March 28, 2008
Victorian Voyage
Fancy a trip to Cancun this winter?
Or maybe a summer abroad in Germany or Spain?

The idea of vacationing or traveling about the globe has become a way of life among many in our modern world. Flights, trains and tour buses leave daily for vacation hot spots, and as our world becomes more and more advanced, the comfort of traveling increases as the time of traveling to your exotic destination decreases.

The idea of traveling in and of itself is a fairly new concept. In fact, traveling more than one could walk in a day was generally unheard of in centuries past, and only for battles or religious pilgrimages would a population be willed into traveling for days on end. Until quite recently, to most of the world's citizens, the town in which they were born was the place in which they lived out the rest of their lives.

However, as England, as well as the rest of the world, entered the Victorian era, the concept of travel began to change drastically. As carriages became more common among the middle and upper class, longer distance travel became possible. Although, when traveling more than ten or twenty miles, travel by carriage could become cumbersome and extremely slow. The answer to this slow method of travel was solved with the invention of the steam locomotive in the mid 1820's and the construction of the first set of rails in England toward the mid-nineteenth century. As the 20th century fast approached, transport by train became increasingly common, providing transport for the upper and middle class, as well as the lower class. As the world changed under Queen Victoria's rule, so did transportation. Railway stations sprung up in many a town, and began to connect different parts of England, and in this way, different ways of life.

As the Victorian era drew to a close, railways became apparent in different countries and on different continents. The comforts of train travel increased, and the amount of trains that entered and exited any given station per day increased drastically, so that the concept of travel became part of everyday life. No longer would families and friends go years without seeing one another due to only twenty or thirty miles of separation; with this innovative way of travel, one could leave their town in the morning, travel thirty-odd miles, and be back for dinner!

The invention of the steam locomotive even paved the way to the invention of the steam ship. This new innovation allowed sailors to travel in roomier, more comfortable bunks, as well as a more hygienic atmosphere. From the invention of the steam ship, travel across oceans became more common for the general population, so that one could travel in comfort and style to a different world.

The invention of the train grew over the Victorian era as machinery and technology became increasingly advanced, and even after the close of Queen Victoria's reign, this incredulous invention paved the way to more modern versions of travel such as the automobile, the ferry and the airplane, as well as more innovative forms of itself, such as the monorail and high-speed railways. We are seeing the effects of this influential time in history today as globe-trotting has become not only widespread and common, but a way of life.

So, next time you're packing up for your all-inclusive resort or your cozy chalet, remember how it all started: a set of rails and a curious invention known only as the locomotive.

Posted by Melissa
posted at 5:58 PM - 0 comments
Modern Victorianism

An up and coming trend amongst North Americans is the restoration of Victorian homes with a modern twist. This is becomes the past time of many, an example of this is shown above, this house belongs to a couple who restored a Victorian style home into one with a more modern flare. All along keeping in mind the trends of the era. For example the colors and patterns are of a more traditional fashion and are mixed with modern furnishings and appliances. This home is one of many Victorian updates featured in the magazine “Great American Homes”.
For those of us who do not have a Victorian style home and wish to have the "look" of one they provide tips on how to make the modern day bungalow a Victorian sanctuary, focusing primarily on colors, fabrics, choose of patterns as well as area rugs.
Some tips being:

• Lay patterned carpets with a faded grandeur, leaving a border of polished floorboards. Floorcloths, a canvas painted with oils and many layers of linseed oil, can be used for less grand rooms.
• Tiles - for areas with heavy traffic, such as halls and kitchens, the best flooring is encaustic tiles (where the pattern is baked on in a kiln). Victorian ones are usually highly patterned. Many original floors still exist today but very good reproduction tiles are also available.
• Rich dark colours such as ruby reds and forest greens are typical. The Victorian color palette was quite limited because chemical processes were still developing. Purple and blue came in by the middle of the century. Most of the leading paint companies now produce good heritage ranges.
• From the 1840s, wallpaper went into mass production. Paper from the skirting board up to the dado rail. Look for flock, damask or water silk papers featuring large blowsy flowers or other recurrent motifs of the time such as birds and animals. A William Morris design would be perfect.
• Furniture - should literally be overstuffed. Look for plump armchairs with button backs, easy chairs, pouffes and ottomans. Crowd the room with furniture.
• Fabrics - highly patterned. Use velvet and damask for the winter and exchange with muslin, cottons and chintz for the summer.
• Paint - the Victorians liked their paint effects. Try faux marbling, stenciling, and stippling surfaces, borders and wood.

Looking through the list of helpful hints for a modern Victorian masterpiece, there is an uncanny resemblance's to the houses described in George Gissing novel: In the year of Jubilee. The above photo of the reading room above being very similar to the reading room of Lionel Tarrant. Perhaps the Victorians had the right idea after all, why else would "modern" day society be going backwards?

Posted by Sarah
posted at 4:16 PM - 0 comments

While modern designers seek to re-invent Victorian fashions, there is a steadily growing community of people in North America and abroad who not only emulate the Dandy or Gentleman's mode of dress - but their lifestyle as well. I've chosen two notable and active people within this community as examples of the extreme influence and appeal which the Victorian period still holds for many in today's modern society.

Lord Whimsy
Author, Gentleman, Affected Provincial

Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy, formerly known as Allan Crawford, lives in a restored Victorian cottage in New Jersey and has made a commercially successful career as an author and public speaker out of his adoption of a Neo-Victorian lifestyle. Whimsy's dress is modeled after that of a late Victorian dandy, and it is this which is the subject of his book and many of his published essays. Whimsy advocates a refined "overdressing" (Whimsy 19-20), and is quick to lament the modern uniform of jeans and hoodies which adorn most of the male population (16-18). His novel, The Affected Provincial's Companion, is laid out in essay form and can be read as a modern guide to Victorian aesthetics.

Dickon Edwards
Musician, Writer, Dandy

Dickon Edwards, born Richard Edwards, lives in London and is the founding member of the band Fosca, a synth pop group whose lyrics are centered on Victorian or Steampunk themes. Edwards, like Lord Whimsy, has adopted a Victorian manner of dress for both band performances and in his daily life, attracting fans and followers to this aesthetic movement. Aside from being a musician, he has also published several articles for magazines and journals on such topics as handkerchief selection and his abhorrence of running shoes.

Much of this Victorian revivalist movement is centered around aesthetics, with figures such as Whimsy and Edwards at the front line.

Posted by Alison

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posted at 2:46 PM - 0 comments
Metrosexuality, a.k.a Victorian Aesthetics 2.0
It can be argued that Gissing’s portrayal of Horace Lord through In the Year of Jubilee is a warning against young men becoming too aesthetic, a “dandy” or a “fop”. The character of Horace Lord is the most obvious example of this. In my opinion, this warning stems from a fear of these men threatening the gender constructs which, to a great extent, still permeate society today. For some, the traditional “cult of masculinity” still prevails; however, many have come to reject it. This has arguably given rise to what is referred to as “metrosexuality”:

Metrosexual: a heterosexual male who has a strong aesthetic sense and inordinate interest in appearance and style, similar to that of homosexual males (n, adj)

This metrosexuality can be seen in a number of ways and can be as simple as a man wearing a pink shirt or tie. Moreover, today we see skin care lines (Loreal, The Body Shop), coming out with product lines exclusively for males. Many spas also have created services that cater to men, and shows like “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” have a solid following.

However, in terms of gender binaries, it seems there are still lines that cannot be crossed. Exactly how aesthetic can a heterosexual young man be today without fearing an affront to his masculinity is a question not easily answered. However, it is clear that "metrosexuality" has its roots in Victorian aesthetics, further solidifying Dr. Odgen's theory that we are more like the Victorians than we would like to believe.

-posted by Jill
posted at 10:00 AM - 1 comments

The Blog:

Created by five SFU students for Dr. Stephen Ogden's English 206 class, this blog is, simply put, just for show. We are interested in the idea of "Victorian Cool," or more specifically how Victorian aesthetics are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. The posts in this blog are materialism at its finest; fashion, architecture, jewelry, furniture, and whatever else catches our eye. Why has this brand of Victorianism re-entered mass culture? Read the blog and find out!

The Contributors:


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