The Queen of the Met Costume Institute: Rita de Acosta Lydig

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The Met Costume Institute is literally my Sunday go-to. I can scrawl for hours and hours in my cosy bed, and stories and adventures unfold through each piece in their archives, transporting me into a little pocket of time elsewhere.

Little did I know, until recently, that their foundations came from a truly opulent closet, belonging to one Rita de Acosta Lydig; diva, muse, fashionista, suffragette supporter, and the “most picturesque woman in America”. She was a New Yorker, born on 1 October 1875 to Cuban and Spanish parents, and sister to 7 other siblings, and she grew up to become an influential figure within art and fashion in Paris, London and NYC. Rita’s story, and her wardrobe, scream that bitch, have massive Libra energy and I live for it!

Continue reading The Queen of the Met Costume Institute: Rita de Acosta Lydig

WYSK: Scotland’s Botanical Babe, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Elizabeth Blackwell

In this WYSK, let me introduce you to one hella determined Scottish artist. Her story is inspiring and wild, and her hard work as a successful illustrator in the 1700’s is definitely worth the read. This is the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, Scotland’s botanical babe.

Elizabeth Blachrie was born some time in the early 1700s, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her father was a successful merchant, and she lived a relatively comfortable life; she was trained as an artist, and had a real talent for creating beautiful illustrations.

There’s not much written about Elizabeth’s early life, but her story picks up when she secretly marries her second cousin, Alexander Blackwell. Blackwell was an educated man, who ran a medical practice in Aberdeen, where he worked as a doctor – despite having no medical training. The couple stayed in Aberdeen while this questionable business was operating, but when Alexander’s qualifications were challenged, he and Elizabeth packed their things and moved over 500 miles away, to London.

Arriving in London, Alexander became associated with a publishing firm, and the couple began a new life together; enjoying luxuries, becoming parents to a son and daughter, William and Ann, and experiencing family life in the capital. Things seemed pretty good for the Blackwell’s.

With a little experience gained in the publishers, Alexander decided to set up his own business – neglecting the fact publishers had to have four years training and belong to a guild before they could trade. He was heavily fined by local authorities for flouting the rules, and between the penalties and his lavish spending, the Blackwell’s found themselves heavily in debt. The publishing business was closed down, and Alexander was sent to a debtor’s prison.

Desperate and essentially destitute, with her two children to take care of, Elizabeth found herself in dire straits. By a stroke of fate, she came across a physician’s book, which described and depicted plants from the New World and their medicinal properties. She had an idea, so crazy it just might work.

Continue reading WYSK: Scotland’s Botanical Babe, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Stefanie St Clair, The Queen of Harlem.

Stephanie St Clair, more famously referred to as Madam Queenie, is our first Icon on Haggis Talks

When we conjure the image of Prohibition-Era mobsters, figures like Al Capone spring to mind – Tommy Guns in hand, low brimmed hats and pin-striped suits, arrogant and fearsome. It’s seldom that we associate women with the gangster lifestyle, however in Harlem during the 1920’s, Stephanie St Clair – an immigrant from The Caribbean, who rose to fame as Queen of the Numbers Rackets and went on to earn a cool quarter of a million dollars per year – was centre stage. She was by all accounts a gangster, but she was also a Civil Rights activist and beloved figure in Harlem, with a tongue that could cut even the most hardened mobsters. This is the story of the Queen of Harlem.

Continue reading Stefanie St Clair, The Queen of Harlem.