Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The School Days of Scarlett O'Hara

"Stuart and Brent considered their latest expulsion a fine joke, and Scarlett, who had not willingly opened a book since leaving the Fayetteville Female Academy the year before, thought it just as amusing as they did."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter I

"Despite a succession of governesses and two years at the near-by Fayetteville Female Academy, her education was sketchy, but no girl in the County danced more gracefully than she..."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter III

Quite a while ago now, we explored the education of Ellen Robillard--and now at long last we're pleased to bring you a look at the education of Ellen's own daughter, our heroine Scarlett O'Hara. Like Ellen before her, we know that Scarlett's education culminates at 15, with her graduation from Fayetteville Female Academy. (Fifteen was the typical age that women finished secondary education in the antebellum South.) And Scarlett's education at Fayetteville Female Academy would likely have been very similar to Ellen's own in terms subject matter--reading, writing, mathematics, French, music, dancing and deportment, needlework, etc. 

So knowing this all up front, what is there new to explore here? Well, plenty. You see, we're able to glean a great deal of information about Scarlett's schooling simply from Margaret Mitchell's indication that she attended a female academy, in this case the fictitious Fayetteville Female Academy. So today we're taking an in-depth look at what life would have been like at girls' academies similar to Scarlett's own alma mater, from the dress code t0 the day-to-day schedule to the social outings. 

Like the last post on Ellen's education, my research for this post comes from an amazing book called The Education of the Southern Belle: Higher Education and Student Socialization in the Antebellum South by Christine Anne Farnham. I highly recommend it to anyone who has any interest about women's education or life in general during the antebellum South. It's a fascinating read. Alright, now it's time to get started!

The Basics

The School Year Schedule - Although there was broad variety in school schedules across the South, the school year was normally divided into two terms. Most schools held class from February to mid-July and again from late August through mid-January.  

The Dress Code - Unfortunately for Scarlett and her fellow antebellum fashionistas, most schools enforced strict dress codes. Uniforms were chosen for their simplicity. If the Fayetteville Female Academy's dress code was similar to that of St. Mary's School in Raleigh, North Carolina, for instance, Scarlett would have been expected to don "dark blue for winter and pale blue or white with blue ribbons for summer, worn with a Quaker bonnet of brown straw linked with silk and a banded with a broad blue ribbon that tied under the chin." On the forbidden list? Jewelry, silk fabric, and expensive embroidery or lace. So what would the school day have been like for Scarlett, all dressed up in her plain uniform? Let's find out...

The Daily Schedule

Morning Chapel Services - For most students, male and female, the school day started at sunrise. Religious education was considered of supreme importance, especially in the evangelical South. So it's no surprise that each weekday began with chapel services.  

Breakfast-  Following chapel, breakfast was served. Unfortunately for Scarlett O'Hara and her ravenous appetite, breakfast was often a modest meal, consisting of such fare as coffee and rolls or milk and bread and butter. 

Morning and Early Afternoon Classes - Mornings and early afternoons were reserved for classes, which normally ran 45 minute intervals each. Students rotated serving as "monitresses" who rang bells to signal the start and end of classes. 

Afternoon Walk - Believe it or not, walking excursions were a key component of a young belle's school day. Walks frequently lasted up to two hours of the day and took place either after breakfast or in the late afternoon. So what was the fascination with walking? Walks served several important functions. First, they were one of the very few forms of physical exercise deemed appropriately ladylike for young girls. Secondly, walks were seen as a way to reinforce a feminine appreciation for nature and the study of botany (this was the heyday of the language of flowers and picking bouquets was an encouraged pastime). Moreover, walks served as opportunities for socialization. 

Some schools allowed girls to partner off with friends on walks. But the majority made students parade into town in rows of two, which had the benefit of  attracting the attention of local young men (and potential suitors). So if the Fayetteville Female Academy's walking schedule consisted of the latter variety, Scarlett may have enjoyed it. Otherwise, probably not so much, given that girl bonding was not one of Miss O'Hara's preferred activities.

Dinner - So after all that walking and flower picking, not to mention classwork, Scarlett and her schoolmates would likely be in need of a break. Fortunately, the main meal of the day, dinner, was served in the afternoon (often around 3pm). A common menu would include meat, vegetables, and cornbread, with water to drink, followed by dessert of fresh fruit or pie.  

Free Time, Late Afternoon - When classes weren't in session and there wasn't any walking to be done, students were allotted free time, which was normally spent studying, sewing, visiting friends, writing letters, or practicing musical instruments. (Extra credit to those students who properly guess which activity did not occupy Scarlett's free time!)

Supper - With the day winding down, it was then time for a light supper, which normally consisted of dinner leftovers, along with milk, pie, pancakes, cornmeal mush, and chocolate.

Evening Chapel Services - The school day ended as it began--with chapel services. That just leaves our belles to retire for the evening and start all over again the next day. But, fear not, school wasn't all work and no play for Scarlett and company, as we'll explore in our final section.

Social Events and Other Excursions

Friday Evening Receptions - The main purpose of a young lady's education was, of course, to provide her with the tools needed to fulfill her true calling--marriage. With this in mind, some schools made sure to leave nothing to chance when honing their pupils' all-too-crucial social skills. They held Friday night receptions where students were required to receive guests (often local townsfolk) in the school parlor. During these receptions, young ladies were expected to demonstrate impeccable manners and lead conversations with strangers. 

It was thought that such occasions would allow young ladies to display their much-prized modesty and simplicity, the culminating traits of Southern ladyhood. Yet, regrettably for teachers, many students opted to use these opportunities to further advance their education as belles, employing a more vivacious candor that could be later refined and put to use in attracting beaux. Clearly, we know how Scarlett would have acted in this scenario.

Social Outings Galore - Last but most certainly not least, we come to social outings! For although the schoolday routine was rather regimented, there were still plenty of opportunities for fun at girls' academies. With the Southern zeal for entertaining and camaraderie, most schools offered a wide variety of social events to keep students happily occupied. Here's just a small rundown of some of the outings offered at various girls' academies: dinner parties followed by dancing, lantern slide shows, Fourth of July picnics, fancy dress balls, strawberry parties, day trips, and sleigh rides (if it snowed, of course). Margaret Mitchell says that "scarcely a week went by without its barbecue or ball" in the County, so Fayetteville Female Academy likely joined in the revelry and boasted a full social calendar too. One unfortunate downside? Most school functions were strictly off limits to the opposite sex. Poor Scarlett!

So that ends our look at the world of girls' academies in the antebellum South. But be sure to stay tuned for next week, when we'll take a look at the real-life inspiration for Fayetteville Female Academy: Fayetteville Academy. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Poster of the Week

This week's poster features a different take on the iconic bonnet scene. All we can say is that we are happy they went for the other bonnet...

Image from moviegoods.com

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gone with the Wind: First Lady Approved

So here's a tidbit my co-blogger iso, great admirer of well-dressed women of all times, dug out and that we thought you might enjoy. Windies, you're in classy company! It turns out Jackie Kennedy Onassis was a Gone with the Wind fan too. Here's the excerpt from her biography:
"Thayer's biography tells of the books Jackie read when she was young. She read Gone with the Wind three times. There were ways in which some of the operatic characters from the book resembled people in Jackie's own family. Jackie's mother, Janet, divorced Jackie's father, Jack Bouvier, in 1940, when Jackie was eleven years old. The man who got his nickname, 'Black Jack,' from his permanent suntan spent the rest of his life in a succession of New York apartments, sometimes looked after by girlfriends, sometimes not, spending beyond his means and trading on the stock exchange. Janet remarried in 1942. Her new husband, Hugh Auchincloss, was a rich man, the heir to Standard Oil money, which he used to found a stock brokerage in Washington, D.C. He maintained a big house called Merrywood in Virginia and another, Hammersmith Farm, in Newport for the summer. He had a son from a previous marriage, just two years older than Jackie, who was known in the family as Yusha.

"Yusha Auchincloss remembered that Jackie also loved the movies, and Gone with the Wind was one of her favorites. 'Rhett Butler reminded her of her father, Scarlett O'Hara of her mother,' he said. The grand southern house of the movie, Tara, reminded her of Merrywood and Hammersmith rolled together. Jackie's stepbrother also though that Jackie 'had a lot of Scarlett's qualities, the same ones her mother had, good and not so good.' Jackie grew up patterning herself on one of the most famous temperamental divas of the 1930s and '40s, both the character in the book and Vivien's depiction of her on the screen. Scarlett O'Hara could be shrewd and selfish as well as self-sacrificing, and it's difficult to tell which of those features drew Jackie to read about her again and again. Jackie might also have seen that her own family dramas sometimes paled before the melodrama on the page, and in that sense the saga of Scarlett and Rhett was a comfort" 
-- from Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books by William Kuhn

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rue de la Paix

We've got a simple but stunning collage this week. I love the old-school font for Gone with the Wind; it somehow reminds me of MM busily working away on her typewriter...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Poster of the Week

Following in its tradition of producing vibrant GWTW posters, Italy brings us another fiery rendition of Rhett and Scarlett, this time fleeing Atlanta.

Image from moviegoods.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ballgowns Circa 1867-68, or What to Wear to Make Your Enemies Jealous

"Hoops were out now, and the new styles were charming with the skirts pulled back from the front and draped over bustles, and on the bustles were wreaths of flowers and bows and cascades of lace.  She thought of the modest hoops of the war years and she felt a little embarrassed at these new skirts which undeniably outlined her abdomen."
--Gone with the Wind, Chapter XLVIII

You've just secured a fabulously stylish new wardrobe. What to do next? Why, throw an elaborate party and show off celebrate, of course! At least that's the course of action Scarlett O'Hara Butler decided to take as a newlywed. As we know, one of her very first initiatives as the freshly minted Mrs. Rhett Butler was to throw a lavish, if regrettably ill-attended, "crush" in her huge new mansion. Given that Scarlett expected her crush to be the social event of the season, we can surely guess that she put tremendous care into dressing for the occasion. So what exactly would she have worn?

As per her usual attention to detail and historical acccuracy, MM does a wonderful job of describing the fashions that comprised Scarlett's new wardrobe after her marriage to Rhett. But we thought we'd take her description one step further and bring you a slideshow of the fabulous, frilly ballgowns of the time. Below you'll find 21 fashion plates from Le Monde Elegant all circa 1867-68. Check them out and let us know what you think. Do you have any favorites? Which one(s) can you see Scarlett wearing? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ladies at Home: A Peek at Victorian Wrappers

For those of you reading/receiving this post for a second time, we're sorry. Blame our Google overlords for screwing up and deleting the initial post.

A long, long time ago our friend MM (now going by the name of MCM84) had a question. A very specific question. He was interested in Scarlett's wrappers. The movie features a variety of wrappers, the book mentions them on more than a few occasions, without offering further details about their style and color, so why not write a post about Scarlett's homewear? Easier said than done. Since clothes you wear at home have never been the most glamorous of items, fashion magazines of the time tended to bypass them in favor of the more elegant street dresses. We did our best to dig out stuff, however, and this is what we came up with.

The key to understanding Victorian wrappers is understanding their function. When were they supposed to be worn and who was supposed to see them? We get our answer from Florence Hartley's Ladies' Book of Etiquette, Fashion and Manual of Politeness, a book that first appeared in 1860, but was revised and republished over the years; our edition is the 1872 one.  Wrappers were supposed to be worn in the morning, before morning calls, when ladies were attending to their household duties. This explains the need for durable fabrics, that could be washed frequently, as Hartley explains at length:
"MORNING DRESS The most suitable dress for breakfast, is a wrapper made to fit the figure loosely, and the material, excepting when the winter weather requires woolen goods, should be of chintz, gingham, brilliante, or muslin. A lady who has children, or one accustomed to perform for herself light household duties, will soon find the advantage of wearing materials that will wash. A large apron of domestic gingham, which can be taken off, if the wearer is called to see unexpected visitors, will protect the front of the dress, and save washing the wrapper too frequently. If a lady's domestic duties require her attention for several hours in the morning, whilst her list of acquaintances is large, and she has frequent morning calls, it is best to dress for callers before breakfast, and wear over this dress a loose sack and skirt of domestic gingham. This, while protecting the dress perfectly, can be taken off at a moment's notice if callers are announced." 
--from Florence Hartley, The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, Fashion and Manual of Politeness
Wrapper from Godey's Lady's Book, 1866

But, if this was their function, were wrappers then designed solely for the eyes of the lady's family and house servants? Strictly speaking, yes. Well-bred ladies were not supposed to receive wearing their wrapper. But Victorians were nothing if not overly fond of elaborating  their etiquette rules to contradictory heights. While it was not polite for a lady to receive visitors in her plain wrapper, it was even more impolite to keep them waiting while she changed into a suitable outfit (which, depending on the lady's tastes, could take some time). So if one had unexpected callers, it was considered acceptable to excuse oneself and greet them in a wrapper. Moreover, it was impolite to wear very elaborate dresses in the morning, so ladies were encouraged to avoid the danger of overdressing by donning an elegant wrapper, meant to button to the waist and show the white underskirt from there down:
"DRESS FOR MORNING VISITS A lady should never receive her morning callers in a wrapper, unless they call at an unusually early hour, or some unexpected demand upon her time makes it impossible to change her dress after breakfast. On the other hand, an elaborate costume before dinner is in excessively bad taste. The dress should be made to fit the figure neatly, finished at the throat and wrists by an embroidered collar and cuffs, and, unless there is a necessity for it, in loss of the hair or age, there should be no cap or head dress worn. A wrapper made with handsome trimming, open over a pretty white skirt, may be worn with propriety; but the simple dress worn for breakfast, or in the exercise of domestic duties, is not suitable for the parlor when receiving visits of ceremony in the morning."-
-from Florence Hartley, The Ladies' Book of Etiquette, Fashion and Manual of Politeness
La Mode Illustree, 1867.
Godey's Lady's Book, 1856

What this meant was that wrappers were never plain, shabby garments never to be seen  by the world, not even the ones that were worn solely for breakfast. They were meant for a more informal and intimate but still semi-public  space and, as such, their patterns followed the trends for proper dresses, if in a more subdued style and different fabrics. When bustles became popular, wrappers were cut to either resemble a small bustle in the back or to be able to accommodate one. They favored bright colors and patterns and were meant to be worn with slipper of embroidered cloth or, in the summer, black morocco.

Godey's Lady's Book, October 1864

One example of a beautiful  and very ornate Victorian wrapper you can see below. You're strongly encouraged to visit this page to see more pictures of it and read the detailed description. It is easy to envision Scarlett in this style of more lavish wrapper, isn't it?


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rue de la Paix

This week we've got a little collage that I put together to go along with that "Gone with the Wind Scrapbook" theme we have around there. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Poster of the Week

Alright, after some technical difficulties with Blogger, we're back in action with a now somewhat belated poster of the week. We think this highly unusual German poster looks like a guy's version of GWTW--war plus Scarlett in a red dress. What do you think?

Image from moviegoods.com

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day! In celebration our collage this week features the always-enchanting Vivien Leigh and her daughter. Best wishes to all our readers for a Happy Mother's Day celebration

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Poster of the Week

"The greatest motion picture ever made!" proclaims this 11x17 poster (circa 1940s-50s), which depicts Rhett and Scarlett's escape from Atlanta and, as is de rigueur in so much GWTW poster art, a swooning Scarlett in Rhett's arms.

Image from moviegoods.com.

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