Friday, April 10, 2009
The Edwardian Lady
'An Edwardian lady in full dress was a wonder to behold, and her preparations for viewing were awesome. Silk stockings, carefully smoothed, went on first. Then she would rise in her chemise while her lady's maid fitted the long stays of pink coutil, heavily boned, around her hips, fastening the busk down the front, anchoring the garters to the stockings and tightening the silk lacings. Pads of pink satin would be affixed on the hips and under the arms, to stress the narrow waist. Drawers came next, after which the maid would spread the petticoat in a ring on the floor, and the lady, now wearing high-heeled shoes, would step into it. Buttons would be buttoned, tapes tied; then she would dive into a massive gown of taffeta and tulle and stand rigid while the maid laced up the bodice. Jewels went on last: rubies at the waist, dog collars of rubies and diamonds around the neck, and a tiara on top. As she sailed forth from her boudoir, you'd never have guessed how quickly she could strip for action.'
Assignations depended on circumstances. Vita Sackville West explains in The Edwardians: "The code was rigid. Within the closed circle of their own set, anybody might do as they pleased, but no scandal must leak out to the uninitiated. Appearances must be respected, though morals might be neglected." The King's mistresses had an easy time of it. No one would question a royal command, and few husbands, even in the aristocracy, were prepared to challenge His Majesty's droit di seigneur. Indeed, some women wore, pinned to their blouses, the little watches he gave them, bearing a true lover's knot of mauve enamel ribbon, and, on the back, the crown and the interlaced E.R.VII. 'Of course I don't like it', they would say,' but its a good little timekeeper, and so I wear it.' Actually, HM's watches gained, on the average, about an hour a day."