LIFE & STYLE
"It's the Simple Things in Life"
Lifestyle lessons from the most romantic period in history.
Designers, artists, writers—any creative being—often seek inspiration from past eras. They might come across a small detail that tickles their fancy, one that will set them off on an adventure to create something fresh and new that speaks to us today. What time in history are you most inspired by?
My latest historic obsession is the time period in Europe between 1900 to 1914. These very interesting and lively fourteen years formed the tail end of the Edwardian Era. This is when fashionable women changed their outfits up to eight times per day, swapping out one elaborate, lavish and luxurious ensemble with another set of garments.
With the help of their maids, these women would be fastened into a tight corset then eased into layer upon layer of clothing and padding to achieve the look the day required. As the new century progressed, women earned more and more rights, respect and responsibilities. Naturally, their style of dress began to reflect and accommodate their increasingly busy lifestyles.
Being caged in a dress is not my idea of fun, but I do love how laid back and unhurried everything was during this time. This glamorous time was known as ‘La Belle Epoch’ or ‘The Beautiful Period.’
Fashionable women of leisure dressed up for everything—even to hand-write a simple letter. There was an outfit suitable for every sort of outing and occasion; a dress to dine in, to welcome visitors for tea in, for riding in a car and so on. By day each inch of the body, all the way up to the chin, was completely covered. By night women would titillate men with their deep décolletage. Accessories such as gloves, pearls and big beautiful hats were the perfect details to accompany the romantic mood of the time.
Back then people took scenic car rides, played parlor games and attended the opera and horse races. There were no cells phone, television or commercial air travel yet. Things took time to accomplish, and people used that time.
There are a few elements that I think could help bring the romance of the ‘La Belle Epoch’ into our hectic lives.
Here is my list of things I’ve taken from that time period and tried to sneak into my life. These tips have helped me slow down, tune in and express more of my romantic side and are sure to assist you as well.
1. Head to a leafy park to spend a few quiet hours reading a paperback book under a big, old tree.
Sure you can just read a book at home, but doing it while connecting to nature, breathing fresh air and allowing your mind to dive deep into a juicy story will truly recharge you. As you lie there on the blanket, consciously let all your tension seep down into the earth. Check out “Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern and “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. These novels recount truly unique and beautiful love stories.
2. Invite a friend to afternoon tea.
There’s nothing better for our psyche than deep meaningful conversations. It’s good to put down technology once in a while and get some good old face-to-face social interaction. My Lemon Lavender Honey Tisane will help set the mood.
3. Take a horse-back riding tour or lesson.
Horses are so majestic and yes, I’m going to use that word again—romantic. These magnificent creatures have been serving mankind for ages. What a great way to connect to simple things in life by spending time with this amazing and sensitive animal. At the beginning of the 20th Century very few people had a car and when they did go for a drive they were surrounded by horse-drawn carriages. This was a very short and very special time in history.
One of the best places to go on a guided horse back tour in LA is at Sunset Ranch. This tour takes you through the Hollywood Hills, allowing you to soak in incredible views of LA and experience our vast city in a unique way. For those 8 years and older.
4. Go on a bicycle ride.
There is something timeless about a bicycle. This mode of travel has been around for centuries and learning to bike is one of life’s most memorable moments. Everyone can remember that special time they took off on their own without the aid of training wheels or a loved one by their side helping them to balance. No matter how old you are, riding a bike out in nature is exhilarating.
4. Spend an evening playing a good old fashion parlor game.
“Charades” is a well know parlor game, but one that is off the beaten path and the best ever invented is featured in “Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun” by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen. [Link] When we have guests over for dinner we love to play this game during tea and desert. It’s called “First Sentence.” All you need are some strips of paper, pencils and a few fictional books (as many as the amount of guests at the table). Each guest gets a book and takes a moment to read the title and description of the book on the back cover. The rest of the guests spend a few minutes dreaming up a possible first sentence of the book, while the guest who is the designated reader for the round writes the real sentence down on a piece of paper. Each guest initials their strip of paper, then the strips are mixed up and read aloud by the reader. The reader should read them silently to herself first to make sure she doesn’t stumble when reading them out loud. Everyone has to guess which sentence they think is the actual sentence from the book. If you guess it right you get a point. If someone guesses the sentence you invented you get 2 points. Your creative muscles certainly get a work out during this game and your tummy will ache from laughing—I guarantee it. There are many more fun ideas in “Unbored” to check out.
5. Listen to classical music.
Our family loves to blast The Piano Guys in the car and at home. Their first release in 2012 also titled The Piano Guys (the one with piano and cello sitting on top of the Grand Canyon on the cover) has stand out classical versions of many pop songs.
6. Enjoy the beauty of a Claude Monet painting.
Whether by looking his artwork up on line or carving out a trip to the museum take a moment to appreciate the paintings that were created during the height of the Bell Epoch. The Water Lilies truly represent the mood of this beautiful era. From the colors, to brushstroke to subject matter everything about Monet’s artwork is sweet, romantic and luxurious. With his Expressionist paintings, Monet tried to capture the fleeting nature of light and make us, the viewer, feel something.
"Woman with a Parasol - Madam Monet and her Son" Claude Monet 1875
National Gallery of Art
7. Attend a live music event.
Los Angeles has so many outstanding venues to experience a vast range of music, from the Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown to the open-air amphitheaters of The Hollywood Bowl and The Greek Theater to the more intimate spaces, there’s something for all tastes.
You can do all of these things fashionably, of course, by incorporating these 1900-inspired style elements that are still accessible today:
1. Sweeping Skirt
Nowadays some people call the sweeping skirt a floor-length skirt or a maxi skirt. Get yourself a maxi for the summer, ideally one that’s made of a light, breathable fabric such as cotton.
If a long skirt is not something you find flattering or appealing for your body shape, trade it in for a tea length/mid-calf length skirt. It will still have a romantic feeling similar to the maxi skirt, but will give your frame more length, especially if you wear the skirt with high heels. Maxi skirts come in various shapes: A-line to tubular, pleated with an elastic band. The narrower the maxi skirt the more length it gives you. The wider, the more attention is drawn to the ground, making you appear shorter as a result.
2. Scooping Neckline & Shoulder Reveal
Show off your neck and make it appear long and slender by sporting a white cotton t-shirt with a wide scooping neckline or shoulder revealing top. White goes with everything and it lightens up the face.
3. Cinched in Waist
Use a wide belt around the tiniest part of your waist to create the cinched in, hourglass silhouette that was all the rage during the Edwardian Period.
4. Fun Hat
Get yourself a big hat and decorate it with fake roses and violets (the two flowers that were super popular during the early 1900’s) and maybe go on a scenic bike ride.
Enjoy lace! The Edwardian Era called for a lot of lace. Lace has a fancy, feminine and delicate quality to it. Adding it to your outfit will instantly put you in a romantic mood. Wear a ribbon of it in your hair, or around your neck as a choker or find a delicate, white lace top. Just remember there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” so contrast the lace you wear with something unfussy such as good old fashioned jeans.