Book Review - The Address by Fiona Davis
After reading The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis, I requested an early copy of her upcoming novel, The Address which is scheduled for release on August 1, 2017 (pre-order your copy today!) There were a lot of parallels between The Dollhouse and The Address, they both:
- Center around historic buildings in NYC
- Have a main character in a service position
- Are told from two different time periods
- Include a tragic love story
So it comes as no surprise that I loved The Address as much as I loved The Dollhouse. This book is about Sara who works as the head housekeeper at London's Langhman Hotel in 1884. Theo Camden, an aspiring architect, and his wife and children are staying at the Langham when Sara saves one of the children from falling out of a window. In gratitude for saving his child's life, Theo offers Sara a position in NYC's newest and grandest apartment building: The Dakota. The other major character in this book is Bailey, an aspiring interior designer, who is living at The Dakota in 1985 while she assists her "cousin" in renovating their condo. The connection between Sara and Bailey is slowly revealed as we discover the complicated history between Sara and Theo, and Theo and his wife.
Often times when a book is told from two different time periods, one of those time periods is "present day." I loved that this book lent itself to two different historical perspectives: the mid 1800s and the mid 1900s. And lucky for you, that allows me explore the fashion of two historic time periods!
Fashion from 1885: This time period is most notable for the bustle, an increase in volume at the back of the skirt. Although the bustle reached its peak during the second half of the 19th century, we saw early indications of the bustle as early as the 17th century with a small bump added to the derriere. In the samples below you'll also notice an excess of adornment including trimmings, beadings, heavy fabrics, ruffles, and bows. In several of the examples I included you'll also notice that the front of the skirt appears to be drawn upward like a curtain. This fashion originated as a functional way to lift the skirt while walking and later turned into a style element.
Fashion from 1985: Whereas the emphasis in 1885 was on the woman's derriere, in 1985 the emphasis was on the woman's shoulders with large shoulder pads. Similarly, the silhouette in the mid 1800s was quite rigid with a tiny waist and closely tailored bodice where as the mid 1980s silhouette is very loose-fitting and unstructured. However, the attitude toward fashion in 1985 was quite similar to that of 1885 as it was used as a tool to exhibit wealth and power. Women in the 1980s would adorn themselves with large costume jewelry and bright colors. And of course, big hair.
The following are samples of dresses from The Met Museum dating from 1885 and 1985:
Back to the book...kinda.
Besides fashion history, I also love architecture. And one of my favorite things about Fiona Davis' books is that they introduce me to historic buildings in NYC and inspire me to dig a little deeper to learn about their history. The Dakota was built in 1984 by Henry Hardenbergh on the west side of Central Park. There are many theories as to why it is named The Dakota, but the one I see repeated more than others is that it was built so far west that, "it might as well have been built in the Dakotas." It is probably most well-known for being the site where John Lennon was shot. For other random facts about the building, read this article from Business Insider "15 crazy facts about one of New York's most exclusive buildings."
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link. Thank you for supporting this blog and the books I recommend!