A Genetic Pre-Disposition for Boas, Bracelets, and Being Myself

Skype is a funny thing. It's really changed the game in terms of staying in touch because being able to see someone--their reactions, hair cut, physical changes--makes it easier to remain close. Another funny thing about Skype is that you get to see your own facial expressions, and some of them are just plain awful. Some, though, make me look so much like my Mum that it totally freaks me out. Now, I'm not saying that this is a bad thing but it's funny how there are things we do and characteristics we have that can sometimes be traced back to a parent or other relative. 

So when my Mum sent me this article about my great-grandmother, I had a good laugh as I went through it because there are a few of my own "unique" characteristics that I apparently inherited from her. I've read articles about my great-grandmother before, because she was kind of a BFD back in the 20s and 30s in France (and most of Europe), but the articles were usually about one specific topic and didn't include much about her personality. This one, though, was more of an overview and I was surprised with how much we seem to have in common.

There was a time that I had a little series going named: I'm no Jane Austen, where I went through The Jane Austen Handbook and commented on whether or not I would have been successful in acting the way a Lady did, which included "How to Raise Your Children" and "Declining an Unwanted Marriage Proposal." So I thought it would be fun to do a similar thing with the article about my grand-grand-mère, but focusing more on our similarities. You know, with kind of a genetic-science-y hypothesis in mind about nature versus nurture (which is about as science-y as I can get, haha!).

Okay, here we go! (My thoughts are in purple).

ps. This article came from Vogueapedia, which has got to be one of the greatest hybrid names of all time. 


Photograph by Wladimir Rehbinder. Published in Vogue, September 15, 1923.
(First off, can we talk about this photo for a second? Hot day-am is Daisy ever working that camera! Err...I did not inherit this ability. Ha!)

In 1932, Vogue saluted the society darling Daisy Fellowes “for her eternal daring to be different (What an incredible way to be honored, eh? She must have seriously oozed originality, which I like to think that I do as well, although maybe not to the "oozing" level, ha!)[1] In a portrait by George Hoyningen-Huene, Daisy wore a black cotton evening gown with twin diamond rings and cuffs. A plump white feather boa graced one arm; a black one, the other (Ermegerd, I LOVE plump feather boas! And I have some! Lots of them! This is amazing!). Her boyish crop (I have a bob, too!) was sleek as a seal, one perfect ringlet at her temple (Okay, my hair has no such no curl but we're still off to a pretty good start, non?). She was, as the Vogue fashion editor Bettina Ballard later observed, “the most elegant and most talked-about woman in Paris.”[2] 

Fellowes’s reputation as a trendsetter was by then well established. The cotton dress for evening, the paired rings and cuffs—Daisy wore all her jewels in duplicate; “Why unbalance your hands and arms?”[3] she would say—were among her many innovations (I'm so all about symmetry that I can't even handle this statement). In 1927, Vogue pictured the soigné Daisy at a nightclub, wearing a long sequined dinner jacket (an early version of [[le smoking]]) over a Chanel frock (A sequined dinner jacket OVER Chanel? Oh yes, we are most certainly related. That's, like, my total dream outfit. Mostly because of the sequins, obviously). Fellowes is credited with their invention: She wore a matching sequined jacket with every dress, a bright green carnation popping from the buttonhole (You're welcome, women of the world. Also, there's nothing I love more than throwing a blazer over whatever I'm wearing. It's practically second nature, actually, which totally makes sense now. Add another to the nature column. Ha!).

Wherever Fellowes went, all eyes followed. “Everything she did was a grand entrance,” the designer Norman Norell recalled in 1963. “Even if she came down stairs it was somehow exciting (I'll admit that there have been times I've been known to make a grand entrance, although they're probably not as chic as I'd like to think, as I'm sure that running into a screen door doesn't count).”[4] At the Opéra, she stopped the show in an evening gown with a demure navy front and a scandalously low, crimson back (Classy in the front and a party in the back. Awesome). At the Ritz, diners climbed on chairs to get a glimpse of her Elsa Schiaparelli monkey-fur coat, embroidered in gold (Although I don't support real fur in fashion, I'm sure that if I had been around in the 20s, I would have been all about a monkey-fur coat with gold embroidery because it's weirdo-kitchy and that's awesome). In the 1930s, Fellowes personified Schiap’s look of “hard chic,” trim and elegant in a black cocktail suit with red lips for pockets. She was also one of the few that could carry off the designer’s more madcap expressions of fashion Surrealism—the shoe hat with a Shocking-pink heel (I would be ALL OVER THIS. A shoe. On my head. Yeah, that's freaking amazing. Where do I get me one of these?), the red-hot lobster dress (For the record, I have TWO lobster-themed accessories, which is probably two hundred percent more lobster-themed accessories than the average person owns. Who would have thought that my love for ridiculous rhinestoned animal accessories was actually genetic? This article is blowing my mind, people!).
Daisy was not content merely to bask in the spotlight. As with fashion, sex was a sport—and men, her eager quarry (Um, what? Okay, so this is where we start to differ, although I QUITE admire her stance, considering the times). Women feared her as much as admired her (Yikes, although it's also kind of cool). She was a voracious man-eater who once stole a beau from her own daughter, and who described being “on the scent” of a new conquest to a reporter: “It’s a thrilling feeling—like tasting absinthe for the first time. Soon the man asks, ‘When may I come to tea?’ Then I sharpen the knife. (Mind. Blown.)[5]
With her “studied simplicity”—Cecil Beaton’s words—Daisy took great pleasure in making her counterparts seem frivolously overdressed (Yup, there's nothing I love more than walking in somewhere and being the best-dressed person there (without looking like I tried too hard) so it looks like we're back on track, ha!). At the races, she appeared hatless, singularly chic amid a raft of flounces and bows. While other hostesses entertained in flowery tea gowns, she presided over her mirrored dining table (I have a mirrored side-cabinet and would freaking love a dining table as well. In fact, the more mirrored furniture I could have, the better) in leopard-print pajamas (I'm totally pro-animal print, in any situation, but hosting a party in pajamas is a level of ballsiness that I have yet to climb to, so well done there, grand-grand-mère *high five*). Night after night, as other women paraded their fripperies on the dance floor, she wore the same streamlined linen frocks, accessorized with, say, a lei of fresh daisies, exotic orchids, a collar of sapphire-blue coq feathers, and “barbaric jewels—handcuffs of emeralds, necklets of Indian stones, or conch shells of diamonds,”[6]as Beaton noted. (Oh yeah, I know all about the utter awesomeness of layering accessories that may or may not "work" together until it's so excessive that it doesn't even matter anymore. In fact, it's one of my favourite things to do even if I don't have plans to leave the house.) 
As a trend trailblazer from the Roaring Twenties on through the café-society thirties, Fellowes “launched more fashions,” the avant-gardist Jean Cocteau said, “than any other woman in the world (Of course, I don't consider myself to be a trend trailblazer in the slightest, but I do know what I like and don't really care about what others have to say, which leads me to believe that self-confidence may be a genetically-inherited trait).”[7] 

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So there you have it, apparently there really is something to the whole nature versus nurture deal! For being born decades apart and having never met, my grand-grand-mère and I sure do seem to have a lot in common! And another INSANE similarity is that Daisy was a published author! AND she donated all of the proceeds to an orphanage. Très cool, if you ask me, on all counts. Très freaking cool. 

How about you? Do you take after a certain family member in a surprising way?


  1. Wow, your grand-grand-mere was quite the woman! I also find myself looking more like my mom with video chats. Sadly, we have a pretty limited family history with wars causing people to frequently flee from their homes. It would be really cool to find out what kinds of quirks and interests were in the blood :)

  2. This is so very very cool! I just HAD to google her! Found & loved this: http://igetakickoutofyou.me/2012/04/10/the-wicked-woman-of-the-jazz-age/


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