Josephine: The Hungry Heart

Book reviews are one of the things I feel I really cannot write well. So it helps that I don’t read very much that fits in with the subjects of my blog (I’ve since moved on to We Two, about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl). But every media source, no matter how minor, deserves a few. What are we, animals?

Josephine Baker was an amazing and fascinating person, but I didn’t find her very likeable. She was a dancer, you could call it burlesque, in the 1920s. She lived a really extravagant life. In WWII, she became a spy for the French Resistance. In the 50s, she started adopting, collecting, babies from every country in a way that really puts Angelina to shame. When she couldn’t find one of the race or religion she wanted, she claimed that race or religion for a random child like it was a toy. These kids grew to only barely regard her as their mother.

Nazi-fighting, burlesque-dancing earth mother sounds pretty damn awesome. But Josephine was a shitty mother, an egotistical diva, and really crazy. If the above paragraph doesn’t tip you off, I don’t mean she just had wacky ideas, I mean she was really nuts. Her personality could change every couple pages from over-dramatically caring to cold heartless bitch, she had zero concept of money (tipping people 100$ when she was virtually homeless is just one minor example) and no concept of how she was making the people around her feel. She had a really overblown hate-on for America so that she refused to speak anything but French there, even to people she knew had no idea what she was saying. She had long, intense feuds with people for no good reason at all, usually because she was playing the race card, memorably when she spent years attacking a friend all over the press because she felt she waited too long for a table in his restaurant on a busy night. And she got sued more often than she changed her socks. She expected all the citizens in the town she lived in to line up on the streets when she came back from being on tour to greet her. And this is just a small sample.

Because such a person somehow managed not to captivate me past the first few chapters of the book, I lost interest. And you know what happens when I lose interest in a book? I refuse to abandon it once I’m 100 pages in or so except in extreme cases, such as when a book about mourning rituals turned into a visitors guide to every cemetery in California, and I pull through, very, very slowly. It took me 2 months to read this because it was painful to get through even 10 pages a day. And that really puts a cramp in my reading goals. This year I want to read 36 books and because of this thing now I’ve only read 7 so far this year. Pathetic.

I don’t think this is a bad book at all. It was well-written, well-researched, and quite lively. But I guess it just wasn’t for me. Josephine Baker is not my kind of person.

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A 1910s/early 1920s style for every length

Since the hairstyles in the early 20th century were generally fairly short – about shoulder length or shorter – I’ve seen many requests online from women with long hair wondering how to recreate these styles without going for the chop. I can sympathize. I can’t remember where it was that I saw instructions for this style, probably Lisa Freemont Street, but I thought I would try to put it into my own words since trying it myself and seeing great results on the first try. I also want to spend a little time on it since I find it surprisingly versatile.


So here’s the look we’re going for. This is a Gibson Girl, the very first pinup. Personally it reminds me of those really old Edwardian Coke ads. It looks really hard to do. It’s not.

See? This was my FIRST try!

First you want to tightly curl all your hair. It’s up to you how to do this, either with pin curls or rollers. I just did my usual roller set. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter if the curls don’t turn out perfect. After you pile it all up there nobody can tell.

If you want to look really Edwardian, part your hair in the middle. You don’t have to, I parted mine deeply to the side the way I always do. Then grab 3 or more side combs. Chunk by chunk, fold your hair in half upwards so that the ends are sticking out from the top, and secure them with a comb. You can do a french twist sort of thing if you hair is shorter and/or you want to keep the sides really neat. But it doesn’t matter so much because you’ll be covering it up later. Don’t you just love styles that involve covering the mess of pins instead of making it perfect?

So keep doing this all around your head until all your hair is up except for some curls that you would like hanging out around your face. The piece in the back should be centered. Now this won’t look too good, so don’t get discouraged. It will be really messy and floppy. Take some bobby pins/kirby grips and pin those floppy curly ends up a bit higher. Leave the very top smooth for a look more like the Gibson girl, but you can just make yourself a big nest up there too if it suits you. that’s what I did. If you did an exceptionally good job this is where you might start to think this looks rather 1930s, in which case you’re free to stop there and enjoy 🙂

Otherwise, grab yourself a very long head scarf. Mine is just a big piece of black satin I cut. This can be either wide or narrow, but I like wide because it covers up more of the pins and odd bits, and you can always fold it later if you want it more narrow. Place it at the top of your head in a way that you like, likely with some curls from the back falling forward on top of it, and tie it at the bottom. You can leave these long ends to trail behind or over your shoulder, or wind them around your head and pin them. The second time I did this I pinned them with a peacock feather hair clip. It was very pretty if I do say so myself.

Now you take the pieces in the front that you left out, and if they’re quite long, pin them up higher with a bobby pin and tuck the remaining loop of hair under the scarf. More pieces looks older, less looks more modern.

Finally, you might want to do a little more arranging and pinning. If the back shows, try to get some curls to fall down over it and pin them in place. If you just can’t get it looking the way you want, go for it again. This is a quick one so it’s easy to get lots of practice.

You might find that with the scarf, this style moves back a little over time. In fact when I’ve done it I’ve seen that it likes to do its own thing, which somehow always ends up looking just as good if not better. As it’s very secure, it doesn’t fall out any more than a few tucks back under the scarf can’t fix. I was finding that mine ended up looking a little Greek, and oddly enough, modern at the same time. So here’s where you have the option of pinning it further back in the first place, and/or switching up the scarf for a couple narrow headbands, or nothing at all if the whole thing looks nice enough to show. You could even use a dread wrap if you want to keep it casual. I ended up with this.

My apologies for the terrible quality.

And accessory-free…

Looking very modern here.

So as you can see this is a great style to try out and play around with. I know I mentioned that this is great for long hair, but you can actually do this with ANY length that you can fit around a roller. More pinning for longer hair, less or even no pinning for shorter. There aren’t too many of those! Also, while this is technically an Edwardian style (the Gibson Girl picture is from 1912), I find it very conducive to the 20s as well. Just like wearing 40s hair with 50s clothes, wearing 10s hair with 20s and even 30s clothes looks just fine. I think I may have a new look for casual Friday in the works!

The Vintage Era Broken Down

When you enjoy dressing vintage, you come to know a few things about what was in style in every decade, sometimes even each part of a decade. When you’re a person like this, you can make a reference to the 20s, get a response such as “oh, you mean Marilyn Monroe?” and not know whether to laugh or cry. In fact at a recent history inspired event someone said to me “I wasn’t sure if you were WWII or Titanic.” Putting aside the fact that either way it sounds like I looked like an epic disaster, if someone had been on the Titanic looking like I did it would have meant they got there in a time machine. Don’t get me wrong, she was a very sweet lady. But it’s common. I don’t expect the average person to be able to tell the difference between 1870s style and 1880s style, but we only just recently got out of the 20th century. It’s a very near part of our history, and its fashion has a major impact on what we wear today. How can you do 50s if you don’t really know what the 50s looked like?
Even if you don’t take style queues from the past, it can be extremely interesting to track its progress. And one thing I love doing is watching old movies and trying to guess their year or the year they were based on by the clothes they wore. I’m getting sort of good at it – I can usually guess within 3 years.

I was going to try explaining each decade typically considered part of the vintage era, but then realized there were way too many intricacies to do this properly. It would be too complicated and I would probably get it wrong somewhere along the way. In fact when I see a vintage outfit, I don’t find myself mentally deconstructing it in order to tell what decade it’s from, it’s simply recognizable. So here is a compilation of pictures, to help you become more familiar with the look of each decade and what makes it unique.

1920’s

1930’s


1940’s

1950’s

Early 1960’s