Turning the Car Around


Turning the Car Around

This is a late edition. I know you're used to getting this much earlier in the day. It's been a busy one.

Quick. Close your eyes and think: what comes to mind when you hear the word 'Victorian?'

What did you think of? A stovepipe or bowler hat? Charles Dickens? An elegant woman in a frilly high-necked, white blouse and brooch? LOL, Masterpiece Theater?

I don't think most folks realize how far reaching the influence of the Victorian Era -- as in the years of 1837-1901 -- has been. I mean, it actually shows up in a lot of what we still build, use, and wear today.

Sure, of late we've seen a lot of jewelry and accessories, craft supplies, and fashions in Steampunk style. And that is basically a Victorian revival. But there are other ways Victorian culture permeates ours.

During Queen Victoria's reign there was an explosion of sorts. Like an era running with scissors. Mass production and printing led to more books. There was an explosion of new richer textiles, more and brighter colors. There was a fashion metamorphosis for both women and men. Rail allowed a proliferation of travel and shipping. The industrial revolution set off the construction of more factories and city dwellings.

So, this era saw reading evolve into a social pastime, city population and construction booms. And Queen Victoria's personal preferences might have made her the Kardashian of her day.

Asserting her influence over apparel popularized in high society the floor length white wedding dress, wedding tiaras -- and by extension the debutante and quinceañera tiaras of today -- wedding trains, velvet, neckline-revealing bodices, and charm bracelets. Velvet and silk were more easily obtainable because of rail and found their way into clothes, upholstery and home dressings.

We have this period to thank for the enduring popularity of lace-up boots, corsets, bustiers, men's suit vests, think of cutaway coat tuxedo tails, bow-tied cravats which became our modern bow ties, men's matched three-piece suits, and even Christmas toys, traditions and trimmings.

Father Christmas became popular and the Dutch Sinter Klaas was, in Britain, christened Santa Claus. Mass-produced toys made it possible for most kids to be able to receive Christmas toys, and -- finally -- not just kids from rich families. Christmas trees, which had been a much bigger tradition in Germany finally took off in England after a couple of German residents, including none other than Queen Victoria's husband, Albert, made them central to their own holiday celebrations. And the ornaments we use today give a nod to ornaments created back then.

There are the Christmas crackers many of us are familiar with, the Christmas carolers we all have been or welcomed, and even the Christmas cards that most of us have made, received, and given. All of these things originated and became popular during this time.

If you think about it, we have a collective fascination with the Victorian era. And its motifs have enduring influence.

You'd laugh if I told you what my two favorite catalogs are to look through and dream of ordering from, because the two couldn't be more different. Absolutely. Different. Victorian Trading Company and Title Nine. But the first of the two -- which provided my Jane Eyre cuff bracelet, thank you very much -- allows me a deep dip into the pool of all things for home and body with a Victorian touch. I am a creature of varied but very specific tastes. And this period, and especially the several following, have always been among my historic stomping grounds.

Hey, this is not what you usually read about here. Do I digress?

Not at all, actually.

This is shop talk.

The proof? Take a look at the Black Victoria Shoppe. It's my BVic collection and one of the five lines of ARTHAUS:Detroit.

What do you do when you find treasure? What do you do when you uncover long covered gems and long obscured truth? These historic images of people of color are hidden figures. Hidden treasures.

I've always been into historic and vintage photos, fashions, and memorabilia. I actually remember the very first two things I ever mail-ordered. They were Art Nouveau and Victorian replica home accessories that I got for my room when I was 18. Ahem, ahem, that -- LOL --was more than a long time ago.

But probably no different than you, I grew up seeing only white men and women in vintage images, and the air of romance and respectability that accompanied them. And the whole world went along under the same false pretense which has contributed heavily to the stereotypes and double-standards that many people of color have had to suffer. It dawned on me one day decades ago that another reality was entirely being denied. And I always wanted to turn that car around. We can have just as much of a collective fascination with Black Victoriana.

I love period art & artifacts. As a creative and woman of color, I've been collecting vintage ephemera and images of people of color for a while. So with BVic, I've given some of them a home. It's in its infancy, but I aim to build slowly but surely over time. You'll find photos mainly at this point, but over time there will be many more cards, collectibes too. As a matter of fact, I'm working on a set of wooden, vintage image BVic dominoes. A one-of-a-kind prototype that I'll want to have ready in time for the holiday season, if not earlier.

Let know what you think of the idea. It'll be a nice set to have. I'm currently trying to decide which BVic image to feature on the backsides. Maybe you can throw in your two cents. Tell me which one gets your top vote. Email me at arthaus.detroit@gmail.com.

It's my hunch that, because of my age and who I am, I may have nursed the passion to build a Black Victorian shop of of some kind for a bit longer than some of the other current purveryers of Black ephemera. So, for me, it's not just a little business, but a little labor of love.

Black Victoria? It's time she had her due.

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