Death Customs

RIP

Throughout human existence has been the need to deal with the death of friends and loved ones. Different cultures have practiced many different types of death customs and burials. Even within the same country or culture there can be many varied rituals. Death customs are influence by religion, spiritual beliefs, lack of spiritual beliefs, the wishes of the deceased (if left in a will or preplanned funeral arrangement), cultural traditions, family values, acceptable social practices and so much more. There is no way I could adequately cover this topic in one blog post so I will simply point Dewey Hop readers to the latest books I’ve encountered on my read through the Fulton County Public Library.

The first book I encountered on this topic is:

What a Way to Go

Since I can’t write a better summary, I’ve borrowed some summaries:

  • Baker & Taylor
    An entertaining, yet respectful, documentary of the most extraordinary lives and amazing funerals of two dozen twentieth-century icons from politics, art, and pop culture, including Jim Henson, Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley, Eva Peron, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, is filled with stunning photographs and riveting information. Original.
  • Grand Central Pub
    A&E Biography meets Tales from the Crypt in this fun but respectful survey of the amazing lives and astonishing funerals of two dozen twentieth-century icons from politics, art, and pop culture. In more than 50 rare photographs and thoroughly researched profiles, What a Way to Go showcases all the colorful details of each subject’s death, funeral service, and burial. From Muppet creator Jim Henson’s upbeat service, attended by Big Bird, to Babe Ruth lying in state at Yankee Stadium as vendors sold hot dogs to waiting mourners–it’s all here, the moving and the macabre. JFK, Notorious B.I.G., Elvis Presley, Chairman Mao, Eva Peron, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and many more find fitting tribute in this compulsively readable, visually lavish, richly entertaining celebration of our enduring fascination with the famous and the strange pageantry of their demise.

And I’ve also done the same thing for this book:

Reimagining Death

“For all those seeking to reclaim their innate and legal right to care for their own dead, create home funeral vigils, and choose greener after-death care options that are less toxic and more sustainable for the earth More natural after-death care options are transforming the paradigm of the existing funeral industry, helping families and communities recover their instinctive capacity to care for a loved one after death and do so in creative, nourishing, and healing ways. In reclaiming these practices and creating new, innovative options, we are greening the gateway of death and returning home to ourselves, our bodies, and the earth. Lucinda Herring reminds us of the sacredness of death itself; her compelling stories, poetry, and guidance come from years of experience as a home funeral/green burial consultant and licensed funeral director dedicated to more natural and healing death practices. In Reimagining Death she shares with readers her experience caring for her own mother after death. Through storytelling and resources Herring also reveals to families the gifts of partnering with nature, home funeral vigils, sacred care at death, conscious dying (through the story of a Death with Dignity with accompanying photos of one man’s planned death and after-death care), bringing laughter and a greater lightness of being to death, natural burials, and emerging eco-conscious dispositions. A valuable resource in planning for all deaths in all circumstances (with a chapter on what to do when a death occurs outside of the home), this book also guides readers on how to create an advance after-death care directive”– Provided by publisher.
“”For all those seeking to reclaim their innate and legal right to care for their own dead, create home funeral vigils, and choose greener after-death care options that are less toxic and more sustainable for the earth”–Provided by publisher”– Provided by publisher
Dealing with the death of a loved one is a very personal experience and is unique to every individual and family.  If you dealt with a funeral, celebration of life, memorial and would like to share your experience please feel free to do so in the comments below.
Have you ever considered an alternative to the customary funeral arrangements for yourself or a loved one? Have you ever been to an after death service that was unique in some way?
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Wedding Gowns

Trying on Wedding Gowns

One of the most important decisions that a bride to be has to make is what to wear. The wedding dress should reflect the bride’s personality, be flattering to her figure, and make her look and feel beautiful when she wears it. The search for the perfect dress can be overwhelming and fun all at the same time.

Like other fashions wedding attire/gowns have changed through the years. In ancient Egypt brides wore a special headdress and a new tunic gifted to her from her parents. The tunic had a big knot tied into it (which might account for the expression of a couple “tying the knot”) which only the groom was allowed to untie. In medieval times brides wore bright colors which were fashionable at the time. It wasn’t until the 1820’s that the wedding gown as we would recognize it today first appeared. When white wedding gowns were introduced some brides still chose to wear brightly colored apparel. The popularity of the white wedding gown increased when Queen Victoria was married in 1840 in a white gown. Styles, designs, details, and accessories change throughout the years, but the white gown remains the most popular choice of brides even today.

In many cultures marriages have been arranged. The bride and groom may have been strangers or mere acquaintances on their wedding day. These marriages were usually contractual and had little to do with love. Marriage was seen as a way for one to advance family values and position in society. Because the bride was literally representing her family in a public contract, much emphasis was placed on her appearance. This is why today the bride is the focal point of the wedding and elegantly dressed with attention to every small detail.

Bridal Gowns

Today the wedding gown will help the bride and groom create a lifetime of memories. It will be the subject of many photographs as the couple poses for their wedding pictures together, the bride will be photographed alone in her dress, and the dress may even be photographed by itself before the wedding.  The groom usually hasn’t seen the wedding gown or his bride in it until she appears to walk down the aisle. The bride will long remember the groom’s reaction when he sees her in her wedding gown for the first time.

Bridal Gown 2

For this post I have relied heavily on these books:

Bridal Style The Wedding DressThe Wedding Gown Book

The above books are adult picture books but also include fascinating history of how wedding attire / gowns have changed through the ages.

Other adult picture books I checked out are:

Accessorizing the BrideThe Bride A Celebration

Did you /will you choose a formal wedding gown for your wedding? Do you favor a particular style of wedding gown?

Wedding Customs & Traditions

Wedding Traditions

(Image Credit: Google)

After the engagement and wedding plans, comes the bridal shower, bachelor party, rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and the actual wedding! There are many customs and traditions surrounding all of these aspects of the engagement and wedding. Unfortunately I won’t be able to cover all of them in depth in one post.

In rural America (and Europe) extended family and friends from the community all gave gifts to help the couple set up their home. Around the turn of the century these traditional ties began to break down. Though traditional ties had been lessening to provide these thoughtful gifts, the engaged woman’s friends stepped in to “shower” the bride-to be. This practice evolved into a type of party in which friends would buy small items needed to start a household that would have been really expensive if they all had to be bought at once.

The bachelor party is supposed to be the groom’s last night with his friends as a single man. The bachelor party is often hosted by the best man, but the groomsmen may also all plan it together. Today it is even acceptable for the groom to plan and host this party himself. When the groom hosts the party himself he will often distribute small gifts to his groomsmen and finalize responsibilities and last minute plans. The groom will also traditionally make a toast to his bride. In older times, the groom would make a toast to the bride and then smash his glass. Each of the groomsmen would, in turn also toast the bride and smash their glasses. It was believed that a glass used to toast the bride should never be used for a less worthy purpose. Smashing the glasses made sure the glass had fulfilled it’s highest purpose.

Some couples also choose to have bridesmaid party as well. The bride may distribute gifts to her bridesmaids at this time. The bride may also discuss any last minute plans or details. This party, though, is to focus on the bridesmaids and thank them for their involvement in the wedding.

The wedding rehearsal usually happens a few days before the wedding and is just what it sounds like it is. It is a time for all the participants to practice their movements and positions. It is usually pretty light hearted and fun for all involved. Traditionally there will be a rehearsal dinner following the rehearsal. The rehearsal dinner is a time for bonding as well as a time to discuss last minute details. Often this dinner is when gifts to the wedding party are distributed, especially if couples have omitted the bachelor’s party and/or bridesmaid party.

Books I’ve relied on heavily for this post are:

Happy is the Bride

Weddings A Celebration

What traditional aspects were (or will be) included in your wedding plans? Did you add or omit any of the traditional steps to getting married?

 

Proposals, Wedding Vows, and Customs

Creative Proposal

(Image credit: https://www.demilked.com/engagement-ideas-creative-marriage-proposals/)

Moving right along in the 390’s I’ve landed in an interesting section called Customs of life cycle & domestic life. This is a sweet and tender section of the library with much of it pertaining to proposals, wedding vows, and marriage customs. I’ve had a lot of fun reading about how creative people can be with their proposals and vows. (Be sure to check out the link above!)  If you are a romantic at heart, you won’t want to miss The World’s Greatest Proposals by Fred Cuellar.

The World's Greatest Proposals

This book contains real life accounts of the ways in which people became engaged. I really don’t want to give these stories away, so I highly encourage those of you who are interested to read this book.  Each story or “chapter” is only about 2-3 pages long and you will find many creative proposals (as well as traditional ones) within it’s pages.

Once engaged, couples will soon begin to work on their wedding plans. These plans can be as varied as the couples themselves. In the United States we seem to have assimilated customs from many cultures around the world. Couples will want to take a close look at what they do and do not want included in their unique wedding ceremony. To figure out what to include in a wedding, couples might want to examine a little history of weddings as well as some traditions.

In Roman society the purpose of marriage was to form families by having legally conceived children. Those who married and had children were seen as strengthening the honor of the family and escalating the family’s ability to contribute to the state. Marrying, therefore, was a way to show that one was stable and had influence in society. Emperor Augustus set penalties for men who remained single too long.

In the early Anglo-Saxon weddings (primarily in Wales and England) weddings were an informal ceremony with only the families present. The couple made vows of commitment to each other. The vows and following sexual relationship gave legitimacy to the marriage and legalized it. People didn’t conduct vows in a church until the 1500’s and then it wasn’t mandatory to be married in a church.

Formal state involvement in a wedding ceremony didn’t begin until 1653 when the Civil Marriage Act passed by the Puritans under Cromwell. After the passage of this Act, a civil ceremony before a justice of the peace was required. Before this act, however the bride’s father would lead a public ceremony called a “bewedding.” At the bewedding ceremony the groom and his entire family pledged to look after the bride. This pledge was made to the bride’s parents.

By 1753 the Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act stated that all weddings had to take place in a Jewish Synagogue, Church of England, or a Quaker meeting to be considered legally legitimate. Many objected to this Act and chose to elope (a tradition that continues).

In ancient China marriages were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. Parents exchanged their credentials with each other as a sign of their intent to have their children marry each other. Gifts exchanged between the bride’s and groom’s families represented:

  1. that the groom’s family acknowledged the parents’ efforts in raising the bride and
  2. the agreement that the groom has now formally been pledged the bride’s hand in marriage by the parents. (p. 35, A World of Ways to Say “I Do” by Benshea & Benshea)

The exchanging of gifts between the bride’s and groom’s families would continue for a year or two until their children were old enough to marry. Gifts from the groom’s family to the bride’s family included money, tea, bridal cakes, sweetmeats, and wine.

The bride’s family would take the bridal cakes they received and give them to the groom’s family and friends and the cakes also served as the wedding invitation. The order in which the bridal cakes were given was important since those who were given the cakes first were those family and friends closest to the couple. Anyone who received a bridal cake was also expected to give a wedding gift to the bride’s parents as a token of congratulations.

The traditional Chinese wedding ceremony was one in which the bride and groom were taken to the family alter to pay respects to the heaven and earth, their family ancestors, and the kitchen god. Tea with two lotus seeds or two red dates in it was offered to the groom’s parents.  Lotus seeds and two red dates are symbolic since in Chinese the words lotus and year, seed and child, and date and early are all homophones. It was believed that these items in the tea would help the couple to produce children early in the their marriage and every year as well as grandchildren for the parents. The tea was sweet which was a symbolic wish for sweet relations between the bride and her new family. To complete the ceremony the bride and groom bowed to each other and drank wine from the same goblet. Molded sugar in the shape of a rooster might also be eaten to symbolize trustworthiness – a Chinese astrological belief.  After the ceremony there was  a wedding dinner where the newly married Chinese couple received “lucky money” in red envelopes. In Chinese culture red and gold are colors believed to represent happiness and wealth. Wedding invitations (now), decorations, and gifts are all wrapped in red and firecrackers are set off to scare evil spirits away.

In Africa there are many assorted cultural wedding traditions dating back thousands of years depending on the area of Africa one is from. In some areas it is customary to “kidnap” the bride.” Family must be involved in African weddings for the weddings to be considered legitimate. African brides may wear a veil of braided hair for modesty.  In Kenya the bride and groom are literally bound together with a leather strap during the wedding. Other regions may do the same thing using braided grasses.

During the years of slavery in the US, African-American bride and grooms were not allowed to legally marry. They reached back into traditions from Africa and held their own types of weddings which were recognized by other slaves but not necessarily by the plantation owner. One famous ritual is called “jumping the broom.” This ritual was performed by having the oldest person in the slave community place a broom across the threshold of the couple’s new home and having the couple jump over it and into their home. This practice was used to symbolize a new beginning in the couples lives.

The tradition of jumping the broom is sometimes still used during African-American weddings today. The “broom” can range from twigs, rags, and bound cowrie shells and ribbons, and other beautiful decorations. I have seen pictures of actual brooms decorated in beautiful fashion Many of the “brooms” will be kept as works of art for the couple’s home after the wedding. During the ceremony the broom may be placed either before or behind the altar or a church elder may hold it up. Traditional African clothing is bright and vibrant. African-American grooms may wear a tuxedo including a vest made out of African material. The bride may wear jewelry featuring cowrie shells or her gown or headpiece may be trimmed with cowrie shells to symbolize fertility.

In most American weddings the bride is “given away.’  In the past the bride was considered to belong to her father. Thus the father had to actually give her away to transfer responsibility for her to the groom. During this time period, the groom may also have been given a pair of the bride’s shoes which represented that he was now responsible for meeting her needs and taking care of her.  Traditionally the bride stands to the left of the groom. This is because way back in history brides were often kidnapped. This may have been a real or a symbolic kidnapping depending on the time and culture. The groom held the bride with his left arm, leaving his right arm, or sword arm, available to fight off any other suitors. During the kidnapping if the groom needed assistance he would ask for help from his best friend which led to the tradition of having a best man with the groom during the wedding.

Just about every bride to be hears the phrase, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Each part of this phrase actually has meaning.  Something old is about the bride bringing something from her old life into her new life representing continuity. Something new represents that the bride is accepting her new life with the groom. Something borrowed should be borrowed from someone the bride is close to who has a happy marriage (perhaps her mother) and represents both marital happiness and the idea that all of us are part of a larger family and/or community. Something blue represents love, fidelity, and purity. Superstition says that if the bride brings something blue on her honeymoon she will have good luck and if the bride gives her love a penny before the marriage ceremony they will always have money.

The custom of exchanging wedding rings is from ancient Egypt. The rings are circular and are meant to symbolize a love for eternity with no beginning or end. The fourth finger of the left hand was chosen for the wedding ring because Egyptians and Romans believed that a vein ran from the fourth finger on the left hand straight to the heart. It was also believed that the ring would prevent love from escaping from the heart.

You can read more about the above mentioned wedding practices and traditions in A World of Ways to Say “I Do” by Noah Benshea & Jordan Benshea.

A world of ways to say I do

People can be just as creative about their wedding vows. Many people write their own vows. Some people will use more traditional vows in their marriage ceremonies. There are also mix and match traditional/original vows. Whatever your preference the following books will help you and your beloved to create the perfect vows for your own wedding.

In A World of Ways to Say “I Do” by Noah Benshea & Jordan Benshea wedding customs from all over the world are explored as well as how to go about writing your own vows. Although the book is more in depth than I can be in one post it offers the readers simple steps and then talks them through each step to write their vows. The steps are as follows:

Step 1: Decide whether to Write Your Vows Together or Separately

Step 2: Create a List of Meaningful Words and Phrases

Step 3: Explore Traditional Wedding Vows

Step 4: Decide the Length of Your Vows

Step 5: Write Your Vows

Step 6: Share Time

The Final Step: Take your vows for a test drive

(pp. 3-11)

Many books that discuss different types of wedding vows also include marriage blessings that couples may want to include in their ceremony. Sometimes humor is inserted into either the vows and / or the blessings. Though I won’t be able to cover these types of books in depth, two of this type that I checked out were:

Wedding Vows Loving Vows

Weddings are often as much fun to recall as they are to plan. What made your wedding different from other weddings? Did you write (or do you want to write) your own wedding vows? Have you ever been at a wedding where special blessings were included?

 

 

 

 

 

Tattoos

Tattoos

Love them or hate them, tattoos are an incredible wearable art form around us everyday. Until I came to this section of books here at the Fulton County Public Library I really didn’t know much about tattoos. I had always heard if you get one, you will have it forever. That isn’t necessarily true. I have learned a lot about tattoos from Tattoo – Pedia: Choose from over 1,000 of the Hottest Tattoo Designs for your New Ink! from the editors of tattoofinder.com

Tattoo - Pedia

This is not necessarily a book one needs to read word for word. It is meant to be a type of reference book, although reading through it is quite interesting. In addition to very in depth information, this book is also a picture book of  many of the most popular tattoo designs. Just like you might show a hair dresser a picture of a hair style or cut you want, you could use this book to show your tattooist a picture of the tattoo you have in mind. Another thing I liked about this book is that it has checklists and things to think about often with page references to read about particular topics.  One of the most obvious questions if you are considering getting a tattoo is to ask what kinds of things you should think about first. There is a convenient list of 10 questions along those lines:

Checklist of Top Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting a Tattoo

  1. Are you okay with your tattoo becoming a permanent part of you?
  2. Are you confident that you want a tattoo for all the right reasons?
  3. Is getting a tattoo your idea, or is it someone else’s?
  4. Are you willing to do all the required research before meeting the needle?
  5. Are you okay with experiencing some level of pain?
  6. Do you understand that, even with the best conditions, there can be health risks involved?
  7. Are you ok with the idea of people not liking your tattoo – even openly criticizing you for it?
  8. Are you willing to take full responsibility for how your tattoo comes out?
  9. Do you understand that as your body changes over time, so likely will the appearance of the tattoo?
  10. Is there an alternative to gettting a tattoo that may be more in line with what you’re really after?

(p. 19)

I was particularly interested in the 9th question. I have heard in the past that tattoos can change with age, but I didn’t really know what could actually happen. Tattoos are put on the skin, the body’s largest organ. Skin can change in many ways. It can become damaged and reproduce itself (think of a sunburn healing). The skin can expand or retract as someone gains or loses weight. In aging bodies, wrinkles can appear in the skin due to sagging. All of these things can affect a tattoo. The body art will sag, stretch, retract, or peel somewhat with changes in the skin. One preventative measure is to be sure that you get a tattoo friendly design. This means that the tattooist is able to reproduce a design with the use of stencils. The stencils help ensure quality line work which will remain sharper over time than a design transferred from a drawing. Non-tattoo friendly designs may begin to blur and fade over time. Tattoo friendly art has been designed to accurately withstand the effects of time such as sun damage or stretched or pulled skin.

If you have done your research and decided that you do want to get a tattoo you will want to make sure that you are in good health. It isn’t recommended to get a tattoo if you are ill or have a cold. Likewise menstruating women should not get a tattoo during their period when their bodies may be more sensitive to pain. Pregnant women should not get a tattoo. Though minimal, there are some risks involved in the tattooing process.

The area to be tattooed needs to be in good shape free of any rashes, sunburn, or skin blemishes. Areas to be tattooed should not be shaved or have any type of cosmetics, lotions, or powders applied. The skin needs to be clean and as natural as possible. Any body piercings in the area to be tattooed should already be healed. Be sure you are as clean as possible since it’s not recommended that you swim or take a bath for two weeks after you get your tattoo. You will be able to shower but will need to be extremely mindful of the newly tattooed area.

When going to be tattooed, you will need to wear loose clothing which you aren’t afraid to get stained. The tattooing process can be messy since it involves using water, rubbing alcohol or other sanitizers, ink, ointments, and blood. Loose fitting clothing not likely to rub against the tattooed area is recommended. If your tattoos will be on your feet or ankles, you should wear the most comfortable shoes you have that allow access to those areas.

Despite the words to Jimmy Buffett’s song, Margaritaville

Don’t know the reason
Stayed here all season
Nothing to show but this brand new tattoo
But it’s a real beauty
A Mexican cutie
How it got here I haven’t a clue

it really is not a good idea to get a tattoo while intoxicated or even after a night of drinking. Aspirin should also be avoided before and during a tattoo session. Both alcohol and aspirin are blood thinners and could cause you to bleed more while being tattooed. More blood can make it difficult for the tattooist to see clearly and having to wipe up excessive blood can compromise stencils and irritate the area being worked on. Other drugs can also have an influence on the tattooing procedure. Before you get a tattoo talk to your doctor about the medications you take and what effect they might have during a tattoo session. Also, avoid all illegal drugs since some of their side effects are unknown.

Before you actually make it to your tattoo appointment, you should purchase everything you will need for afterwards to help your tattoo heal well. Your tattooist will be able to recommend the items you will need.  You may need bandages or particular types of ointments. If you are using ointments you should not share them with anyone because it is possible to transfer infections or disease by sharing them.

You should also be sure to eat well and be well hydrated (but not overly hydrated) before your tattoo appointment. Depending on the type of tattoo you have selected, you could be in the tattooist chair for hours. Tattoo artists charge by the hour and breaks for food or bathroom may be on the clock.

You should be well informed about the cost and any extra fees before your appointment for a tattoo and you should be prepared to pay as soon as your session is over. You may or may not be able to use a credit card for payment. Most places will take cash. If you decided to pay with plastic, bear in mind that it is customary to tip the tattoo artist in cash.

It is also a good idea to arrange for a patient friend to accompany you to your tattoo appointment. Your friend will be there for moral support but also to be extra eyes to watch what is happening with your tattoo application – especially if your tattoo will be in an area that you can’t see without a mirror. Some people get permission from the tattoo artist to have their friend take pictures or even videos of the experience. It is not recommended to have children accompany you since they may quickly become bored. Once you have been tattooed, follow the instructions of the tattooist  for after care. Extra precautions will be needed for at least two weeks.

What happens if you get a tattoo and decide that you no longer want it or like it? Seventeen percent of people with tattoos have considered having one removed. Five percent of tattooed people have tattoos covered with other designs. If you find you are no longer loving your body art, there are things that can be done (for a price).

If the problem you are having with your tattoo is that it just doesn’t look as good, you may want to have it rescued. A tattoo rescue is when the tattooist reworks and refreshes a tattoo instead of a complete cover up. There are tattooists who specialize in tattoo rescue. If you have been told by a tattooist that there is no hope for rescue and your only option is removal, get a second opinion before making your decision.

Another option for a tattoo you no longer love is to have it covered up with some other design. Cover ups should look like a brand new tattoo while obscuring the old tattoo. Covering over very dark tattoos or scarred areas prove more difficult to cover up. Sometimes the darker tattoos will “bleed through.” Scar tissue won’t be removed by a cover up. In these cases it’s best to work with a cover up specialist. Before engaging in a cover up, it’s a good idea to revisit the ten questions above for the beginning process of getting a tattoo. You will also need to understand that your design choices may be limited for cover ups. Bear in mind that just as a medical specialist costs more money than a general practitioner, so too tattoo specialists will cost more than the original tattooist – even if it’s the same person you used before. Both rescues and cover ups require very different skill sets and the process for both is longer. You will need to plan accordingly.

If you have decided you no longer want to have your tattoos, they can be removed although this will probably not be cheap. There also is no guarantee that the removal process will work for all people. Tattoos are designed to be permanent and they can be difficult to remove since they may permeate many layers of skin. In general older tattoos are easier to remove than newer ones. This is partly because some fading of tattoos is expected over time. The size of the tattoo to be removed may also play a role in how effective the removal process will be. Tattoo removal is not perfect or pain free.

The most common and effective tattoo removal methods are:

Laser Removal – This method is popular and thought to be the most effective removal process with around a 95% success rate. It is, however, very expensive. It may take 8 to 10 sessions at around $400  which can end up topping $3,000. Different lasers are used to remove specific colors. Some lasers may be able to remove more than one color. If you choose this method, you should confirm with your laser surgeon that he or she has all necessary lasers to remove the colors in your tattoo. To fully remove a tattoo using this method could take up to 6 months.

Dermabrasion and Excision – This method used to be the main tattoo removal strategy before laser removal. Dermabrasion is a sanding away of the image by using an abrasive tool. Excision literally cuts the tattoo out of the skin. The effectiveness of these methods is around 95 percent. They are no longer real popular since laser removal became available because they can be quite painful without numbing the area. Dermabrasion may leave ink behind. Excision will get rid of the tattoo totally, but may result in extreme scarring.

Cyrosurgery – This method is more common in the removal of warts, moles, skin tags, skin cancers, and other skin afflictions. Cyrosurgery basically freezes the area targeted with liquid nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon, or propane. When tattoos are targeted skin cells will freeze into ice crystals which will tear them apart and therefore break apart ink particles. This method is effective for many tattoos and is more affordable than laser removal, but laser removal has a higher success rate.

Variot Tattoo Removal – This method has a 90% success rate and has been around since the 1800’s. In the original method a topical numbing cream consisting of  tannic acid, glycerin, and distilled water was used. When the solution was placed under the skin it would produce a thick scab that fell off (taking all or most of the tattoo with it) when healed. Considerable scarring occurred with this method. Tannic acid is now a known carcinogen so this procedure was upgraded in 2004 by removing the tannic acid and creating a new machine. You will now hear this general process referred to as the “Chemical Extraction Technique” and sometimes “Variot.” (Variot is the name of the man who invented the original procedure. ) The new procedure is much safer, cheaper,  and generally more gentle to the skin than laser removal though it’s not all that popular.

Tattoo Removal Creams – There is no evidence to prove that these creams actually work. Some believe that they may actually do more harm than good. These creams tend to contain skin bleaching chemicals; notably hydroquinone which has been banned in several countries, but not the US as of 2006. The FDA has suggested banning this chemical in the US, but to my knowledge it was never actually banned. Hydroquinone has been linked to cancer and various skin conditions. If you try a cream removal method, be sure this ingredient is not included.

Other books I checked out but won’t have time to discuss are:

Tattoo Johny

Go Big or Go Home

Do you have any tattoos? Have you ever considered getting a tattoo? Did you know that tattoos can be removed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion Accessories

Handbags

So far I’ve been reading about fashionable clothing, but clothes often have friends called accessories. These can be all manner of handbags, hats, scarves, jewelry, and hosiery, ornamentation on clothing, and shoes. Accessories can make or break an outfit. This week I will be taking a closer look at some of these accessories starting with handbags.

Handbags are known by many names: handbag, bag, shoulder bag, clutch, pocket book and purse among many other names. The term “purse” was originally considered quite vulgar as it was used as a reference to female genitalia. It was considered quite an insult to call someone a purse. Likewise the term “bag” was also considered improper. The phrase “old bag” referred to a woman past her child bearing years. Both the terms purse and bag later were accepted as referring to women’s handbags and seem to have lost most of the negative connotations associated with those words. Regardless of what you call your bag, it is a vital accessory for most women.

Bags have been popular almost since the beginning of civilization. They became a necessary accompaniment as people began to trade things. Bags were used to carry items for trade and items acquired through trading. Bags also carried coins used to trade. In the beginning of the history of bags, it was men who carried the bags (and the money). This is also reflected in the art world where men and male creatures are shown to be holding what looks like bags.

Men with Bags

(Image credit: Ancient Code)

Men with Bags 2

(Image credit: Knitting It Together)

Early bags were made of animal hides that usually had some sort of drawstring attached. Eventually these bags could be attached to men’s waists by being hung on girdles and later belts. At this time in history a woman was expected to remain at home and take care of her household which was often referred to as her castle. So you see the phrase “A man’s home is his castle” would actually be more accurate if it said “A woman’s home is her castle.” Women  caring for their castles began wearing chatelaines. And later the lady of the home was herself called a Chatelaine.

Chatelaine

(Image Credit: Unknown)

The chatelaines were attached around a woman’s waist and held small useful objects such as keys, scissors, nail files, and other routinely used household objects.

Around the sixteenth century, men’s clothing began to sport pockets in which they could carry things and not necessarily need to carry a bag. Women’s clothing, however did not include pockets. Not wanting to be left out, women sewed their own “pockets” and attached them with ribbons to their clothing. Women’s pockets were detachable, thus the nursery rhyme:

Lucy Locket lost her pocket,
Kitty Fisher found it;
Not a penny was there in it,
Only ribbon round it.

Pockets now allowed both men and women the luxury of storing items in their clothes. Later women abandoned their voluminous long skirts in favor of long slender skirts. Women no longer wanted to carry around the big bulky pockets that worked so well with the larger skirts. At this point (c. 18th century) women abandoned their pockets and began to carry bags. The first women’s bags were called “reticules.” They were often made of velvet and silk and embellished with ribbons, tassels, beads, chains, and other objects. The velvet and silk reticules were often associated with elite women and became quite the status symbols. Other reticules were crocheted or made from cloth and embellished to look expensive (possibly the first handbag knock offs).

Reticules

(Image Credit: Unknown)

In Britain, these bags became known as “indispensables” while in France they were called “ridicules” in their early days. The word “ridicules” evolved from the Latin  root “ridere” from which we get our English word “ridiculous.” Thus the bags were the subject of some good humored joking in France – and probably the source of men’s ribbing of women’s handbags ever since. The word “ridicule” evolved into “reticules.” The word “reticules” was used in English and French until 1912.

Reticules, which were small and dainty bags, presented women with the opportunity to highlight their mastery of textile arts. Through the 1800’s women embellished their reticules by knitting, netting, crocheting, , and embroidering. Items embroidered on the reticules where often highly symbolic and extremely varied. They could range from a coat of arms to nature scenes. Often fancy reticules were given as betrothal gifts and became precious family heirlooms.

Embroidered Reticules Flowers

(Image Credit: PicClick)

Reticules 2

(Image Credit: Etsy)

With the Industrial Revolution came changes for women’s bags. At this time in history many women entered the workforce for the first time. Many worked in offices and factories. Women also began traveling more and had the need for larger bags to accommodate what would be needed for long trips. Larger leather bags with handles were designed and carried in the hand, rather than draped from the shoulder like the reticules. As more and more women entered the workforce their handbags changed rapidly and no one thought of them as ridiculous anymore.

Women’s handbags continue to reflect social situations, culture, and fashion. They also have an air of intrigue and secrecy. Most men have been taught NEVER to go into a woman’s handbag uninvited. To a woman this is akin to an assault on her person. Most women have some things in common in that they carry similar items in their bags. Most women will carry money, keys, a phone, and grooming items which could include but are not limited to cosmetics, perfumes, lotions, and hair styling items. All women carry other things as well. These things could range from something to read to specific items needed for a given day. There are “secret” things in a woman’s purse known only to her. Perhaps she is hiding a gift for someone in her bag or maybe she is carrying around important pieces of mail that she will need to deal with. The possibilities of what a woman’s purse contains are limitless.

Ever since pockets and reticules, women have been in love with the idea of having a way to carry necessities. In 2018 8.5 billion dollars was spent on handbags in the US alone. Handbag sales are sometimes eclipsed by the sale of jewelry although they are fairly competitive. There are all sorts of women’s handbags. Some are serious and business like,

Serious Purse

(Image Credit: Ebay)

some are casual,

Casual Bag

(Image Credit: Rosegal)

some are dressy and fancy,

Dressy Fancy Purse

(Image Credit: Dillard’s)

and others are whimsical and novel.

Novelty Bag

(Image Credit: PurseBlog)

Though I’ve given a brief overview of the history of handbags, there are still so many interesting things I’m not able to include in this blog post.  I encourage anyone interested to check out these books:

Handbags the ultimate accessory

 Handbags a peek inside

The next accessory book that I picked up was about hats. Hats have been a near constant accessory to clothes in almost all cultures and countries. Hats accessorize both men and women’s clothing.

Hats

In his book Hats: Status, Style and Glamour Colin McDowell explores hats through the ages dating as far back as ancient Egypt. This book is loaded with historical facts which, unfortunately, I won’t have to time to get into in this post, but if you are interested in hats at all, this is the book for you!

McDowell covers hats of all imaginable descriptions beginning with kings and their crowns. Other types of hats (and/or headgear) discussed include hats in church, religious hats, political hats, military hats, hoods, berets, sugar-loaf hats, and turbins. In addition to the various types of hats and histories, McDowell covers hat related topics such as hat humor, hats and hatmakers, specialty hats for stage and screen, sports and magicians, and chapeaugraphy  just to name a few of the great topics.  I found the sections on hat etiquette and status quite interesting and how hats were (and are) used to convey social status.

Another interesting read is Buttons: The Collector’s Guide to Selecting, Restoring, and Enjoying New and Vintage Buttons by Nancy Fink and Maryalice Ditzler.

Buttons

Buttons can be unique fashion accessories as well as highly sought after collectibles. This book explores the history of buttons and their classifications. Button classification generally falls into groups depicting materials used to make them: Fabric and Cloth, Metal, Glass, Ceramic, Enamel, Natural Materials, and Plastic.   Buttons are even an art form so buttons can be considered wearable art. Like hats, buttons are associated with artistry, sociology, politics, and history.

Do you have a favorite type of accessory? Do you collect buttons? Were you aware there was so much history associated with handbags?

 

 

 

 

What to Wear

Male and Female Body type

(Image: Bodybuilding.com)

If you are a human being you have likely had to think about clothing. Certain environmental conditions influence our clothing choices. For instance you would not want to be in Antarctica in a bikini or exploring rain forests along the equator in a parka. Social situations may also influence our choice of clothing. You probably wouldn’t wear Daisy Duke shorts to Sunday morning worship or mud covered overalls to a wedding. Beyond these types of situations, though, another major factor in how human beings choose to clothe themselves is body type. Human beings come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Certain clothing styles look better matched to certain body types.

In What You Wear Can Change Your Life by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine women’s body types are discussed as well as what women should and shouldn’t wear to either accentuate or camouflage certain areas of their bodies.

What You Wear Can Change Your Life

This is an adult picture book that shows women what looks best on certain body types and what doesn’t. Though the clothing is a bit dated in this book, the concepts are still very applicable. In addition to discussing exactly what garments flatter body types, the authors also discuss how color should be used with skin tones, how make up should be applied according to age range, and how accessories and shoes can be used to flatter body types.

A similar book is Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That’s Right for Your Body by Clinton Kelly and Stacy London.

Dress Your Best

This book is for both men and women. Again, the clothing styles are a bit dated in this book, but the tips and techniques are still very applicable. Male body shapes are included in this book and ideas about accentuating or disguising various areas of men’s bodies.

The next book Men’s Fashion: The Complete Sourcebook by John Peacock follows men’s fashion from the late 1700’s through the 1990’s. Though this book doesn’t comment on male body types, it is a delightful adult picture book which traces only men’s fashion. There are not too many fashion books (that I’m aware of) devoted just to men. I had a great time looking through this book and remembering styles men wore especially from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.

Men's Fashion

This book follows trends featuring underwear, shirts, pants, outerwear, shoes, hats, ties, and various other accessories. I got quite a laugh looking at some of the platform shoes that were so popular in the 70’s.

Have you ever thought about your body type in relation to what you do or don’t wear? Did you know that accessories are also recommended depending on your body type?

 

Characters and Costumes

Wild West Movie Costumes

(Image Credit: Frontier Legends Entertainment)

When a movie, TV show, opera, or stage play goes into production the characters’ costumes must be researched to accurately depict the time frame being portrayed. To do this sort of research the costume designers turn to the world of fashion for inspiration and historical accuracy. The accuracy of various costumes will depend on the type of production it is. For instance tiny buttons and various tucks are difficult to see on stage although attention to small details similar to these might have big benefits in a TV or movie production.

sewing form

(Image credit: Mannequin Mode )

From their research, costume designers must then actually create the costumes to be worn for the current project. There are two ways in which they go about making a pattern for their creations. One is to use a modern pattern and adapt it to reflect their own design, and the other is to create a pattern by draping a toile over a sewing form on a stand and then proceeding to create the design by making various changes to the toile.

The books Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1500-1800 by Jean Hunnisett and Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909 also by Jean Hunnisett  describe the process of actually creating period costumes is in great detail.

Period Costume for Stage & Screen 1500-1800 Period Costume for Stage & Screen 1800-1909

Some productions require very specific and historical costuming such as in Authentic Costumes & Characters of the Wild West by E. Lisle Reedstrom.

Authentic Costumes & Characters of the Wild West

While the costuming is fascinating, I was impressed by the amount of historical research in this book. Even if you aren’t a fan of fashion trends, if you are interested at all in the wild west this book would be worth checking out for you. It covers some very interesting, colorful, and sometimes shady real life people complete with photographs, , sketches, and both black &white and color illustrations.

Trigger and roy Rogers

(Image credit: Mehgan Raley)

Up until now, all of the fashion trends I’ve been reading about have been about human beings.  Sometimes animals need to be outfitted as well. In the case of westerns, for example, horses will most likely be used. A horse ridden by a cowboy and a horse ridden by an Indian will be dressed quite differently. This applies to other situations as well such as a horse ridden by a soldier and a horse ridden by a pioneer would have different dress. These types of differences are shown and discussed in Authentic Costumes & Characters of the Wild West. Though this book is about westerns, one could easily carry this concept to other animals used in other types of  productions.

I was also greatly impressed with the historical documentation of native dress in Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume  by Josephine Paterek.  Not only is the native costuming shown in photographs, works of art, and sketches but there are detailed descriptions of culture, costume, hair style, use of make up and accessories of the North American Indian tribes. If you are interested in native cultures at all, this book will not disappoint you.

Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume

Have you ever thought about the great detail that goes into costume design for both animals and people? Do you think you would enjoy being a costume designer?

 

 

 

 

Fashion: Costume & Personal Appearance

Detailed Costume

(Image Credit: Animebooks.com)

Reading along I have made it to the 390’s,  Customs, etiquette, folklore. Specifically I have been reading books in the 391 category which is categorized as Costume & personal appearance.  The books I’ve encountered thus far are a combination of sketches, written explanations, art, and history. I’ve had a lot of fun examining the sketches, very similar to the sketch above.

Though I can sew, I would never claim to be an expert seamstress. Yet while examining the sketches in the books, I found myself thinking that it wouldn’t be that difficult to make some of these clothes, or costumes. One could almost recreate the design just by following the detailed sketches without a pattern.

In the United States, we tend to describe our clothing with words like “outfits” or possibly “wardrobe.” Many parts of the world use the word “costume” even to describe everyday outfits. For purposes of this particular post, “costume” will refer to every day style of dress as well as fancy dress up clothing.

20,000 Years of Fashion

20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment by Francois Boucher is a very interesting and detailed explanation of the changes in fashion over the years. The author explores fashion through many mediums such as sculpture, pottery, hieroglyphics, paintings, and photography. He also distinguishes his use of the words “clothing” and “costume” as follows:

If one admits that clothing has to do with covering one’s body, and costume with the choice of a particular form of garment for a particular use, is it then permissible to deduce that clothing depends primarily on such physical conditions as climate and health, and on textile manufacture , whereas costume reflects social factors such as religious belief, magic, aesthetics, personal status, the wish to be distinguished from or to emulate one’s fellows, and so on? Must we also envisage a process of emergence, which might place clothing before costume or costume before clothing? (sic) p.9

In addition to the male and female clothing depicted in these types of books, they are full of fascinating details of customs and folklore.

Costume In Detail

For instance, in the introduction of Costume In Detail 1730 1930 by Nancy Bradfield,  there is a fascinating account of a former custom in England:

Some of the most fascinating garments which have survived in England are those on the wax effigies preserved in the Undercroft of Westminster Abbey.

For hundreds of years it was customary for these life-sized, fully robed figures of wood or wax to be borne through the streets, on the coffin, at the funeral of kings of queens or other great persons. The faces were either a carefully modelled likeness or a death-mask, and they were dressed, in most cases, entirely in the robes and underwear of the person they represented. (p. v)

Though the example I chose to use was actually in the introduction, there are many of these historical facts sprinkled throughout these types of books.

Victorian Cyclist

(Image thevictorianyclist.wordpress.com)

Costume in Detail 1730 1930 also follows changing fashion trends and in the back of this book, it actually follows the social history of both women cyclists and changing cycling apparel in the 1890’s. When women first began to ride bicycles, their long skirts would get caught in the chains, often ruining their clothing and sometimes causing wrecks with injuries. It seems that there was quite a debate about what women should wear at this time in history. Women were campaigning to wear more pant like apparel while cycling. The press began to refer to this as “Bloomerism.” Due to very negative press and wide spread opposition the idea of wearing bloomers was basically abandoned until around 1851. By 1895, fashion had evolved somewhat and female cyclists in America, France, and Germany began to wear tailored costumes of jackets and knickerbockers. This style of dress was referred to as “Rational Dress.”  The Italians weighed in with their disapproval by banning Rational Dress on buses and posted signs basically indicating that women in Rational Dress were considered indecently dressed. Women fought for their right to dress comfortably while cycling. Avid women cyclists continued to wear Rational Dress though they were discriminated against, refused services in restaurants, and generally were on the receiving end of very rude behavior. Some women attempted to compromise by wearing a skirt over their knickerbockers. Little progress was made towards public acceptance however until nearly 1964 when women began to wear the new “trouser suits” with acceptance. Women who wear pants today owe a debt of gratitude to women cyclists.

I also enjoyed Costumes and Styles: The Evolution of Fashion from Early Egypt to the Present with 700 Individual figures in Full Colour by Henry Harald Hansen.

Costumes and Styles

This book is primarily a pictorial time line which traces fashion evolution from early Egypt to the late 1960’s. The book uses full color drawings on the time line which I found delightful. It’s interesting to see how a tweak here and there to costume has evolved into our more modern clothing styles.

Other books I checked out were:

Handbook of English Costume in the 19th Century

Costumes of Everyday Life

Have you ever considered how clothing has changed throughout history? Have you ever dressed up in period clothing perhaps for a play or reenactment? Have you ever had to create a costume of any type?

 

 

 

 

 

Americana

Americana

Americana is a somewhat generic term used to describe all things uniquely associated with the United States. It includes culture, the arts, and history.

On my read through in the 380’s I encountered these two books:

Route 66  Americana

Both of these books are very enjoyable adult picture books. They document the history, culture, and arts of a bygone era along Route 66. Some of the route has been replaced by modern interstates, but much of the road still exists. There are still all sorts of trips that can be booked along this route if you prefer guided tours. Since Fulton County Public Library is located in Indiana, the starting point for our patrons would be Chicago, Illinois. This is the traditional starting point to begin begin the Route 66 journey. Following the route will take you through 8 different states ending at Santa Monica, California.  These books document various attractions along the way. The trip is meant to be a driving adventure and a throw back to days when baby boomers were still kids.

Route 66 was once a major road and is considered to be the most famous route / road not only in the United States but also in the world. Europeans and people from the far east often come to the United States on vacation to experience Route 66. Many people tired of the boringness of interstate travel have begun to reinvestigate Route 66 and have discovered a whole new meaning to the word Americana. The books above (as well as many others) document parts of the road in pictures and descriptions. The books feature restaurants, popular destinations, famous (and not so famous) kitsch, and old gas stations turned museums.

If you are not one to take to driving the open road, but still have an interest in Route 66 there are escorted trips and tours available beginning in California or Illinois. From just a brief perusal of the trips I googled, it appeared to me that the trips are on average about 16 days and range around $3,000.

Also available at  Fulton County Public Library is a DVD called “Route 66: the Ultimate Road Trip. Follow this link to discover content available on this DVD.

Route 66 Ultimate Road Trip

Have you ever traveled Route 66? Do you have memories along this famous highway you would like to share? Is this a road trip that you would like to take someday?