Filed under: Costume Dramas, Literature, Painted Ladies, Victorian, Victoriana, Writers | Tags: 19th Century, Adaptation, BBC, Michel Faber, Novel, The Crimson Petal and the White, Victorian London, Victorian Prostitutes
Michel Faber’s The crimson Petal and the White, ticks so many of my boxes I hardly know where to begin. A richly detailed, viscerally engaging, beguilingly written novel that I fell deeply in love with when it first came out. Of course, ever practical, I got it in hardback and schlomped it around with me like a weighty talisman in the increasingly tattered velvet bag I carried everywhere at the time.
The narrative just drips with deliciously rank descriptions of The Great Stink which was Victorian London, the contrast between the perfumed, lace-clad middle classes and the guttersnipes living in utter poverty amidst unthinkable filth of every kind. Just my cup of tea, as regular readers of this blog will readily attest!
Here’s an excerpt from the start of Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, taken from Book Browse (you can read the first ten pages of the novel by following the above link):
Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.
When I first caught your eye and you decided to come with me, you were probably thinking you would simply arrive and make yourself at home. Now that you’re actually here, the air is bitterly cold, and you find yourself being led along in complete darkness, stumbling on uneven ground, recognising nothing. Looking left and right, blinking against an icy wind, you realise you have entered an unknown street of unlit houses full of unknown people.
And yet you did not choose me blindly. Certain expectations were aroused. Let’s not be coy: you were hoping I would satisfy all the desires you’re too shy to name, or at least show you a good time. Now you hesitate, still holding on to me, but tempted to let me go. When you first picked me up, you didn’t fully appreciate the size of me, nor did you expect I would grip you so tightly, so fast. Sleet stings your cheeks, sharp little spits of it so cold they feel hot, like fiery cinders in the wind. Your ears begin to hurt. But you’ve allowed yourself to be led astray, and it’s too late to turn back now.
It’s an ashen hour of night, blackish-grey and almost readable like undisturbed pages of burnt manuscript. You blunder forward into the haze of your own spent breath, still following me. The cobblestones beneath your feet are wet and mucky, the air is frigid and smells of sour spirits and slowly dissolving dung. You hear muffled drunken voices from somewhere nearby, but what little you can understand doesn’t sound like the carefully chosen opening speeches of a grand romantic drama; instead, you find yourself hoping to God that the voices come no closer.
The main characters in this story, with whom you want to become intimate, are nowhere near here. They aren’t expecting you; you mean nothing to them. If you think they’re going to get out of their warm beds and travel miles to meet you, you are mistaken.
You may wonder, then: why did I bring you here? Why this delay in meeting the people you thought you were going to meet? The answer is simple: their servants wouldn’t have let you in the door.
What you lack is the right connections, and that is what I’ve brought you here to make: connections. A person who is worth nothing must introduce you to a person worth next-to-nothing, and that person to another, and so on and so forth until finally you can step across the threshold, almost one of the family.
That is why I’ve brought you here to Church Lane, St Giles: I’ve found just the right person for you.
Now I am eagerly awaiting the first in a 4-part BBC adaptation which begins tonight on BBC2 at 9pm. I CAN’T WAIT! Well, I mean I can wait, I suppose, because it’s not going to be shown before then and I doubt the BBC are going to courier a DVD copy over to me, either. The rotters.
Romola Garai, Chris O’Dowd, Gillian Anderson, Richard E Grant, Shirley Henderson, Amanda Hale and Mark Gatiss star in a bold four-part adaptation of The Crimson Petal And The White adapted from Michel Faber’s best selling novel by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and directed by award-winning Marc Munden (The Devil’s Whore, The Mark Of Cain), produced by Origin Pictures for the BBC.
A tale of love, lust, desire and revenge, it reveals the true sexual politics of Victorian life. In the words of the heroine, Sugar: “If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully.”
As ever, when someone films or in any way adapts a favourite book, one is struck with an initial shivering thrill of excitement. This is followed hot on the heels by that slowly sinking dread that they are absolutely bound to bugger it up. Oh, they are going to RUIN IT for you; and that if they do, you’ll shake your fist at the skies, shouting “Why, God, WHY did you let these incompetent curs loose on my favourite book/film/other thing?” and then you’ll write a letter to the Guardian’s Media section, treating the editor to a frame-by-frame critique, entitled Everything That is Wrong with This Adaptation and including that well-worn line “I cannot believe the BBC have spent MY license fee on this utter drivel”, as though you, alone, fund The BBC and are entitled to personally approve of every single thing they produce.
But I digress.
Imagine how scary it must be to have written that novel, and to be watching your ‘baby’ reborn on TV. Luckily, Michel Faber entirely approves and was actually incredibly moved by the adaptation.
A few days ago, watching a TV show, I got tears in my eyes. That doesn’t happen very often. For a start, I haven’t watched television for many years, and also, it takes a lot to make me cry. My own private sorrows can make me weep, and occasionally a song can penetrate my defences (June Tabor’s “A Proper Sort of Gardener” does it to me every time), but when it comes to novels or on-screen narratives, I’m tough to crack. Pathos and poignancy are, to me, tactics and techniques; in my work as a writer, I fetch them from my toolbox and use them as required. Show me a tear-jerking movie, and I’ll sit stony-faced, analysing the hell out of it. “Oh yes, this is the bit where they hope people will start sniffling. Not badly done at all, I suppose, for this sort of thing. I’d rate it a 6/10. Maybe even a 7.” Yet a few days ago, sitting in front of the TV, I got choked up… I was anxious what TV would have done to my baby in the BBC’s adaptation, but its new artistic guardians have treated it very well indeed.
You can read his reaction in full in the piece he wrote for The Guardian today.
I am currently finalising my choices for an Etsy Treasury inspired by The Crimson Petal and the White (a themed, curated collection of items available at Etsy) and shall hopefully publish this in the next couple of days, after I’ve seen the programme and can let you know what I think of it!
Now, must be off as I’m trying to combine cooking Jambalaya, ironing and looking at delicious things on Etsy.
Until next time, darlings
Filed under: Accessories, Bawdy Couture, Competions, Decadence, Etsy, Fripperies, Modern Nostalgic, Modern Victorian, Painted Ladies, Victoriana | Tags: Deshabille, Rococo, Romantic, Rumpled
Déshabillé is the French term for being partly or ‘carelessly’ dressed. That slightly sleep rumpled, decadently sexy boudoir chic one sees in 1920′s films.
You know the sort of thing – starlets nonchalantly shrugging silk robes from their shoulders, tugging the pins from their curls, lounging around on days-beds wearing lacey little somethings, eating sugared plums and generally kicking up their heels in fancy tasseled slippers.
I have to tell you, it’s my one of my favourite ever looks, mainly because I end up looking somewhat déshabillé anyway (well, shabby at any rate) within minutes of being primped and preened. I am just not naturally a neat person. But there is just something so appealing about looking effortlessly glamorous (however much effort one has to put into looking that ‘effortless’!)
There is a yawning chasm of difference between déshabillé and shabby, however. A stray curl or rumpled robe too many means the difference between looking nonchalantly sexy, or mad cat lady wandering the street in her nightgown before being apprehended by the authorities. Subtly rumpled, darlings… undone. Like this divine silk lace robe, which is just made for this look.
Here is a beautifully embellished yet still simple day dress which partly inspired this post – it shows that déshabillé works equally well out of the boudoir and into day-wear. Add a layer or three (for the unpredictable Spring weather we’re experiencing in the UK right now) then remove as many as you wish to. With all the beautiful neckline detail, I would eschew necklaces and stack random bangles & charm bracelets. Charmingly carefree.
Dear Lillie have an amazing opportunity to win one of their Adeleine dresses on their blog: click HERE to enter, just by leaving a comment. (I have already entered as I love their designs, and you get to choose your own favourite colours, too!)
Of course, with our delightfully rumpled gowns & lace robes, we need somewhere to nonchalantly drape ourselves, and what could be more perfect for our theme than this romantically decadent handmade bed by one of my favourite multi-talented designers, Attila Design? A considered purchase, yes, but utterly unique.
This print of an original water colour is so reminiscent of summer mornings (and long afternoons) spent stretched full-length on rumpled sheets with a purring cat, basking in the sunshine, not caring that we should have long ago risen from our lazy, loose-limbed slumber. The colours are just perfect, don’t you think?
Whether on a bed or propped on a chaise, we of course need a whimsical pillow to lean against, or rest on our knees with a trashy novel weighty tome to read as we sate ourselves with Turkish Delights (or violet creams, or whatever retro confections take your fancy). This one is exquisite and I just love the Gibson Girl picture, having always been quite obsessed with that look.
Do have a look at my other hand-picked selections for our theme, all the shops are well worth a snoop through, full to bursting with treasures ready to be plucked…
Direct links to items shown, left to right:
Filed under: Bawdy Couture, Brooches, Etsy, Fashion, Fripperies, Home Sweet Home, Modern Nostalgic, Necklaces, Painted Ladies, Style, Trinkets, Vintage
From the get-go, I knew this was a product line I would love. Just look at the intro page! Modernised Victorian/Vintage style? Check. Cheeky Victorian images? Check. Witty wording? Check. And so I clicked away to my heart’s content for the next half hour or so. Slightly drooling. Furiously adding things to my Wants List (which I then emailed to the be-ringleted fiance). ;p
My first lust-have is this utterly darling little snap-closure purse (otherwise known as “kiss-lock closures). I am always drawn to these kiss-lock style purses, but even more so when they come in a variety of cute fabric choices and – oh, rapture! – with a number of playfully rude phrases to have emblazoned across the front…
The striped version (shown above) is my favourite fabric choice, and I would DEFINITELY choose phrase 3: “Bucks from Hooking” to have on mine. A full list of phrases may be found on Lochers website (click on the pic to be whisked straight there).
Mind you, the floral choice is a very cute choice for Spring… Perhaps I should get two.
I am completely in love with their clothing line, too. My top choice is the “CASSEI-TOI CHERI” (“Get Lost Darling”) cotton t-shirt (surely the most glamorous t-shirt ever) in a particularly lovely shade of teal:
…followed by the slightly more risqué (same style & colour) “I’m not your f****ing sweetheart”.
Their jewellery range makes my heart beat a little faster, too.
Wear with a wink and a knowing smile…
In very much the same vein, I love the following items for the fact their whimsical, home-spun styles and cutesy fabrics/patterns lead the casual viewer into the belief that they’re a very traditional – almost twee – take on vintage style.
A closer look reveals the shocking truth.
Bawdy and beautiful with a tongue-in-cheek humour: what’s not to like?
Direct links to items shown…
More tea, vicar?
Probably not. ;p
Filed under: Beauty, Decadence, Fashion, Fripperies, Gin, Painted Ladies, Perfume, Shopping, Strumpet, Trinkets, Uncategorized, Victorian Originals, Victoriana, Vintage, Whores
Alexander McQueen dress, $4,585
Eriebasin.com necklace, $50
Monsoon jewelry, 26 GBP
Illamasqua makeup, $20
I know it has been an absolute age, dear hearts, but they are coming, I promise!
Yours in a Strumpety manner,
I love Autumn best of all the seasons – everything about it. The dappled sunlight, the frosty mornings, bonfire smoke curling into the crisp air, conkers, kicking through piles of crispy leaves, the excitement (yes, EXCITEMENT) of donning your first cosy sweater of the year, of choosing your winter coat but not having to wear it just yet: the whole clichéd shebang.
I have been accused in the past of only favouring this time of year because my birthday falls in November, but this is utter rot & poppycock, as I have never been overly thrilled by birthdays and usually choose to celebrate mine in an understated way.
No, Autumn is the best season for all the above reasons and sartorially speaking, too – the fact that I generally loathe Summer adding more logs to that particular fire. The fashions are always far more interesting, don’t you think? Outfit choices go from whatever happens to be coolest against the skin (my own bare legs fill me with a particular horror, being paler than two bottles of milk and utterly unused to being exposed to the sun) to an array of gorgeous fabrics and – O joy! O rapture! – the comforting ability to layer.
This coming A/W looks to be especially pleasing in the world of fashion, with Paris-based trend forecasting company Nelly Rodi having picked four main looks, my favourite being what they term the Dandy Manifesto:
The world of books, writing, manuscripts, calligraphy and coded language. A theme combining the somewhat stuffy elegance of the Oscar Wilde style dandies with a bohemian, more modern, poetic, “artist” spirit. An androgynous silhouette: chic and decadent for a look both outdated yet contemporary.
A dark, shady range in a variety of inky tones. Touches of color electrify the palette. And to tone it all down: white and taupy or grayed shades.
Experimental, audacious make-up borrows from Dadaism, typography and photo-montage.
Two palettes co-exist: the first explores paper, whiteness and material effects, while the second, darker range is inspired by ink, pencil, charcoal and graphite.
- Men’s supple, ultra-fine worsted wools in the spirit of Savile Row tailors
- Stripes used with subtlety: discreet banker’s stripes, stippled chalk stripes, tuxedo pants emphasized with a band of tone-on-tone satin. A graphic spirit borrowed from the wide stripes of club ties or men’s satin waistcoats
- Fluid fabrics, heavily drapey silks: crepe, crepe georgette, chiffon
- Delicate lace and embroidered tulles
- Jacquards and tapestry style weaves are inspired by the elaborate covers of old books
Key Women’s’ Products
- Redingote-coats. Short 2-in-1 jackets (jacket + waistcoat). Little men’s waistcoats.
- Cigarette-legged pants and darted cropped pants.
- Striped shirts or with plastrons, shirttails, with scarves and lavallieres.
- Cardigans. With tailored collars, belted, Jacquard
- Oversized jackets
- Skintight miniskirts in stretch cotton with rock details: zips, buckles, insets
- Lace tops and dresses.
Key Men’s Products
- Tuxedo spirit, fitted cuts, in a sportswear mood
- Short coats in little English checks, basket weaves, tweed. Duffle-coats
- Historical military coats: engraved ball buttons and double-breasted
- Prints: checks and flowers for hunting jackets, waistcoats and tapered pants.
- Riding jackets, short, buttoned and fitted
- Women: lambskin gloves. Textile shoes, decorated pumps, with patent or gimped and perforated toes. Material mixes for bags: skins, crocodile, and natural leather
- Men: caps inspired by riding hats. Tartan ties. Military and riding boots. Checked Borsalinos.
Of course I had to do my take on the trend and put together a selection of fashion items I really hope you’ll agree capture this look, and which I very much hope you’ll enjoy browsing through…
Direct links to items shown:
“With your cherry lips and your golden curls / you could make grown men gasp…” so sang Garbage – and it’s true (though I haven’t ever had golden curls and grown men likely only gasp in exasperation at me nowadays. Like when I deliberately go as s-l-o-w-l-y as possible through the self-checkout at the supermarket. Just to annoy rude people who stand as close to you as possible, practically sitting in your basket as soon as you put it down, you understand. They deserve it). Anyway. ‘Why the cherry theme?’ the crowds are almost literally baying at the door…
The Queen’s Patisserie selection is a foodie’s delight [yet much kinder on the hips] and I can see I am going to have to work my way through the whole lot. Just for, y’know, research purposes. And, um, to assist my dear readers in better selecting their favourites. Yes, I am that selfless.
Mercifully, this balm is petroleum free. Petroleum is a drying agent, so using one of the many Big Name lip balms (most of which are petroleum based) is somewhat counter-productive to moistening the ol’ lips in the first place.
Vintage Bella make all of their products from beginning to end, with no nasty cheap ‘filler’ ingredients.
I think these would be wonderful for wedding favours or to give in themed party gift bags (particularly if throwing a Marie Antoinette tea party as suggested in a previous post of ours based around the theme of Gorging on Glorious Decadence). Needless to say, I am thrilled with my purchase, and believe I shall plump for the Butterscotch Frosting one, next time…