•  Grand Ladies of the Belle Époque •

The "Belle Epoque" ("Beautiful Era") was a period similar to today with unusual international stability, globalization, and an upper class with a luxurious lifestyle built on cheap labor, cheap resources, and endless water and air. It began around 1890 and came to an abrupt end in August 1914. In the Anglophone world, the Belle Époque covers the end of the Victorian era and the entire "Edwardian era" that includes the first four years of the reign of King George V and Queen Mary. World War I swept away ancien régimes in many places. The human and emotional costs of the war made re-establishing the elaborate lifestyles of the Belle Époque unthinkable (although maison Worth and Lucile tried). Something else occurred - women attained greater political and economic status. This may have contributed to the acceptance and durability of what is well documented – fashions much like those worn today. A gilded age without long skirts and trains is just not a gilded age.

The preceding paragraph was written a few years ago. In mid-2016, the instability created in the Belle Époque by nationalism is emerging in Russia and China and has been been replaced by religion in the Islamic world and USA where fanatics seek to have a Battle of Armageddon. Some, not all, US Christians seek a Rapture where the good will be sucked out of their shoes into the bosom of The Lord (the one God known as Allah in the Islamic world). Daesh seem to have a similar goal. The war drums beat louder every day. Racist identity politics thrive in Europe and in the USA, where the President offers Hispanics as scapegoats. His opponent was unable to “think outside the box” of “neo-liberalism” that is neither new nor liberal. It isn’t gender, Elizabeth Warren and other women can think outside of the neo-liberal box. The USA tries to lead the world, but steadfastly offers only Capitalism - not democracy or self-determination - to people all over the world. So called “trade” pacts show the USA stands squarely for the global rich - not the rights of man or freedoms (other than the economic freedom treasured by the rich). Daesh offers Allah. We are either in or on the brink of global religious war. Which side has the better-sounding cause?

The failure of neo-liberalism, with its belief in markets and “free” trade, to deliver better lives to ordinary people has created room for mischief from nationalists like Marine Le Pen and ethnic supremacists like Donald Trump. Russia is now apparently backing such divisive leaders. It could lead to the breakup of the EU that towers over Russia economically and the dis-union of the USA that is already shrinking every day as piratical entrepreneurs loot and pillage its economy.

The Belle Époque ended on 28 June 1914. It may be that the end of the second gilded age will be dated to 11 September 2001, when a long religious war began in dead earnest.

I have wondered why the USA has not seen a second gilded age of dress today after about forty years of hearing non-stop propaganda from a controlled press and media that extols the glories of social inequality. I can think of two reasons - the élite understands that negative publicity and, worse, public scrutiny could follow ostentatious display. But far more importantly, élite women will not stand to be stuffed into corsets and frills and being relegated to the role of ornamental hostesses. Imagine e-tycoons Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman, or Hillary or Chelsea Clinton, in crinolines - I can't. You don't need lace and diamonds when you can rule companies with thousands of serf-like workers as undisputed monarchs, buy politicians, and pour tens of millions of your money into election time attack ads.

So ends this trip down Memory Lane. Many Americans today want to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when a white male could see how superior he was just by standing in front of a mirror, disputes were settled man to man, men wore guns in holsters, and you could do anything you wanted to on your property without worrying about anybody else, much less ozone depletion, global warming, endangered species, or fished out seas. And women were Women and men were MEN. Many Americans also think labor unions and regulation of any kind are unnecessary - unions and regulations are said to be just like Marxism. Life was simpler (and shorter) back in the good old days. But keep turning the clock back and watch what happens! In 2019, I saw a tweet that somebody felt it was time for guillotines. Someone asked if the original tweeter’s guillotine could be rented out.

NOTE:  ALL images from the USA Library of Congress Bain collection have been cropped.

Belle Epoque Leg-o-Mutton Sleeves - 1890 to 1900 that has these subalbums:

Bertha-Clara de Rothschild, princesse de Wagram et Neuchatel,  NEW

Archduchess Blanca of Austria,

Marguerite d'Orléans, duchesse de Magenta,

Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein,

Franca Florio,  NEW

Archduchess Maria Josefa,

Princess Victoria of Wales, "Toria",

Margarete von Thurn und Taxis,

Princess Zinaida Yussupova,

Ettie Desborough,

Alice Heine,

Mary Crowninshield Endicott Chamberlain,

Margaret Helen Greville,

Therese von Bayern, née Liechtenstein,

Rachel, Countess Dudley,

Louise d'Orléans, Princess of Bavaria,

Princess Clémentine of Belgium,

Duchess Elisabeth of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, née Anhalt,

Augusta Maria Luise of Bavaria,

Marie Georgievna, "Greek Minnie",

Duchess of Orléans Maria Dorothea,

Archduchess Margaetha Sophie,

Princess Margarethe of Prussia,

Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein,

Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna, that has this Albumette -

Dresses worn by Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna,

May, Duchess of Roxburghe,

The Daughters of Maria Alexandrovna, that has these Albumettes -

Queen Marie of Romania,

Victoria Melita,

Princess Sandra - Alexandra of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and

Princess "Baby Bee” Beatrice.

Grand Princess Alexandra Georgievna,

Olga Orlova,

Grand Princess Xenia Alexandrovna,

Countess Priscilla of Annesley,

Archduchess Maria Annunziata,

Princess Bathildis of Schaumberg-Lippe,

Irma von Geijer

Princess Louise of Denmark (1875-1906),

Bertha von Suttner,

Lady Mary Grey Egerton,

Consuelo Vanderbilt, the reluctant Duchess of Marlborough,

Winifred, Duchess of Portland,

Princess Maria Klavdievna Tenisheva,

Princess Klara of Bavaria,

Anna Morosini,

Infanta Mercedes, Princess of Asturias,

Maria Albertyna Dunin-Borkowski,

Isabelle d’Orléans, duchesse de Guise,

Lady Collin Campbell,

Comtesse de Greffulhe,

Archduchess Elisabeth Marie, "Erzsi",

Queen Sophia of Greece,

Queen Alexandrine of Denmark,

Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland,

Queen Wilhelmina,

Victoria Sackville-West,

Sonja Knips,

Lady Alda Weston,

Elena of Montenegro, Queen of Italy, and

Comtesse Anna de Noailles.

Belle Époque Pouter Pigeon Bodices and S Silhouettes - 1900 to 1910 that has these Subalbums:

Duchess Constance Edwina Cornwallis-West,  RELOCATED

Lady Helen Vincent,

Marie Gabrielle in Bavaria,

Princess Ingeborg,

Grand Duchess Eleonore of Hesse and by Rhine, née Princess of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich,

Hildegard Maria von Bayern (1881-1948),

Wiltrud and Helmtrud of Bavaria,

Infanta Maria Teresa,

Grand Princess Olga Alexandrovna,

Ottoline Morrell,

Countess Constance Markiewicz,  NEW

Empress Auguste Victoria,

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Queen of Belgium,

Henriette, Duchesse de Vendôme,

Lady Marjorie Manners,

Hélene d'Orléans,

Evelyn Mary, Duchess of Devonshire,

Marchesa Luisa Casati,  NEW

Mary Victoria Leiter of Chicago, Lady Curzon, Vicerine of India,

Dorothea of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha,

Princess Karoline Reuss of Greiz,

Countess of Tankerville Leonora Sophie,

Maria Anna of Habsburg–Teschen,

Baroness Olga de Meyer,

Olga Paley,

Princess Alice of Battenberg - Andrew of Greece,

Lady Florence Phillips,

Grand Duchess Alexandra of Mecklenburg-Schwerin,

Princess Alice of Teck,

Lady Constance Gwladys Herbert,

Duchess Gwendolen of Norfolk,

Archduchess Luise, Crown Princess of Saxony,

Princesses Margaret “Daisy” of Connaught, Patricia of Connaught, and Alexandra of Fife, that has these Albumettes:

Margaret of Connaught, Crown Princess of Sweden,

Princess Patricia of Connaught, and

Alexandra of Fife.

Princess Elisabeth of Stolberg-Rossla,

Princess Sophie Charlotte of Oldenburg - Eitel Friedrich of Prussia,

Princess August Wilhelm, Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg,

Queen Charlotte of Württemberg,

Princess Mathilde of Saxe-Coburg-Kohay, née Bavaria,

Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, "Ena",

Queen Maud of Norway, that has these Albumettes:

Queen Maud’s Coronation Dress, and

Dresses Worn by Queen Maud.

Vizcondesa Tremens,  "La Infantona,

Ethel, Baroness de Forest,

Vittoria Colonna, principessa di Teano,

Maria Immakulata,

Antoinette von Anhalt, Prinzessin von Schaumberg-Lippe,

Princess Louise of Belgium,

Princess Maria Immaculata,

Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Oldenburg-Mecklenburg,

Grand Princess Elena Vladimirovna,

Lady Violet Gertrude Twining,

Clementine Hozier,

Crown Princess Cecilie,

Infanta Luisa de Orleans,

Marie Antoinette of Mecklenburg-Schwerin,

Princess Marie Bonaparte,

Grand Princess Maria Pavlovna the Younger,

Edith, Viscountess Castlereach,

Lucy Duff Gordon, Lucile,  that has these Albumettes -

Images of Lucy Duff Gordon,

Designed by Lucile, and

Celebrities wearing Lucile.

Victoria Adelheid of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha,

Victoria Luise,

Princess Helene Adelaide,

Princess Pilar of Bavaria, and

Vita Sackville-West.

Belle Époque Slender Silhouettes - 1910 to 1914 that has these Subalbums:

Margot Asquith,

Princess Gundelinde of Bavaria,

Zita of Bourbon-Parma,

Queen Mary - May of Teck - that has these Albumettes:

Princess May's coming out, and

Queen Mary's wedding,

Queen Mary’s Coronation.  NEW

Maria Adelheid and Charlotte, Grand Duchesses of Luxembourg,

Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen,

Archduchess Elisabeth Franzisca,

Lady Cynthia Asquith,

Augusta Victoria, Queen of Portugal in exile,

Baroness de Guestre,

The Torby Sisters Nadejda and Anastasia

Princess Viktoria Margarete of Prussia,

Marie Louise of Baden,

Marie Auguste of Anhalt

Princess Royal Mary

Ina von Rupin, and

Sophie Chotek.

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