An 18th Century Period Play

This weekend I’m going to see the play Urania – The Life of Émilie Du Châtelet. Émilie Du Châtelet was a physicist, mathematician, and author who lived in France during the first half of the 18th century. She became a friend, lover, and collaborator with Voltaire. I know very little about Émilie, but that is not surprising. Few women from this period ever received recognition for their achievements and contributions.

My friend Katy Werlin is one of the actresses in Urania (seen in the first photo on the far left), so I am excited to see her performance. She’s a fashion historian, and she designed the costumes for the show. Katy is an incredible dressmaker. She makes 18th century dresses using period techniques in her spare time. I asked her to send over some images from Tuesday’s dress rehearsal, because I knew the costumes were going to be good.

The light blue robe à la française that the character Émilie wears is from Katy’s personal wardrobe. It was sewn almost entirely by hand. The rest of the costumes were made specifically for the show. Katy was assisted by Andrea Young, who plays Marguerite.

Urania was written by Jyl Bonaguro, is based on a biography by Judith P. Zinsser, and is directed by Eileen Tull. It runs this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 at the Hilton Asmus Contemporary. Unfortunately the show is currently sold out, but there is a wait list in case you want to try to see it for yourself.

Aren’t the costumes great? I can’t wait!

photos by Eileen Tull, director

I Want Candy – a Marie Antoinette tribute video

Yesterday, my friend Brenna, an independent art and fashion historian, shared this entertaining tribute video to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. An acquaintance of Brenna’s and her friends filmed it while staying at Chateau de Pys in the south of France. Brenna asked, “why wouldn’t you make a music video when dressed in 18th century costumes in a French villa? I ask you!”

I have to agree. There is no reason not to.


Friday File – Mid-Semester

Another busy Friday ends another busy week. The fashion study collection I manage is getting a much better workout this semester than it did in the fall, which is great, but also a bit tiring.

I’m spending this morning prepping for a lecture on how fashion theory and history can be applied in interdisciplinary ways for a freshman intro course next week. I’m kind of excited about it. If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ll know that I value fashion far above fashion just for fashion’s sake. It is a product of its time and culture, and I really enjoying exposing students in other disciplines to the collection. You can see their minds working as they find connections amongst their own fields and the garments in my collection.

Now let’s get to the links:

The very smart Raquel Laneri directed me to a fashion shoot by Eugenio Recuenco — it’s an homage to Picasso. Look at the series of images in the second row from the top. Which is timely, because there is a Picasso exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago right now, so I’ve got Picasso on the brain. Eugenio’s photos are rather clever, and whoever did the styling, the makeup, and the hair did a fantastic job capturing the essence of Picasso’s paintings.

Did you know the nuclear bomb has helped experts identify forgeries more easily? It has to do with the creation of isotopes that didn’t exist before 1945 when the first nuclear bomb was detonated. Scientists can test the paint of a work to determine if those isotopes were present in the paint when a painting was created, and, if they are, then scientists know the painting had to be created after 1945. Not so easy to pass off a new painting as an old master’s now.

The First Bangs will grace the cover of Vogue next month. I’m picking up my copy as soon as it hits the shelves.

Two Nerdy Girls had a most fantastic piece this week on “How Many Tradespeople Does It Take to Dress an 18th C. Lady?” With the help of the Janea Whitacre, mistress of millinery and mantua maker at Colonial Williamsburg, they compiled a list of every person involved in making the items that an upperclass woman wore — those who made her dress and its embellishments to her hair to her accouterments.

Have a great weekend!