenics" is derived from the Greek, "kalos," beautiful; and "sthenos," strength; the object of calisthenic exercises being to secure physical beauty by developing the limbs and muscles of the human frame, and making the joints flexible, thereby giving strength and power, and ensuring a graceful carriage, erect bearing, and freedom to the figure...  

It is a very usual plan in America and France, where the subject has been carefully studied, to wear a special costume, consisting of a loose blouse, with a sash at the waist, and Turkish trousers; or in place of the blouse, a Garibaldi bodice and skirt; dark blue serge with white or scarlet braid, or unglazed holland with the same sort of trimming, are most in favour, being both strong and light. Grey and red is another favourite mixture. The boots should be an easy fit, with low heels. Our illustration (Fig. 1) will show that such a dress, while ensuring perfect ease and liberty of action to the wearer, is by no means unbecoming."

Browse the rest of the chapter on calisthenics. Fascinating!

California, 1912.
Holding a weighted exercise stick.
The Vintage Traveler.

Circa 1865-70.
Missing the overskirt.
The Vintage Traveler.

Cotton, c.1910.
The Vintage Traveler.

From My Ear Trumpet Has Been
Struck by Lighting

From the Victorian Picture Library.

Can you imagine what they would have thought of kick boxing and ladies in MMA?! Smelling salts please!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Whiting and Davis Art Deco Bag

Adorable! This Whiting and Davis Armor mesh bag dates from the 1920's and has a lovely organic motif decorating the mesh. The top of the bag has a green and black art deco enamel design. The only thing this bag is missing is its original fabric lining. Not too hard to restore and it's the perfect size and shape for my phone!

For more on Whiting and Davis, click here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A 1920's Wrist Watch

I wish this watch photographed better. It absolutely twinkles! 

This watch is a Lady Elgin from the 20's. My husband bought it for me and as of yet I haven't had a chance to wear it. But I am excited to!

The watch is white gold set with a few diamonds here and there. The strap is the original black cord. It latches at the ends and has a little chain that attaches as well in case the latch unclasps. Truly dainty!

Elgin Watch Ad (1926). American Artchives.

From The Saturday Evening Post.

Designer collaboration with Callot Soeurs.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Edwardian Opera Gloves

The ubiquitous opera glove. No turn of the century costume would be complete without them. I found some beautiful ones recently on Ruby Lane, but they are much too small for my (or probably anyone's) hands. They are in lovely condition though, so maybe I will put them up on the boutique soon. I don't like to keep things I can't use. I just don't have the space. Maybe one of you will have room for loving and displaying them, or maybe small enough hands to wear!

They are completely unworn. Actually, they still have thread attaching them together, showing they have never been used. They have a little discoloration with age, and are creased a little from being folded away for a hundred years, but all in all, they are lovely to look at and study. The gloves are white kid.

For an extensive look at the history of opera length gloves, click here.

You can see the small thread that
connects the gloves.

My hands are a modern size 7.
The gloves are a (very scant) 6 1/4.

And some ladies who would have been buying gloves when these were on the shelves:
Pictures courtesy For the Love of Opera Gloves.

Click here for Opera glove etiquette. Remember - NEVER eat with gloves on! How uncouth!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nineteenth Century Household Manuals, or What Housekeepers Used Before Google.

Byfield, Northamptonshire, UK
English Heritage NMR

Whenever I watch period shows (i.e. Downton Abbey), aside from drooling over the costumes, I always get very interested by what goes on below stairs. Since poor little ol' me doesn't have a staff of my own, and it's up to me to be not only the lady of the house, but also the housekeeper/butler/cook/scullery maid, I have quite an appreciation for how these great houses were run. These shows always inspire me to break out the silver polish...

Staff of Winsford Towers Estate, 1902. Devon, UK.

Stable staff. Unknown estate.
English Heritage NMR

I recently have been reading Arthur Inch's, Dinner is Served, and Up and Down Stairs: The History of the Country House Servant, by Jeremy Musson. Both very fascinating books about being in service. Inch's book is a kind of how-to mixed with history, using knowledge from his many years as a butler, starting in the 1930's. Musson's book is an in depth study of country house service from the middle ages through today. I recommend both.

A man in the 18th century style livery of Blenheim Palace,
residence of the Duke of Marlborough.
The same home worked at by Arthur Inch. Photo c.1900.
English Heritage NMR

Butler's pantry at Barton Abbey, Oxfordshire.
English Heritage NMR.

But on to first hand, historical resources...

Housekeeper's and staff would have had reference books, just as today we might google a recipe. I start with Cassell's Household Guide, with volumes written in the latter half of the 19th century.

If you have never heard of Cassell's, I first learned about it while watching The 1900 House on PBS. Great show. It took a modern British family and transplanted them into a fully restored c.1900 house, where they had to live and breath the turn of the century way of life. Cassell's guide was used as a reference on the show, both for restoring the house and filling it with everything necessary to the 1900 era lifestyle. They also left the book for the family as a daily reference.

Original for sale at Inch's Books.

I soooo badly wanted to get my hands on that book! Unfortunately, then (1999), I couldn't find one that wasn't a zillion dollars at an antique seller. Fortunately though, now, Cassell's is ALL over the web! What a difference thirteen years makes!

So check it out here, here and here:

On google books for the scanned original.
On Victorian London for a fully indexed and searchable guide.
On Amazon - order a paperback copy and have all 392 pages at hand for your own personal reference. Bummer it's not leather-bound...

Two other well known period reference guides are Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management, first published in 1861, and Sarah and Samuel Adams' The Complete Servant Being a Practical Guide to the Peculiar Duties of all descriptions of servants... with Useful Receipts and Tables, published 1825. Both of these books are now available for reference online like Cassell's. I have linked their titles. Mrs. Beeton even has her own website! Both books are also available for purchase on Amazon: Click Adams' and Beeton's for the pages.

Fascinating books for reference. If you browse them you will find not only information about cooking, cleaning, etc, but also mending and sewing. There are even some chapters in Cassell's on shoe mending and leatherwork!