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?


of beauty and fascination. rule the first.

ladies: gather ye roses while ye may...

In answer to more and more frequent requests for my beauty secrets (as well as tips for gentlemen on the art of fascination), I here-to-for submit a collection of my top counsel, which will appear once a day over the course of the next ten days.

I must admit, however, that when it comes to this prescript, I have my mentor, Lola Montez to thank, as she taught me everything she knows, and much of my wisdom comes from this wondrous little book: The Arts of Beauty or Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, penned approximately 150 years ago.

For the Ladies: Beauty of Deportment.

For a young girl to sit as grave and stiff as her grandmother cut in alabaster is bad enough. But not half as unseemly as that of a middle-aged woman who insists on romping about with the merriment of girlhood. Not only must a woman’s age be consulted, but her manners ought to harmonize with her shape and size.

Ladies, take a page from the book of vegetables. The poplar, the willow, the lily, they bend their gentle heads in the breeze as nature recommends. Whereas the steadfast oak and the boxwood hedge look best when displaying a majestic mien.

On to the gentlemen.

If you wish to make one of our sex tremendously in love with you, remember this: women prefer triflers to men of sense. In other words, practice making yourself as big an ass as possible, and you will find yourself rewarded for your efforts.

Your hope of complete success, then, lies in your ability to be a coxcomb, who has no earthly recommendation but his face, his coat, and his impudence.

Mirror, mirror, on the Wall

oh, to be a woman in this troubled time

Nené’s face was covered in her beauty cream of lard, marshmallow root and ground slugs; her dark grey eyes looked like tarnished coins peeking out of a ghostly dew.  She’d begun to freckle, too, and Mummi had warned against the sun, so when my sister wasn’t covered in slime, she dabbed her face with milk and vinegar. Her hair, as usual, was completely covered in a silk bonnet, giving her the look of a nun at vespers.

is this what lies ahead?

Whenever I addressed Nené, I now curtsied.  Once an official engagement had been announced, I would also have to kiss her hand.  Her hand, by the way, was now eternally cloaked in a silk glove.