28 Feb 2009

Costume movie in 2010

Much to my joy, I just found out that Zentropa, the production company owned by Lars von Trier among others, is working on an historical film with premier in 2010 (MOAR costumes yay!)

The film, which right now goes under the name "A royal affair", will tell the story of the Danish queen Caroline Mathilde and her affair with Struensee, the king's doctor and later count and prime minister of Denmark.

I'm very excited about this for many reasons, partly because "COSTUME MOVIE YAY!" of course, also because the Danes make such awesome productions when it comes to TV and film, and naturally because the story of Caroline Mathilde and Struensee is of the sort that it's quite amazing that it hasn't already been made a movie of yet ("Love! Sex! Power! Death!" Zentropa, if you want to use this as your tagline for the film, go ahead, I couldn't afford to sue you anyway).

Article in Danish
Facts on Zentropa's website

Send one stepdaughter to Berlin with a camera...

No, I didn't actually send her there; she went by her own will. I didn't even bribe her into going to museums where there might have been costumes on display, she did that by herself as well!

Here are a few of the pictures she took (naturally, she couldn't use a flash so please accept the snapshots as is):

"Just my luck :( Whiplash injury right in time for the sitting."

25 Feb 2009

Please enlighten me...

...now what exactly is this?

...booby trap?

From the oh-so-awesome IMATEX collection.

24 Feb 2009

The king and the semla

If you would happen to stop by in Sweden on the time of, let's say, the 24th of February, you may find what appears to be extremely serious evidence pointing to the fact that the Swedes' favourite pastime is to clog their veins with a mediocre-looking pastry called semla.

The semla (bastardized from Latin: simila=wheat flour) of today is basically a wheat bun cut in a big and a small piece, with a layer of almond mush and a huge pile of whipped cream in-between. The top would typically be sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Although today this pastry can be obtained in shops almost all year around, traditionally it is supposed to be baked and eaten on this very day - "The Fat Tuesday"!

See, in the days when Sweden was still a Catholic country, the Fat Tuesday preceded Ash Wednesday, the kick-start of Lent. Accordingly, the fat Tuesday was the last chance to stuff yourself with everything that would become no-no or go bad during the next forty days, and for some reason or another, the semla became so popular that it even survived the reformation in the 16th century and continued to appear on every man's table on the Fat Tuesday (as well as other days).

The habit of making the semla with a whipped cream filling is but a century old, but the almond mush appeared in the 18th century, when it was also customary to eat the semla in a bowl with hot milk (some people still do it. I tried it once and if I never do it again, it'll be too soon).
And as you soon will discover, a royal semla soaking in a milky bath even became of historic importance on February 12, 1771.

Poor Adolf Fredrik (born 1710; crowned king of Sweden 1751) would never go to history as one of the greatest monarchs that ruled this country. In fact, most people, I believe, think of him as "that king who died from eating too many semlas". Which isn't perfectly true, but I'll come to that.

Adolf Fredrik was king in a time when monarchy had little to no power at all in Sweden. The country was in reality ruled by political parties with agendas of their own, and even if Adolf Fredrik had had any greater ambitions (which he didn't), he would still have been under the thumb of his wife Lovisa Ulrika, the sister of Frederick the Great.

Her ambitions, on the other hand, included an attempted coup d'état in order to regain power to the king/queen in 1756.

The scheme failed miserably. Lovisa Ulrika got busted for embezzling the crown jewels and if that wasn't bad enough, one of the followers of the royal couple got drunk and revealed the plot to the authorities.

Mayhem and destruction followed with beheadings and deportations and the king got an ultimatum: "Say you're sorry and you're out of here!"

The king had to say he was sorry and remained king, disillusionated and reduced to a sock puppet (when he refused to sign particular documents that required his signature, a stamp with the king's name that made his presence even less necessary was made).
The famous name stamp

But, in the end, the quiet life as a family man and hobbyist didn't suit Adolf Fredrik badly. He was a timid and modest man to his nature, and quite happily spent his days lathing snuffboxes and enjoying the delights of the table.

And here's where the accursed semla finally comes into the picture!

That February night in 1771, Adolf Fredrik had in the best of health and spirits stuffed his face with sauerkraut, meat with turnips, lobster, caviar, smoked herring - all drowned with several bottles of champagne - and as a finishing touch, a semla with warm milk.

We can't possibly blame the semla for what happened a few moments later but rather the king's diet as a whole, but the indisputable fact is that the king, still at the table, was stricken with a fatal stroke and after not much longer quite dead.

No, not quite an heroic death, or as the contemporary poet J G Oxenstierna rather snarkily put it: "It is not to expire in the most glorious way but to die the death of a clergyman".

(But if you ask me, I don't think that kicking the bucket after enjoying a good meal with your friends necessarily has to be an unpleasant way to die. On the contrary...)

20 Feb 2009

Yellow fabric up for closer inspection

This fabric is actually a vintage curtain (my guess would be the 70's. It would go well with brown wallpaper and orange carpeting) that I bought from a thrift store.

I'm not sure about the material. It doesn't feel synthetic and it doesn't look synthetic (it doesn't look as shiny as in the pictures). I'm no expert by any means but my guess would've been some sort of cotton damask. Or something. But it didn't do very well on the burn test (recently explained by Fuchsia here) so I don't know.

I'm thinking I'm not too bothered. I'm no purist anyway, and if it looks good, it's good enough for me.

What's bothering me more is the pattern. Not that it's not an 18th century pattern - who'd be so lucky that they found a Period Correct patterned fabric at a price they could afford? Certainly not me! - no, I'm more worried about the size of the pattern. Methinks it's too large. Here I've placed a medium-sized cat on the fabric for comparison:

If I'm going to use this fabric for an 18th century project (and in that case I see a jacket, and I see a black petticoat to go with it!) I'll have to do a bit of research on jackets made of damask-type fabrics first, if any should exist, and see what the fabrics look like. Any input would be appreciated of course!


...I want to thank the Academy, my cat, my therapist....

No, seriously; after sleeping very, very late, I got up and sat down with my first cuppa in front of the computer, and lo and behold! Not only did I learn that Fuchsiahad been nominated to the Excessively Diverting Blog Award, which she so totally deserves, but that she in her turn had nominated little me. In the words of Caroline Bingley: I'm all astonishment!

Quote from Jane Austen Today, the founders of the award:

The aim of the Excessively Diverting Blog Award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen’s genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humor, wit, and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of the sparkling banter, witty repartee, and gentle reprove. This award was created by the blogging team of Jane Austen Today to acknowledge superior writing over the Internet and promote Jane Austen’s brilliance.

That's quite a bit to live up to! Is a bit scared, but of course thankful to Fuchsia and all of you who have stumbled upon this blog and read the so far very few entries. I will do my best in the future.

The fun part about the award is that you nominate seven blogs in your turn, and I had no hard time picking out my nominees.

I hereby nominate, in no particular order:

Fuchsia's 18th Century Dress
I've had the pleasure of following Fuchsia's blog almost from the very beginning and it quickly became rather addictive. Fuchsia explores the world of fabrics, trims and sewing techniques and shares her learnings in a personal, entertaining but also educational manner. More than just a dress diary, Fuchsia is always an interesting and fun read.

The Duchess of Devonshire's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century
Heather Carroll's blog may have the longest title in the blogosphere but that's not her only advantage. Clever, witty and humorous, this blog does not only revolve around the duchess of Devonshire but the Georgian upper-class and their world; or, as Heather puts it herself: Scandalous tid-bits from England's finest socialite of the Georgian age
Updated frequently too - what more can you wish for?

Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide to the 18th Century
A sister blog to Heather's, run by Lauren, and from a French POV. The two blogs complete each other in a clever way and it wouldn't be possible for me not to nominate both of them, even though each one definitely can stand for themselves.

Gillray's Printshop of Historical Absurdities
A rather new blog that quickly made me anticipate every new post! Elyse knows her history and history was never this much fun. She tracks down the most hilarious anecdotes from great men and women of the 18th and 19th century and presents them in her own amazing style. Not always respectfully, which to me is a great plus. You must go and see for yourself.

Sightly Obsessed
This blog quickly became one of my favourites bacause of many reasons. Some of them is Chole's wonderful sense of humour, her smart and interesting tutorials and her lovely costumes.

Jenny La Fleur - Adventures in costumes
Jenny is an amazingly talented costumer with a good sense of humour about herself and her work (how I have forgotten to put up a link to her in my blog list, I cannot tell).

18th century blog
I have followed Johanna's blog for a long time now and I love it. She posts great articles about pretty much everything 18th century, with emphasis on art and costume.

Well, there are my nominees, it wasn't hard at all! Thank you all for making those hours I spend surfing on the internet worth it. Keep up the great work! Cheers!

17 Feb 2009


And there was rejoice: I just completed my latest project - a frilly jacket!

It may not look much to the world, but it's actually the first piece of clothing I've sewn entirely by hand. And if you knew just how lazy and impatient I really am, you too would consider this an extraordinary accomplishment.

But it wasn't at all that bad as I had feared - on the contrary! It felt quite pleasing and relaxing, and it's nice to watch (or, in my case, mostly listen to) a film while you work. I'm not 100% converted to hand sewing, and I probably never will be, but I'm going to do it much, much more. Right now I'm working on a petticoat from the same fabric, and I'm going Old School on that one as well (but the new pocket hoops I just made was 100% machine sewn on the other hand, quick and dirty. Things must even out!).

The fabric of the jacket is a silk dupioni, slubby as hell, so not much Period Correct this time. But I'm on a rather tight budget right now (aren't I always?) and had to use something I had lying in the stash (and since this was kind of an experiment, both on the hand sewing and the pattern part, I didn't want to use something nice...).

The sleeves thankfully doesn't look so puffy and weird on me as they do on Glendora, the not-really-a-dress-dummy, but the jacket came out a bit too tight, no matter how nicely the toile fitted me. Sigh. I will re-work the pattern later on, because I want to use it for a lovely brocade I have. This jacket was more of a 1.0 really.

I'm going to wear the jacket and petticoat on March 28, on a church service in memory of king Gustaf III, and I really hope I fastened the hooks and eyes hard enough. I wouldn't want them to projectile on the minister, he's a very nice man. Yes, that's how tight the bodice is! But I guess there's still time to lose some weight.

13 Feb 2009

Fight fire with fire...

From the excellent Toilet of Flora:

Okay. Just as long as I never, ever have to find out what boiling urine smells like.

Anyway; although it wasn't easy finding one single recipe that didn't include horse dung, white lead, endangered species or ox-gall (N.B. not necessarily together), I finally managed to dig out not only one but TWO recipes that I will try at the end of the month. Stay tuned.

And there was drooling: MOAR costumes online!

Well, this museum's site was new at least to me!

I found it through Corsetra's LJ (thank you!) and was so very happy because stumbling on amazing finds like these is almost better than kitties, puppies, popsicles and sunshine!

The museum is located in the vicinity of Barcelona, I believe, and the main page is here: CDMT

But the interesting bit comes here: Database

A huge fricking database, and it is even available in English. I'm so giving my first-born away to this museum.

There are 734(!) images in the 18th century category and many of them are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! The picture quality is great (although I wouldn't have minded larger sizes, but what the...) and the costumes are very nicely displayed and can often be seen from several different angles as well and...

Why do you read this anyway? Go there NOW!

Just some teasers:

(I call this one "Crazy Lollipop")

12 Feb 2009

A walk in the park

One very misty Saturday not long ago, me, my husband and his daughter met up with his parents in the Haga park (the mist was insane! See picture above . But it was very, very pretty and made for great picture-taking.)

The Haga park is a green oasis resting between the two cities of Stockholm and Solna, gently caressed by the shores of Brunnsviken, and a much beloved recreation spot for the public all year round - go skiing in the winter and have picnics in the summer.

What makes Haga more than just a lovely patch of nature just outside the city, is that it was planned and created by no one else than king Gustaf III who ruled Sweden between the years 1771-1792.

The young king bought some land and estate as early as 1771, serving as a place for relaxation and recreation for the young king, and he often brought with him his court for various outdoor activities in the summer (pleasure trips in custom-made gondolas, among others!) The king didn't mind the very modest lodgings; in the house where he resided during his visits, he only used four out of nine rooms.

Enter landscape architect Fredrik Magnus Piper. In 1780, just returned from a journey in Europe where he had had the opportunity to pick up the latest trends, the king employed him to make Haga into a English park so English you could declare war on France with it (the general idea of an English park, if I understand correctly, is to make a park or garden look like Real Nature, only better and on your own terms).

The work started for real in 1783 and the king wasn't lacking ideas (only money, but that's another story). While Piper and his boys beat the sh*t out of nature to make it look more natural, the king planned to transform Haga from a sleepy get-a-way-place in the country into an official site definitely connected with the capitol. An impressing castle in the classical style would crown the whole project and the first stone was laid in 1786.

Six years later, the king was dead, and all future plans for Haga became permanently postponed.

But many of the king's plans had been realized during his last years, and the beautiful thing about it is that most of it can still be seen in this very day and age, pretty much as it was seen in the days of Gustaf III.

So follow us as we walk through the misty park, in the melting snow, with soaking suede boots and accordingly very cold feet:

The Copper Tents:

Created in 1787 as stables and lodgings for the king's guards, the "tents" hide rustic timber buildings and were designed to look like theatrical side-scenes (Gustaf III was indeed a passionate lover of theatre, and the designer, Desprez, wasn't new to making décor for the theatres in and around Stockholm).
Partially restored after fire, the tents today serve as café and museum.

Gustaf III's Pavilion

Intended as a temporary home for the royal family until the Big Castle was finished, the work on the pavilion began in 1787. The middle piece was an existing building that had been built 10 years earlier and acquired by Gustaf III in his mission for the expansion of the park.
The king only came to enjoy a few years in his pavilion; some parts of the interior had been finished just a few days before his demise, and it was even this very place he went from before the assassination at the masquerade ball at the Stockholm opera house on March 16, 1792.
The place was partially remodelled in the 1840's but thanks to original blueprints, much of it's 1790's splendour could be restored in 1937-46.

In the summer the pavilion is open for the public. I'm sorry to say that I haven't been on one of the guided tours myself. Yet.

The Echo Temple

The king enjoyed a good meal outdoors and the temple was built for that purpose, and also features amazing acoustics. Most of the décor as wee see it today is a reconstruction of the makeover the temple was given in the 1840's.
I've spent many merry hours of fun and party in this temple, I even spent one whole night there and dragged myself home by the time the sun slowly rose over the... Naah, it was so beautiful that it only gets pathetic when you try to describe it with mere words!


I know nothing about this urn, but it's pretty, no? You can't tell from the picture, but it's huge - you could easily fit an adult person into it (heey...)

The Cave

"The cave" is actually a tunnel for a planned construction that would supply water to a reservoir on top of the mountain. A steam-engined pump in the shape of a Gothic castle was considered, but in 1791 the king purchased a windmill instead, but it probably never made it to Haga.


There are many more reminders of Gustaf III to be seen in Haga, but I think I mentioned something about very cold feet, so this was all we brought from our wintry walk. There may well be a few trips to Haga in the summer though, so if I remember to bring the camera than...

This bridge, which leads to the royal burial ground, is of a later date, but I liked how the picture turned out so here you go:

9 Feb 2009

The Toilet Of Flora

What a find!

While doing my daily lurking at 18c Woman, I stumbled over a true gem, posted by none other than Chole, who is the person behind Slightly Obsessed and clearly quite awesome:

The Toilet Of Flora;
A Collection
Of The
Most Simple And Approved
Methods Of Preparing
Sweet-scented Waters

With Recepits for cosmetics of every kind, that can smooth and brighten the SKIN, give force to BEAUTY And take off the appearance of OLD AGE and DECAY

There's over 300 recipes for everything from snuff to soap to "cosmetic juice" to "An excellent Preservative balsam against the plague" - I can swear the book has everything except a liniment against flesh-eating zombies, but maybe it's because I haven't looked close enough.

Sorry guys, but it says clearly that it is FOR THE USE OF THE LADIES (which makes me ponder about "A liniment to change the Beard and Hair black", but should a lady wish to dye her beard black I suppose it's an excellent method. Unless you're allergic to lead and tar).

I'm so going to try some of these recipes one day soon. I suppose there must be a few that aren't absolutely fatal, and once I figure out what all of the ingredients actually are, and where I can obtain them, I'll report back.

Oh, and the best part about all this? The book is available at Google Books, downloadable as a PDF. Yes, please!

Bitter oranges!

When I was in the grocery store today I spotted a big pile of bitter oranges!

I was rather thrilled (yes, thrilled by citrus! Imagine what the rest of my day was like...) because I don't think I've ever seen fresh bitter oranges in the stores here in Sweden before, only dried pieces intended for baking and such. But that may just have been me not paying enough attention.

Anyway, why I got so excited about these little fruits is because bitter orange is the key ingredient if you're going to make bischoff:

Recipe from Museum of Wine And Spirits in Stockholm, adapted from a 1755 recipe:

  • 5 fresh bitter oranges
  • 1 bottle of French red wine
  • 3 deciliters of sugar

Peel the oranges and heat them in a saucepan until they are well done but not burned.

Put them in a punch bowl together with the sugar and squeeze the juice out with a spoon.

Put the wine in, stir well, and let it soak for two hours with a plate covering the bowl.

If you use champagne, you get "Cardinal" and with white wine from the Rhine district you get "Archbishop"!

It's very tasty and great for parties, but I don't know if the kind I've had was made from bitter oranges, or lemons or ordinary oranges.

Back in the good old days of the 18th century, it wasn't uncommon to own potted trees which supplied with fresh bitter oranges at low cost! Swedish Märta Helena Reenstierna, whose claim-to-fame is the unique diary which she kept between the years 1793-1839, owned several trees which gave plenty of fruit for all her boozing-it-up needs (I was playing with the thought of planting a seed from a fruit myself, but I soon learned that it will take 10-15 years before the first harvest. The idea of a plant surviving with me for 15 years? Lulzy.)

Anyway, all you kitched goddesses (and gods) - do you think it would be possible to store bitter oranges in the freezer for some months, since I fear that the supply won't last long here (which reminds me that I already have 2 litres of blackthorn berries in the freezer waiting for further investigation... Oh well!). I suppose they would become all mushy but since they'd be squeezed to death in the punch bowl anyway, maybe it wouldn't matter too much?

5 Feb 2009

A Humble Beginning

This looks exactly like me!
Ya, rly!


I thought I'd dedicate this first blog post to a bit of introduction to my humble self, and some explaining (because you all probably just sit there, like, "WTF?")

First: I'm a rather confused female little person living in the long, narrow land up north called Sweden. I'm soon two years short of the big 30, but my childish personality must reflect on my looks, because I have to show ID every time I want to buy a bottle of wine (or four. No, I don't find it flattering, only annoying. Ask me again in a couple of years).
I'm married, with children (his though; not mine, thank you very much!) and work a full-time job.

So. Why this blog?

Well. One great interest of mine is History. See the title of the blog? Ah, good - there you have it:

18th century. I love it.

So I want to write about it. And since I'm too stupid (and old) to go to university and too untalanted to even try and publish an article or two, a blog HAD to be the perfect forum. Everyone can blog, right?!?

I may be focusing more on Swedish 18th century, since that's what interests me the most, so you international fellas may be making some new acquaintances over time.

And then there was costumes. Which somewhat relates to the 18th century history bit.

I make 18th century costumes (I try, at least). I even wear them. You'll see. You may regret it, but you'll see.

I won't be doing the dress diary thing, mostly because no one should have to see the mad, confused inferno in which my creations are being born, but I may ask for input on stuff, show off my ideas, document progress, if such should exist, and even show the finished product (depends on how much it sucks, of course).

Is everything clear on the "costumes" bit? Good! Then we better move on to the most confusing part:


Well, I like them! Even when they puke on my rug, scratch my sofa to shreds and refuse to eat the expensive gourmet cat food that even costs more than my own grub (per kilo. Yes, I checked)!

Did I mention I'm a cat owner? Or owned by a cat, which way one chooses to see it.

And "cats" may actually be more like "cat", singular noun, since I'll allow most of the space to the crazy pet cat Börjesson!

Isn't he adorable?

You know, every cat's biggest wish is to gain some internet fame, and I must admit I haven't really put much effort into making Börjesson the internet star he so desires to be (NO ONE watches those Youtube clips, dammit!).

Or, if you're being cynical, you could probably say that I take the opportunity to make fun of my pet in public. Not that I ever intended to!


(I realise that if this had been a personal ad, I'd be broke by now. Broke, and still not closer to a date. Which probably indicates that I should shut up, and go to bed.)

Well, that's it for now, and if I didn't scare you all away, you'll hear from me again, soon (please come, I don't have any friends! Please?).


Your humble servant

Madame Berg