party like it’s 1899

victorian-vinaigretteA bit too many pastries this season? Sprung another whalebone in that corset, did you? Not to fear. The empress has a solution. Drinking vinegars! You hipsters might think you invented with your kombucha and so forth, but the truth is, the Victorians were well ahead of you.

Aromatic vinegars were all the rage amongst the fainting couch set. We knocked back pints of the stuff for everything from croup to dropsy. From douche to diarrhea.

The most common use around the Hof was for personal hygiene, but as with everything “society,” a whole jewelry industry cropped up around the delicate nature of the need to carry de-stinking potions around on one’s person. In the 19th-century, vinaigrettes were all the rage! You held these attractive silver cases, or hung them from a chain, and inside was placed a sponge soaked in aromatics. Vinegar, herbs and perfumes.

Let’s say you passed a gutter full of human waste on one of your lady walks. No need to faint! Just hold the vinaigrette to your nose and breathe deeply. Et voilà: carry on as usual rather than needing to be scooped up on a stretcher and taken to hospital for reviving.

As you tiptoe out to the ball this evening, perhaps you, too, might want to soak some aromatic vinegar up into a sponge and carry it in a metal purse. You never know what sort of conundrum or escapade awaits you on the night famous for debauch.

Happy New Year!

ladies gone mild

Ah. Trieste!

Ah. Trieste!

All right all you spring breakers, let’s get civilized, shall we? Before all you ladies (and I use the term broadly) bared your midriffs, shaved your privates, and boarded a plane bound for depravity, there was a much more elegant way to spend a holiday. It was known as the rest cure.

I’ve been much maligned for my tendency to slip away from Court during frigid or rainy weather to partake in the tepid waters off the coast of Corfu, or feel the sweet warm breeze from a Triestian turret. But I ask you. Is it fair to criticize a monarch for her forays into radical self-care? Would you rather see me pale and anemic, coughing up a lung whilst stuffed into one insufferable gown after another?

If it were up to the men, they’d rather we stay chained to the throne, as it were. Or if we do dash off on holiday, freshly Lipo-lifted and salon-bronzed, we must be available for their continual ogling. On display in a drenched t-shirt, or, heavens, with a strip of cloth bisecting our buttocks. This is not vacation, ladies.

I propose that we rethink this girls gone wild thing, and take back our holidays. Instead of parading about like a cow at auction, consider this age-old alternative. Yes, yes, sometimes there’s a bit of electroshock involved. And stiff Nurse Ratchet types administering to your bodily functions, but my particular version has a few more goodies. The “Sisi Rest Cure” has several components:

  1.  warm to hot mineral water in which to bathe free from lecherous eyes
  2.  freshly squeezed juices served chilled thrice daily
  3.  beauty cure ointments available for a variety of ailments
  4.  musicians with soothing instruments
  5.  freshly caught seafood for the evening meals
  6.  rubdowns and oilings. preferably executed by handsome young male attendants

Really, ladies, would you rather shake your booty or awaken your inner goddess?

 

mirror, mirror on the wall

From time to time, the gossips speculate as to which of my four sisters was most beautiful. They will go on at length, discussing hair, teeth, face and figure. Feet. Ears. They will even, Lord help us, rank the beauty of my sisters’ souls.

It is no secret that I come from a family of hotties. My mother, before going cuckoo with her cuckoo clocks, was also thought a striking young lady in her time. Alas, many births, her brother’s romantic follies, her husband’s infidelities, and her tendency to micromanage her children’s affairs at the expense of a good hair brushing, saw her looks   plummet, until Dear Mama quite resembled Whistler’s Mother in her latter years. Pity, that.

Her daughters, however, fared more favorably. Despite their impetuous natures and clandestine love foibles, my sisters, I’ve been assured, were easy on the eyes.

I submit the following for your scrutiny and pleasure. Tell me, which of these girls most strikes your fancy? Or, in the parlance of the day, Hot, or Not?

frocks and a CONTEST!

O, but it has been too long my dears. What with all the rest cures and the Olympics and renovations at the Hof.

I think you all deserve something pretty to look at, as well as a little parlour game to keep you amused, so I will post a series of my favorite frocks herein. Some of these you’ll recognize, as they are part of formal portraiture. Can you match the outfits with their purpose? Here are the categories:

A. the Hungarian coronation gown

B. the Winterhalter gala gown

C. the Polterabend kleid frock

D. a mourning riding habit

Now, mix and match, and offer your answers in the comment section (e.g. A = ONE and so on–though that is not the correct answer!). Winner will receive one of my favorite books of the year: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna.

You have the entire weekend to think this through. I shall choose my winner randomly (as long as the answers are correct), and post the results on Tuesday August, 28th.

Good luck, and happy viewing!

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

riding astride and other no-no’s

we darenst be seen straddling the mount!

Thank goodness for dear Mr. Pellier and his invention of the leaping horn.  If not for him, I could never have controlled my darling piebald, Cupid.  In the days when Mummi rode (before marriage, and then, only a handful of times) she rode atop a saddle fashioned like a chair, with a planchette footrest on the side.  It was as though she were in her living room, and if the horse had any spirit whatsoever, down Mummi went, skirt over head, to the hard earth below.

If I had my druthers, however, I might wear only pantalettes and ride astride, like Papa and Gackl.  One can certainly get a higher jump from one’s steed with its barrel between the legs.

if my crinolines get any fuller, I will be far too fancy to ride!

While we’re on the subject, I find it disconcerting that certain types of exercise have been banned in places.  That horrible man, Mr. Walker and his wretched little book, “Exercise for Ladies,” caused quite a stir.  Oh but didn’t the Baroness smile as she presented the atrocious tome on my 11th birthday, hissing, “Your Grace, you’ll see in these pages that if you continue your pleasure rides, you will become so deformed, that your womb will never house a proper Monarch.” So self-pleased was she, that she actually feigned the act of washing in air, her hands like two serpents squirming inbetwixt themselves!

sisi’s beauty secrets: one

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. I work hard at it.

A lot has been said about my vanity. The Paparazzi were always trying to paint me at my most unflattering. For instance, after having a baby when even the tightest of tight-lacing experts could not mold me into the miniature hourglass Spanx shape I required. Or worse yet, when my teeth began to rot and turn brown (I did so love to binge on the pastries in between stag-blood cleanses).

The only recourse I had against aging in the days before Botox and tummy tucks, was my disciplined regimen of nightly beauty cures, and the copious attention to my famous coiffure.

There were several recipes I employed over the years, but my Egg White Masque is one of the simplest and more effective:

2 oz rose water

1 oz milk

½ oz press-pressed grape juice

2 quintchens crushed frankincense

2 whipped egg whites

 

Combine all ingredients, saving egg whites, which you must fold in at the end. Apply liberally to face and hands before bed. Splash off in the morning with freshly blessed water.

 

If you employ this masque religiously, thrice weekly for a fortnight, you, too, can have a peaches-and-cream complexion. But, as you know, the face is nothing without a lovely mane in which to frame it, yes? So here is a little tidbit about taking care of one’s hair in 19th-century Vienna.

On a fortnightly basis, my hair was washed with a specially made mixture of egg yolk and cognac–which, btw, took up an entire day–and for a little sheen, my dear hairdresser, Fanny, crushed and sprinkled in some fresh nutshells.

Lest you think I sat idle whilst my hair was twirled and pulled and brushed, let me erase that idea from your head.  I used this time to learn Hungarian and Greek (both ancient and modern), my tutors reading, and issuing exercises–boldly correcting my pronunciation.  Idid not allow my mind to escape through the hair and onto the fingers of Fanny.

Hence my headache afterwards.

Three hours a day, ladies.

Ah, to have the freedom that comes with anonymity.  But alas, my hair and face became my crown, but unlike a crown, it was not so easily laid aside.  And yet, as in all types of irony, I feared the day I no longer would have a choice in the matter, because with the conclusion of each and every hairdressing, dear Fanny laid the broken and dis-embodied hair at my feet.  The coiled strands curled wickedly in that silver bowl whilst I inspected them. On bad days, there were enough to make a nest, and I looked askance at Fanny while she curtsies her apology.  (It had to be the servant’s fault, you see, because anything other than that was unthinkable.)

And then, there was the matter of the occasional sinus infection from raw egg whites. Painful. Nasty. Disfiguring, even, as my head and face would swell to hideous proportion. The servants would gossip, you know, and then along would come the Court Portrait Artist, his brushes at the ready to capture yet another bad face day for all to see.

A curse and a blessing, this beauty business.

four centuries of bad hats

I have gone on and on about my hair in past posts. I have written of the three-hour ordeals involving washing, conditioning, delousing, the weaving in of flowers and jewels.

And here, I bored you to tears with my thoughts on the relationship between hairstyles and tarts.

And who could forget my reportage on the Sisi Museum’s display of wigs meant to model my various styles?

Well, I’m sick of talking about my hair, so I’m going to rant about hats, instead. Hideous hats of all eras. Not only the ones popular in my day (which, you must agree, were rather tame). No, the hats that I wish to malign are those ridiculous head dresses that found popularity before and after my reign.

Case in point: the photo at right showing my dear great-grand something in-law, Marie Antoinette. Born nearly 100 years earlier than myself, she epitomized the lavish and overkill of France in the 18th century. Really, Marie, we know you were born into a huge family, but your cries for attention were all so obvious! Is it any wonder that your silly head ended up severed from your shoulders?

Well, those Regents and their pomp were no match for the Victorians and their gloom. I submit: those are actual dead parrots on that hat! Can you imagine? Who but the most oppressed and misaligned would deign to put a bird on it in such a fashion?

But ladies, if I may, none of these ghastly examples of head dress compare to hideosities in the current era. I submit: the royal wedding, so full of promise and sleek style. Remember Kate and Pippa and their gorgeous gowns, and then along comes the Duchess’s daughter smiling proudly under a … what? Something from the Tiny Toons section of Disney? Is that a hat, or did somebody stick a section of wrought iron gate on Bea’s head? Charity-shmerity, there is no excuse to allow oneself to be the family fop. Is there?

And, we don’t really have to point the finger at the royals only, do we? Recall that embarrassing get-up on the Vegas chanteuse, Celine Dion a few Oscars ago? Well, to some people Celine is some sort of queen, I suppose.

Of course, the original intention of women’s hats was not for frivolity and fashion. It was to cover the heads  of the fair sex, lest they fall victim to the carnal temptations of men. Given the atrocities in headwear over history, I’d say the original intent has survived, and is alive and well!

waist training unpacked

amazing what a little whale bone and leather can do

A corset is a garment that girds the torso and shapes it according to the fashionable silhouette of the day. Most often it has been used for cinching the waist and supporting the breasts. This is what Wikipedia thinks, anyway. What is my definition of the corset? Thank you for asking. It depends on the day. When plagued by PMS and the like, well, a corset is a necessary evil–how else can one distort the female form into the hourglass ideal whilst hormones and nature have in mind something closer to, say, a treble clef?

But some days, when I’m feeling rather sane and disgusted by mankind in general, I’m all over the empire waist of the peasant gown. As sexy as a glo-worm on steroids. Think: 19th century muumuu. The ubiquitous and ever-popular caftan. Comfort over form. A bon-bon popping outfit to die in, er, for. On my corsetless days, nary a portrait artist would be permitted anywhere near the Hof. Could you imagine the damage to my reputation as history’s most perfectly molded empress should the Paparazzi catch me all bloated on one of my fat days? Can’t you just see the headline, with one of those arrows photoshopped in and pointing to my abdominal region: Sisi’s baby bump?

It is no secret that I boasted an 18-inch waist, and that I had my dear hairdresser Franziska measure it each day, while she tight-laced me into an hourglass so extreme, only three grains of sand might fall through it at once. Ladies, imagine squeezing yourself into a Spanx girdle, and then rolling a second one on over that, and then a third. Do you see the picture I’m trying to paint? Beauty is pain. Pain!

And, training the waist on a daily basis is not without its digestive consequences. All one’s intestines pushed up and down, the liver squeezed like Mr. Obie, causing an ancillary lobe to grow out the edges, ribs cracking, one’s waste compacted to the hardness of a battering ram. Not that I’m complaining–merely pointing out that maintaining the image of the perfect figure is not for sissies (not to be confused with sisi’s).

sisi’s top 5 fad diets

Another January, another set of resolutions to follow and then abandon. What’s an Empress to do?

Known as much for my gorgeous hair as my fanatical exercise regime and eating disorder, I think I’m an authority on history’s most bizarre and compelling fad diets. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Sisi’s Very Own Milk, Blood, and Pastry Regime. Balance is key, ladies, if you wish to mitigate a sweet tooth. Upon awakening, take a vial of stag blood along with a full stein of milk (if possible, from your very own cow or goat). Fast until dinner, at which time you may allow yourself another shot of blood and/or milk with which to wash down a pastry or two. Extra points if you execute 10 pull-ups on your trapeze.

2. Pickled Eggs and Pork Fat. Nothing complements the skin like suet, and the vinegar from pickled eggs ensures that you’ll not wish to eat another thing all the live long day.

3. Prost! William the Conqueror’s  alcohol-only diet. Though it was remarkably unsuccessful, leaving the corpulent and very dead monarch in need of a casket big enough for his girth, it certainly was fun while it lasted!

4. The Graham Diet. As we all know, lust of food is related to that other type of lust: the one responsible for epilepsy, spinal diseases, and all manner of madness. The visionary minister Sylvester Graham came up with the original vegan, bland diet in order to assuage his own sexual cravings. His legacy lives on, thanks to Nabisco and those ubiquitous crackers.

5. The Tapeworm Diet. If all else fails, there’s always parasites. Before gastric bypass was invented, this was the only option for some morbidly obese individuals. Unfortunately, tapeworms are ill-behaved and tend to become unwelcome guests. Before long, not only are they helping themselves to your food, they’re bold enough to insist upon stealing the luster from your hair, skin and nails as well. Although they can help you shed the pounds for spa season, longterm, you’ll wish you never invited them.

Mahlzeit!