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Lady Violette

The Romantic Lifestyle

Archive for April, 2024

If I were Tyro – What would I Wear?

Sunday, April 21st, 2024

What Would I Wear for a Cool Evening Stroll on a Cliff Along the Aegean Coast ?

A Tyrian Purple Silk Gown and a Vintage Blue Fox Fur Stole to Ward Off the Chill, Of Course…….


The Color Purple

Sunday, April 21st, 2024

Legend has it that Hercule’s dog discovered purple dye when he and his dog were walking on the beach on their way to court a nymph named Tyro.

Hercules’ Dog Discovers Purple Dye

The dog bit into a sea snail and the snail’s blood dyed the dog’s mouth Tyrian purple. Seeing this, the nymph demanded a gown of the same color, and the result was the origin of purple dye.

Rubens’s painting of this story depicts Hercules and the dog on the beach, with the dog’s mouth stained purple. Although the snail in the story should be a spiny murex, the kind of snail from which Tyrian purple was made, Rubens instead depicts a large smooth shell that resembles a nautilus.

The  clever nymph Tyro would not capitulate until Hercules presented her with a glorious long gown of brilliant purple silk produced by expert ancient dyers extracting the juices of 250,000 murex sea snails through a long and laborious secret process. The resulting garment was so rare and lovely in color that it created an insatiable desire for robes in that hue which became known as Tyrian purple in the hearts of all who saw it. 

The nymph Tyro not only desired beauty, she also craved celebrity. And, knowing that other nymphs and human women would envy her gown and men and gods would admire and desire her when wearing it she demanded Hercules name the color after her. Thus the color was known as Tyrian purple and the Phoenician city in which it was made became known and is still known today as Tyre, now in modern day Lebanon. 

The creation of the color required so many snails and so much time, labor, and expertise that is was very expensive to produce. But, no matter, emperors and their wives had to have it at any cost. Not only was it beautiful, but the fact that is was so costly set those who wore it on a pedestal above their peers thus creating even more desire for garments of the color. Much like a celebrity wearing an expensive and recognizable desirable designer Chanel or Hermes bag does today.

As the pigment was so costly and time-consuming to produce, items created with it became associated with power and wealth. The details of its production were kept secret by its manufacturers. 

The dye was greatly prized in antiquity because the color did not easily fade, instead it became richer and more vivid with time and exposure to sunlight! 

Because it was extremely tedious to make. Tyrian purple was very expensive and purple textiles became status symbols. The production secrets of the color Tyrian Purple were tightly controlled in the Byzantine Empire and subsidized by the imperial courts. 

Tyro was delighted with all this notoriety and excitement as it made her a noted celebrity and guaranteed she would become famous and remembered for centuries to come – after all she had stories and colors and cities named after her. 

Tyrian Dye was manufactured from mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail. The dye was made in the Phoenician trading city of Tyre, above the beach where Hercule’s dog had discovered the snail. 

An incredible amount of mucus was needed to yield a tiny amount of dye and sate the cravings of emperors and kings. This rare hue has been one of the most coveted and expensive colors throughout history – a consistent indication of wealth and power. 

In the Byzantine Empire, empresses gave birth in the purple chamber and honorable emperors were born to the purple as a way to separate them from those who won or seized their title. 

Laws were passed to protect the use of the color. Kings and emperors allowed senators to wear togas with a stripe of purple. But that was it. They could wear no further purple beyond that. 

In 1547, when Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, was tried for high treason against Henry VIII, the evidence against him included that he had been seen wearing purple, which only the king was allowed to wear. 

This exclusivity extended into the Elizabethan era, during which people in England were to abide by Queen Elizabeth’s sumptuary laws that strictly regulated what colors, fabrics and clothes were allowed to be worn by people within different classes of society. These laws forbade anyone but close relatives of the royal family to wear purple. 

Over time, the color became less costly and complex to produce, and consequently more accessible to lower classes of society. 

In 1856 an 18 year old English chemist William Henry Perkin accidentally created a synthetic purple compound while attempting to synthesize quinine, an anti-malaria drug. He recognized that the compound could be used to dye fabrics and patented the dye and manufactured it under the names aniline purple and Tyrian purple. The color’s name was later changed to mauve based on the French name for the purple mallow flower.                  

Tyro, of course, prefers that we continue to refer to it as Tyrian Purple in her memory! Tyro was quite the woman – She was intelligent, clever, charming and beautiful and sought out by many Gods – many Gods! She was a Thessalian princess who became the mother and grandmother to many Ancient Greek Heroes as a result. Her story and her legacy is far more interesting and complex than todays influencers. She was famous in her day and has remained so into the present times.


Styling a Vintage Fur Coat with a Custom Designed Hat to Create a Unique Head Turning Original Look

Sunday, April 14th, 2024

It can be a challenge to style a fabulous vintage piece in a way that will look unique and stylish, instead of frumpy and old fashioned. After restoring the purple wool and cross mink coat I tried it on and loved it, but felt it looked too 1950s all by itself. I felt it needed a special something to make the look my own and make it into a unique head turning outfit. By this I mean an ensemble that will make people turn around and look at you and what you are wearing at least twice.

There is no better way to do this in my personal experience than with a hat. See my article on wearing hats: Confessions of a Head Turner.

Sometimes I design and make my own hats. And a while ago I designed my Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat. It seemed like the perfect style to go with this coat and transform it into something really special. And I just happened to have purple yarn in the correct weight to make a purple version to match the coat. So, here it is.

It is a hand knitted cloche style hat trimmed with a giant knitted bow. It is an intermediate level knitting project and I am providing the pattern free of charge as well as detailed instructions on knitting and assembling the hat here: Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat and Free Knitting Pattern ~ Part I and here: Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat Pattern by lady Violette de Courcy, Part 2 ~ Knitted Bow Tutorial 

Coat is by Joymor Fashions. Hat is my own design. I call the pattern The Edward Hopper Inspired Portrait Cloche Hat by Lady Violette de Courcy. You can view more versions and colors of this hat on my Ravelry ladyviolette Project Page here. Once you get to my Ravelry project page please search for Edward Hopper Hat in my projects and several of them in several colors will come up. And you can find the pattern to make the hat in the above links.

The Hat was inspired by the hats worn by women in artist Edward Hopper’s paintings Automat and Chop Suey in which the subjects wear attention getting cloche hats in strong distinctive colors.

The cross purple wool cross mink fur trimmed vintage in this post coat was restored and repaired by Rene Vogel custom Swiss Furrier and Denise Vogel.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

Fashion Conservatory: Lady Violette Boutique

You can reach professional Swiss furrier Rene Vogel via email  Rene’ Vogel <> or by phone at (425)322-9638 to schedule appointments for all your fur related needs. 

I want to make it clear to my readers that I chose to write about Rene Vogel to share information I have learned from him about furs and to provide them access to him as a reliable professional furrier should they wish to find one. Rene is not paying me to write about him.


Manton de Manila – a Magical Medieval Garden in a Hand Embroidered Silk Shawl with Pansies, Roses, Irises and Other European Flowers – c1845

Saturday, April 13th, 2024

This unusual Manton de Manila has flowers I have not seen in other shawls : namely pansies in very realistic colors and what appear to be beds of miniature irises in many colorations surrounded by blue small forget-me-nots and both pink apple blossoms and white strawberry blossoms – all intertwined with vines and leaves. There are also blooming purple anemones and pink roses in the borderer. Then the enormous pinkish red hybrid peonies/ roses with tiny flower-like stamens in their centers. All in all quite fantastical!

These varieties of flowers were traditionally raised in Medieval European monastery gardens. When Spanish Catholic monks from Europe established churches in conquered new lands they brought seeds with them for the medicinal plants – the herbs and flowers – they raised in the European monastery gardens. One of the first things they did when they arrived in a new place to teach the word of
Christ was plant a garden in which to grow the medicinal plants and flowers they were used to.

This is one of the main ways in which unusual flowers made their way to different parts of the world.

It is likely that the Spanish established lush gardens in the Philippines. And, that those flowers were shown to the makers of embroidered shawls in Canton when Mexican, American and European Women requested embroidered shawls be made with bright colorful florals rather than Asian landscapes and reptilian designs.

When you look at many Manton’s de Manila you can see that the designs were often botanical hybrids combining elements of Asian and European flora and fauna to create unique and appealing fantasy gardens filled with imaginative flowers

Thus the giant Peony / Rose must have evolved. And sometimes grew to enormous proportions dominating the design of many of the shawls.

Roses like these pink ones above and the red ones below, both from my own garden, may well have inspired the pink roses in the outer border and the big red ones in the dominant center of the shawl

Owning a beautiful floral shawl is one way to preserve flowers and enjoy them in your life all year around.

This shawl has a 56 inche square double weight black silk center section and is surrounded by a 25″ fringe on all sides making the total size a 106″ square! The fringe consists of a 7″ wide hand done heavy and elaborate macrame lattice followed by an 18″ long fringe all the way around. High Drama! It was bought in San Francisco during the 1840s and displayed in the drawing room of a San Francisco mansion . It was occasionally worn as an evening wrap. Fortunately it was very well cared for so has survived in excellent condition. It is embroidered on both sides which makes it reversible. I have seen hundreds of these shawls and It is the only one I have ever seen including pansies in the embroidery design. Definitely a Manton de Manilla for pansy lovers. Of course the other flowers are beautiful too!

These are real pansies from my garden. They come in many colors and I have seen the real ones in peach and purple like the ones in this manton.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocoviolette 

FashionCnservatory: Lady Violette Boutique


Manton de Manila – Extraordinary Embroidery of Fantasy Flowers and Exotic Imaginary Birds

Thursday, April 11th, 2024

Each antique Manton de Manila that I see seems to be more extraordinary than the last! The imagery is always unique and different than the ones I have seen before. This one features blue, orange and purple roses – and a few creamy white ones for balance. Blue and Purple roses do not exist in nature. The designer made them up as she also made up the interesting hybrid pheasant like birds in equally unrealistic color combinations . I love descending into the wonderful world of this artists imagination.

In addition to the blue and purple roses there are orange roses and orange anemones and many types of small flowers, berries and what look like seed pods of thistles……

I’m intrigued by the birds in imagined color combinations and the mixed up breeds! And by the landscape inspired by a combination of Asian and European trees, flowers and foliage.

The initial embroidered shawls made in the Canton embroidery workshops for export to the Americas were decorated with typically Asian landscapes scenes and included Chinese people and buildings such as pagodas and bridges. They notably included frogs which were regarded as symbols of good luck in China and they did not have any fringe. The silk, the colors and the embroidery technique was much admired by potential customers but the Images of the frogs dominating the centers and borders of the shawls were not popular! Wealthy Mexican and California women did not want to adorn themselves with frogs! They suggested images of birds and flowers as an alternative. And they requested the additions of the wide macrame edging and long fringes be added the edges of the shawls.

The women had discovered that long fringe, like long beautiful hair, moved gracefully and added an element of seductive exoticism to their attire. They essentially knew how to work the long fringe and requested it be added to the shawls. The wider the macrame lattice and the longer and heavier the fringe the better. And they were willing to pay for it. Thus, the Chinese merchants accommodated the desires of the clientele demanding the embroiderers add lattice work and fringe and focus the imagery on fruits, flowers and birds.

This particular shawl is an excellent example of all this – as it is huge, heavy and absolutely covered in embroidery. The macrame lattice is 7 inches wide and the fringe is an additional 18 inches long. Both the silk embroidery and the fringe add to the weight of the shawl which makes it hang and move really well.

The size is enormous because the shawl when folded triangularly in half was meant to wrap the wearer from the back of her neck to the floor completely covering her long dress and very full crinoline skirts. This shawl was made in the 1840s for the Mexican market. Today it would easily cover a king or queen size bed. I have spread it out on a conference table that seats 12 people – 6 along each side – so that you can a good idea of the size and the design spread out flat. This is an extraordinarily fine example of a Manton de Manila as an art form! Fortunately it is also in wonderfully well preserved antique condition.

The center embroidered section of the shawl is 60″ square and the fringe is an additional 25″ all around which makes the entire shawl 110 inches square. It is possible to fold and wrap it as a long evening dress as well as ware it as a long cape. I will create an post explaining and showing how to do this soon.

Rare and beautiful historic clothing and accessories are for sale in my online shops. If you see something on this blog that you are interested in buying, but do not find it for sale in my shops message me on Etsy or Ebay and I will get back to you about availability. I check messages daily and can always prepare a special listing for you if you do not find it already listed in the shops.

Ebay: ladyviolettedecourcy

Etsy: LadyVioletteBoutique

Poshmark: cocovio   lette 

FashionCnservatory: Lady Violette Boutique