Sunday, February 28, 2010

And I Quote...

Apres moi, le deluge. (After me, the flood.)- Attributed to Louis XV

Friday, February 26, 2010

Recommendation- Antoinette's Atelier

I rarely do this, but I am using this week's recommendation slot to bring you news of a fabulous webshop I recently discovered called Antoinette's Atelier, but which I have not yet ordered from. First of all I love the name; it says couture and 18th century all in one, and that's exactly what it is! All 18th century-inspired items, from shoes to jewelry, dolls to mannequins.

It is the wigs though that deserve special mention. Above is a picture of my personal favorite, but they come in lots of styles and colors, and there are in-stock items as well as custom orders, which seem to be strongly encouraged.

Now when you see the prices for the wigs you might gasp a little, but trust me, I work in theatre and have access to a lot of different suppliers and while it's pretty easy to find or adapt a Hedgehog style, those 1770s concoctions with the barrel curls are really tough to come by, and aren't any cheaper when you do find them. I find that even if you do it yourself, by the time you buy a wig or two (after all you'll want some practice), burn one with a curling iron, get the right kind of powder, wig clips, do the sewing and teasing and styling, and spraying, powdering, pinning, and embellishing, you'll have spent nearly as much. Sometimes it's worth the money to have someone else spend the time and aggravation. Having said that, when I personally can afford to do it, I think I'll be putting in an order for one myself.

So go to or visit Kathleen Marie's blog at


February 25, 1780

I have had a most trying day. I had written a few pages, idle gossip and little more, over the last few days, but Reinette became quite wild this morning and ran around and around my writing desk, causing the ink to spill over and consequently the pages which were on top have been spoilt. Not only that, but I have had to change my clothes many more times than usual today for she seems not to have remembered where she is to relieve herself, and has either done so on my lap, or else I have stepped into or dragged my skirts through her leavings. If she did not look at me with such dear and adoring eyes I should be inclined to take her back.

I have been meaning to mention that something in T's last letter has put me out of sorts. I don't know what he is doing or who he is talking to up there in Lille, but he said so little of any consequence to us, and then made a point of asking me what I thought of the peasantry! I hardly know what to answer. I am unclear as to the reason for the question, and cannot claim to have any great experience with them, as I have mostly my tenants to speak of, and I have contact with them so rarely. One might as well ask me what I think of innkeepers, or farmers, or lacemakers! What can he mean by the question? Our paths don't cross, and I should think they know even less of my life than I do of theirs. I think he must come back to me soon, so little time has passed truly since he left, and yet I feel as if in his letters he is someone quite different.

Aggravatingly, there has been little interest and no offers of employment for my "brother", but I have hopes of securing a position yet. I have requested of my steward that more money be sent, and if necessary I have a parure of rubies that I may part with, though they look well with my newest court gown. What will I do if he remains in Lille through the spring? Do I stay in Paris and await his return, or do I return myself to Auvergne?

Why is it that just when it seems as if everything will turn out happily, we are further burdened with disappointment? I suppose it is the nature of life. Some would say that God tests us, or that we in some way have merited misfortune by our conduct; but more and more I wonder if God has a hand in it at all, or if he is unaffected by our concerns. Perhaps I am only feeling lonely, abandoned without Thierry. It is hard to go out into society. People know of our liason and I feel that few approve. I do hear what they say; that I am a disappointing end to a fine family, that it is the result of women having their way, that I am too old and must marry so far beneath me, that I am a hypocrit and act virtuous while hiding a common lover. None of them know Thierry or his family at all, and that is a sin indeed in their eyes I am sure.

It has been a most trying day. Nothing for it but to seek the comfort of sleep if I can. I hardly hope to wake, feeling as I do.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shopping the museums

Using images of extant garments I've put together an outfit I would love to own, and because it's so dreary outside I've chosen warm, bright yellow as my theme!

I'm starting with shoes, because really, is there any more important part to an outfit? These are absolutely my favorite pair of shoes in the world, and someday I would love to have some like them made for me by the incomparable Sarah Juniper. ( )

Continuing with our theme we have a quilted caraco of butter yellow satin from 1778. This looks perfect for curling up in at home with a book, or even strolling out to the shops in the morning. The diamond-shaped quilting goes smashingly with the latticed design on our shoes!

If we are going to go out, or if the fireplaces simply aren't providing adequate heat, we will want to put on these pretty fingerless mitts from c. 1780. It's hard to tell but it looks to me like they could be some kind of taffeta, in which case I think I would like them lined with something warmer. I loathe being cold.

Of course we can't go out without the proper hairstyle, and I think I would like something similar to this. Perhaps it's for the resemblance to soft, cozy wool, but this hairstyle looks warm, and with a pink ribbon would be simply lovely. The best thing about wigs is their ability to keep the head warm, while avoiding the dreaded Hat Hair. Perhaps a nice Dormeuse cap to top it off, and we are ready to face the day!

The Spaniel in the 18th Century

In honor of Reinette, who is curled up with her head in my lap, we're going to look at spaniels in the 18th century. I love the picture to the left, not only because it is utterly ridiculous (a wig that big in any material will crush your head into your neck), but for the adorable little dog riding on the lady's rump.

My beautiful 10 week old puppy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which given the name has got to be a period breed, right? Not exactly. There was and is a type of spaniel called the King Charles Spaniel, and these were back in the 17th century the favorite companion of King Charles II of England, which is how they got their name. The picture to the right is what they used to look like back then.

Fast forward to 1926 and the KC spaniel had become so interbred with other breeds, notably those with short muzzles, that the original variety no longer existed. That's when an American names Roswell Eldridge started offering prizes at dog shows for spaniels that resembled the ones from the 17th and 18th century paintings. In time the winners were bred to recreate the look seen above. This new version of an old classic was dubbed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, after the cavalier King who had so adored them.

Of course there were other varieties of spaniel, but we will save them for another day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

And I Quote...

"All styles are good, except the tiresome kind."
- Voltaire

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February 20, 1780

Further word from Thierry suggests that he is terribly unhappy in his position, and I am convinced that he is misused by his employer. I have had quite enough of wondering when he will find suitable employment and trying not to be his keeper. My brother Andre is of an age with Thierry, but remains in Ferney with his mistress, whom I continue to dislike. I decided yesterday to take matters into my own hands, and have put about word that I am seeking a position on behalf of my brother, which should bring some offers which will be hard to retract when they find out that I am in fact patronizing someone of greater talent and influence with me.

I would be most happy to see him receive a diplomatic posting, but that may be too much to hope for. All of this is occasioned by a comment made by Comtesse de R- after mass that it was too bad he was not a closer relative for then he should have much greater prospects. I will purchase a commission for him, even if it means selling my jewels, land, and property; and if there is a title with it we may marry all the sooner, and perhaps still fullfill some of the King's will.

Olympe, Comtesse

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Save or splurge, making your 18th century wardrobe

It can be expensive to live like an 18th century lady, but from the skin out, there are some alternatives...

Let's start with bath bars from Agraria in San Francisco. 8oz. luxury fragrance bars are about the size of standard soaps. At $20 apiece they aren't the cheapest option, but they do come in a range of perfumes and are beautifully and uniquely giftwrapped. I'm drawn to the Mediterranean Jasmine, but I feel somehow that the Lavendar & Rosemary would be more fitting.

Want something a little less expensive? You could try this 100% vegetable base lavender soap from for only $3.60 instead.

That's all for now, next time we'll discuss some options for buying and adapting shoes. What are some items that you find too hard to locate, or too expensive?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Inspiration and a little exposition

What is this?! It isn't eighteenth century at all! Well, no, it isn't. I enjoy reading a great many blogs, as I'm sure do most of you. This little one started out actually as just a plain paper diary because I LOVE the eighteenth century (France in particular), and I wanted to know what a day in the life of someone might be like. Then it became another day, and another, and somewhere along the line I connected reading blogs and having this diary with posting this diary. Voila!

The picture is of my fiance and I, and yes, I did design and make that dress; but it was so rushed that I was unhappy with the sewing and will never wear it again. In real life I work as a costumer in the theatre world, mostly in opera, which I adore. I just got a puppy, Reinette "Little queen", who is a purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and she keeps me on my toes. I'm finishing my Masters degree in Virginia, and my fiance just started a job in Washington, DC; which is ironic because I just came back from several months working for the opera in DC myself while he was here.

So that's me. I was part of the SCA for a long time, and wish that there were something like that in America for the eighteenth century, especially for those of us who are not really interested in being colonists. Part of the fun is being someone you can't be in real life, right?

As for the inspiration, well, Lauren at American Duchess (who is fabulous!), asked on her blog today what inspires people. People who blog about their interest in the eighteenth century inspire me. I learn so much, and have fun connecting with those who share my passions. Sometimes it's how to do a particular style of wig, or geeking over a great fabric find (even if you don't know what you're going to use it for), or an exhibition that's not to be missed. I learn something new every day, and oftentimes get a laugh out of it as well.

Thanks to everyone who posts, and keep up the great fun! Below are some of my favorite images of the day....

Reinette at 8 weeks old

Can you believe this is made out of sugar?
I collect fans, but this is beyond anything I can afford.

Monday, February 15, 2010

February 15, 1780

At last a letter from Thierry to say that he has arrived safely! It is a strange letter in that it says little else, but I am relieved to have word in any case. I have been in a terrible malaise ever since he left, and even my precious Reinette has hardly been able to rouse me. I want neither to attend parties and balls, nor to read or paint at home. I long for something to do, but detest leaving my home. I think it is partly the weather, which remains chill and snowy, but I'm sure it is partly the disinterest in Paris which I always come to feel after a time. When I was younger I could go a year or more without becoming bored with the city, and now it seems only a few months can make me feel this way. Truly, in Saint Saturnin there is little enough to fill ones time, but there at least I may be comfortably alone without remark.

Reinette grows quickly, and is so dear despite her desire to chew everything in sight. She is currently curled up on the desk next to my hand, and dislikes to be anywhere else when I am writing. I am trying to decide who to have paint us, and wish to have it done before she ceases to be a puppy. There will be time enough for her adult portraits when she is older, and these days are fleeting I know.

I have informed my steward that I will likely be staying now until the spring, and await word from him on any further actions that must be taken. I will have to deal with the reacquisition and the King's offer when the court returns to Versailles, but for now I will not worry about that.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Get to Know- Olympe

I had hoped my portrait would be finished by now to use with this post, but as it is not I shall give it a post of it's own when it is. In the meantime...

Olympe Gabrielle Catherine de la Tour d'Auvergne was born on December 18th of 1750 at Opme castle in the province of Auvergne. Her father, Guillaume Roland Charles de la Tour d'Auvergne, was Count of Auvergne. Her mother, Marie-Madeleine de Lespinasse, was the youngest daughter of Claude Lespinasse of Lyon; a wealthy bourgeois (from Auvergne and not Lyon, oddly enough) who had purchased the chateau of Lespinasse from Guillaume in 1731, just before the birth of his daughter, and used it to give a veneer of nobility to his family.

Comte Guillaume in time came to desire the return of Lespinasse, but Claude was not about to give it up, and instead he made a bargain with the, then twenty year old, Comte. When Marie-Madeleine turned sixteen she married Guillaume, and papers were drafted leaving the chateau to she and her husband's descendants. (Complications ensued when her two brothers later challenged the will which didn't stipulate the land on which the castle stood). Married in 1748, their brief union produced only Olympe, and in January of 1756 Comte Guillaume died, leaving his estates and titles to his five year old daughter.

Free of her arranged marriage, Olympe's mother wasted no time, and entered into the social world of Riom, the capital of Auvergne, taking her daughter with her, but leaving her largely in the care of servants. Marie-Madeleine will receive her own post in time, but suffice to say that in February she married another Guillame. Msr. Guillame Renaud Cordelay was minor official with the city, and their hasty marriage left little room for Olympe. On the advice of a family friend she was sent to Saint Cyr.

There, at the convent for noble orphans, Olympe grew up. She heard of the births of her half-siblings, and the deaths of some of them, and her mother even traveled to Paris to visit her occasionally; but she never traveled to Riom or lived under the same roof as her mother or siblings. She became an avid reader and loved painting and music, and especially operas, some of which the girls even performed at school. A shy and serious girl, and never a beauty, she was not educated in how to manage an estate and felt the lack of this skill keenly once she came into her majority.

At the age of fifteen she left the convent, and traveled for the first time to the remote town of Saint Saturnin in the Auvergne she had always dreamed of, and promptly fell in love with it's quiet beauty. Presented at court in 1766 by her cousin, Charles Godfroy de la Tour d'Auvergne, Duc d'Albret, she spent some time in Paris with he and his sister, Marie Louise before returning to Auvergne in 1769.

Part of the reason for her exodus from the capital was increasing pressure for the now nineteen year old Countess to marry. Having a strong desire to control her own fortunes she realized that the only way to do this would be to remain unmarried, or to marry someone who would allow her to keep her independence. A firm distrust of other nobility developed during her time in Paris, and she began to seek the control she could have with lovers of a lower social class. A prolonged intrigue from 1770-1773 with a minor noble ended in heartbreak, and for the next two years Olympe threw herself into the decadent world of Paris and Versailles.
In 1775 she returned to her duties and began a tour of her province, determined to better understand her role as Countess. In Riom she met Thierry Cretien Duverney whose father was a merchant and had been elected to the city council. Over the course of the next four years Olympe found reasons to return to Riom often, and she and Thierry began to talk of marriage.

That brings us to the present(ish).

Friday, February 5, 2010

February 5, 1780

My beautiful Reinette has come home! She is the most precious thing I have ever seen, and loves to lay on my lap with her head on my wrist as I write. She seems to find this not in the slightest bit uncomfortable.

She has been crying at night, probably because she misses her mother and siblings, and so I let her sleep in the bed with me, only to regret it when she went on the blanket. Tonight I think I will try to make her sleep in her own bed. I shall certainly have to have us painted together.

If only Thierry were here to see her. No word from him yet.

Olympe, Comtesse

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February 2, 1780

I did a silly thing today. I attempted to visit F&R and ordered my carriage for that purpose. The courtyard of Sully was swept by my servants, but the streets were not as well ordered, and my carriage became stuck in the snow. It took several men to push it out of the bank, and I never made it to my destination.

I wanted so badly to speak to them because T- is on his own journey. After only two days with the Ferme they have sent him through the snow to Lille, and he has not clearly told me what is the cause for this urgent mission. I miss him dearly already, and I fear for him. It seems that every small triumph has it's cost, and oh I have an ill feeling.

Olympe, Comtesse

Monday, February 1, 2010

February 1, 1780

Such a week as we have had! I am recovering from a terrible head cold that came upon me on Wednesday last, but I was not the only one to stay in my home as Paris has seen snow such as it has not had for many years. One wonders if the Almanacs predicted such a heavy fall.

On Friday we received a note from Msr. Poisson that a clerk position with the Ferme Generale was available, and so Thierry went to see them. He began work with them Monday and finds it very dreary, but it is work and he has hope that it may lead to something better. This, of course, means that we will not be leaving Paris after all. I admit that I am both relieved, and also saddened not to be seeing my dear Auvergne, but with all of the snow the roads would be impassable as it is.

This afternoon Comtesse de Rochechouart came to visit, and she said that she will be at home on Thursday and that I should come by then to take my puppy home. I ferverently wish that she were at home tomorrow so that I could go all the sooner, but she will be out. I am delighted at the idea that soon my Reinette (for so I have decided to call her), will be home.
Olympe, Comtesse