All The Pretty Things Part II

Ugh, I’m injured! Nothing catastrophic, just a mean pulled muscle in my neck. Sleeping wrong? Lack of stretching before I exercised? Stretching my neck to look at the pastries in the bakery window? Who knows. And there’s a second injury…my foot slipped and I kicked the leg of the dining room table yesterday. One of those bizarre little accidents that don’t look too bad, until you start to feel some sort of painful internal swelling. So now I can’t turn my head without wincing and I’m limping. It’s my pretty look.

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Before bed last night, I had a heat pack on my neck and an icepack on my foot. But thanks to the very friend who I wrote about in my post All The Pretty Things, I heated up that pulled muscle in style!

This is her creation! Using fabric scraps, she sews a pouch and fills them with cherry pits! I’d never heard of this before until I saw one that she’d made. She said she’d been using them for years and they’ve been a comfort to her family. You place it in the microwave and heat it for a short time and all of the cherry pits soak in the heat and keep the pouch warm. When the heat runs out, you simply reheat. You can reuse the same pouch for years.

Last night, I was so thankful that she’d gifted me with one. It eased my neck pain before bed and I was able to fall asleep. For all those crafty folks out there, this would be an excellent holiday present! It’s a truly useful gift that keeps on giving! And it’s pretty too!

Forbidden Fashions by Isabella Campagnol

A woman’s clothing, how she adorns herself, the makeup she wears, and her hairstyle…these things eternally hold very deep symbolism all the world over. It is often something that is controlled for the sake of modesty, honor and religious piety. What women wear, how they look, is the world’s obsession. It communicates whether she is of means or no, what she thinks about herself, what she wants others to think about her. It speaks of her personality and her beliefs. It speaks of a great many things.

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Isabella Campagnol offers us an incredible front row seat into what clothing and adornments meant for women in Venetian nunneries in her invaluable scholarly work: Forbidden Fashions: Invisible Luxuries in Early Venetian Convents.

Venice (as with all of Europe) placed ladies into nunneries for centuries. You can read about it in my book Venice, as well as my other posts (Virgins in Venice by Mary Laven and Naughty Nunnery Parlors). Noble parents might have birthed 7 noble daughters, but inflated dowries meant only one, perhaps two of them could make an excellent match. The rest went into enclosure…forced, beaten, tricked, guilted into going. Yes, of course some went willingly and wanted this pious life. But most didn’t. Being a very young woman sent into a nunnery, to spend the rest of your life there completely closed off from the world, was a horrifying fate for many. And nothing could stop them from having worldly desires.

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As we see in Campagnol’s book, just because you’ve lost your worldly freedom doesn’t mean you’re going to follow the rules; Venice’s noblewomen broke them, again and again and again. From curling and showing ones tresses when they were to keep their hair completely covered, to transparent fabrics where solid ones should be, to hiding, coveting and wearing gems and adornments when these items were forbidden, to smuggling in or making and wearing every sort of item out of luxurious fabrics that were not allowed. Noble nuns even found ways to dye their hair in secret, wore makeup and furs. They wanted beauty, individuality, status, comforts, and freedom. Despite confiscations, punishments and shunning, the enclosed women pushed back.

Campagnol also shows us another side to the equation…a great many women who being disposed of, were left destitute of their basic clothing and linen needs. Once having lived in a comfortable world, they were now forgotten and left to suffer without a great many items, their urgent letters and requests falling on deaf family ears.

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Campagnol’s book is an eye-opening treasure. Undressing countless archives for the fashion facts, she gives us a glimpse into the sometimes dazzling yet often cruel world that many women experienced behind the veil.

All The Pretty Things

For some time, I had this blouse that was ill fitting. If I were honest, I don’t even think it fit properly the day I purchased it, but I loved the colors and the fabric so much that I bought it anyway. And every time I wore it, it just didn’t feel right. After many wears, I simply gave up.

For those who know me, I’m neither a shopper nor a keeper. I don’t like shopping for clothes at all, and when I’m through with a garment, I have no trouble throwing it away if it is ruined or giving it to charity if it isn’t. Only, I couldn’t part with this blouse! I’d look at it in the closet all of the time and knew that if I wore it, I’d just feel uncomfortable all day. But what to do with it?

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I have a lovely friend and mentor who is fabulous with a sewing machine. One day, she told me that together with her young daughter, they’d made little bags to give away as party favors for a birthday party, using fabric scraps. When I saw photos, I felt the outcome was exceptional…the kiddos at that birthday party went away with a very special gift to remember the event! And then, I thought of my blouse.

This photo is the result. This mother-daughter team repurposed my beloved blouse so exceptionally that I felt the quality was better than what I’d find in a shop. With what they were able to render from my top, there were three bags of different sizes made. I love them. I use them all of the time.

However, these are more than pretty bags. They embody re-use, and happily with an item I couldn’t part with. But also, they are caring craftsmanship by two ladies who were proud of the work of their hands, thus making something beautiful and useful. Rather than just another thing I own, they make me smile when I use them because they are special. They remind me of how lucky I am for the friendships in my life. And they remind me of what it means to not just gobble up yet another thing at the big chain store, but to value the good things in my life.