Monday, June 30, 2014

a little about "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries"

Hello my little flappers & sheiks!

I wanted to share with you all a wonderful series we discovered awhile back:  Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries,  produced by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC).   It features Essie Davis as the title character Miss Phryne Fisher -  a well-to-do femme fatale in 1920's Melbourne, Australia.  (first name is pronounced 'Fry-knee,' from the Greek, 4th century BC, after a famous Courtesan.   I think the name was vogue for awhile around the same period as Myrtle or Gertrude)    Miss Fisher is an upper class but down-to-earth woman of the world.  Finding herself with a knack for deduction and reasoning, she often crosses paths (in a meddling sort of way) with Melbourne's Finest:  Detective Jack Robinson, and Constable Collins at his right hand.  In similar 'Murder She Wrote' fashion, Phryne often finds herself tripping over dead bodies when taking a train ride or out visiting friends.  (and don't even get me started on Midsommer, England!)

In true Flapper sense, Phryne is a liberated woman.  She goes against the grain of what society expected from a lady in her day - she chooses not to get married, gets romantically involved with (several) different men of her own choosing, practices 'family planning', lives alone, goes out frequently by herself, and carries a gun even.    (Only occasionally when she is hit on by a guy that seems barely old enough to wear long pants, do we ask ourselves 'how old is she supposed to be again?")  

And then there is the costumes... Oh, the costumes.... they are so lovely. Bravo to Marion Boyce and her design team!   A woman of society in that day was expected to have a different outfit depending on the occasion and time of day, so the design team had their work cut out for them. There is an incredible amount of moving between scenes within the series, sometimes within each episode - from traveling, to home, to nightclubs to afternoon tea, and the wardrobe does a great job of keeping up appearances.

Oh Phryne,  you should know better than to wear white!

Love this outfit!

Unlike many other historical mystery series, where you, the viewer, find yourself a little unraveled by things they present to you in wondering if they are being historically accurate, or whether it fits as part of the story,   Miss Fisher's drags you in to the story.  The supporting cast are wonderful as well, the relationships you find yourself shipping -that of Dot & Constable Collins, the budding feelings between Phryne & Detective Jack.  The writers did a great job of translating the Kerry Greenwood novels to the screen.  

Interesting tidbits - Prohibition in Oz

One of the things I found of particular interest about this show, was that it is supposed to have taken place about the same time period as another of our favorite shows, Boardwalk Empire. Yet there is little mention of prohibition. On the contrary, they seem to have cocktails quite frequently throughout. It seems that catching up with bootleggers is furthest thing from Detective Jack's mind with all the murder going on. The one exception was of the episode that took place in a speak-easy kind of nightclub, which would lead you to think that they were trying to hide something.   My sweetie Chris is from Australia, (Sydney) so we got into a discussion about prohibition between the countries.  It seems that prohibition was more of an American concept. Although Australia did practice it, it was done by territory - The people in the different regions voted on it.   Melbourne did in fact practice prohibition during that time period. (It was repealed throughout Australia in 1928)  However, there are still a few townships near Melbourne that never went back - they remain dry even today

Sadly, Netflix has only made available the first season of Miss Fisher's Murder mysteries, so we must be patient for seasons 2 & 3.    If you get the chance - WATCH THIS SHOW - you won't be disappointed!

Have you seen any other awesome historical mystery shows?  Please share! Would love to hear about them in the comments.

xo Yvonne

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Vintage Bathing Beauties

Hi my retro lovin' peeps!

Warm weather is finally here! Gentle breezes, summer dresses, peepers peeping at night-time, beaches, gardening, backyard crafts....  

I recently re-read a couple of my all-time favorites: "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Belles on their Toes"   For those of you who have not heard or read these books,*  they chronicle the lives of the Gilbreth family - a dozen kids born to Frank & Lillian Gilbreth around the early part of the 1900's. It was written by two of their children.  Frank and Lilly were motion study experts who went into factories and figured out how to speed processes and assembly lines up.  This is kind of like the fore-runner of modern day ergonomics.  Part of what I love about these books is that they reflect the change in our culture but in an everyday sort of way -  the advent of automobiles, women in the work force, fashion changes: bobbed hair, silk stockings, teddies (the undergarments), makeup, bathing suits.   'You are not going out of the house like that'  seems like getting ones parents to accept that you want to wear the latest fashions  is a universal argument whether it is 1930 or 2014!   (* Note- none of the movies made (including the 1950 version with Myrna Loy (who is one of my most favoritest actresses in the world) does the books justice - Read them!)

One part in particular in "Belles.." (circa 1925)  talks about the changes in swimwear and how no one wore old fashioned 2 piece suits anymore.  One of the oldest daughters, Martha, forgets her swimsuit when they take their annual summer vacation to Nantucket.  She wears the under part of the Mother's Victorian era bathing suit to her sisters' horror.
["Martha was wearing what appeared to be a tight-fitting black union suit. If you looked at it closely you could tell it was the under part of Mother's suit, with the legs and sleeves rolled up as far as they would roll. It wasn't any more extreme than bathing suits other girls were wearing, but Anne and Ernestine were shocked almost beyond words."]

When the Mom finally comes to join them, she ends up purchasing new suits for the girls:
[""If it comes below my knees," said Martha, fumbling with the wrappings. "can I take a hem in it?"
"Goodness, it won't come below your knees," Mother laughed. "It's a one-piece suit."
"One piece?" Anne and Ernestine shouted together.
"No girls wear those old-fashioned two-piece suits any more, do they?" Mother asked.
"We do," said Ernestine. "Remember Dad's rules."
"Modesty, " Anne recited flatly. "Skirts at least to the knees. Black stockings. And a minimum of skin showing."
"Times change," Mother told them, "and your father would have changed with them". .....
Martha held up the suit. It was light blue, and had a low-cut neck.        .....[then]...
She handed Anne and Ernestine each a package like Martha's.] 1

This is sort of what I imagine Martha's new suit to have look like. (vintage suit from the 1920's)

Here is a red one from the same time period.

A few months ago I came across this awesome photo slideshow on The Weather Channel of all places.  They actually have some very neat videos in their archive.

The full slideshow is here:  Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach Pictures  by Edecio Martinez. 

 It occurred to me that we in the modern day tend to have a notion that all vintage bathing wear was all black, multi-layered with mob caps and stockings.    While this is true of the very early part of the century (i.e. prior to 1910),   There were suits that by the teens and 1920's that weren't far off style-wise from today's one pieces.
Victorian era -Some of the costumes included a 'wool cape' to
wrap yourself in after a dip so people would not see the clingyness of your suit. 
 I think too, that Europe may have been a little further ahead of the fashion curve, as many of their earlier suits seemed more revealing, or perhaps America was just more modest as a culture.

1929 - Officer in Florida measuring to make sure not too much skin was showing.
Beach censor regulations had been put in place
"In 1907, a scandal erupted when Australian swimmer, Annette Kellerman, the first woman to swim across the English Channel, was arrested in Boston for wearing a more form-fitting, one-piece suit".
This was circa 1912,  you can see that the suits are more form fitting, and the gal on the left is sans stockings!
I absolutely love the polka-dot print of the suit on the right.
I found this on pinterest. It's a navy colored bathing suit circa 1915.  I LOVE this!  it is totally adorable

This next selection of pictures is from the late 1920's.  The suits are all one piece and seem to bear a closer resemblance to what we see today.  Note there are color variations from the plain black or dark material of a generation ago.  Also, check out the strappy shoes & short stockings in 
pictures 1 & 2 - they couldn't have been that comfy in the sand.....    The lady in picture 3 has a pearl necklace and some decolletage going on. Makes you wonder if she was there to swim or 
check out the action!

Another invention that was prevalent in the Victorian Era was the Bathing Machine.      These were basically large wheeled changing booths that were pulled into the low surf, some horse drawn or pulled by attendants.  A person changed inside and exited to swim.  These were mostly prevalent during the 1800's, when men and women were segregated to swim (because it was improper for one to view the opposite sex in their bathing attire at the time).   Apparently some beaches hired a 'dipper' - someone to help bathers into and out of the Bathing Machines.  Some 'dippers' would yank the bathers into the water, supposed to be part of the complete bathing experience!   The bathing machines were used up until the first decade of the 1900's, at which time it was becoming more common for men & women to swim together.

And here are a few Bathing costumes that I especially liked....
Bathing Pajamas!  because they are as much fun to say as they are to wear!

maybe I'm just a sucker for a large pom-pom hat....

I love the patterned suit on the left. Check out the recessed gores too!
And again with the strappy shoes at the beach, that's got to be uncomfortable.

While this I believe was a 'professional' photo,  I still love the striped underlay and the large flower motif.

And here is something for those of you who like to incorporate vintage into your home decor:

These are actual vintage bathing suits that have been framed.   (complete article can be found on "Completely Coastal" blog.)

And a slightly more understated approach from

 Have you ever tried wearing vintage swimwear? Decorating with it?  Would love to hear your thoughs in the comments!    So glad you could stop by my blog.

xo Yvonne


1:  Belles on Their Toes,  Frank B Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey,  p.52 & p. 68-70

      Thomas Y. Crowell Co.; c. 1950

(note - Belles on Their Toes chronicled the life of the Gilbreth family after their father Frank had passed away from a heart condition).