Eliza Schuyler and Female Powerlessness


The theme of female powerlessness which is woven throughout Clarissa also come into play in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit hip-hop musical Hamilton, which is based on the life and loves of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Hamilton’s demure and virtuous wife, and Angelica Schuyler Church, her feisty and self-confident sister, best-friend, and confident, bare a number of similarities with Clarissa Harlowe and Anna Howe. They start off as young women whose beauty, wealth, and social position attract a lot of suitors. The musical number A Winter’s Ball shows how the ambitious young officers of the Continental Army are all smitten with the Schuyler sisters and wish to marry into the influential Schuyler clan. Angelica, Eliza, and their younger sister Peggy have their pick of eligible gentlemen and who they choose defines them as characters.

Eliza’s first solo number, Helpless, initially paints her as a passive figure. Whereas Angelica’s first solo number, Satisfied, is an emotionally, lyrically, and musically complex look into her psyche and moral dilemma (Angelica helps bring Hamilton and Eliza together, despite having feelings for him, herself, and doubts that she made the right decision), Helpless is an upbeat R&B love ballad which follows the progression of an apparently straightforward boy-meets-girl romance. Eliza waits on the sidelines for Hamilton to notice her and relies on Angelica to introduce her to him. Her own timidity and the confines of eighteenth-century etiquette prevent her from making the first move; for Eliza to approach Hamilton or for Hamilton to approach Eliza without someone to make the necessary introductions would have been a breach of propriety. The historical Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler were engaged within less than a month of meeting, so Helpless feels like a countdown to the inevitable wedding. The main hurdle to their union is gaining the approval of Eliza’s father. As an eighteenth-century woman without a legal identity of her own, marriage for Eliza would have been essentially being passed from her father to her husband.

A closer look at Helpless shows that Eliza is more than simply a bashful wallflower. Upon first seeing Hamilton, she tells Angelica “this one’s mine” and frequent sings “that boy is mine” and in a sense singles out Hamilton as her future life mate rather than the other way around. Her choice of Hamilton (an attractive and dashing but penniless upstart with a questionable background) is based on love rather than ambition or social obligation. Despite spouting a number of proto-feminist catchphrases, Angelica follows the more conventional path by marrying the wealthy but dull John Barker Church, the Mr. Hickman to Hamilton’s Lovelace.

The word “helpless” defines Eliza as a character throughout most of the story and takes on several different connotations. It first describes her overwhelming love for Hamilton and then her unhappiness at being constantly neglected by him. “Helpless” is later appropriated by Maria Reynolds, Hamilton’s mistress, who uses it to lead him astray. Taking Eliza’s signature word highlights this betrayal.  The Reynolds Affair causes Eliza to re-examine her relationship with Hamilton and her decision to marry him. An eighteenth-century wife was expected to grin-and-bare and turn a blind eye to any affairs their husband might have, which were not considered insufficient grounds for a divorce. Obtaining a divorce would have been winning the battle but losing the war, since as a divorcée, Eliza would have forfeited custody of her children and been ostracized from polite society. Stuck with a selfish and reckless man who never really loved her who then dies in a duel, leaving her with substantial debts and a large family to support, Eliza truly is helpless. But she shakes off this passive attitude and forges an identity, independent from her husband, as a philanthropist and proto social worker. She outlives Hamilton by half a century and dies a well loved and respected figure.

It is unclear whether it was Eliza or Angelica who made the better choice. Eliza marries for love but is stuck with a man who betrays and humiliates her. Angelica marries a rich man due to social obligations and is whisked away to live a glamorous life in London. But in the cut song Congratulations, Angelica describes her marriage as “loveless” and we are given a sense that she is unsatisfied despite her glittering lifestyle. The experiences of both women show how women in the eighteenth century were vulnerable to the whims of whatever man they were attached to. It is only after she is widowed that Eliza is able to live a fulfilling life, free from the man mistreated her.



Bag Girl Reviews: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber


If  Marie Antoinette’s legacy is as anything, it is as a fashion icon and a symbol of luxury and decadence. Her name and image has been used to conjure up visions of girly excess: cake, shoes, and elaborate and towering hairstyles. In her own time, France’s doomed last queen used her style choices to forge her own identity, which Caroline Weber explores in her book Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore To The Revolution.

As a member of the rigidly formal and etiquette controlled court of Versailles, Marie Antoinette’s clothing choices were limited. She was expected to lead a shy and retiring life and let a de Pompadour or du Barry hog the limelight, but this was not diva queen bee Antoinette’s style. With the help of the pioneering fashion designer Rose Bertin and her trusty hairdresser, Monsieur Léonard, Marie Antoinette created her own iconic look which provoked outrage as well as legions of imitators. Weber describes each of the fashion trends that Marie Antoinette helped launch, from the fabulously gaudy pouf to the scandalously revealing chemise à la reine, and how her reign as “queen of fashion” coincided with the birth of what we would know as France’s couture industry.

For someone of Marie Antoinette’s status, what you wore was political as well as personal. To wear an elaborate court costume complete with tower pouf, was to be seen as frivolous and uncaring about the plight of the poor; the powder which covered the wigs of the aristocracy was said to be made from flour stolen from hungry peasants. On the other hand, wearing a chemise à la reine and frolicking like a Rousseau inspired Shepherdess was seen as behaving in way which was unseemly for a queen and anti-french; the muslin from which a chemise à la reine was made being a foreign import. Colors, trimmings, and accessories were loaded with meanings which you ignored at your peril. Marie Antoinette, and her instantly recognizable wardrobe, were a fixture of both the burgeoning fashion press and seditious political pamphlets and cartoons. Her poufs and chemises became to epitomize all that was wrong with her and the world she represented.

Caroline Weber has an obvious enjoyment of both history and fashion which comes across in the book, which is well written and engaging, as side from a couple of language ticks which bugged me for some reason. She over uses the words “sartorial” and “ci-devant”; if you were to take a drink every time those phrases appear, you would quickly pass out.

Fashions of Sidewalks of New York Part 12: Theater Rendezvous 

In chapter six of Sidewalks of New York, Melanie visits her cousin Abigail, Countess of St. Oswald on her way to the theater. In toe is Melanie’s maid/companion Marie. 

The outfits worn by Melanie and Marie to the theater are inspired by the the theater outfits from the Tom Tierney Gibson Girl paperdoll book. 
I added fur to Melanie’s theater cape. The fur would be something like this except black to match the black fur muff. 


Marie wears a dramatic turquoise cape like this one from Victorian trading company. 

And a little black velvet muff trimmed with brown fur. 


Lady St. Oswald wears a loose, comfortable “tea gown” which would be appropriate for informal at home entertaining. 

It is taken from this classical inspired design. 


Melanie meets her uncle Mr. Ackerman at the theater and it is revealed that they are having an incestous affair. 

Melanie’s undergarments are inspired by this photograph. 

And these pieces from the period. 

Her unusual looking camisole was inspired by this one dated from 1905. 

Melanie changes into a sexy fur trimmed robe to receive her lover Ackerman. 

It was taken from this one. 

Melanie wears a pair satin slippers like these. 

Other accessories include an Etruscan revival bracelet with a gold cigarette case charm. 

Ackerman gives her a silver and sapphire necklace with a matching pair of earrings. 

Melanie recalls her arrival in New York and how she set out to seduce her uncle and get him as her wealthy protector. The day she approached him in Central Park, she wore “a fetching cordory suit and a smart little hat.” 

The suit was taken from the Gibson Girl paperdoll book. 

Stay Tuned for More Designs. 

Fashions of Retribution Part 28: Agnès’s Wedding 

In chapter 23 of Retribution, Agnès elopes with her boyfriend Kit and they are married in chapter 24.  Charles goes the church in hopes of seeing his daughter Marianne, who is a bridesmaid. Before the ceremony, he talks with Catharine and Mimi.   

Catharine’s mother of the bride outfit was taken from this period fashionplate 


The combination of black and white with gold accents reminds me of  the Dulcissima Barbie doll from the Fashion Model Collection.  

I looked to Dulcissima’s sister doll Luciana for Mimi’s outfit. 




Her suit comes from this period fashionplate. 

I did not like the hat on the outfit on the outfit I chose for Mimi so I softened it’s somewhat mannish feel by swapping it for a lovely cloche hat worn by the equally lovely Madge Evans. 


Agnès comes down the aisle chatting with her bridesmaids about how she and her husband are going to spend their honeymoon in Egypt. 


Agnès’s wedding dress was taken from this period cover for The Delineator 


Her short wedding veil was inspired by the Principessa doll from the Barbie Fashion Model Collection. I imagine Agnès’s gown also having lovely silver embroidery and sequins like Principessa’s gown. 


Agnès wears a tiara of golden leaves which is a family heirloom that has been worn by every d’Aubrey bride for several generations. It would be something like this. 

Marianne is one of Agnès’s bridesmaids. 


The bridesmaid dresses were taken from this period inspired outfit. 

Her accessories are a nod to the Fiorella Barbie doll. In the description on Barbie Collector Website, it says that Fiorella is the heroine of a Felini esque movie who is lonely and lovelorn in the middle of a wedding (presumably Principessa’s) which perfectly describes Marianne in this scene. 


Marianne’s hairstyle come from this period photograph, I want to say it’s of Carole Lombard. 

On her way home, Marianne stops to visit her friend Manon who has gone into mourning for her brother. 


Manon’s mourning dress was taken from this dress from the period. 

Her long, dark hair is twisted into a French braid like this one. 

Her she wears a black lace mourning veil like this one. 


When she arrives home, Marianne is overcome with hopelessness and tries to commit suicide with blood staining her pajamas. 


Inspired by these sewing patterns from the 1930s. 


Lucille, the Prideau family maid, wakes up her master and mistress to tell them the news of Marianne accident. 


The uniform was taken from this 1930s photograph of a maid and and this uniform from the period. 

 Adéle is shocked by the news and waits up for her husband while he is at the hospital visiting his daughter. 

She wears pajamas inspired by this glamorous 1930s lounge ware outfit. 

And a headscarf inspired by Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. 


Stay Tuned For More. 

Fashions of Sidewalks of New York Part 11: Afternoon at the Museum. 

Chapter six of Sidewalks of New York finds Lucy and Natalie spending a rainy afternoon at the Metropolitian Museum of Art. Natalie sketches while Lucy flirts with the handsome Lord Allan. 

Natalie’s outfit was inspired  by this costume worn by Rachel Weiss as Evie Carnahan in The Mummy. 

Adapted for the 1890s using this period blouse and skirt. 

With it, she wears a boater hat like the one from this photograph. 

Natalie’s hairstyle comes from this painting 


She is described as having poor eyesight and having glasses which she hardly ever wears because she feels that they make her look ugly. I’ve found a photograph of a woman from the period wearing glasses and I don’t imagine that Natalie would look too bad. 

Lucy’s outfit was inspired by this costume worn by Jessica Brown Findlay as Beverly Penn in Winter’s Tale. 


And these period illustrations 


I love this style of shoe and I imagine Lucy and Natalie wearing shoes like these. 



They are joined by Lord Allan’s sister Sybil and her companion Mrs. Ashmore.  

Sybil wears a lovely pink suit taken from this equally lovely painting. 

And a hat like this one 

Sybil’s hairstyle was inspired by this drawing by Charles Dana Gibson. 

Mrs. Ashmore wears something like this. 

And a beautiful black hat decorated with white roses. 

Stay Tuned for More Designs. 

Scandalous 1930s: Part 2 


New Roles For Women: The 1920s saw more women competing with men for jobs and the stock market crash of 1929 meant that even more women needed to take jobs in order to support themselves and their families. Most of them looked to Hollywood movies and the exciting lives lead by film stars to take their minds off of their hardy and dreary lives. 

Changes in Fashion: Economic depression meant that fashion was not always a priority. When you look past the slinky, glamourous fashions worn in the movies, the clothing worn by your average woman could look rather frumpy and even rather masculine. Not having much money and needing to work can make one chose their clothes based on practically rather than stylishness. Pants, which were previously an avant-garde fashion choice, now had a firm place in sports, leisure, and work ware. 

Art Imitates Life: Finding one’s self in reduced circumstances would be familiar to the readers of Gone with the Wind and Scarlet O’Hara viciously clawing her way back up the social ladder may have been wishfulment for many of them. One of Scarlet’s primary motives is a fear of poverty, something familiar to survivors of the Great Depression. 

Fashions of Retribution Part 26: New Years Eve 

In chapter twenty-three of Retribution, Catharine throws a New Year’s Eve masquerade party.  New Year’s falls during the twelve days of Christmas, so it is common in France to exchange Christmas presents on that day. Mimi gives Marianne a new evening dress to wear to the masquerade party. 

The evening dress is described as being made of silk and chiffon and being of the loveliest shade of blue imaginable. The design I made for it was based on the ball gown worn by Lily James as Ella in Cinderella. 


The shape of the dress comes from this 1930s evening dress. I think this photograph is of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire 

The beautiful blue evening dress comes with a white masquerade mask. 

Catharine gave Marianne a pair of pearl earrings as Christmas present which Marianne wears with her evening dress. 

She also wears a pearl necklace which her grandmother gave her for her fifteenth birthday. 

Also, she wears an opal hair comb which had belonged to her mother. It is an egyptian inspired Art Deco piece like this. 

Marianne’s long hair would be twisted up into pin curls to mimic a fashionable bob. The hair comb would be worn as decoration in the back like this one worn by Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey. 


Marianne’s hairstyle was inspired by this photograph of Vivian Leigh. 

Every Cinderella needs a pair of glass slippers, or at least a pair of silver dancing shoes. 


Agnès and her boyfriend Kit plan to sneak away from the party, so she confines in Marianne as they are getting ready. 

Agnès wears a teddy inspired by this photograph of Joan Blondell 

The golden yellow color comes from this costume worn by Sophie McShera as Drizella Tremaine in Cinderella. 


Agnès’s hairstyle comes from this photograph of actress Raquel Tores 


This hairstyle is similar to the one in the earlier photograph of Vivian Leigh. Both of these hairstyles remind me of Snow White. 


Both Agnès and Marianne seek to keep the secret of Agnès’s elopement from her mean spirited sister Mathilde. 

Mathilde wears a style of bra from the era called a ferrero bra. 

And a pair of tap pants. 

The orangish pink color of her underwear comes from this costume worn by Holliday Granger as Anastasia Tremaine in Cinderella. 


Mathilde wears a pair stockings with black stripes like these. 

Her hair is worn in finger waves and pin curls like these. 


At the party, Mimi helps the maid Annette bring in hors-d’oevres. 

Mimi wears a white evening dress inspired by the costume worn by Helena Bonham Carter as The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. 


Adapted for the 1930s using this Miss Depew Vintage design. 

A common hairstyle for long haired women was the chignon with finger waves. 


For accessories, Mimi wears a white lace mask and silver and diamond jewelry. 


Mathilde shows off by singing Christmas carols for her guests. 

She wears a shimmer black evening dress taken from this one from the period. 

And a beaded black headband like this one worn by Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey. 


Before singing, she would have to take off her plague doctor masquerade mask. 

Agnès accompanys her sister on the piano. 

She is dressed in a champagne colored evening dress copied from this one by Jean Patou. 

With this, she wears a matching champagne colored mask

Finishing up her evening look is a gold headband like this one worn by Lily James as Lady Rose MacClare in Downton Abbey. 


An argument starts when Mathilde’s friend Solange insults Marianne by repeating nasty gossip about her relation with Augustin. I like the way this outfit came out, Solange looks like a super hero (or a super villain) 

Solange’s evening dress was copied from this Lanvin original. 

Her hairstyle comes from this photograph of actress Bebe Daniels. 

She wears a silver headband like this one worn by Lady Rose. 

Her super hero look is finished up with a silver mask like this one 

The argument escalates into Mathilde back handing Marianne and her wedding ring cutting Marianne’s cheek. I imagine Mathilde’s ring being something like this one. 

Before she elopes with Kit, Agnès barrows her mother’s best sable fur coat which would be something like this. 


The lovers are able to sneak past her mother Catharine, who is busy scolding Mathilde and Solange. Catharine also looks like a super hero. 

Catharine’s evening dress was inspired by the ball gown worn by Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine in Cinderella. 


The shape of Catharine’s evening dress comes from this Butterick dress pattern which was taken from a gown designed by Orry Kelly that was worn by Kay Francis in The Key Hole. 


Like Lady Tremaine, Catharine wears gold gloves but in a more muted gold. Like these ones worn by Lady Edith. 

Her hairstyle is also the fingerwaved chignon

She wears a green mask like this one, except I made the feather gold. 

Her evening look  is finished up with gold and emerald jewelry. 


Solange’s mother Carole defends her but is put in her place Catharine. Like her daughter, Carole looks like a super villain. 

Carole’s evening dress was copied from an original designed by Travis Banton and worn by Anna May Wong. 

Her hairstyle was taken from this photograph of Marlene Dietriche 

She wears a black lace mask and black net gloves. 

Her look is finished off with gold and garnet jewelry 


Fashions of Sidewalks of New York Part 10: Trip to the Theater Part 10

In Chapter 10 of Sidewalks of New York, Laurie brings Ashlyn to Ada’s theater for a job interview with Ada’s costume designer, Cora. 

Cora’s dress was taken from this one from the period. It has a bohemian feel which I think would be appropriate for someone working in the theater world. This dress also reminds me of Frozen for some reason. 

Later in the afternoon, Laurie and Ashlyn watch to matinée of Ada’s show, where she appears as Little Bo Beep. 

Ada’s hat was inspired by these sketches of costumes from the Follies Bergère.  

The bodice of her costume was taken from this sketch of a Greek shepherdess costume for a production of Winter’s Tale. 


The revealing tulle skirt was taken from this painting. 

The pink ribbons on her bodice come from this painting. 

The showgirls are dressed as Little Bo Peep’s sheep. 

I imagine these showgirl sheep costumes being something like an 1890s version of this Halloween costume. 

The mini dress comes from this turn of the century inspired showgirl costume. 

Stay Tuned For More 

Scandalous 1920s: Part 2 


New Roles For Women: The 1920s saw many new opportunities for women. In 1920, American women were given the right to vote and saw many take jobs for the first time. The quintessential woman of the period is the flapper, a stylish young woman who liked to drink, smoke, dance to jazz, and flirt ( and sometimes more) with men. But many of these flapper gave up their jobs and wild partying when they married. 
Changes in Fashion: Dress shapes changed dramaticly in the period before, waistlines dropped, and hemlines went up. Flappers wore short hair, short skirts and even pants. Legs and arms were more on display than they’d ever had. 

Art Reflects Life: The two main female characters in The Great Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan, are pretty much what you think of when you think “flapper”.  But one of things Fitzgerald show is how little things have actually changed for women. Daisy and Jordan maybe beautiful and glamorous but they are hardly feminist role models; in fact, they are shown to be hardly more than just their wealth, looks, and stylish clothes. 

Daisy famously says that she hopes hopes her daughter will be a fool because “because that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Despite all of the outward freedom a woman in the 1920s might have, such as being able to vote, work, and party, in the end she is still expected to do little more than look pretty, smile, and ignore all that is unpleasant. 

Historically Accurate Spring Awakening. 

Followers of my blog with know that  I’m a huge fan of the rock musical Spring Awakening. The musical which came out in 2006 was based on a play written in 1891 and first performed in 1906. 

The play is set in Germany at the turn of the century which is one of my favorite eras for fashion.  The score takes a leap of 100 years and is very 1990s/early 2000s indie rock. The costumes tend to look like things purchased from Urban Outfitters. 

I’ve found a photograph from the original 1906 production of a costume worn by an actress named Camilla Eibenshütz playing the heroine, Wendla Bergmann.  It’s a sort of sailor or “middie” outfit common in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Wendla is supposed to be fourteen and an outfit like this would be something appropriate for a girl in her early teens. 


Some other examples of these “middie” outfits. 

In the 2006 musical version, Wendla is first seen wearing a sort of teddy garment which is supposed to underwear. At first, I thought it was meant to be a chemise but then I noticed the shorts. 

I think this outfit is supposed to look like the “combinations” undergarment worn in this era. 


Wendla then puts on her “fairy queen” dress. It is short and childish and inappropriate for a blossoming young lady of fourteen. 

She then puts on a more appropriate blue dress. 

The other girls wear similar dresses 

In the original play, the opening scene takes place on Wendla’s fourteenth birthday. Her mother gives her a long dress because the clothes she has previously been wearing have become indecently short.  Knee length dresses like Wendla’s fairy queen dress would have been considered inappropriate after the age of four. 

Fourteen would be the age when girls would start wearing long dresses (a couple inches above the ankle) and their hair in half up-does. The girls in the back of this picture would be about that age. 


Wendla’s final outfit is a nightgown which looks pretty period accurate. 


 It kind of reminds me of this one
In the recent Deaf West production which will be coming to Broadway, Wendla, played by Sandra Mae Frank, wears an outfit with a distinctly 1930s feel, a floral print shirtwaist dress with a peterpan collar.   


Shirtwaist dresses were popular during the turn of the century

But also during the 1930s 

In the end,  Spring Awakening is a thoroughly enjoyable musical that doesn’t let stuffy nineteenth century values, or stuff nineteenth century fashion, get in its way.