All Things Victorian

All Things Victorian
Victoriana Lady Lisa

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How Did It All Start For Me?

HOW DID IT ALL START?When asked at my public appearances, when did you realize that you loved the Victorian era? My reply is that it all started at about ten years of age.

The combination of spending wonderful days and nights in my Great Aunt’s company in a wonderful Victorian house truly began my love affair with all things old. 

                                         
                                         My Great Aunt Margaret Riley age 16.

I stayed with my Great Aunt Margaret on weekends. She lived in a modest Victorian home that my Great Great Grandfather Anselm Bosch, later Americanized to read Bush, purchased around 1900 for one of his daughters.

Everyone entered through the kitchen entrance; the front door was reserved for company. Wonderful smells always met me at the door, and Aunt Margaret and her wonderful hugs! Her cookies were second to none; our family has many of her recipes to carry on the family tradition.

My favorite room was her parlor. Imagine delicate sheer Irish lace curtains, a green damask covered Eastlake sofa, and Aunt Margaret sitting in her Grandmother’s antique rocking chair.

The Oriental rug on the dark hardwood floor was the prettiest design. Potted palm and Rubber tree plants sat next to her antique English secretary. African Violets, her favorite flower, were on every marble top table.

 Aunt Margaret would make me tea in the afternoon, served in a delicate Limoge teacup, accompanied by her delicious baked cookies. We would sit in her Victorian parlor and have a delightful time. I felt so grown up!

At the top of the steps was the bathroom with the best bathtub a child could ever want! A huge claw foot tub, right near the radiator, it was perfect, and kept me very warm.

The first time I opened the bathroom closet and saw her corset hanging there it fascinated me, never having seen anything like it before! Aunt Margaret explained that she had to put her corset on every time she left the house. I felt sorry for her, it looked so uncomfortable! She would laugh today to know that I regularly wear a corset for my Victorian fashion events!

My idea of fun was getting into her perfumes, lotions, and powders on her vanity shelf next to the tub. I would always put too much on because she would yell from the bottom of the steps, Are you into my perfume and powders again? Then she would laugh. 

Margaret Riley & Harold Hoskins' Wedding 1913


Across from the bathroom was the master bedroom. I especially loved her Edwardian bedroom set. My Great Uncle Harold bought it for her for their wedding in 1913. The bed was so high Aunt Margaret had to lift me to get in it! There were three matching dressers with mirrors, her vanity dresser being my favorite.

Another favorite pastime of mine was playing dress up with her hats, scarves, purses, shoes, slips and jewelry. I would play dress up in that mirror for hours! Now when I am getting dressed for one of my Victorian fashion events I look in that very same vanity mirror with fond remembrance, being fortunate to have inherited her entire bedroom set.

Great Aunt Margaret told the most wonderful stories about her Mom, Dad, Brother Anselm, their sister Hilda and our other relatives. The best story is the one about Great Great Grandfather Anselm Bosch. She claims that he came to America in the mid 1800’s and settled around NY to work farmlands. The problem was he wasn’t a successful farmer, he would rather build things.

 The story goes that a friend of his convinced him to sell his  farmland and move to PA to look for carpentry work, so he did. The farmland he sold was supposedly near Manhattan, NY! Oh well, it wasn’t all bad. If he had not moved to PA he would have never met my Great Great Grandmother Margaret and I would not be telling you this story.

 My favorite pastime was pulling out the shoebox filled with old Victorian family postcard photographs and Tin Types. Time and time again I would beg her to go through each photo with me, naming each family member. 


                       My Great Grandmother Lucy Riley on her wedding day in 1917.


I fell in love with the Victorian hats, dresses and gloves that my female ancestors were wearing. So much so that it stuck with me to this day. All of the photos shown here are the very ones I admired as a child. One day my Great Aunt Margaret gifted me with half the photos from that shoebox; I treasure them.

Another turning point was in junior high school when I saw the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
It was set in 1900 and I fell in love with the era immediately!

I was fascinated with life in the early 1900’s ever since. I began going to libraries to research everything I could find about the era. One day at age 15 I went to my first estate sale. I purchased a pair of Victorian crochet gloves and a beaded handbag.I was hooked from that moment on! Thus began my collection.

My current passions include;
1870 - The Bustle era,
1880 - The Gaslight era,
1890 - The Gay Nineties,
1900 - The Gibson Girl era,
1910 - The Edwardian era
1920 - The Flapper era

GG Lucy Riley in her 30's wearing a Cameo necklace, a wedding present from husband Anselm.



I was also richly blessed to grow up with my Grandmother
Margeurite and Great Grandmother Lucy. They too with
their stories and photos of my ancestors imparted a deep appreciation in me for the old days.

For years I watched Grandmother Margeurite put her long hair up in a Gibson Girl style bun, just as her grandmother Mary did. They even resembled each other in their later years!
When it came time for me to re-enact a Gibson Girl I recalled how Grandma put her hair up, so I did the same,it went up beautifully the first time! Grandma Margeurite was so proud of me and happy that she was able to influence my passion for portraying a Victorian Lady.


My Grandmother Marguerite Naomi Riley whom I spent a lot of time with when my children were young.


Fast forward to 1987, there was something else that also inspired me to take my dreams and believe they could become reality. A lovely and inspiring magazine called Victoria made it's debut. I was enamored at the very first issue, in fact I still have every issue from the beginning.

The magazine was pure eye candy, but it was the women entrepreneurs that really touched me. I was a young mother raising two babies, then four, but I felt if these other women could raise a family & build a business, then why couldn't I?

The Business of Bliss was my incentive, I could not put the book down! Nor its sequel, Turn Your Passion Into Profits. Victoria magazine, and the women featured through the years, have been my inspiration and I warmly & gratefully thank them!

I invite you to come and experience this passion for the Victorian era at my informative Victorian Fashion Show programs! Here you will learn not just about fashion, but about the manners, etiquette of the day, and how every day life was lived in the late Victorian and early Titanic era.

 To book your Victorian fashion program E-mail me at
Upcoming holiday bookings are still available.
Reserve your event early!

3 comments:

  1. The first time I wore a corset one of the "rules" imparted to me by my Grandmother and other older women suddenly made sense. You CAN'T bend over to pick something up off the floor LOL! You HAVE to bend your knees. Yes the latter method is more ladylike but the former is impossible. And you surely better remember to put your shoes and stockings on before you put on your corset. That wasn't part of the rules, just a practical observation.
    Thanks for sharing your stories and pictures. I really enjoyed them.

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  2. Great to hear your life path. I was started lovong Victoriana by my English grandmother who gave me the Victorian family items at 16 because my older sister liked Danish modern...and the other grandchildren were boys!
    Ruth

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  3. Thank you so much for this! I, too, became interested in the victorian period very young because of my grandmother's wonderful Victorian house and furnishings in Pennsylvania. But YOU have been able to live your dream. I can vicariously enjoy by your stories. Thank you for sharing.

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