The Costume Rag talks to Olga Jonarska, better known as Berolinensis on her popular Instagram feed.
“My interest in the 19th and early 20th century culture started when I was a teenager (I think I was around 15-16) – I first got interested in literature and art of the period, and then my interest developed towards fashion and lifestyle. Back then I had no idea that there were other people interested in vintage fashion, that there is antique clothing you can buy etc. I was trying to pick up some vintage or vintage inspired clothes, but it was quite difficult where I lived. Nevertheless, I was trying to develop my knowledge of Belle Époque as much as I could.
After some time, during my university studies, I joined historical dance classes (concentrated mostly on English 19th century ballroom dances) and after year or two, joined the dance group itself. I started attending balls and dance events where I met several other people interested in fashion history. I was surprised to discover that most of them were learning to sew their own clothes and it encouraged me to try to sew myself. Since then, I have been sewing my own historical garments – both for everyday wear and for historical events and I have participated in and organized quite a few of different historical picnics, balls, reenactments, etc. Since moving to the UK, I also got more engaged in collecting antique clothing, and wear most of the antique items I own, dating from 1900 to 1940s.
Beauty, Elegance and Social progress
The main area of my interest has always been the period from around 1900 to 1920, so what you could define as the closed the “Edwardian Era”. I find the literature, fashion, art, lifestyle and general ideas of the period most alluring and closest to my taste. I think that this period embodied an aesthetic perfection, was the peak of 19th century art & design development, yet also combined beauty and elegance with more practicality, social and technical progress. Edwardian clothes were beautiful, yet lighter, more comfortable and easier to keep clean than the heavy dresses from most decades of the 19th century, requiring to wear hoops, bustles or stiffened petticoats underneath. There were also more economic in terms of the amount of fabric used, yet – in my opinion – more sophisticated in terms of decoration. Also, in my opinion, most of the clothes can be worn today and they would not interfere with the modern pace of life.
I am very much fascinated by the turn-of-the-century art concepts, the interest in everything dark, symbolic, decadent, mixed with a great strive for progress, modernity, simplicity. I think this historical period is especially interesting today, when the society has been much disillusioned by the 20th century, yet some of the questions and problems still remain the same.
I would not dare to say that Edwardian Era was better than what we have today – as I don’t know. It was definitely very different in many aspects of life. Yet it seems very close to me. I’d love a chance to travel back time and see for myself. Even though I feel my image of it is not at all romantic or idealized.”
by Olga Jonarksa https://www.caeruleusberolinensis.com/