Thursday, August 13, 2009

18th Century Opportunity

You know, being a bridesmaid gets a lot of flack, and with good reason. As a bridesmaid, your life is dedicated to someone else's for a good amount of months and don't even get me started on the thousands of dollars you end up spending. But when the day is done there are some major pluses to being a bridesmaid. Some of you may have noticed my absence this long weekend, if I did a good job, you didn't. I still have a lot of catching up to do but I wanted to tell you about how being a wedding attendant can be very eighteenth century. Let me set out a basic comparison for you.

Uncomfortable Gowns
While I am always lusting after a beautiful polonaise or robe a l'anglaise, I was still itching to get out of my roman style, empire-waist gown after a half-hour of wearing it. I'm also not used to needing assistance to get into clothing, it would be quite tiring to do every day. But that is the price of looking fabulous!

Impeccable Makeup
I can't complain about applying makeup because I like getting all dolled up every now and then. But wedding makeup needs to be able to deal with a lot of wear. I had to pick up waterproof mascara and Urban Decay's Primer Potion (which is awesome!) just for the occasion. This might also be a good place to pump up Miss Chievous' awesome youtube channel.

It's nice have an excuse to get a fancy updo, I wouldn't mind having one of those every day. I ended up with curls piled up on my head which would later end up with flowers and pastoral scenes as the night went on. My hairdresser also put in so much hairspray I was able to sleep with the coiffure and wear it a day or two later when I went to the race track. My personal hairdresser always recommends not washing your hair every day and instead putting baby powder in it. See, they knew what they were doing in the eighteenth century!

Champagne and Dancing
It's nice to have an excuse to dance your feet off and drink some bubbly. This especially holds true if you can do it into the wee hours of the night. If the ballroom reception hall closes, then you simply must find somewhere else to go. Most importantly, you must have a good time and dance as if no one is watching, because looking fabulous is the ability to look as if you didn't have to try at all.


  1. Hiii!
    Which girl were you in the picture!?

  2. Aw that's not actually us, I'm sorry to mislead. I don't have a picture of all the girls yet, I might have to order one when the photographer releases them!

  3. oh, thats okay!

    Have you ever read the book Wideacre?
    It's amazing.

  4. Yes!
    it's an amazing book about a girl in the 18th century named Beatrice who lives on a Sussex estate called Wideacre.
    It's very intriguing, and she was born around the time of Georgiana.
    The book was written by Philippa Gregory, and she is a truly amazing author- the whole entire book I felt like I was right there with Beatrice. There are two sequels that are equally interesting- The Favored Child and Meridon.

    You won't regret reading them, I promise!

  5. Hmm, now I'll have to check out Wideacre. :)

  6. Isn't it interesting how clothes refer to one's social status? If one can afford a lady's maid for everyday, then one can wear robes polonaise and robes a l'anglaise. If one can't, and that's most of the world now, then clothes have to be more practical and easier to manage. Makes me think of Coco Chanel and her using jersey as a material to make things easier for women in WWII.

  7. The novel is set in the second part of the eighteenth century, during the time of the enclosure acts. Beatrice Lacey is the daughter of the Squire of Wideacre, an estate situated on the South Downs, centred around Wideacre Hall. She is five years-old when her father takes her around the estate for the first time, and she falls in love with the estate. Wideacre is Beatrices first and most enduring love. For the rest of her life, Beatrice makes one attempt after another to claim it, directly or indirectly, for herself. She spends her childhood accompanying her father around the estate, becoming an excellent horsewoman, learning the land and becoming a favourite of the villagers who live in Acre, the estate village. She is uninterested in her mother's attempts to make her more ladylike and is completely devoted to her father. Her brother, Harry, is away at a private school and Beatrice rarely sees him. But at the age of eleven, her dreams are shattered when her father tells her that Harry will inherit the estate and she will make a good marriage and leave, that it was just the way of the world. Beatrice is stunned by this pronouncement as she believed she would live on Wideacre forever; she is also shocked that the estate will go to Harry, who has no idea how to run it and no interest in rural pursuits. She immediately decides "if that was the way of the world, the world would have to change; I would never change".

    Now rapidly blossoming into a beautiful young woman, Beatrice is attracted to Ralph the gamekeeper's lad, who lives with his mother,Meg, a village witch, in a cottage on the estate. They become lovers, but their private world is shattered by the return of Harry, who discovers them together. Harry tries to punish Ralph for 'spoiling' his sister but Ralph easily disarms him. Seeing the whip in his hand, Harry suddenly becomes craven and submissive, begging Ralph to beat him. Beatrice realises that the private school has somehow warped her brother's mind, turning him into a masochist. Beatrice and Ralph are estranged for a short time, until Beatrice sees that her father is taking Harry out on the estate, teaching him the ways of the land. Threatened by this, Beatrice starts scheming everyway she could possibly keep her land, so when Ralph reveals a scheme of his to take the estate for their own, with Ralph becoming the new squire, Beatrice daydreamily agrees. The next day, Beatrice realizes what she has agreed to and rushes to stop the plan from happening, but finds she is too late. Ralph murders the Squire, Beatrice's father, and sets it up to look as if the man's horse reared back and threw him, convincingly enough so that all the people of Wideacre only regard it as a horrible accident. But enraged by seeing her father lie dead, filled with guilt and afraid that if Ralph were ever caught he would tell others she was involved, Beatrice decides she cannot allow him to continue living on Wideacre. She had never intended to marry him or let him take her father's place; she had always secretly thought Ralph was too lowly to take her beloved father's position, and just patronized his dreams of being the master of Wideacre. To plan her revenge, Beatrice meets up with Ralph one evening, laid with him one last time, and then deliberately took a path lead over a man trap, and screamed for Ralph's help. Running after her cries, Ralph's legs are crushed by the giant man trap. Beatrice listens as his screams die away and then hurries back to the Hall. With Ralph's death, something inside Beatrice dies, too. She becomes more callous, and more manipulative.

  8. All is peaceful for a time on the estate, but as Beatrice teaches Harry how to run Wideacre, her position is threatened by Harry's attraction to their neighbour's stepdaugher, Lady Celia Havering. Beatrice quickly convinces Harry that Ralph never had her, and that Harry had saved that from ever happening. She then sets about seducing him to make her position more secure. It is not hard for her to overcome Harry's doubts about their sexual relationship, as she is well practiced in the art of seducing already. Meanwhile, Beatrice befriends Celia, casting herself as the understanding sister-in-law who can protect her from the "brutish" Harry. Celia, who is sweet and innocent, quickly warms to Beatrice and confides in her. Harry marries Celia with Beatrice's blessing and Beatrice accompanies them on their honeymoon to France, where Harry spends his days with Celia and his nights with Beatrice. Celia is so scared and ignorant that she is actually grateful for this arrangement. Then Beatrice discovers she is pregnant with Harry's child. She lies to Celia, saying the child is the product of a rape, and Celia decides that she will pass the child off as her own. She sends Harry back to England, then writes to him with the 'good news'. Beatrice gives birth to a girl. Celia names the baby Julia, and the two women return to Wideacre as proud mother and aunt. Beatrice suppresses her maternal instincts with ease while Celia develops a mental strength and determination that she did not formerly possess. She takes a very firm stand in everything concerning Julia, especially taking the baby out on the estate.

  9. Beatrice is slightly disconcerted by this new Celia, but does nothing until she discovers that Harry and Celia have started sleeping together and that Celia is moving into Harry's room and symbolically taking her place as the Lady of Wideacre. Desperate, Beatrice tricks Harry into meeting her alone and physically abuses him until he is completely under her thumb. They resume sexual relations, with Beatrice completely dominant and secure.

    Now at the peak of her power, Beatrice's life is complicated by the new doctor, a young Scotsman called John MacAndrew, who has been prescribing her laudanum for her nightmares (which usually involve Ralph coming to kill her in revenge). He is intelligent and provocative, challenging Beatrice to a horse race around the estate, which he wins. After this, Beatrice begins to seriously respect and admire John, but she is not sure how to proceed, as this is the first time she has been properly courted by someone of her own class, and refuses his marriage proposal. Then she discovers she is pregnant by Harry once more. She tries to induce a miscarriage but fails. Alone and afraid, knowing she cannot give this baby to Celia, she breaks down. John finds her crying in the library and comforts her, though she will not tell him why she is so upset. After they make love, Beatrice agrees to marry him, knowing she can pass the baby off as John's. The marriage satisfies everyone: Beatrice's mother is happy that her daughter is finally married to a respectable man; Harry and Celia are happy that Beatrice will know their 'happiness'; Beatrice is happy because John has no problem with living on Wideacre. Beatrice goes into labour while John is away, and gives birth to a healthy boy. She names him Richard, and almost pulls off her deception, but John arrives back early from his journey. As a doctor, he can see immediately that the baby is not premature. Disillusioned, he asks Beatrice why she lied to him. Devastated by this turn of events, Beatrice lies again, telling him that she was raped but that her love for him is not a lie. John does not believe her. He begins to drink in order to forget her betrayal. Meanwhile, Beatrice and Harry grow more and more careless. One night, they end up having sex in the living room, and their mother walks in and sees them. She faints from the shock and falls unconscious. In her catatonic state, she mutters over and over "I only came to get my book... Harry, Beatrice, no!" She dies without regaining consciousness or revealing what she saw, though John MacAndrew suspects the truth from what she kept repeating. He tells Beatrice that he could ruin her, but she scorns him, saying that his medical reputation is in shreds from his drinking and nobody will believe anything he says.

  10. Beatrice and Harry decide to make Julia and Richard joint heirs to the Wideacre estate. However, the estate is entailed, meaning that only male heirs can inherit, and changing the entail requires a lot of money. In order to gain the money needed for the change, Beatrice and Harry mortgage the estate and begin to enclose the common land, so the villagers have nowhere to graze their pigs or raise their own vegetables. This creates a lot of anger and resentment on the estate but Beatrice no longer cares, so focused is she on her children inheriting the estate. Celia manages to restore John's medical reputation by calling on him when Richard chokes on a stone from his rattle. John performs an emergency tracheotomy, cutting Richard's throat open in order to allow air into his windpipe. The two of them do their best to help alleviate the villagers' poverty and depravation, in contrast to the increasingly corrupt Beatrice and Harry. Beatrice is no longer working in rhythm with Wideacre and the estate is suffering under her "maximum profit" mentality as every spare piece of land is devoted to more crops in order to produce more money. Then they hear the Culler, a shadowy outlaw who is against enclosure and the aristocracy, is heading for Wideacre. Beatrice has lost all her support and Wideacre is vulnerable to attack. Celia and John discover that the estate is mortgaged. Harry discovers that Julia is Beatrice's daughter (he never discovers that he is Julia's father, or Richard's). Disgusted by Beatrice's selfishness and lack of humanity, Celia calls Beatrice a "wrecker", telling her that she ruins everything she touches, including her beloved Wideacre. She then leaves, taking a blubbering Harry with her. John leaves with them, as Beatrice stopped being his wife a long time ago.

  11. Beatrice is left alone in the Hall, a scene exactly like her nightmare, hinting that she has some sort of sixth sense. (This is a nod to Gone With The Wind, where the protagonist's nightmare comes true at the end of the novel.) She dreams of Ralph and being together with him again, a new start away from all the violence, death and deceit. When she wakes, she can sense that he has been in the room with her, as the window is open. She sees the torches of the villagers glowing outside. She knows they have to come to burn down the Hall and kill her, but she does not care, she only longs to see Ralph. She runs outside and sees him, sitting on his horse. Everything about him is the same, except that both his legs end at the knee. Overjoyed, Beatrice goes to him and holds up her arms. He bends down as if to embrace her. The last thing Beatrice sees is the knife in his hand.

    In the epilogue, which is the only part written in the third person, Wideacre Hall is a burnt out shell. The estate is ruined and bankrupt. Julia Lacey and Richard MacAndrew play as children in the overgrown garden. Despite this image of innocence in paradise, The novel ends on an ambiguous note, stating that sometimes Julia looks at the ruined Hall and smiles "as if it were very lovely to her".

    How do you like it ?

  12. Being a bridesmaid is kind of like being a lady in the 18th century, in a way, all about dressing up and parties and courtly behavior...