How Things Change!

Posted on February 16, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, reading | Tags: , , , , , |

This morning I decided to be creative after finding a new recipe to try in my mother’s cast iron skillet cookbook. It was a breakfast recipe for a Savory Dutch Baby, something I’ve never heard of before. There are some variations of said recipe here if anyone is interested in trying them. It was good, but I’m pretty sure if I do it again I’ll make sure to add some different seasonings; my version (following the cookbook recipe) called for grated cheese and cubed ham, but I can imagine some more savory versions. It’s just a matter of being creative. Despite that, I was pleased with the results!

And, of course, I wanted to share that with the rest of you because it makes me happy.

Now onto more interesting turns of expression. One of my favorite aspects of historical fiction is something that was quite aptly penned today by the excellent Lauren Willig. I won’t go into too many details since I have a habit of talking about her; however, it reminded me of a number of historical fiction novels I’ve read and how enlightening they can be.

If you’re anything like me, seeing how things have changed over the years is somewhat irresistible.

For example, what I focused on this morning was just the picture of modesty as presented in Willig’s The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. Perhaps I should add that I looked at modesty both in terms of appearance and in terms of personality. It’s quite a fascinating study if you ask me.

Just consider this: women in the past were quite unafraid to bare their faces but shied violently away from allowing their skirts to be lifted past their ankles. Compare that to the ultra mini-skirts of today, and it’s a rather striking contrast. What I find surprisingly intriguing is that it wasn’t considered just a matter of appearance but a manner of behavior.

To be found alone with a man was pure ruin in the Victorian era. A woman made every effort not to allow herself to get caught by any rapacious rakes daring enough to try to entice her  onto a balcony at one of the ton gatherings that took place. It wasn’t because she lacked the courage to step into such an assignation; it was more because she was concerned for her reputation.

Today reputations are barely marred by the news of a celebrity having an affair or a wardrobe malfunction resulting in partial nudity.

Is it just, as many have suggested, that we have matured and understood that these old-fashioned proprieties are no longer suitable for such an age as ours?

The fashion of the 1900s

I have to wonder about that sometimes. To me, there’s something incredibly seductive about the descriptions of gallant men in waistcoats waiting upon their equally charming ladies in their bustled dresses and whalebone corsets. The propriety of appearances being observed kept a certain order that was maintained even under the most absurd of circumstances, but this order played out in a different way than what you might expect.

Instead of limiting women by keeping them confined in tight-fitting layers of cloth, it gave them an allure that was more powerful. To have men wondering at the glimpses of skin beneath the surface made a woman that much more intriguing.

Just by reading this, I’m sure you can tell I’m not much of a feminist. I’d make most of the hardcore ones shake their heads in despair at my romantic notions of such antiquated mores, and I’m sure I’d be a prime candidate for a number of lectures concerning the liberties stolen from women by their male counterparts. Call me what you will, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about a world where things are hidden, masked, obscured.

To bare all is to remove the mystery, and that, I think, is something we’ve lost. Our modesty is simply following those lovely, droll rules about wearing shirts and shoes into restaurants, or maintaining the dress code set up by a society bent on finding the most creative ways to bend the rules. (They’re just guidelines anyway, right?)

So I may be alone in saying this, but I somehow doubt it. There’s simply something curious about a person who goes against the low neckline, cheek-baring skirt-wearing norms. It creates an enigma because you don’t know what lies beneath. Combine that with an equally alluring and mysterious personality, and you’ve got the makings of an adventure–all wrapped up in the prettily-wrapped package of someone different.

I’m sure my opinions being what they are aren’t being adequately explained, but it’s certainly something I’ve read about. I’ll break out the non-fiction tomorrow. I simply wanted to get in a post about the changes I’ve seen today.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Want to send me to a feminist retreat? Let me know.



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4 Responses to “How Things Change!”

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*Insert feminist thread here*
LOL Just kidding!

No, I mean, I can see what you’re saying about hidden allure, but still I wouldn’t want to live in any other time than this. I’m not considered property, I’m free to work and to say what I want, whether my husband likes it or not.

But I do understand what you are saying about mystery. Maybe the men at the time were more intrigued by what was hidden. After all, isn’t that the allure of a mystery? But I’d rather be understood by a husband whose my social and intellectual equal rather than adored by one that’s my social superior. 🙂

Modern women could use a dose of mystery, I’d agree.

Still, I wouldn’t want to be a Victorian (or Regency era or whatever) lady. It’d be too vulnerable. Women back then were pretty much at the mercy of men: your father to make a good marriage match for you, your husband after that. If either the father or the husband lacked character, the woman’s life would be ruined.

Well, I certainly think that modesty has its appeal. What I like is that I’m free to dress, marry, do whatever I want without having to consult the men in my life for permission.

As far as immodest clothing though, I just don’t care for it. I’m more conservative that way, though I’m glad that women can show more without too much repercussions. When its hot outside though, I still don’t think its fair that guys can take off their shirts. I mean…men and women both sweat! hehe 🙂

I loved the Victorian Ages. For numerous reasons. One I do LOVE the clothing. I do a lot of re-enacting in costume. I always feel special all dressed up. And it makes me feel pretty something I don’t feel often.

BUT my biggest love of the Victorian age is how they dealt with death. I’m not sure if you know this but our society especially in the USA. And especially the loss of a child. It’s like now it’s such a horrible taboo topic so much so that children who die shortly after birth are usually shoved under the rug so to speak and people pretend they never existed. So much so that parents are told to forget their children existed.

In the Victorian ages they accepted death and the loss of children and it was acceptible to grieve a long time

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