Happy (Real) Victoria Day!

Queen Victoria, Photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Queen Victoria, Photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Today is the 198th anniversary of the birth of England’s celebrated Queen Victoria, namesake of the Victorian Era, which lasted from 1838 to 1901. It’s an official holiday in Canada, though they’ve adopted the American custom of moving people’s birthdays to Monday, so it was not observed today. It was also celebrated in the United Kingdom as “Empire Day” and later “Commonwealth Day,” until they moved it to March for some reason.

It’s also the day on which Arlys and I had planned to release the second Ione D adventure, Professor Ione D and the Epicurean Incident, in e-book form. It is exactly a year since we released the first Ione D book. And to answer the obvious question, Victoria Day seemed to us like the ideal day to promote a steampunk book. Sadly, we’re delaying the release, because we’re not quite done with the final edit. We estimate this should take us about a week. Stay tuned for more info, and Hail Victoria!

See our book Miss Ione D and the Mayan Marvel, available as both e-book and paperback on Amazon.

To Get Ahead, Get a Hat*

Guest post by Arlys-Allegra Holloway

Ione D. for Tea

Photo by @ for book 1 of the Steampunk Adventure Series of Professor Ione D.

Hats were crucial to a respectable appearance for both men and women in Victorian times. To go bareheaded was simply not proper. The top hat, for example, was standard formal wear for upper- and middle-class men. Women’s hats were designed to match their outfits and changed greatly over time. From the top hat and the bowler to a plain straw hat, women redesigned the “manly headwear” of the time to make artistic one-of-a-kind creations.

A woman’s hat in the Victorian era portrayed the very essence of who she was. Many women had a say, if not a hand in their design and construction. Milliners with the experience to please their customers with original designs were highly sought after. Most hat shops were women-owned and operated. Their original creations could cost anywhere from $8 to over $30, which was an extravagant sum at the time.

In the early to mid-1800’s, voluminous skirts held up with crinolines, and then hoop skirts, were the focal point of the female silhouette. To enhance the style without detracting from it, hats were modest in size and design. Straw and fabric bonnets were the popular choices. Poke bonnets, which had been worn during the late Regency period, had high, small crowns and brims that grew larger until the 1830’s when the face of a woman wearing one could only be seen directly from the front. They had rounded brims, echoing the rounded form of the bell-shaped hoop skirts.

The Ultimate Steampunk Hat

Steampunk photo collection of @ Model- Arlys Endres

Now in the 21st century, zteampunk couture has resurrected these wonderful fashions! This science fiction genre and subculture have had the amazing ability to combine the romance of the Victorian era with steam-powered gear-driven vehicles, elaborate weapons and all types of gadgets. Only in the world of steampunk can a girl be coy, sexy and deadly!

In the second book of our steampunk series, Professor Ione D. and The Epicurean Incident, the ladies’ hats are remarkable and match the characters’ personalities to a T. You must read this amazing adventure to discover which lady wears which hat. This exciting novel is scheduled for e-book release on Amazon on May 24th, 2017, Queen Victoria’s 198th birthday.

* Slogan is from a hat company advertisement, circa 1897

Hats, hats, hats!

Photo Collage by @, Hats created by @ for the “Ione D” Steampunk Adventure Series by Vaughn Treude and Arlys Holloway.

Author’s Note:

Please peruse my other articles on Victorian Fashion, cooking and all things Steampunk on vaughntreude.info.

Sources:

Wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_fashion#Hats

The Parisian Hat Company History

It’s All About the Dress

Guest post by Arlys Holloway

Victoria's wedding dress

Victoria’s wedding dress. Portrait painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1847, as an anniversary present for Prince Albert.

We all know the importance that the wedding dress carries in our culture.

Everything must be right with “The Dress” for that special day. Your author has been through such an event, so I understand. The prospective bride must consider the cost, color, fabric, theme, style, and construction, as well the movement of the dress and train, and the ease of exit from the dress. It is not an easy task to choose the right wedding gown.

Throughout the Victorian era and the subsequent Edwardian era, tradition, propriety, and superstition reigned. For most of history, women rarely purchased a dress specifically for their wedding day. The bride would typically wear her finest dress to the ceremony, even if it was a dark color. In fact, many brides wore black during this time. Though examples of brides wearing white can be traced back as early as 1406, the 1840 marriage of England’s Queen Victoria to her cousin Prince Albert is considered the archetypal white-wearing occasion. Described as “dripping with orange blossoms,” her stunning white dress inspired thousands to follow suit. Almost a decade after the wedding, Godey’s Lady’s Book, one of the first women’s magazines in America, declared that white was the most fitting hue for a bride, though the tradition was not yet set in stone.

Women of that time were flocking to dressmakers or making their gowns themselves. But what color should they pick? Funny you should ask. Here is poem from the Edwardian era to help brides avoid a fatal mistake in choosing the wrong gown color.

Married in White, you have chosen right,
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Blue, you will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Brown, you will live in the town,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink.

Well, that pretty much leaves white as the color of choice.

A dress that had been purchased specifically for the ceremony or was already had in the bride’s wardrobe was often worn by her long after the wedding. But that practice carried with it certain superstitions — shocking, I know. Of course, a lady would never wear her wedding dress to a funeral, wake, last rights or vigil, or any other depressing occasion. She also would never wear it to a close acquaintance’s wedding. Many women decided instead to pass the dress down to their daughters. However, in some higher circles, it was thought to be bad luck to wear someone else’s wedding dress even if it had been your mother’s or grandmother’s.

Most likely due to all the superstitions and restrictions on where and when it was appropriate to wear one’s wedding dress after the wedding, it became popular to pack the gown away. Yet storing it away was looked upon as wasteful. So for some frugal gals, it became commonplace to repurpose the dress instead, turning it into doilies, handkerchiefs, or even curtains, which would be given as gifts or placed in a hope chest.

Skeleton Bride

Photo by @. My actual wedding dress from 1985 Repurposed 2016.

Today we are encouraged to store our wedding dresses. They are usually very expensive and the thought of taking them apart would make one nauseous. We pay to have them shrink-wrapped, framed or pack them away with cedar. I find the thought of passing down the gown to your daughter, granddaughter or great granddaughter very nostalgic and sweet. However, styles change and what my mother wore on her special day may not be for me.

Here we are in 2017. In these enlightened times, very few women stick to any kind of tradition. They find the dress that speaks to them. I have seen some weddings where the bride wears a vintage style gown. But best of all, I have seen some amazing steampunk wedding dresses and I find that to be very cool. My recommendation is, wear whatever you want.

Steampunk Bride Photos

Photos by @ Steampunk Series. Model Arlys Endres

Sources:

http://www.vintageroyalwedding.co.uk/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_dress_of_Queen_Victoria (photo, Wikimedia commons)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_dress

http://literary-liaisons.com/

The Etiquette of Courtship and Matrimony: with a Complete Guide to the Forms of a Wedding, published in 1852

Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date]

Check out my steampunk novella, Miss Ione D and the Mayan Marvel (with Vaughn Treude) now available as an illustrated paperback on Amazon.

 

 

My Two Left Feet

by Arlys-Allegra Holloway

Victorian Boots

The perfect steampunk accessory: original button-up boots from the Victorian era. Photo by Arlys Holloway.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “two left feet” to describe someone who’s awkward or clumsy. Back in the 1800’s, this was, in a way, literally true. As late as the 1850’s, the two shoes in a pair were interchangeable. The owner had to break them in order for them to be wearable. Most shoes and boots at that time came in only two widths, slim and “stout.” Since they were handmade, though, a cobbler could adjust or customize a shoe to fit.

The Victorians were much more comfortable than those of previous eras because shoes were finally being made differently for left and right feet. William Young is credited for perfecting the process in the early 1800s, although it didn’t become the norm until much later.

Around the same time, it became acceptable for women to wear the same kinds of boots that men were wearing. Women’s boots would feature intricate embroidery, and lace of many colors often dyed to match one’s dress or gown. They were made from rubber and leather, and were heeled in a different way than men’s. With scalloped edges, patent leather, and suede, these stylish boots were not the kind their owner would want to wear in mud. Fashion boots still survive to this day as a lasting testimony to the Victorian Era.

Well-bred women took great pride in their feet and wanted them to look as small and dainty as possible. Ladies’ magazines of that time would instruct, “The foot is one of the chief points by which a woman’s social position is judged. If the feet are small, well-shod, and prettily used in walking, they add an additional charm to the appearance, and are an indication of high standing and … of gentle birth.” It was crucial that women’s feet looked as presentable as the rest of their outfit. (I was unable to find the exact source for this quote.)

Footwear has seen many changes over the years, in particular with the introduction of different shoes for left and right feet in the mid-1800’s. This gave way to the elegant styles of the Victorian era, which remain popular to this day.

The Great Glass House

Crystal_Palace_General_view_from_Water_Temple

London’s Crystal Palace, 1854

The Crystal Palace was one of the signature landmarks of Victorian London. It was built to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, which showcased many of the wonders of the Industrial Revolution. After the Exhibition ended it was moved to a park on Sydenham Hill and remained there until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

330px-Crystal_Palace_Dinosaurs_overview

The famous dinosaurs!

Besides the Palace, the park featured the famous Hawkins dinosaur statues, which were among the first scholarly recreations of those prehistoric creatures. Of course, many of their conceptions were spectacularly wrong. Unlike the Palace, these statues remain and were extensively restored in 2002.

At the time, the Crystal Palace was the largest glass-walled structure in the world. It must have been a beautiful sight illuminated from within on a foggy London night. Photographs of its interior show it was big enough to enclose living trees. This reminded me of visits to Biosphere 2 in southern Arizona, another large glass structure, and I wondered how the two compared. According to Wikipedia, the Crystal Palace had 772,784 square feet on the ground floor alone. I didn’t take the time to find accurate specs for the biosphere, but an article I found on the design site Curbed estimates it as 2.5 times the size of a football field. If that includes the end zones, that would be 142,000, or less than one-fifth the size of the Palace. That would make the Victorian edifice impressive even by today’s standards.

Biosphere_2_Habitat_&_Lung_2009-05-10

Arizona’s teeny-tiny Biosphere 2

Therefore, the Crystal Palace seemed like the perfect place for Arlys and I to use as the backdrop for our fictional First Royal Epicurean Exhibition in our upcoming Ione D novel. It makes the perfect backdrop for old-fashioned intrigue and mayhem. Too bad it’s not around anymore! Watch this site for updates and previews of future Ione D and other steampunk adventures, including a sequel to my 2015 novel Fidelio’s Automata.

Photographs from Wikimedia commons.

 

A Victorian Christmas

xmasangel

Christmas is one of the few times in the year when we Americans celebrate our nation’s European heritage. Though Christmas itself dates back over a millennium and some of our holiday traditions are ancient, many hail from the Victorian era. I believe this is partly due to the surplus of great literature from that time. This was one of the many benefits of the Industrial Revolution: a middle class with leisure time and surplus income. In other words, much of what we think of as a traditional Christmas is relatively modern, a set of cultural cliches which originated when the advance of technology brought much of our population above subsistence level.

The more religious elements of the holiday, such as midnight church services, nativity scenes, and Christmas plays are many centuries old. Some of the customs with pagan origins, such as kissing under the mistletoe and burning the yule log, are equally ancient. Many of our more secular Christmas traditions, however, date from the 1800’s.

* The poem “A Visit from St. Nick,” better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” helped shape our modern view of Santa Claus. It was published anonymously in 1823 and is usually attributed to Clement Clarke Moore but others claim Henry Livingston, Jr. as its author.

* In his 1812 edition of A History of New York, American author Washington Irving wrote of St. Nicholas soaring over the treetops in a flying wagon, which later became “Santa Claus” after the “Sinterklaas” of Dutch New Amsterdam.

* A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was published in 1843. This tale of avarice and redemption is still relevant in our modern age and has been staged and adapted dozens if not hundreds of times. It also helped establish turkey as the essential Christmas meal, though “Indian Chicken” as it was then called, was popular from the 1600’s onward.

* Christmas trees are an ancient tradition that began with German pagans and embraced by Christianity. They were popularized in both the British Commonwealth and America in the 1840’s by England’s half-German Queen Victoria.

* Christmas caroling, banned in England under Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell, made a comeback when two writers made collections of old Christmas songs: William Sandys (Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, 1833) and Davies Gilbert (Some Ancient Christmas Carols, 1823.) Many traditional songs such as “The First Noel” appeared around that time.

* Jingle Bells, one of our most beloved secular holiday songs, was composed by James Lord Pierpont in 1857.

* Tchaikovsky’s iconic Christmas-themed ballet The Nutcracker debuted in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892.

* Fruitcake has been popular since cheap sugar became available in the 1600’s, but the Victorians upped its popularity by adding alcohol to the recipe. Sadly, this ingredient is absent from most commercial fruitcakes which may help explain its decline.

* Santa Claus parades first appeared in Peoria, Illinois, in 1887, originally as a parade of boats on the river. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which also featured St. Nick debuted later, in 1924, and it also helped establish Black Friday as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

* The much beloved (and sometimes maddening) song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” was adapted from a Franco-English folk tune first published in 1780, but didn’t reach its current form until 1909.

* Currier and Ives – This 19th Century American printmaking firm produced popular and inexpensive lithographic prints, many of winter scenes, and was forever associated with Christmas in the lyrics of the 1948 song “Sleigh Ride.”

References: Wikipedia, recipes.howstuffworks.com, www.sinterklaashudsonvalley.com, www.whychristmas.com

Amazon gift certificates make a great last-minute Christmas gift, especially if they’re used to purchase my e-books.

FREE SPEECH FRIDAY: Honoring an American Hero

smedleybutler-jpeg

“There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.”

— General Smedley Darlington Butler

On this Veteran’s Day, I’d like to remember one of America’s most decorated veterans, Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler. He was one of 19 men to be awarded the Medal of Honor twice. He was also one of America’s bravest truth-tellers, author of the 1935 classic War is a Racket. This book is available in digital form on Amazon for 99 cents.

Butler participated in American military actions in several countries, including the first World War. He did not become outspoken until after his retirement. One of his most controversial actions was coming to Congress with information about the so-called Business Plot, a conspiracy to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt and replace him with a military dictator. All the alleged conspirators denied it, of course, but a Congressional committee verified at least some of his testimony.

I highly recommend reading Butler’s book. It’s quite short and can be read in a few hours. Though written shortly before WWII, it nevertheless seems to mirror current events, as Butler writes about all the extravagant profits earned by various “patriotic” industries, from steel to leather (for cavalry saddles.) He also condemns the use of the US military as an enforcer for corporate interests in other nations, such as United Fruit Company’s abusive, monopolistic practices in Central America.

Butler didn’t live to see the second World War that he was warning the nation about. He died of cancer in 1940 at the age of 58. Besides “War is a Racket”, he wrote books about military actions in Mexico and Paraguay. Some of his speeches and letters have also been compiled and published. One of his co-authors was Arthur J. Burks, a marine colonel and a fascinating character in his own right. Burks wrote numerous books and stories in the adventure, detective, and sci-fi genres.

If you’re an admirer of Smedley Butler, you’ll enjoy my political sci-fi novel Centrifugal Force, because he’s mentioned in it.

Time Travel Thursday – The Wild Wild West

180px-ross_martin_robert_conrad_wild_wild_west_1965

Ross Martin and Robert Conrad as Gordon and West

In this year of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, I’d like to call attention to another pioneering series: The Wild Wild West. In my childhood, it was my second favorite show. For those of you who are too young to remember, it was a historical drama created by Michael Garrison, set during the 1870’s and starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin as Jim West and Artemis Gordon, dashing Secret Service agents. I loved it for the gadgetry and its science fiction elements. Its fanciful treatment of America’s past has caused many steampunk aficionados to declare it a forerunner of their favorite genre.
West and Gordon had the coolest ride, which doubled as their headquarters: their own private train, which included a laboratory and a stable. It had great villains, too, particularly the Spanish dwarf Dr. Miguelito Loveless, played by Michael Dunn. An evil genius, he invented the airplane, the cathode-ray tube, and an LSD-like drug. Another thing I enjoyed about the show was the animated title sequence, a montage which showed a heroic cowboy fighting the bad guys and kissing the girl. At the commercial breaks, they would replace each of these pictures with a scene from that episode.
I didn’t know this, but the show’s Wikipedia article notes that the series was canceled not due to bad ratings but because of the outcry over “television violence.” Was that the real reason, or was it political correctness that pushed the Western genre off of television? It’s not a scientific study by any means, but I seem to remember cowboy shows as being less violent than the 1970’s crime dramas that replaced them. The Wild Wild West, with its campy James Bond light-heartedness, did not deserve this early death.
Many of my younger readers may recall the feature film version which was made in 1999, starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline as Agents West and Gordon, with Salma Hayek as the damsel in distress. Sadly, its quality wasn’t up to that of the series, earning only 17% on Rotten Tomatoes. Though I’m a big fan of Smith, it seemed strange to have a black man as a Federal agent so few years after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Then again, it’s steampunk; anything can happen.
Another plot element that changed in the movie was that West and Gordon’s nemesis changed. The scheming little person became an embittered Southern amputee, Dr. Arliss Loveless. The PC anti-Confederate message was obvious, though at least they gave him a cool name.
DVD’s of the original series are available for rent on Netflix or for purchase on Amazon. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate it in streaming form.

If you like steampunk cowboy adventures you’ll love my book Fidelio’s Automata on Amazon.

Photo is from Wikimedia Commons.

 

Media Monday: House of Five Leaves

House of Five Leaves, Cover of Manga

House of Five Leaves

Over the last few years, Arlys and I developed a fondness for Japanese animation. We have very specific tastes. For example, we don’t care for “slice of life” dramas such as the award-winning “Ping Pong the Animation” or weird cutesy concepts like “Kantai Collection” (which portrays battleships as Lolly girls.) Having watched most of the classics, we’ve been having difficulty finding interesting shows that we haven’t seen. A coworker recommended “House of Five Leaves,” which is a historical drama that takes place in the samurai era. This is one of our favorite genres, so we gave it a try.
“Five Leaves” is a single 12-show season, based on a manga by Natsume Ono in 2010 and adapted by Manglobe as a TV series in 2012. We were surprised we hadn’t heard of it or seen it in any of the “best of” lists we’ve searched for. Nevertheless, we found it quite interesting. The first thing that struck us was that the art style is deliberately simplified. The characters look cartoonish, though not in a childish way. It reminded me of classic American cartoons such as “Little Orphan Annie.” (Rather than having blank eyes the characters tend to have huge black pupils.)
The protagonist is Masanosuke (Masa), a samurai who has lost his job as a bodyguard. Though he is a skilled swordsman, his meek personality makes him an ineffective protector. As he searches for work, homeless and hungry, he meets a shady character named Yaichi (Ichi.) Ichi heads a secretive group of criminals called “Five Leaves” after their symbol, the five-lobed maple leaf. Their specialty is kidnapping the sons of wealthy aristocrats, and holding them for ransom. They are unusually ethical kidnappers; they return the hostages promptly on payment and are distressed by the idea of killing.
Despite his desperation, Masa is reluctant to be involved in anything illegal. Ichi presents a carefree facade, but is actually a skilled manipulator, slowly drawing Masa into the gang. Besides these two characters, the group includes a tavern owner, an ex-thief, and an ex-prostitute. As his life becomes more intertwined with the gang, Masa’s childlike innocence and Asperger-ish bluntness threatens them all with capture. In the meantime, Ichi’s past comes back to haunt him, as members of his former gang hunt for him to settle a score. With its theme of crime and criminals, you might expect “Five Leaves” to be a shonen (young boy’s)-type show, with lots of swordplay, but it’s actually a character study. Its focus on relationships between the characters would make it just as appealing to a female audience. The Five Leaves gang is like a dysfunctional family, and the characters are all endearing in their own quirky ways.
The “House of Five Leaves” anime is licensed in the USA by Funimation.

Can We All Get Along?

250px-vietnamdem

This election has been without a doubt the most contentious one I’ve ever witnessed. I see the acrimonious political postings on Facebook and Twitter, as people lose friends and gain enemies. The closest I’ve seen to the current situation was the Vietnam War era. I’m not talking about the conflict itself. I was too young to be drafted and didn’t have any war casualties in my family, thank God. I’m talking about the battle it spawned in America, pitting family members and friends against one another.

In the early days of the conflict, those on the right were the most intolerant. The war’s supporters smeared peace activists as Communists, America-haters, and cowards. As the war went on and the carnage in Asia increased, the left became vitriolic as well. Anti-war protesters screamed “baby killers” at the returning troops, as if they hadn’t suffered enough already. Though I turned against the war at the age of 12, I never thought to blame the American soldiers, who were just as victimized and traumatized as the Vietnamese.

Now, in 2016, the intense political debates on social media give me a sense of déjà vu. I’m OK with trashing politicians like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; that comes with the territory. However, we shouldn’t let our scorn trickle down to our friends and neighbors who support the opposition.

The election has played on our emotions, even though few of us find either major-party candidate likable. I think this is because we’re afraid; afraid of unemployment, soaring prices, civil disorder, terrorism, and crime. Because Trump and Clinton both speak the language of identity politics, it adds another dimension of fear. Will our group fall victim to punitive taxes, regulations, confiscations, or censorship? Will the powers that be neglect our rights while granting favoritism to others? Why does it seem that every other group, from crooked bank presidents to third-world refugees, receive better treatment than the hard-working middle class?

What’s missing from too much of our discourse is respect. Assuming we are sane, legally competent adults, all our viewpoints are based on some degree of truth. This means we should try to avoid labeling others, and listen to each other before reacting. We need to define our terms, too, because words like “justice” and “fairness” can have many disparate meanings. When all is said and done, however, we must agree to disagree. To quote the late Rodney King, whose controversial arrest led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “Can we all get along?”

Photo of 1967 Anti-Vietnam War demonstration at the Pentagon is from Wikimedia Commons.