Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency

Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency

This series is to mark the 200th anniversary of this brief but revolutionary and creative period. At its helm the Prince Regent himself, the great patronizer of art and design.

On the BBC 4 website she asks us when was Britain at its most elegant and most decadent, its most stylish and most radical. Her answer as you might expect is that it was the regency and she goes on to explain why she thinks that. Also detailed on this page is what we can expect from this series. It looks at the man the era was named after, the Prince Regent, along with other Royals and Aristocrats as well as its working people and how they all experienced this decade, 1811 to 1820. Also covered are the celebrities of its age – the likes of Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Joseph Turner and John Constable.

Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency The Prince of Whales

The Prince of Whales

In the first episode Warts and all – Portrait of a Prince she looks at how the Prince Regent, George IV, was obsessed with outdoing Napoleon – “not on the battlefield but in terms of opulence, bling and monumental architecture’. The BBC iPlayer page provides further details of this episode.

She finished her opening introduction advising us that there was a lot more to the regency than Mr Darcy!

Her team at Kew Palace on discussing what the public know about The Prince Regent, reported on a visiting little girl who said he was ‘Sad Mad Bad and Fat’!

George was the United Kingdom’s ruler but a regent not its king owing to the temporary absence of his father George III due to his incapacitating mental condition, yet despite this he was the subject of much virulent irreverent satire by commentators and cartoonists. It is hard to imagine any of our present royal family being pictured as a whale which in ‘The Prince of Whales’! he was. Nearly two hundred years on our satirists seem very tame if not obsequious to our current heads of state – whether Royals, Lords or Commons.

Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and His Wife

Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and His Wife

The program looks at George’s art collection – he bought prodigiously – including the most expensive in his collection Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and His Wife.

Alongside his collection the program looks at the extensive collection bequeathed to Dulwich College by Peter Francis Bourgeois, landscape artist and court painter to George III which unlike the Prince’s private collection was open to the public. His collection could have been left to the British Museum but he considered it was ran by snobs and too closely associated with the Regency Inner Circle. He was of the father’s royal court not the son’s. Hence his bequest to the Dulwich College. The Architect John Soane built an art gallery within the college grounds to house them, also out of money left by Bourgeois. It was the first gallery open to the public.

Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency The Prince

The Prince Regent

The Prince Regent also liked his clothes – his budget for fashion as extravagant as that for his art-works. The most fashionable man in London at this time was Beau Brummel – whose influence also extended to the Prince. The program uses ‘Dandy’ by The Kinks to showcase their outfits – Brummel himself is credited with inventing the suit. Though when saying his budget it is notable that he bought his extensive wardrobe on credit – he ran up huge debts, many remaining unpaid.

At this time Britain was the reigning European superpower having just beaten the French and Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo  – but the Prince Regent had little to do with it not being a soldier let alone on the fields of battle. But he was clearly vain-glorious and self-delusional and had become the subject of many paintings with him as the conquering war hero – Wellington a mere shadow of him. Appearance trumping reality reminding that spin is nothing new just the methods of its commission.

The royal portrait painter was Thomas Lawrence, president of the Royal Academy, and referred by Lucy Worsley as the ‘Chief Flatterer’ and very definitely counter-weight to the cruel cartoon caricaturists. Lawrence was the Photoshop of his time, routinely taking pounds and years off the monarch.

To most of his subjects these paintings would be all they would have seen of him. Appearance clearly was more important than reality.

I look forward the next episode Developing the Regency Brand which will explore its architecture as part of the rebuilding of Britain during this period.

Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency Dulwich College

Dulwich College

Kate Spade comes to the UK

Kate Spade New York Logo

Kate Spade RUFFLED BETHANNE DRESS

Ruffled Bethanne Dress

Kate Spade the quintessentially New York store has arrived in the UK. Well England, well okay then, London.

Though to quibble in this web-age it matters not whether we live in a city with stores full of fashionable threads or we live in a slumbering sartorial back-water. But nevertheless if you want to check out in person – to do more than look not touch – then Kate Spade’s cool clean colourful wares are now available to try on and buy in London’s Covent Garden. And even posher Sloane Square to follow.

Kate Spade, if you don’t know, do clothes and their accessories. They also do covers for iPhones and iPads – though can you really make these Apple icons anymore better looking than they are already? – they also dabble in home-wear and bridal.

On their website there are a number of other features too such as Deborah Loves and Westward Collection. The Deborah doing the loving being Deborah Lloyd its current president. The Westward collection is the work of Los Angeles fashion duo Emily Current and Meritt Elliott, known together as Maude.

Kate Spade also have a colour of the month – as I type this it is blue but as you read it…

The stylish looks of the Kate Spade website are in keeping with the looks of its fashion.

It will be interesting to see whether Kate Spade London follows in the footsteps of Kate Spade New York – will its global brand overbear or will it allow – can it allow? – a space for local spirit?

That Kate Spade sell Apple fashion accessories is perhaps fitting – they are themselves the Apple of retail fashion – producing pricey pieces stylish and complete enough with the unspoken longed for hope that you will never feel the need to purchase a competitor product again!

And unlike Apple’s over-dependence on one man, its just stepped down CEO, Steve Jobs, Kate Spade has both its eponymous founder and president & chief creative officer Deborah Lloyd at its helm to sustain its brand into the future.

Live colourfully.Kate Spade dresses

Kate Spade Westwood Collection

Westwood Collection

Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters – history unspun…

Wallis Simpson: The Secret LettersThis Channel 4 program based on fifteen hitherto unrevealed letters between Wallis Simpson and her second husband Ernest Simpson overturns what we the British public have come to understand about the whole WE (Wallis, Edward) affair.

Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters narrated by Samuel West and written and produced by Simon Berthon tells a very new story.

Edward VIII gave up his throne for Wallis – a grand romantic gesture – we never considered what she gave up for him.

The secret letters of the program’s title were discovered by Wallis Simpson’s latest biographer Anne Sebba for her book ‘That Woman’. They show that the love between the abdicated King and Mrs Simpson was unrequited – he desperately in love with her but she still in love with her second husband Ernest. He had passion for her, she only affection for him.

Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters Anne Sebba

Biographer Anne Sebba

She had conspired to aspire in British Society and, well, who better, than the future king to achieve this. But she was to succeed in capturing more than the king’s manifest material comforts and honours, instead the King’s very heart and soul

Two stories have endured, one that she, Wallis, a Scarlet woman, double-divorcee (scandalous in the 1930’s if unremarkable now) and whisper it she was an American – undermining genteel English society – or exposing its hypocrisy – as you like it.

The second story is a more romantic one – what the King gave up for her – against all the odds and the might of the English establishment – and their ultimate exile – not just physical but emotional, social and political.

Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters - Ernest Simpson

Ernest Simpson

These letters tell a new tale – as in the first story Wallis was certainly a cool and calculating schemer and as in the second story the King did give up his kingdom for her – but the exile for Wallis was a very different one. The king had given up his throne for love, she had given up love for the king.

The letters establish not just that Wallis was still in love with Ernest – a very different WE – but that the divorce itself was an illegal exercise in collusion – a fabrication of infidelity.

She writes to him of the King ‘what can I say when I am standing beside the grave of everything that was us’ – this line alone lays waste everything we had ever thought about the love between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

That ultimately Wallis Simpson was the hunted not the hunter. And she had wanted out. She had wanted to exit the affair waiting for his royal coronation and duty to inevitably put her out of the regal picture – she did not know that he planned to abdicate. Their affair then became public and they then went into French exile. When discovering his plans to secede to his brother George VI she had pleaded with him not to – he did not want to listen. A further letter to him explaining she and Ernest were meant for each other and that she and Edward could never make each other happy resulted in Edward threatening to slit his throat!

Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters - Wallis

Wallis Simpson

The pending marriage between Edward and Wallis was referred to between Ernest and Wallis as ‘the final catastrophe’ and of which Ernest considered Wallis entirely blameless. When on June 3 1937 they finally married it is well documented not one member of the Royal family attended.

As well as these tangled web of relationships between Wallis, Edward and Ernest the program explores the early life of Wallis – her parents and her upbringing and her first marriage to Earl Winfield Spencer Jr.

The program reminds that like Diana Spencer and Kate Middleton the press have always had an obsession with Royalty and long before these two princesses were subject to intrusive press and paparazzi attention Wallis Simpson was similar prey to their prurient camera eye.

This program turns upside down what we had thought we knew about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

A soon to be released film directed by Madonna of the couple titled ‘W.E.‘ as English actress Andrea Riseborough as Wallis and James D’Arcy as Edward VIII – Ernest Simpson is played by David Barbour. I wonder how incidental his part will be in the proceedings of this film knowing as we now do his far more central role. As Princess Diana was to state so memorably about her ultimately doomed marriage to Prince Charles ‘there were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit crowded’. The third there was Camilla Parker-Bowles, a very present factor, whereas Ernest a very absent factor, but no less significant because of that.

I understand that the film is now completed and ready for a December 2011 release in the USA – I wonder how much of this Channel 4 show or the Anne Sebba biography writers Madonna and Alex Keshishian would have been aware of?

If not aware then ‘W.E’ perhaps will have to content itself in being the last of that particular 20th Century English Royal myth.

And now another film – about ‘WEE’ not ‘WE’ – is waiting to be shot. I wonder what director will best tell it?

Wallis Simpson: The Secret Letters Edward and Wallis

Wallis and Edward

University of the Arts London – Showtime for Samuel Way

Samuel Way London College Fashion Rangeboard

Rangeboard

Samuel Way London College Fashion Green Shoes

Don’t step on my green suede shoes

Samuel Way London College Fashion Rubber Duckie shoes

Rubber Duckie

Samuel Way is another cordwainer Graduate from the London College of Fashion.

Another that is in the context of my last showtime post about Min Jung Chae.

In that post I commented that women’s shoes were in general a lot more creative and innovative then the more sober and conservative men’s shoe.

Samuel Way’s footwear designs are certainly not conservative, very definitely an exception to that rule.

He has a BA Honours Degree in Cordwainers Footwear, more specifically in their product design and development.

His Spring Summer 2012 collection is inspired by his own childhood nostalgia and uses very bold colours and block designs.

In his own words ‘… a menswear collection inspired by re-collective memories, themes like cartoon characters, board games and other childhood related products that I still feel nostalgic about’.

In this Showtime collection he worked toward this with a comical and toyish looking footwear.

All his shoes are hand-made.

Though this collection is focussed on men’s shoes he also produces women’s shoes such as a Jimmy Choo and H&M collaboration.

He now works as an apprentice for design company BSV International based in London.

I look forward more of his bold and creative footwear.Samuel Way London College Fashion

  • Jimmy Choo (thestreetstylefashion.wordpress.com)

Voguepedia – Vogue catalogued

Voguepedia Search PageVoguepedia Email IntroductionVoguepedia is a new venture from Vogue, as described in their introductory Email ‘the ultimate (and growing) resource that documents the world of fashion in Vogue’.

A wikipedia version of Vogue magazine? Perhaps.

Currently if I need to find out fashion information I will use Google or Wikipedia or for specific designer details Style – sometimes I will go to current online magazines such as Vogue.

Voguepedia though is not just Vogue’s current content but a catalogue of a century plus of their online and print output.

The opening page is a search engine page marrying the function of Google and the looks of Bing.

The resource though is, as they say, a work in progress – my first search was Jimmy Choo, and was returned no results!

Alexander McQueen was my next search and the results were far more numerous.

However most of the results were secondary or passing references to him from articles on others from the fashion firmament – Peter Philips, Giles Deacon and Hussein Chalayan were the first pages listed – I would have hoped Alexander McQueen himself would have made up the first page returns. I am not sure if like the Google search algorithm there is a fashion algorithm at play here!

Voguepedia Personalities search

Just eleven so far!

The search can be filtered by Designers, Brands, Models, Personalities and Beauty.

You can see from the Personalities list that there is much content still to be added. It is the same with the Brands and Beauty.

The information is presented in a clear and stylish way. When I searched on Keira Knightly – as well as a summary article below a Vogue cover she appeared on from 2007 – see image end of this post – scrolling down revealed her history from birth to present, if in brief outline.

I have no doubt that this too will get more comprehensive overtime.

Much of the information still feels relatively current – the 1990’s seems about as historical as it gets so far. When it reaches back until the 1890’s – the decade Vogue was founded – we will have a very rich resource indeed, of fashion articles and photography.

I can’t wait.Voguepedia Keira Knightly

The 18th Century Back in Fashion – Grand Trianon Exhibition

Thierry Mugler RTW 1992-3

Thierry Mugler RTW 1992-3

Pierre Balmain 1954

Pierre Balmain 1954

The 18th Century Back in Fashion is an exhibition at the Palace of Versailles’ Grand Trianon showing now through to October 9.

This exhibition in their words ‘presents in a poetic confrontation costumes from the 18th Century and masterpieces of haute couture and fashion design from the 20th and 21st centuries’.

An online brochure is available detailing the exhibition in full – the pieces included and the rationale behind them.

The emphasis here is on the French 18th century and its influence on haute couture since that time to the present day but an influence out of France, to the rest of Europe and the World.

Vivienne Westwood 1996 Les Femmes Collection

Vivienne Westwood 1996 Les Femmes Collection

Christian Dior 2011

Christian Dior 2011

Britain is represented perhaps unsurprisingly by Alexander McQueen and by Vivienne Westwood – you can relive their 1990’s haute couture creations again if this time not on the catwalk but the magnificent surroundings of the Grand Trianon.

Also featured are other haute-couture modern luminaries such as Karl Lagerfield, Balenciaga, Azzedine Alaia, Yohji Yamamoto, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Christian Dior – and more.

In addition to the gallery of fashion on show to be experienced is the museum space itself – The Grand Trianon and its Gardens, and The Cotelle Gallery.

Fashion accessories are not neglected either – removable lace sleeves, fans, gloves, clutch bags and shoes. And of course jewellery. All on view like the costumes themselves in these grand palatial rooms.

The exhibition is open every day other than Monday from noon to 6.30pm – very civilised hours! And if you are a European Union resident and under the age of 26 you go free.

As said there is a brochure which includes photographs of various pieces but this is no substitute for seeing them life-sized, though I don’t suppose we will get to touch them!

It is a fascinating fashion survey – of how fashion has changed over the last three centuries yet in other ways not changed at all.

18th Century - French court dress

18th Century – French court dress

Azzedine Alaia 1992 Spring Summer Ready to Wear

Azzedine Alaia 1992 Spring Summer Ready to Wear