Victorian Spiritualism: Beginnings

For this year’s Halloween shoot, we decided to take inspiration from the Victorians, and their strange obsession with the spirits of the dead!

 

The Victorians were a rather morbid bunch, and quite rightly so considering the average lifespan was roughly 30-50 years, and the majority of that life was mostly spent either starving or working in incredibly dangerous environments. Most people only had their photographs, a new invention, taken once they were dead, often posed in lifelike situations with their living relatives and loved ones. Mourning jewellery was created out of bits of hair, or other small body parts along with memento mori ("remember death") phrases. We often consider this gloomy Victorian mindset as only occurring once Prince Albert died in 1861, and the nation went into mourning, but death had long been lurking on the doorsteps of every household. 

With the looming presence of death it’s no wonder that spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living, first rose to popularity during this time. We know that the Victorian era is one of immense technological and scientific progress, but consider just how bizarre and outlandish all of these changes must have seemed to the average joe! If people could be operated on without pain, or men could fly into the sky like birds, why couldn't there be a possibility of contacting the dead?

Although spiritualism became popular in Britain, it actually began in the US (which is wonderful, because at least us Brits can finally say “they started it” with a sense of smugness). Despite various writings that were key to the spiritualism concept, the first events considered to be the ‘origin’ occurred in New York in 1848. The Fox Sisters, Kate (12) and Margaret (15), claimed they had communicated with the spirit of a man who had died in their home many years prior. Providing “proof” of the communications via rapping sounds to their neighbours, the word spread. As the story became more widely known, the media went crazy, because who would have thought that teenage girls would have a wild imagination? 

They were, of course, lying, and created the sounds by clapping/cracking their joints (which wasn't discovered till later; the Fox Sisters actually had a rather sticky end after both becoming alcoholics, accepting money to expose their fraud and dying penniless and friendless in the early 1890s). Regardless, they became an overnight success, with their older sister Leah stepping in as their "manager". They were soon taken in by a Quaker couple, Amy and Isaac Post, who were immediately convinced of the sisters’ skills, and introduced them to their Quaker circle. Being staunchly anti-slavery and pro-women’s rights, the Quakers had shunned the traditional Christian religions, and thus these concepts were tied to spiritualism from the outset. 

As the sisters’ fame blossomed, and spiritualism began to take hold, more women came forward, claiming they could communicate with the dead. It first crossed over into Britain in 1852, when American medium Maria B. Hayden visited London and offered her services. Seances became all the range, with all kinds of communication ranging from table rappings to automatic writing, levitations, and eventually full-blown channelling. Spiritualists considered themselves a scientific movement rather than a religious one (many Christians were also Spiritualists, despite the contradictions in scripture), as they didn't require blind faith. Spiritualism offered up evidence of the phenomena and proof in the form of “communication”. 

It’s actually quite interesting to note that most mediums (definitely not all, but certainly a majority) were women because they were considered to be more susceptible to the spirit world, thus putting them in positions of prominence. At a time of constricting corsets and strict social etiquette and definitions of what a woman should be, it was hard for a woman to have any say in politics or society. It’s no surprise that spiritualism supported women’s rights and the suffragette movement, which was fighting to give women the vote. While women were more likely to attend church during this time, they had no position of prominence, so it’s no wonder that a movement developed which placed women at the centre. 

Check back in next week for part 2, the Supporters and Sceptics of Spiritualism! 

And don't forget to shop our entire Halloween lookbook here!

 

Playful Promises LFW Catwalk Edit

Last week we kicked off London Fashion Week by taking part in the Calico catwalk show and showcase with 49 other brands!

With a catwalk show every hour and 50 brands showing off their best pieces from current and future collections, this was a jam-packed day of lingerie, swimwear, womenswear and accessories. From student showcases to established brands, we loved being part of this event, and here's some shots of our pieces on the Calico models!

Check out the rest of the gallery below!

Guest Brand: Hopeless Lingerie

We have recently begun to stock various other lingerie & swimwear brands on our website, because we just love having a choice!  We picked our favourite indie brands from all over the world, including Kiss Me Deadly (UK), Maison Close (France), Love Haus (US) and Hopeless Lingerie (AUS).

But why not find out a little bit more about the designers behind these brands? We had a chat with Gabrielle, the director of Hopeless Lingerie!

Q. What were you doing before launching Hopeless and what attracted you to lingerie?

I completed a diploma in Fashion and nearly finished a degree in the Arts majoring in Art History, Film, and Architecture. I love lingerie because its small and detailed, and also because at the time no one else was really doing handmade lingerie. 

Q. What was the original idea behind the brand? Where did the name come from?

My sister thought of the name when we were brainstorming. It just seemed right. The original idea for the brand was to create pieces that are sexy and fun but not trashy. We wanted to be modern but with nods to vintage, and with a focus on quality and beautiful materials.

Q. The collections have a really cool, edgy vibe. Who do you imagine as the Hopeless customer?

Young (at heart) and confident. Thanks to social media I get to interact with and see Hopeless customers nearly everyday! So I know very well who they are and what they like. 

Q. What is your go-to destination for inspiration on previous and up-and-coming collections?

Film is a huge part of my life. I always look to film for inspiration for the pieces themselves and for design inspiration. I don't look at outfits literally though, its much more about a films mood, cinematography, and landscape being the inspiration than directly copying looks. 

Q. What is one of your favourite pieces/sets and why?

Its not exciting at all but the Veronica Knickers in Bamboo are the BEST everyday knickers! So soft and comfortable and stay put all day long!

Q. How does an idea transform into a finished product?

I have a pretty big collection of patterns I've developed over the years so it will often start with altering one of those patterns, sewing a sample, maybe cutting out shapes or adding straps, then changing the pattern again and another sample. Sometimes I only need to do it once but more complicated styles sometimes take 5 to 6 samples to get right.

Q. Describe an average day for you.

I go to the gym at 6am most days, and I'm at my work desk by 8am. Im lucky enough to work from home so no dealing with traffic! In the morning I answer emails and do general computer work, social media, scheduling, and other admin things. I usually start sewing orders around 11am and break for lunch around 1pm. I then sew from about 2pm until dinner time 6 or 7pm. I try not to work after dinner but do sometimes do social media and emailing if it needs to be done. 

Q. What sets Hopeless lingerie apart from other brands?

We are a small independent brand built from scratch, and a lot of trial and error. When I started I had no business experience and have built everything organically, which I think has really helped Hopeless evolve into something unique. My focus is on the brand as a creative expression, and I put that creativity into everything I do - from designs, photoshoots, Instagram, Facebook, packaging and everything in between. My focus has never been making sales, or making things that I think will sell. Im not interested in being a department store brand, or growing into something enormous. I will never follow trends, or buy trend forecasting information - everything is very much from the heart. All our pieces are handmade in Melbourne too, up until a year ago it was nearly all sewn by me! Now I have 4 girls who help me with the sewing part time, my sister helping with admin and emails, another helping with the cutting, and my Mum does all the accounts. I think thats what makes Hopeless special and different. 

Q. How has the brand developed between launching in 2008 and now?

In 2008 it was just me, doing everything, as well as working 3 other jobs at the same time. Now (as I mentioned above) I have an amazing team supporting me. I have learned a lot in terms of fit and functionality, Ive expanded our size range, and it is very much my full time job. 

Q. What three words would you use to sum up the brand?

Dark, strong, feminine. 

Q. If you could pick any style icon as a muse/ambassador/face of Hopeless, who would you pick?

Rihanna

 

Q. A lot of your styles involve creative use of straps and lines. How do you balance style with function? 

Function is debatable - different women want different things from their underwear, and while I know things like the 'ouvert' styles aren't for everyone and aren't for everyday wear, they do have a place. Some woman want things exclusively for the bedroom and a lot of my pieces are more suited to that. 

Q. What lingerie do you think every woman ought to own?

Bamboo knickers. They changed my life.