Two Women in Their 90s Recall Their Teenage Years in Victorian 1890s London

Mud everywhere…and where there wasn’t mud, there was fog, and in between was us, enjoy­ing our­selves. — Berta Ruck

Berta Ruck and Frances ‘Effy’ Jones were teenagers in the 1890s, and while their rec­ol­lec­tions of their for­ma­tive years in mud­dy old Lon­don are hard­ly a por­trait of Jazz Age wild­ness, nei­ther are they in keep­ing with mod­ern notions of stuffy Vic­to­ri­an mores.

Inter­viewed for the BBC doc­u­men­tary series Yesterday’s Wit­ness in 1970, these nona­ge­nar­i­ans are for­mi­da­ble per­son­ages, sharp­er than prover­bial tacks, and unlike­ly to elic­it the sort of agist pity embod­ied in the lyrics of a pop­u­lar dit­ty Ruck remem­bers the Cock­neys singing in the gut­ter after the pubs had closed for the night.

“Do you think I might dare to sing [it] now?” Ruck, then 91, asks (rhetor­i­cal­ly):

She may have known bet­ter days

When she was in her prime

She may have known bet­ter days

Once upon a time…

(Raise your hand if you sus­pect those lyrics are describ­ing a washed up spin­ster in her late 20s or ear­ly 30s.)

The 94-year-old Jones reach­es back more than 7 decades to tell about her first job, when she was paid 8 shillings a week to sit in a store­front win­dow, demon­strat­ing a new machine known as a type­writer.

Some of her earn­ings went toward the pur­chase a bicy­cle, which she rode back and forth to work and overnight hol­i­days in Brighton, scan­dalous­ly clad in bloomers, or as Jones and her friends referred to them, “ratio­nal dress”.

Ruck, pegged by her head­mistress as an “indo­lent and feck­less girl”, went on to study at the Slade School of Art, before achiev­ing promi­nence as a best­selling romance nov­el­ist, whose 90 some titles include His Offi­cial Fiancée, Miss Million’s Maid and In Anoth­er Girl’s Shoes.

We do hope at least one of these fea­tures a hero­ine resent­ful­ly brush­ing a skirt mud­died up to the knees by pass­ing han­som cabs, an impo­si­tion Ruck refus­es to sweet­en with the nos­tal­gia.

As the British Film Institute’s Patrick Rus­sell writes in 100 British Doc­u­men­taries, the Yesterday’s Wit­ness series, and Jones and Ruck’s episode, in par­tic­u­lar, pop­u­lar­ized the oral his­to­ry approach to doc­u­men­tary, in which the direc­tor-inter­view­er is an invis­i­ble pres­ence, cre­at­ing the impres­sion that the sub­ject is speak­ing direct­ly to the audi­ence, unprompt­ed:

The series’ mak­ers suc­cess­ful­ly resist­ed any temp­ta­tions to patron­ize or edi­to­ri­al­ize, and aimed at sym­pa­thet­ic curios­i­ty rather than nos­tal­gia. The two women tell their sto­ries flu­ent­ly, humor­ous­ly, intel­li­gent­ly — offer­ing con­sid­ered ret­ro­spec­tive com­ment on their generation’s assump­tions, nei­ther sim­ply accept­ing nor reject­ing them…Unlike text­books, and oth­er types of doc­u­men­tary, films like Two Vic­to­ri­an Girls gave the youth access to the mod­ern past as pri­vate­ly expe­ri­enced. 

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Elton John Presents 14 of His Iconic Looks: From 1968 to Now

Elton John is pack­ing up his fab­u­lous out­fits and hit­ting stages for the last time, mak­ing a grace­ful exit from the road at age 75 with his “Farewell Yel­low Brick Road” tour. He will, of course, make a stop at Dodger Sta­di­um, where he played one of his most famous con­certs in 1975, strid­ing onto the stage in a sequined Dodgers uni­form, one of many shim­mer­ing cos­tumes he would don dur­ing the 3‑hour marathon set.

When John played Dodger sta­di­um, his songs had been “hit­ting the air­waves with a sense of fan­tas­ti­cal futur­ism,” writes Far Out, “all pack­aged in flam­boy­ant cos­tumes and dressed in num­ber one albums. Loved by crit­ics and adored by fans, he resem­bled some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent.” Dif­fer­ent from what?

John answered that ques­tion in a 2020 inter­view with Vogue: “I was­n’t glam rock. I was­n’t David Bowie. I was me being a blokey guy wear­ing these clothes. I had to have humor in my cos­tume.” Thus, his turns as Don­ald Duck, Min­nie Mouse, and the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty, all cos­tumes “designed to com­ple­ment the cor­re­spond­ing per­for­mance,” Janelle Okwodu writes at Vogue.

John may not have thought of him­self as a glam rock super­star, but his lega­cy of sparkling, sequined out­fits, plat­form boots, feath­er boas, and bluesy rock hits says oth­er­wise. In the video above, see the retir­ing Rock­et­man break down his most icon­ic looks. “Let’s begin,” he says, “at the very begin­ning” — decades before design­er Sean Dixon tai­lored 30 bespoke suits (at 90 hours each to make) for John’s 2018 Mil­lion Dol­lar Piano show.

In 1968, John donned bell bot­toms, a three-but­ton jack­et, and a fedo­ra for his first pub­lic­i­ty shot. “That was prob­a­bly all I could afford, and it shows,” he remarks. Not a sin­gle Swarovs­ki crys­tal in sight. In the ear­ly 70s, it was den­im, “and I absolute­ly loathe den­im now.” In 1997, for his 50th birth­day par­ty, John appeared in glo­ri­ous full drag ensem­ble made by Sandy Pow­ell, but in his lat­er years, he’s most­ly dressed down.… which for Elton John means chang­ing into an end­less series of bespoke, bedaz­zled suits.

Now that he’s head­ing into retire­ment from per­form­ing, we may be enti­tled to won­der about his bathrobe col­lec­tion.…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Elton John Takes Us Through the Cre­ative Process of His Ear­ly Hit “Tiny Dancer” (1970)

Revis­it Six of Elton John’s Most Icon­ic Con­certs, Stream­ing in Their Entire­ty for 72 Hours

Elton John Proves He Can Turn any Text into a Song: Watch Him Impro­vise with Lines from Hen­rik Ibsen’s Play, Peer Gynt

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Behold a Book of Color Shades Depicted with Feathers (Circa 1915)

Per­haps the 143 col­ors show­cased in The Bay­er Company’s ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry sam­ple book, Shades on Feath­ers, could be col­lect­ed in the field, but it would involve a lot of trav­el and patience, and the stalk­ing of sev­er­al endan­gered if not down­right extinct avian species.

Far eas­i­er, and much less expen­sive, for milliners, design­ers and dec­o­ra­tors to dye plain white feath­ers  exot­ic shades, fol­low­ing the instruc­tions in the sam­ple book.

Such arti­fi­cial­ly obtained rain­bows owe a lot to William Hen­ry Perkin, a teenage stu­dent of Ger­man chemist August Wil­helm von Hof­mann, who spent East­er vaca­tion of 1856 exper­i­ment­ing with ani­line, an organ­ic base his teacher had ear­li­er dis­cov­ered in coal tar.  Hop­ing to hit on a syn­thet­ic form of qui­nine, he acci­den­tal­ly hit on a solu­tion that col­ored silk a love­ly pur­ple shade — an inad­ver­tent eure­ka moment that ranks right up there with peni­cillin and the pret­zel.

A Sci­ence Muse­um Group pro­file details what hap­pened next:

Perkin named the colour mauve and the dye mau­veine. He decid­ed to try to mar­ket his dis­cov­ery instead of return­ing to col­lege.

On 26 August 1856, the Patent Office grant­ed Perkin a patent for ‘a new colour­ing mat­ter for dye­ing with a lilac or pur­ple colour stuffs of silk, cot­ton, wool, or oth­er mate­ri­als’.

Perk­in’s next step was to inter­est cloth dyers and print­ers in his dis­cov­ery. He had no expe­ri­ence of the tex­tile trade and lit­tle knowl­edge of large-scale chem­i­cal man­u­fac­ture. He cor­re­spond­ed with Robert and John Pullar in Glas­gow, who offered him sup­port. Perk­in’s luck changed towards the end of 1857 when the Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, decid­ed that mauve was the colour to wear. In Jan­u­ary 1858, Queen Vic­to­ria fol­lowed suit, wear­ing mauve to her daughter’s wed­ding.

Cue an explo­sion of dye man­u­fac­tur­ers across Great Britain and Europe, includ­ing Bay­er, pro­duc­er of the feath­er sam­ple book. The sur­vival of this arti­fact is some­what mirac­u­lous giv­en how vul­ner­a­ble antique feath­ers are to envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, pests, and improp­er stor­age.

(The sam­ple book rec­om­mends clean­ing the feath­ers pri­or to dying in a luke­warm solu­tion of small amounts of olive oil soap and ammo­nia.)

The Sci­ence His­to­ry Insti­tute, own­er of this unusu­al object, esti­mates that the undat­ed book was pro­duced between 1913 and 1918, the year the Migra­to­ry Bird Act Treaty out­lawed the hunt­ing of birds whose feath­ers humans deemed par­tic­u­lar­ly fash­ion­able.

Peruse the Sci­ence His­to­ry Insti­tute of Philadel­phi­a’s dig­i­tized copy of the Shades on Feath­ers sam­ple book here.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Down­load 435 High Res­o­lu­tion Images from John J. Audubon’s The Birds of Amer­i­ca

The Bird­song Project Fea­tures 220 Musi­cians, Actors, Artists & Writ­ers Pay­ing Trib­ute to Birds: Watch Per­for­mances by Yo-Yo Ma, Elvis Costel­lo and Beck

The Bird Library: A Library Built Espe­cial­ly for Our Fine Feath­ered Friends

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How Wealthy Women (Like the Mona Lisa) Got Dressed in Renaissance Florence

“The inhab­i­tants of fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry Flo­rence includ­ed Brunelleschi, Ghib­er­ti, Donatel­lo, Masac­cio, Fil­ip­po Lip­pi, Fra Angeli­co, Ver­roc­chio, Bot­ti­cel­li, Leonar­do, and Michelan­ge­lo,” writes essay­ist and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Paul Gra­ham. “There are rough­ly a thou­sand times as many peo­ple alive in the U.S. right now as lived in Flo­rence dur­ing the fif­teenth cen­tu­ry. A thou­sand Leonar­dos and a thou­sand Michelan­ge­los walk among us.” But “to make Leonar­do you need more than his innate abil­i­ty. You also need Flo­rence in 1450”: its com­mu­ni­ty of artists, and indeed every­one of all class­es who con­sti­tut­ed its uncom­mon­ly fruit­ful soci­ety.

Flo­rence’s cul­tur­al flour­ish­ing last­ed into the six­teenth cen­tu­ry. Above, you can see a morn­ing in the life of one Flo­ren­tine of the 1500s recre­at­ed in a video by Crow’s Eye Pro­duc­tions. Pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for their re-cre­ations of the dress­ing process­es of the four­teenth, sev­en­teenth, and eigh­teenth cen­turies, they show us this time how a woman would put her­self togeth­er — or by the help, be put togeth­er — in turn-of-the-six­teenth-cen­tu­ry Flo­rence, which, “like many oth­er Ital­ian regions, had devel­oped its own dis­tinc­tive fash­ion style.” The camur­ra gown, the sep­a­rate gold­en sleeves, the infor­mal guar­nel­lo over-gown: all evoke this par­tic­u­lar time and place.

As each gar­ment and acces­so­ry is applied to the mod­el, she may begin to look odd­ly famil­iar. “In 1503, a silk mer­chant from Flo­rence, Francesco del Gio­con­do, com­mis­sioned a por­trait of his young wife to adorn a wall in their new home, and per­haps to cel­e­brate the safe arrival of their third child,” the video’s nar­ra­tor tells us. “The artist com­mis­sioned was Leonar­do da Vin­ci.” His por­trait of Madon­na Gia­con­do is “an inti­mate por­tray­al of a young mar­ried woman,” expen­sive­ly but mod­est­ly dressed, wear­ing a smile “that seems intend­ed for Francesco’s eyes only.” Yet until Leonar­do’s death, the pic­ture nev­er left his own pos­ses­sion — per­haps because he sensed it had a des­tiny much greater than the wall of the del Gio­con­dos’ bed­cham­ber.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Women Got Dressed in the 14th & 18th Cen­turies: Watch the Very Painstak­ing Process Get Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly Recre­at­ed

How Fash­ion­able Dutch Women (Like the Girl with a Pearl Ear­ring) Got Dressed in 1665

How Ladies & Gen­tle­men Got Dressed in the 18th Cen­tu­ry: It Was a Pret­ty Involved Process

What Makes Leonardo’s Mona Lisa a Great Paint­ing?: An Expla­na­tion in 15 Min­utes

Orig­i­nal Por­trait of the Mona Lisa Found Beneath the Paint Lay­ers of da Vinci’s Mas­ter­piece

How Did the Mona Lisa Become the World’s Most Famous Paint­ing?: It’s Not What You Think

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Footage of Flappers from 1929 Restored & Colorized with AI

The flap­per is the Roar­ing 20s’ endur­ing emblem — a lib­er­at­ed, young woman with bobbed hair, rolled down stock­ings, and a pub­lic thirst for cock­tails.

(My grand­moth­er longed to be one, and suc­ceed­ed, as best one could in Cairo, Illi­nois, only to mar­ry an old­er man at the age of 17, and give birth to my father a few months before the stock mar­ket crashed, bring­ing the friv­o­li­ty of the decade to an abrupt halt.)

Our abid­ing affec­tion for the flap­per is stoked on F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s Jazz Age novel­la, The Great Gats­by, and its many stage and screen adap­ta­tions, with their depic­tions of wild par­ties fea­tur­ing guests like Miss Baedeck­er (“When she’s had five or six cock­tails she always starts scream­ing like that”) and Lucille (“I nev­er care what I do, so I always have a good time.”)

The vin­tage fash­ion blog Glam­our Daze’s new­ly col­orized footage of a 1929  fash­ion show in Buf­fa­lo, New York, at the top of this post, presents a vast­ly more sedate image than Fitzger­ald, or Ethel Hays, whose sin­gle-pan­el dai­ly car­toon Flap­per Fan­ny was wild­ly pop­u­lar with both young women and men of the time.



The scene it presents seems more whole­some than one might have found in New York City, with what Fitzger­ald dubbed its “wild promise of all the mys­tery and the beau­ty in the world”. The mod­els seem more eager ama­teurs than run­way pro­fes­sion­als, though lined up jaun­ti­ly on a wall, all exhib­it “nice stems.”

My young grand­moth­er would have gone ga ga for the cloche hats, tea dress­es, bathing suits, loung­ing paja­mas, golf and ten­nis ensem­bles, and evening gowns, though the Deep Exem­plar-based Video Col­oriza­tion process seems to have stained some mod­els’ skin and teeth by mis­take.

The orig­i­nal black and white footage is part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Carolina’s Fox Movi­etone News col­lec­tion, whose oth­er fash­ion-relat­ed clips from 1929 include pre­sen­ta­tions fea­tur­ing Wash­ing­ton debu­tantes and col­lege coeds.

Added sound brings the peri­od to life with nary a men­tion of the Charleston or gin, though if you want a feel for 20s fash­ion, check out the col­lec­tion’s non-silent Movi­etone clip devot­ed to the lat­est in 1929 swimwearthis is a mod­ernistic beach ensem­ble of ray­on jer­sey with diag­o­nal stripes and a sun back cut

It’s the cat’s paja­mas. As is this playlist of hits from 1929.

Explore Glam­our Daze’s guide to 1920s fash­ion his­to­ry here.

Watch the orig­i­nal black and white footage of the Buf­fa­lo, New York fash­ion show here.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Rembrandt Book Bracelet: Behold a Functional Bracelet Featuring 1400 Rembrandt Drawings

Admit­ted­ly jew­el­ry is not one of our areas of exper­tise, but when we hear that a bracelet costs €10,000, we kind of expect it to have a smat­ter­ing of dia­monds.

Design­ers Lyske Gais and Lia Duinker are get­ting that amount for a wrist­let com­prised chiefly of five large paper sheets print­ed with high res images down­loaded free from the Rijksmu­se­um’s exten­sive dig­i­tal archive of Rem­brandt draw­ings and etch­ings.

Your aver­age pawn­bro­ker would prob­a­bly con­sid­er its 18-karat gold clasp, or pos­si­bly the cus­tom-made wood­en box in which it can be stored when not in use the most pre­cious thing about this orna­ment.

An ardent bib­lio­phile or art lover is per­haps bet­ter equipped to see the book bracelet’s val­ue.

Each gilt edged page — 1400 in all — fea­tures an image of a hand, sourced from 303 down­loaded Rem­brandt works.

An illus­tra­tion on the design­ers’ Duinker and Dochters web­site details the painstak­ing process where­by the book­bracelet takes shape in 8‑page sec­tions, or sig­na­tures, cross stitched tight­ly along­side each oth­er on a paper band. Put it on, and you can flip through Rem­brandt hands, Rolodex-style. When you want to do the dish­es or take a show­er, just pack it flat into that cus­tom box.

Gais and Duinker also include an index, which is handy for those times when you don’t feel like hunt­ing and peck­ing around your own wrist in search of a hand that appeared in the Flute Play­er or  Christ cru­ci­fied between the two mur­der­ers.

The Rembrandt’s Hands and a Lion’s Paw bracelet, titled like a book and pub­lished in a lim­it­ed edi­tion of 10, nabbed first prize in the 2015 Rijksstu­dio Awards, a com­pe­ti­tion that chal­lenges design­ers to cre­ate work inspired by the Rijksmuseum’s col­lec­tion.

(2015’s sec­ond prize went to an assort­ment of con­serves and condi­ments that harkened to Johannes Hannot’s 1668 Still Life with Fruit. 2014’s win­ner was a palette of eye­shad­ow and some eye­lin­ers inspired by Jan Adam Kruseman’s 1833 Por­trait of Ali­da Christi­na Assink and a Leen­dert van der Cooghen sketch.)

But what about that spe­cial art lov­ing bib­lio­phile who already has every­thing, includ­ing a Rem­brandts Hands and a Lions Paw boekarm­band?

Maybe you could get them Col­lier van hond­jes, Gais and Duinker’s fol­low up to the book bracelet, a rub­ber chok­er with an attached 112-page book pen­dant show­cas­ing Rem­brandt dogs sourced from var­i­ous museum’s dig­i­tal col­lec­tions.

Pur­chase Rem­brandt’s Hands and a Lions Paw lim­it­ed edi­tion book bracelet here.

And embark on mak­ing your own improb­a­ble thing inspired by a high res image in the Rijksmu­se­um’s Rijks Stu­dio here.

via Colos­sal/Neatora­ma

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and cre­ator, most recent­ly of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How to Wear a Toga the Official Ancient Roman Way

What does it take to wear an ancient Roman toga with dig­ni­ty and grace?

Judg­ing from the above demon­stra­tion by Dr Mary Har­low, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Ancient His­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Leices­ter, a cou­ple of helpers, who, in the first cen­tu­ry CE, would have invari­ably been enslaved, and thus inel­i­gi­ble for togas of their own.

The icon­ic out­er gar­ments, tra­di­tion­al­ly made of wool, begin as sin­gle, 12–16m lengths of fab­ric.

Extra hands were need­ed to keep the cloth from drag­ging on the dirty floor while the wear­er was being wrapped, to secure the gar­ment with addi­tion­al pleats and tucks, and to cre­ate the pouch-like umbo at chest lev­el, in a man­ner as aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing as every oth­er fold and drape was expect­ed to be.

As for­mal citizen’s garb, the toga was suit­able for vir­tu­al­ly every pub­lic occa­sion, as well as an audi­ence with the emper­or.

In addi­tion to slaves, the toga was off-lim­its to for­eign­ers, freed­men, and, with the notable excep­tion of adul­ter­ess­es and pros­ti­tutes, women.

Wealth­i­er indi­vid­u­als flaunt­ed their sta­tus by accent­ing their out­fit with stripes of Tyr­i­an Pur­ple.

The BBC reports that dying even a sin­gle small swatch of fab­ric this shade “took tens of thou­sands of des­ic­cat­ed hypo­branchial glands wrenched from the cal­ci­fied coils of spiny murex sea snails” and that thus dyed, the fibers “retained the stench of the invertebrate’s marine excre­tions.”

Achiev­ing that Tyr­i­an Pur­ple hue was “a very smelly process,” Dr. Har­low con­firms, “but if you could retain a lit­tle bit of that fishy smell in your final gar­ment, it would show your col­leagues that you could afford the best.”

Giv­en the laun­dry-relat­ed rev­e­la­tions of some toga inves­ti­gat­ing stu­dents in Sal­is­bury Uni­ver­si­ty’s Depart­ment of The­atre and Dance study abroad pro­gram, above, a fishy odor might not have been the great­est olfac­to­ry chal­lenge asso­ci­at­ed with this gar­ment.

The stu­dents also share how toga-clad Romans dealt with stairs, and intro­duce view­ers to 5 forms of toga:

Toga Vir­ilis  — the toga of man­hood

Toga Prae­tex­ta — the pre-toga of man­hood toga

Toga Pul­la — a dark mourn­ing toga

Toga Can­di­da- a chalk whitened toga sport­ed by those run­ning for office

Toga Pic­ta- to be worn by gen­er­als, prae­tors cel­e­brat­ing games and con­suls. The emperor’s toga pic­ta was dyed pur­ple. Uh-oh.

Their youth­ful enthu­si­asm for antiq­ui­ty is rous­ing, though Quin­til­ian, the first cen­tu­ry CE edu­ca­tor and expert in rhetoric might have had some thoughts on their clown­ish antics.

He cer­tain­ly had a lot of thoughts about togas, which he shared in his instruc­tive mas­ter­work, Insti­tu­tio Ora­to­ria:

The toga itself should, in my opin­ion, be round, and cut to fit, oth­er­wise there are a num­ber of ways in which it may be unshape­ly. Its front edge should by pref­er­ence reach to the mid­dle of the shin, while the back should be high­er in pro­por­tion as the gir­dle is high­er 

behind than in front. The fold is most becom­ing, if it fall to a point a lit­tle above the low­er edge of the tunic, and should cer­tain­ly nev­er fall below it. The oth­er fold which pass­es oblique­ly like a belt under the right shoul­der and over the left, should nei­ther be too tight nor too loose. The por­tion of the toga which is last to be arranged should fall rather low, since it will sit bet­ter thus and be kept in its place. A por­tion of the tunic also should be drawn back in order that it may not fall over the arm when we are plead­ing, and the fold should be thrown over the shoul­der, while it will not be unbe­com­ing if the edge be turned back. On the oth­er hand, we should not cov­er the shoul­der and the whole of the throat, oth­er­wise our dress will be undu­ly nar­rowed and will lose the impres­sive effect pro­duced by breadth at the chest. The left arm should only be raised so far as to form a right angle at the elbow, while the edge of the toga should fall in equal lengths on either side. 

Quin­til­lian was will­ing to let some of his high stan­dards slide if the wearer’s toga had been unti­died by the heat of rous­ing ora­tion:

When, how­ev­er, our speech draws near its close, more espe­cial­ly if for­tune shows her­self kind, prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing is becom­ing; we may stream with sweat, show signs of fatigue, and let our dress fall in care­less dis­or­der and the toga slip loose from us on every side…On the oth­er hand, if the toga falls down at the begin­ning of our speech, or when we have only pro­ceed­ed but a lit­tle way, the fail­ure to replace it is a sign of indif­fer­ence, or sloth, or sheer igno­rance of the way in which clothes should be worn.

We’re pret­ty sure he would have frowned on clas­si­cal archae­ol­o­gist Shel­by Brown’s exper­i­ments using a twin-size poly-blend bed sheet in advance of an ear­ly 21st-cen­tu­ry Col­lege Night at the Get­ty Vil­la.

Prospec­tive guests were encour­aged to attend in their “best togas.”

Could it be that the par­ty plan­ners , envi­sion­ing a civ­i­lized night of pho­to booths, clas­si­cal art view­ing, and light refresh­ments in the Her­cu­la­neum-inspired Get­ty Vil­la, were so igno­rant of 1978’s noto­ri­ous John Belushi vehi­cle Ani­mal House?

Estne vol­u­men in toga, an solum tibi libet me videre?

Relat­ed Con­tent 


- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

How to Give Yourself a 3000-Year-Old Hairstyle Using Iron Age Tools

There was a peri­od in the late 20th-cen­tu­ry when hav­ing hair long enough to sit on was con­sid­ered some­thing of an accom­plish­ment.

Judg­ing by the long hair pins unearthed from Austria’s Hall­statt bur­ial site, extreme length was an ear­ly Iron Age hair goal, too, pos­si­bly because a coro­net of thick braids made it eas­i­er to bal­ance a bas­ket on your head or keep your veil secure­ly fas­tened.

Mor­gan Don­ner, whose YouTube chan­nel doc­u­ments her attempts to recre­ate his­tor­i­cal gar­ments and hair­styles, com­mit­ted to try­ing var­i­ous Hall­statt looks after read­ing arche­ol­o­gogist Kari­na Grömer’s 2005 arti­cle Exper­i­mente zur Haar- und Schleier­tra­cht in der Hall­stattzeit (Exper­i­ments on hair­styles and veils in the Hall­statt peri­od.)

Gromer, the vice-head of the Vien­na Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um’s Depart­ment of Pre­his­to­ry, pub­lished pre­cise dia­grams show­ing the posi­tion of the hair orna­ments in rela­tion to the occu­pants of var­i­ous graves.

For exam­ple, the skele­ton in grave 45, below, was dis­cov­ered with “10 bronze nee­dles to the left of and below the skull, (and) parts of a bronze spi­ral roll in the neck area.”

Although no hair fibers sur­vive, researchers cross-ref­er­enc­ing the pins’ posi­tion against fig­ur­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions from peri­od arti­facts, have made a pret­ty edu­cat­ed guess as to the sort of hair do this indi­vid­ual may have sport­ed in life, or more accu­rate­ly, giv­en the con­text, death.

As to the “bronze spi­ral roll” — which Don­ner per­sists in refer­ring to as a spi­ral “doobly doo” — it func­tioned much like a mod­ern day elas­tic band, pre­vent­ing the braid from unrav­el­ling.

Don­ner twists hers from wire, after arrang­ing to have repli­ca hair­pins cus­tom made to his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate dimen­sions. (The man­u­fac­tur­er, per­haps mis­un­der­stand­ing her inter­est in his­to­ry, coat­ed them with an antiquing agent that had to be removed with “brass clean­er and a bit of rub­bing.”

Most of the styles are vari­ants on a bun. All with­stand the “shake test” and would look right at home in a bridal mag­a­zine.

Star Wars fans will be grat­i­fied to find not one, but two icon­ic Princess Leia looks.

Our favorites were the braid­ed loops and dou­ble buns meant to be sport­ed beneath a veil.

“The braids do kind of act nice­ly as an anchor point for the veil to sit on,” Don­ner reports, “Not a lot of mod­ern appli­ca­tion per se for this par­tic­u­lar style but it’s cute. It’s fun.”

Either would give you some seri­ous Medieval Fes­ti­val street cred, even if you have to resort to exten­sions.

Donner’s video gets a lot of love in the com­ments from a num­ber of archae­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sion­als, includ­ing a funer­ary archae­ol­o­gist who prais­es the way she deals with the “inher­ent issues of preser­va­tion bias.”

The final nine min­utes con­tain a DIY tuto­r­i­al for those who’d like to make their own hair­pins, as well as the spi­ral “doobly doo”.

If you’re of a less crafty bent, a jew­el­ry design­er in Fin­land is sell­ing repli­cas based on the grave finds of Hall­statt cul­ture on Etsy.

Watch a playlist of Donner’s his­tor­i­cal hair exper­i­ments and tuto­ri­als, though a peek at her Insta­gram reveals that she got a buz­z­cut last fall, cur­rent­ly grown out to pix­ie-ish length.

Down­load Grömer’s illus­trat­ed arti­cle on Hall­statt peri­od hair­styles and veils for free (in Ger­man) here.

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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