Friday, January 27, 2012

Charley to Marlene: China

Hong Kong, July 1864
Mrs. Edwards, I have just arrived in China to secure silks for my work in Spain.  I may be here for some time as the civil war continues and my lack of fluency in the language hampers negotiations.  Msr. B may well be on his way to becoming the father of “Fashion Moderne”, but I tell you this not lightly – he has done it on the backs and talents of women with far more integrity than he possesses.  Msr. B is a cad with an appetite for the attractions of those above his station.  But I can confess to you that he is a fraud and a charlatan who has bought those attentions through means most nefarious!  Although I am but little known to you, I sense a kinship in you, and because of this I pray and urge you not to mention our acquaintance or the key to Msr. B.  Secure it safely, not on your person, but perhaps with your husband or a trusted friend.  Mrs. Edwards, you appear to be a woman of some talent and grace.  Do not be seduced by Msr. B’s promises for they will bear little fruit.  If you have any designs for fashion I urge you to spare your heart a great disappointment and secure any drawings or notes in a place of only your knowing.  Please for my own sake, place the key with them.  You should precede post haste!


Marlene to Charley: Brazil

Rio de Janeiro 1864

M. C. Spiers
I am sorry it has taken so long to reply to you. After Austria we were summoned to Brazil to the Empress Teresa Cristina. You may wonder how Msr. Beauchamp could be known so far away as Brazil-the Empress is originally from Italy. (She is quiet plain-I am not sure why our services were requested). The voyage by ship to Brazil took many months and when we arrived we found ourselves in the middle of a war between Brazil and Paraguay. We have been here almost 6 months and are only now able to secure passage home. I hope to hear more about your employ with Msr Beauchamp. He is indeed a stern taskmaster.
Marlene Rose Edwards
p.s. I examined the key more closely and found the initials L.A.M. scratched into it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Charley to Marlene: Spain

Barcelona, April 1863

Dear Madame Edwards,

I must say it was a shock to see the name of Monsieur Beauchamp again.  If you are apprentice to him I send you my most sincere sympathies.  You must be quiet an accomplished seamstress for him to keep you so close.  With regards to the key, I fear you have me at a disadvantage.  You say you found it in a sewing basket with name and address attached?  I know of no such key, but I have been out of M. Beauchamps' employ for quite some time now.  If you have further information regarding it, I would be most eager to hear of it.

C. Spiers

P.S.  I am currently in Spain working on a new project.  The bullfights are most thrilling and their costumes even more so.  I will return to Scotland late next month if you have further news.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Marlene to Charley: Austria

Vienna, 1863
I hope you will not find it odd to get a message from a stranger. I am a seamstress apprenticed to the famous dressmaker, Monsieur Beauchamp. We travel the world making beautiful clothing. As you can see the Empress Elizabeth of Austria commissioned him to make this dress. I do think that flowers worn in the hair will become a new sensation. When I accepted the position with Msr. Beauchamp, I was given a lovely sewing basket and inside I found a key with your name and address attached. Oh dear, running out of room.
Yours, Marlene Rose Edwards

(Author's note:  Empress Elizabeth of Austria was one of the first women of her time to wear flowers in her hair in this style. Soon, women all over Europe were wearing flowers in their hair.)