Saturday, July 2, 2011

Victorian Era, Violets and Sonoma Scents - Part I

+ Q Perfume Blog 
celebrating its 3rd anniversary with you!

The Victorian Era has always fascinated me. The obscure crimes solved by Sherlock Holmes, the fantastic mad tea party from Alice in Wonderland, the handsome Dorian Gray. All books from that period of time.
The industrial revolution that I have studied deeply during my Business Administration course in college. The conservative against progressive. The theories of evolution and the psychiatric treatments. The radical changes in architecture and its gothic buildings. The fact that for the Victorians, recognizing the scent of a flower was considered a must. Flowers adorned almost everything, from home decor to fashion. It was part of Victorian finesse to attach a meaning to them. Violets for example meant modesty, virtue and affection, and blue violets meant love, faithfulness and watchfulness.
The Victorian Era is remembered and described a historical period marked by many changes, contrasts and contradictions. It is the perfect subject to start my anniversary celebration during the month of July.
So let's travel through time with me. Jump into your corsets. Button up your shirt please. Prepare yourself a cup of a fine English brand...and yes! Do not forget to wear a violet perfume. 

The period under the reign of Queen Victoria (UK, from 1837 till 1901) is called the Victorian Era. A time so prosper and culturally rich for the English people that today it is compared to French Belle Époque. 

Urban expansion: development X social catastrophe
Urban areas expanded very fast due to the immigration from the country. Although this sound very promising, in reality what ended up occurring is that many families came to the city and were squeeze into tiny homes, and the city of London was crowded with homeless people. Urban areas where there is a crowd of lower incomers is a place for crime and prostitution to flourish.(The latest Sherlock Holmes movie tries to picture the city as it was at that time/we also have the scenario for Jack the ripper...). Diseases were easily spread due to this severe over population.There were two distinguish classes during the Victorian period - either you had money, or you didn't. So basically, poor children were working, wealthy boys were studying and rich girls were confined at home learning to be good wives. At one hand Victorians were known for their morality, their religious values, their abeyance to very restrict principals, in the other hand child labor exploitation was highly prevalent at the same time. Children were mostly treated as slaves, working 16 hours a day.

Victorian morality X naughtiness and promiscuity 
Victorians were great moralizers as they lived under a restricted code of manners, and ideal forms of masculine and feminine behavior. Prudery, repressed sexuality and chastity were to be considered standards of social behavior. Sex became a taboo. Words vaguely sexual or considered of indelicate connotation were removed from the English language and replaced by euphemisms. Women were to be confined within the walls of her home, and obliged to obey to the masculine authority - the husband. The idea of respectability distinguished the middle from the lower classes. Lower classes did not mind being naughty! The widespread cultivation of an outward appearance of puritanism and restraint came with prevalence of prostitution. The strict set of morals were hypocritically applied. 
Burlesque was invented during the Victorian era. It was a form of mocking the social upper classes etiquette and life style by the less fortunate. From comic sketches to dance routines, it combined imitations of various authors and artists, with absurd descriptions.
While the rich would attend to the opera, ballet or watch Shakespeare dramatic plays, others would attend to burlesque shows. By 1880 the costumes of the ladies were reduced to minimum and sexual connotations began to rule the dialogues and dances.
Not to mention that in the middle of all that chastity, Victorians created the vibrator. Ok, it was for pelvic massage and to cure female hysteria... (our contemporary PMS or simply lack of sex), but the fact is that doctors found very tedious and hard to complete the massage manually, so they created a device to make women achieve what was called the "hysterical paroxysm".

Victorians, food & social gatherings
Due to the fact that Victorians had little fun outside the home (besides the daily female visit to the physician - read above), tea parties became very popular. Queen Victoria invented the afternoon tea. At first she would drink it alone. As time passed by, she began to invite female friends to sit with her to drink tea, eat cakes and pastries. Drinking tea became a culture and at a later phase, tea parties became gatherings where both genders could mingle. The tea culture was taken very seriously and it is a English costume till today. 
As a hungry crowd looked for food in the streets, the upper class had 09 course meals. Victorians love to eat. They usually ate a large breakfast, a small lunch, an afternoon tea and a late supper. They loved sponge cakes and layered jellies.
If you wish to watch Heston Blumenthal's Victorian dinner click HERE (this is the part one video - from there you can look for the other parts to watch - It is always fun and inspiring to see how he explores his techniques and teach us a little bit about history). Cook books come from Victorian times, as Victorians loved recipes. Meals were also an opportunity for rich families to display their wealth, with expensive china, fine cutlery and several servants.

Victorian Literature
As a period of change and transformation, the Victorian books brought the portraits of their lifestyles, the aspects of their daily living and they also bridge history and the modern era. Novels came into existence at this period of time. The plots usually had someone that lost his wealth and worked to gain it back; a person that was wronged but found justice in the end; the wrong versus right; and many many texts aimed children. Lewis Carol, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are some of the many famous writers of that time.
Gothic and supernatural themes are from the second part of this era. The obscure, the frightening, the thrill, the horror, all took place in castles, monasteries, cemeteries and the darkest corners of cities like London and Paris. Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, The picture of Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Silent in the Grave...they are all from this period.


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