Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dolce & Gabanna's Runway Queens

It's as if Dolce & Gabanna read my mind, my obsession with all things Medieval is their obsession too. For Fall 13 they used the golden mosaics of Sicily's Cathedral of Monreale as a starting point. It's an ancient view of womanhood, regal, powerful, queenly, saintly even, that feels thoroughly modern too.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Richard III, The King in the Car Park


I've been a bad blogger of late but the coverage confirming that the bones found under a car park in Leicester do indeed belong to England's most infamous and reviled Plantaginet king, Richard III, have put me in something of a Medieval mood that I'm dying to share. Thanks to the wonderful The History Blog and The Richard III Society, I was able to learn some truths and suppositions about Richard that go beyond Shakespeare and the image of the hunched-backed villain with a limp and withered arm, as played on film by Sir Lawrence Olivier and in the theater by numerous others. 

Forensic research and DNA testing are both remarkable ways of connecting the past with the present. In this case, the Channel Four documentary, The King in the Carpark, traced the whole process of validating the find. This included taking a swab from a living descendant (a Canadian-born cabinet-maker from London!) and reconstructing the face from detailed scans of the skull by Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification. The skin color and texture, eyes and hair were then added by Janice Aitken. This research adds up to the following, it's definitely Richard who was a young handsome man (32 when he died) slight in build with a severe scoliosis of the spine but no hunchback and no withered arm either.  

Richard was a married man. His wife, Lady Anne Neville (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485) was an English noblewoman and great beauty. As a member of the powerful House of Neville, she was caught up in the War of the Roses, fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster, for the English crown. Her father Warwick arranged her marriage to Edward, the son of King Henry VI of Lancaster. After his death, she married Richard. She became Queen when Richard seized the crown in June 1483, but died in March 1485, five months before Richard was killed at Bosworth Field. She and Richard had a child called Edward (1473-1484). Anne died on 16 March 1485 probably of tuberculosis. The day she died, there was an eclipse, which some took to be an omen of Richard's fall from heavenly grace. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, in an unmarked grave. Richard is said to have wept at her funeral.
There was no memorial to her until 1960, when a bronze tablet was erected on a wall near her grave by the Richard III Society. It's inscription says,
“In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous…And according to the interpretation of her name Anne full gracious” REQUIESCAT IN PACE.


In the Middle Ages, British and European women of high birth covered their heads, much as many Muslim women do today, signifying their modesty.  In this portrait of Anne Neville, she's wearing the fashionable horned headdress. The following is from Rosalie Gilbert's blog 
A Dictionary of English Costume by Cunnington and Beard describes the horned headdress as being that which is worn with wide templers which are wired up to resemble horns from which a pendant veil curtained the back of the head. English headwear researcher, Katrina Wood has this to say:
This style of headdress was worn for many years by the middle classes and was Burgundian-French in origin. The cones or horns which projected out at roughly a 45 degree angle were called templettes or templars and over the course of the next few hundred years varied in shape and size according to fashion. The hair was completely concealed as decorum dictated. Starched white veils would then be attached to the headpiece using pins.
The late 15th century saw the return of the horned headdress for the upper classes. The primary difference between this and other previous styles of truncated head-dress, is the lack of a padded roll previously seen in earlier versions and the style of gown it was worn with. Interesting that the horns went out of fashion, and then came back in.

I found some wonderful collectable art dolls of Lady Anne Neville and Richard III by Debbie Ritter for sale on  


Finally, from the History Blog, these panels depict how Richard lost the Battle of Bosworth, died and ended up beneath the car park in Leicester!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pre-Raphaelites, Victorian Avant-Garde

Now that I’m here in London for a while, I finally got a chance to see the extensive Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at Tate Britain, entitled Pre-Raphaelites, Victorian Avant-Garde. Admittedly, I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager but even so, my over-riding thought was, “Must come again” as the galleries were teeming with visitors on the Saturday afternoon that I went. I saw my favorite John Everett Millais painting, “Ophelia”  “in person” for the first time and felt quite overwhelmed by the attention to detail, the vibrant quality of the color and the emotional connection it engenders.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was formed in London in 1948 as a way to express the artists’ dissatisfaction with the drawing style being advocated by the Royal Academy Schools.  For them, it was too mechanical. The Brotherhood was initially made up of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman-Hunt and John Everett Millais. They were later joined by the likes of Edward Burne-Jones, John Ruskin, Edward Burne-Jones, Frederick Sandys, Simeon Solomon, Ford Madox Brown and William Morris. Together they formed Britain’s first modern art movement. Some of the most famous and best-loved works are shown here. For more about The Pre-Raphaelites and their impact on fashion, go to Buzz
Mariana: John Everett Millais 

Beguiling of Merlin: Edward Burne-Jones

The Lady of Shallot: John William Waterhouse

Monna Vanna by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Lady Lilith: Dante Gabrielle Rossetti

Beata Beatrix: Dante Gabriel Rossetti 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Modestly Active - Arab Women in Sport

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, as many as 26 countries refrained from sending female athletes. However, by Beijing 2008 that list had shrunk to just three nations; Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei. Four years down the line, London 2012 is set to be the first Olympics in history whereby every participating nation will have at least one female representative. And with the inclusion of women’s boxing, it will also be the first Olympics to involve female athletes in every sport. Saudi Arabia, who had opened the doors for women participants last month, were the last one to complete the numbers when they named two female athletes on July 9. Middle distance runner, Sarah Attar, 17 and Judoka, Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahman Shahrkhani, 27, are Saudi’s historic first-ever female Olympic selections. Attar, born in California of mixed Saudi and American parentage, is the youngest Arab athlete competing at the Olympics.
From renowned photographer, Brigitte Lacombe, an exhibition and book celebrating Arab women in sport.
Saudi Arabian basketball players and Qatari swimmers feature in Brigitte Lacombe’s striking portraits of Arab women in sport. Commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority, Brigitte and her sister, the documentary filmmaker Marian Lacombe, stayed at the pre-Olympic Arab Games in Doha for ten days last December to find their subjects. Traveling extensively around the Arab world, visiting Qatar, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, Lacombe photographed athletes who were often from economically deprived or war torn countries. “The young girls and women athletes we met were spirited and full of joy,” says Lacombe. “For them to arrive at this level of excellence requires extreme determination to overcome resistance––not only cultural, but economic and political.” The work will be shown at Lacombe’s first exhibition in London, Hey’Ya: Arab Women in Sport, opening at Sotheby’s in late July, alongside a video essay from Marian, and an accompanying large-format book designed by 2x4 and published by Q.M.A. to be published at the same time. Lifted from an Arab expression meaning “let's go,” the show’s title suggests that this is only the beginning for Lacombe. “I hope it will help to open some minds,” she says. “It could end up being an important project, one I will continue to work on.”
Hey’Ya: Arab Women in Sport by Brigitte Lacombe and Marian Lacombe is running at Sotheby's London from July 25 to August 11, traveling to the Q.M.A. Gallery in Doha, Qatar, Spring 2013

Sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara of Bahrain isn't held back by running in a hijab, a full Muslim headscarf. In fact, she says, it makes her even quicker.
"Wearing traditional Muslim dress has encouraged me. It's not an obstacle -- quite the opposite,"

Some athletic wear companies specialize in "modest" sports attire, including ResportOn
and Modestly Active

And sometimes women cover-up for non-religious reasons. The "Domestic Goddess" Nigella Lawson on Bondi Beach 2011 and Cathy Freeman winning Gold at The Sydney Olympics 2000

Monday, July 09, 2012

A Second Senior Moment

American Apparel is well known for their controversial marketing tactics and they've succeeded once again but I for one applaud their innovative photographs of a leggy, grey haired 60 year old, Jacky. 

Thanks Fashionista for a great interview with Jacky.
Click here for the original Trend ISpy posting A Senior Moment