Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Shoe Me Your Wingtips

Our love affair with shoes has been going on for thousands of years.

Butchers in ancient Egypt wore high heeled sandals so they wouldn't have to splash around in animal blood all day.

American moccasins originated with Eastern Native American tribes.  Ojibway, of the Great Lakes, means people of the puckered moccasin.

Did you know King Tut wore orthopedic sandals?

A 5,500-year-old leather lace-up size 7 shoe, designed a thousand years before the Great Pyramid of Giza, was found buried in sheep dung in an Armenian cave.  The baa-baa doo-doo kept the world's oldest piece of leather footwear in perfect condition. 

Chinese concubines and Turkish odalisques wore tall shoes for beauty …. and to prevent them from running away. 

In 16th century European posh society, high heels were popular for both men and women.  A person who threw around his power or money was called well-heeled. 

The Sun King, Louie the 14th, wore five inch heels that were painted with battle scenes.  A high point of Louie's career was his decree that only the nobility could wear red Louis heels and no one could wear heels higher than his own.  I guess size does matter. 

The Puritans knew how sexy shoes could be.  A law in the Massachusetts Colony prohibited women from wearing high heels to ensnare a man or they would be tried as a witch.  And we all thought Come F♥♥♥ Me Pumps originated in the 1940's. 

Gorged on cake, Marie Antoinette strutted down the runway to the guillotine in 1793 wearing two-inch heels.

Then along came the Mad Men.  As with corsets and cigarettes, high heels were advertised as healthful because high heels help alleviate backaches and stooping and make walking less tiring 
Bravely written by men wearing wingtips.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thanks Mad Men, Cough Cough

When Christopher Columbus reached the Bahamas on his cruise in 1492, he received a gift of dried tobacco leaves.  Not knowing what they were, he threw them away.  We know Chris was not the brightest bulb … after all, he thought he was in Asia.

By 1600, Queen Elizabeth and her boyfriend Sir Walter Raleigh smoked away as they squinted at their maps and planned domination of the world.

Eighty years later, Massachusetts and Philadelphia passed no smoking laws because of the fire danger.  The laws prohibited smoking outdoors.  Cough cough.

Recognition of the down side of tobacco use grew until there were vigorous anti-smoking movements in 43 of the then 45 states.  I think we can assume Virginia was not one of the 43.

Dum ♪ Dum ♪ Dum ♪ Dum ♪

Enter the Mad Men in the 1930's.  The first print advertisement for cigarettes appeared in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

By 1940, adult Americans were smoking 2,558 cigarettes per capita per year … twice the amount of 1930. By 1975, the number had almost doubled again.

But wait.  It gets worse.

·       Kent claimed their 'micronite filter' offered "the greatest health protection in cigarette history."  It was made of asbestos.

·       Lucky Strike, Chesterfield and Camels all promoted the health benefits of their brands using actors dressed as physicians in white lab coats to spin the yarn.

·       Brown & Williamson claimed Kools provided protection from the common cold.

·       Worst of all was this ………………….

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Stop Doll Abuse!

Do you ever wonder 'what were they thinking?' 

I do every time I encounter a certain genre of handmade craft. 

It's not really ugly.  And for what it is, it is usually skillfully and carefully made.

It's the kind of thing that if you received it as a present, you would be speechless.  You would not be able to look the giver in the eye to express your thanks.

It is almost embarrassing in its tackiness.

It's tacky and kitschy.  It's tackitsch.

I am drawn to it.  Its awfulness is a magnet.  I can't get enough of it.

The bead and pin basket comes to us from the post-World War II 1950's.  It was originally designed to slip over a vase of flowers.  One of these would make a great mother-in-law gift.

Crafts made with shells have been around since the first woman said, "If you want to get in my cave, you'd better show up with some bling."  In addition to using seashells, pearls, beads and lots of gold spray paint, the crafter who created this music box also used macaroni shells.

Crocheted flowers are a huge step up from the plastic flower, but still …

I think they are a nice complement to the flamingo high ball glass.

My grandma Hope, a Victorian, was also a wizard with a crochet hook.  She crocheted intricately designed doilies and trims for bed and table linens.  She taught me to crochet a circle with yarn.  I can still do it, but that is the extent of my skill. 

Some of Grandma Hope's creations had ruffles that would stand up if stiffened.  Laundry starch was not strong enough, so she used sugar water.  She would be amazed at all the polymer sprays and brush-on stiffeners available to the home crafter today. 

But rest assured, my grandma would never have done this to a doll . . .

Thursday, March 8, 2012

She Loved to Play With Her Dead Doll

Leave it to the Victorians to create a doll modeled after a dead girl.  The dolls are ghostly white bisque with frozen limbs.  They feel cool to the touch.  Like tragic little corpses.

First manufactured in 1850, Frozen Charlottes come in all sizes, ranging from a mere ½" to 18" tall.

So who was this famous dead girl?

Dressed in her finest gown, Charlotte and her boyfriend drove in his sleigh to a New Year's Eve Ball in rural upstate New York.  Vain girl that she was, she refused to wrap up in the heavy woolen sleigh blankets because she wanted to make sure anyone they passed could see how beautiful she was in her ball gown.  When the young couple arrived at the party, her date discovered that Charlotte had frozen to death.

The account appeared in the New York Observer on February 8, 1840.  Poet Seba Smith immortalized the story with the poem Young Charlotte.  William Carter set the poetic tribute to music.

The dolls were originally produced as bathing dolls.  They were the rubber duckies of the 19th Century.  The tiniest Charlottes were also baked into children's birthday cakes or Christmas puddings as party favors.

Had she lived today, I'm sure we would see Charlotte on Girls Gone Wild.