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: Boots, Etsy, Fashion, Fripperies, Gin, Jack the Ripper, Uncategorized, Victorian, Victoriana, Whores | Tags: Alan Moore, From Hell, Gin, Jack the Ripper, Victorian London
I have no shame in admitting that I’m already planning my outfit (and accessories, of course) for a party that’s not due to take place until February next year!
This poster is very apt for the occasion and, quite apart from loving letterpress type (being a bit of an old font/type nerd), I heartily condone the sentiment. Also loving the name of their shop!
The party in question is not your run-of-the-mill kind, but the third incarnation of Gin & Whores: a semi-regular affair held by Mme Guillotine for various reprobate friends who share her passion for Victorian Ladies of The Night, Gin and Jack the Ripper.
Spooky Shades have various items to tempt those seeking unusual lamp shades, but this is one of my favourite. I really like the overlaying of medical illustrations with one of the infamous letters purporting to be from Jack the Ripper.
The wonderful Hoolala has been featured a few times on my blog – they do a number of Jack the Ripper themed items, but the one I most covet also happens to be the most expensive. Typical. It’s this luxury pocket watch charm necklace, based on Alan Moore’s brilliant Jack the Ripper graphic novel, From Hell.
(Really interesting story of how Alan Moore actually met the lady behind Hoolala, by the way – clock on the picture below to be taken to that page & read more…)
For now, I have just purchased this necklace (featuring a silver Gin bottle label. HOW could I resist?) in preparation, and now can’t wait for it to arrive. I get terribly excited about this sort of thing.
Obviously, this one isn’t available anymore (ha ha), but do have a look at the other pieces in the collection (click on the picture to be whisked to the shop) – there’s a very similar Brandy one.
You cannot beat a bit of fingerless mittens action for adding an element of Victorian sauciness to an outfit, and these, by Hypericumfragile are just the ticket.
I had to add this saucy greeting card by Coquinette (all the cards are very amusing, using risqué contemporary images and distinctly modern text).
Gin & Whores basically involves getting togged-up in Victorian-esque outfits (some guests go for historical accuracy, whilst others opt for modern re-interpretations of Victorian outfits or accessories), drinking Gin and cackling with laughter in locations around London’s seedier locales.
This pretty lace-edged, raw silk bolero would be just the thing.
Usually we frequent pubs dating from the Victorian period are preferred, those public houses which (in our wildest imaginings) may have served a glass or two to some of Jack the Ripper’s victims, or even [shivers of macabre excitement] Jack himself.
That antique Doctor’s bag is just the sort of thing one imagines Jack the Ripper would carry about the place, don’t you think?
It possibly sounds a bit odd or mawkish to the casual observer, but we all have enormous fun and it’s all very much tongue-in-cheek. Much like this amusingly saucy Victorian ladies’ fridge magnet, by Pink Burlesque (who are based in Bristol). Really like all their items, actually!
In honour of the occasion, and my outfit hunting, I put together this themed collection of various favourites as an Etsy Treasury, I do hope you have enjoyed this sneak peek!
Direct links to all the items shown are available by going to the treasury’s page, HERE. Enjoy browsing all the lovely shops, but don’t blame me if you want everything, too. 😉
Until next time, duckies,
Filed under: Alexander McQueen, Bawdy Couture, Couture, Decadence, Fairytales, Marie Antoinette, Modern Nostalgic, Modern Victorian, Trinkets, tulle, Victorian, Victoriana | Tags: accessories, Baroque, designer, Fashion, Michal Negrin, Victorian, women's clothing
From the get-go we know this website isn’t going to be a subtle affair: crimson velvet theatre curtains pull slowly apart to reveal the bizarre, charming and – if one is honest – slightly bewildering – world of designer Michal Negrin…
An explosion of colours, overwhelming Baroque pastoral scenes involving plump cupids, frolicking 18th century lovers, random Kewpie dolls, 1920’s flapper girls dangling from hot air balloons and, ultimately, a mind-blowing peek into her world of full-on, turned-up-to-eleven romantic historical WHIMSY. A world, as you may imagine, I utterly adore.
I can’t quite recall when I first came across her designs, but I know exactly which item it was – a sumptuously gorgeous Victorian style skirt with overlapping romantic scrapbook-like pictures and tumbling roses. Love at first sight!
I think it would be fair to say that I rarely come across designers whose collections make me gasp and want one of practically everything, but Michal Negrin ticks all my boxes. 🙂
This is a relatively staid design from the current collection, totally wearable – I’d wear it as a day dress with a little cardi, plum colored tights, black biker boots & lashings of pearls. Just beacause.
I ALSO completely covet the other design in this style… Dreamy, misty, dusk-like colours and a cameo in the centre of the lacey trellis of a Victorian lady wearing a striped bathing suit. Seriously, what’s not to love?
Michal Negrin has been creating a unique lifestyle for over two decades with vintage-inspired designs that include jewelry, fashion, home décor, and accessories.
This full-length gown is just jaw-droppingly stunning – I think it looks like something from an Oscar Wilde play. It actually makes my heart beat faster.
Yes, yes, I know the price may also make the heart beat faster, but it’s a designer gown. We’re not doing a feature on supermarket fashion here, are we? (And I’m not being snobbish – I am currently putting together a feature about supermarket fashions I love, as it happens! – there are just different categories of clothing. I think this rivals some of Alexander McQueens last collection, but at a price that, whilst still expensive, is certainly more attainable than couture!)
This design is particularly reminiscent of that Baroque style couture – inspiration surely from cheerfully gaudily painted ceilings and the artwork one finds in those sumptuous palaces that have the power to take the breath away.
I love the colours in this skirt, they remind me of hand-tinted romantic Victorian photographs of famous actresses and noted beauties of the age.
As you can see, these softer colours are probably easier to wear for those of a nervous disposition who shy away from designs and patterns they consider ‘loud’ – this little vest top could be worn classically with a cashmere cardi & pearls, or thrown on with jeans & leather jacket. It’s all about the styling, dahling. 😉
Born in Kibbutz Naan in 1957, Michal always knew she was an individual with her own vision and this was despite being brought up in an environment that preached group uniformity.
She was driven to follow her inner passion for self-expression and spent her childhood designing. Her mother was an inspiration and supported her in fulfilling her dreams despite the Kibbutz’s conventions.
Well, there is absolutely nothing that says ‘group uniformity’ in Michal’s designs, that’s for sure. They manage to capture the spirit of those vintage collectible ‘saucy’ postcards – Victorian beauties showing a well-turned ankle or – shocking – gadding about in their under-crackers.
This skirt depicts ladies swimming through a palace as various Baroque items of furniture bob past. If you cannot love such a scene, then I seriously doubt we’d get on. I mean it. 🙂
A dramatic kimono top featuring Victorian ladies in handcarts above a vast city skyline climbing ladders into the sky… Again, I ask – what’s not to love?
It is obvious that Michal is passionate about vintage images, the bejewelled, beribboned world of Baroque, of gilded palaces, the court of Marie Antoinette, intricate Victorian scrapbook pictures, the excess of 1920’s hedonism and those gaily painted barges or gypsy caravans that gleam with brightly painted bouquets of flowers. All passions I share, so no wonder I am so giddy about her work!
Little details like the placing of the curtain-call ladies arm-in-arm, circling the cuffs of this beautiful bolero… literally make me squeal. It’s such fun, I love the sheer exuberance of these images and the way they are placed on the designs.
I have only shown you a tiny proportion of the items I love (I’d have to lead you through the entire website!) and even then have only touched on the clothes… Oh my dears, there are stunning boots & shoes, jewellery and even items for the home, too! But I shall leave you to explore those yourselves. 🙂
Negrin’s designs are more than I could normally spend, but then these are hardly your average clothes and accessories. I shall own some of her pieces one day soon, I SHALL! I long for them. 😦
Oh, I know, quelle melodramatic hand-to-the-forehead – forgive me if I sink, breathless, onto a velvet chaise lounge, but I rather think it suits these styles I so hanker after. 😉
Until next time,
Yours entirely made of whimsy,
Filed under: Fashion, Fripperies, Modern Nostalgic, Modern Victorian, Shopping, Trinkets, Victorian, Victoriana | Tags: 1928.com, ASOS, Miss Selfridge, Nemesis watch, Revlon lipstick, ROOTOTE
If yesterday’s Wish List selection of tasty trinkets had you clutching your credit cards and making death-rattle gasping sounds – as well they might – then I present for your delectation a platter of more purse-friendly gothic treats…
$45 – yesstyle.com
More ROOTOTE tote bags »
$40 – endless.com
$5.94 – walmart.com
Filed under: Alexander McQueen, Bawdy Couture, Fashion, Fripperies, Modern Victorian, Shopping, Trinkets, Victorian, Victoriana
Flipping through the glossies reveals pages dripping with lace, leather, blood-red lips and more skull jewellery than you can shake a [skull-topped walking] stick at. Yes, my pretties, it would seem that GOTH IS BACK.
It makes me smile, as I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Gothic Sort myself. I don’t count myself as such nowadays, though I do still hanker after some elements of the style, now and again. There are times when my inner goth still makes their presence known… and y’know what? Seeing some of the editorials infused with such trinkets does still make my heart beat a little faster!
I shall split this look up into items I can only, truly, dream about: Wish List; and items I could happily purchase without the bank manager having an apoplectic fit: Shopping List. First, bring on the dreams!
$2,685 – net-a-porter.com
More Alexander McQueen dresses »
$28 – yesstyle.com
Filed under: Etsy, Fripperies, Trinkets, Victoriana, Vintage | Tags: Etsy, Going Postal, Sky 1, Steampunk, Terry Pratchett
Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we were treated to a wonderful two-part adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal on Sky 1.
I had salivated over the trailers and was not to be disapointed. I LOVED every minute!
For those of you who missed it – fear not: it’s being repeated on Friday 4th June at 6pm, or you can watch it on Sky Player online. There will also be a DVD released later this year.
The costumes and sets were amazingly detailed and entirely evocative of madcap steampunk Victoriana. Wonderful stuff. Casting seemed spot-on, too, with excellent performances all round.
Of course, all this inspired me to create a selection of themed goodies found from various talented designers and sellers on Etsy. Recently, their Treasury section has allowed for one extra item per line, so even more to feast the ol’ peepers on.
You can see larger pictures at my Treasury page, but for your delectation, I present my Going Postal round-up…
Direct links to items shown, left to right, by shop name: