Queens of the Sea #2: Lai Choi San’s White Satin Robe

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Welcome to day two of the Queens of the Sea series, part of the Random Magic Pirates book tour! Here is the mini-bio for today’s pirate, provided again by Lyrika:

Lai Choi San
The Queen of Macau Pirates
The Jade Empress
The Enigmatic Empress

Lai Choi San was a 20th century Chinese pirate, who prowled the South
China Sea during the 1920s and into the 1930s.

She commanded a fleet of a dozen junks based in the South China
Sea. Finnish adventurer and freelance writer Aleko E. Lilius managed to find a way to
work among her crews, and he recounts his impression of the
cool-headed commander this way:

‘What a woman she was! Rather slender and short, her hair jet black,
with jade pins gleaming in the knot at the neck, her earrings and
bracelets of the same precious apple-green stone.

She was exquisitely dressed in a white satin robe fastened with green
jade buttons, and green silk slippers. She wore a few plain gold rings
on her left hand; her right hand was unadorned. Her face and dark eyes
were intelligent…and rather hard. She was probably not yet forty.

Every move she made and every word she spoke told plainly that she
expected to be obeyed, and as I had occasion to learn later, she was
(I Sailed with Chinese Pirates (1931), Aleko E. Lilius

Lai Cho San was also the inspiration for a 1930s comic strip,
Terry and the Pirates, featuring a
cold-blooded villainess, The Dragon Lady. The series, by artist Milton
, sparked a radio series (1937-1948) and a later TV series
in the early 1950s.

You can read more about Lai Choi San at In the Library of LadyViolet, as part of the Queens of the Sea series.

It was kind of Lilius to describe her outfit so well, wasn’t it? That made today’s overall design very easy to come up with, meaning that I could spend less time thinking about it and more time admiring pictures of 1920s-era vintage Chinese robes. I could have sworn that the word “necklaces” appeared in that description at some point, though. Oh well. I’m sure she had a least a couple of necklaces!

Imagine trying to keep a white satin outfit like that clean anywhere near a ship… Even if it’s not what she might have worn on duty, so to speak, it can’t have been easy. I imagine that’s one perk of what was no doubt a generally rough existence — she could task some poor underling with the duty of keeping her clothes immaculate. Although, given that she may have never existed at all, I suppose a fantasy character could keep all manner of delicate white clothing perfectly clean.

Don’t forget to enter my contests! Click here for the chance to win an original drawing, for those of you who can give me an address if you win, and click here for the chance to design a pirate outfit, open to everyone!

I wanted to clarify one thing about the first contest – it’s open to international visitors as well as domestic ones. And yes, all you have to do is post a comment to enter — although it is a little boring for me to watch the comments roll in, next time I do something like this, I will make people write something more imaginative! But I won’t change the rules on you mid-stream, this time.

Don’t forget: check out the tour schedule here! And for more information about Random Magic, here’s the trailer for the book.

Also, check out the Rum + Plunder treasure hunt for more pirate prizes!

1922 Pink Dress with Burgundy Trim and Lace Panels Inspired by the Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse

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I’m afraid my dolls generally aren’t cut out for the straight lines that make 1920s fashion look so good, but I did a 1922 dress anyways because I just finished listening to The Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse, read by Kara Shallenberg. Romantic comedy isn’t so much my thing, but it was amusing (and I often listen to audiobooks while doing things like washing dishes, so amusing beats edifying in terms of audiobook content). And of course Wodehouse is Wodehouse, so it was a fun little portrait of the character of everyone involved. Sally, who of course is the main character, comes into an inheritance early on, so I imagine she went out and bought a couple new dresses, and because everyone spends the rest of the book falling madly in love with her I suppose that they were properly cute.

I really like the idea of doing four main themes for October costumes – give me suggestions and I’ll put up a poll closer to October. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do see the entry for September 4th.

As for my colored pencil guessing game, no one has hit on the exact number yet…

Cornflower Blue 1927 Dress with Handkerchief Skirt inspired by Lucia in London by E.F. Benson

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Sorry, sorry, I’ve been playing with my bike too much and not drawing enough, I know. But you see, as the new toy novelty wears off, I return to my Prismacolors…

I am reading Make Way for Lucia now, which is a collection of the Mapp and Lucia novels all in one doorstop-sized book. I listened to Queen Lucia first as an audiobook from Librivox, and then, since that book stops so abruptly, was dying to have more, more, more. Luckily there is more more more — Make Way for Lucia includes seven books total. They’re quite funny in a dry, snarky kind of way; as a matter of fact, it occurred to me more than once that it’s a shame the word “snark” itself wasn’t used in the 1920s, because there are so many places where a speaker says something described as “ironical” or “sarcastic” and the proper word can be only “snarky.” So far it is about a small English community and its queen bee, Lucia, and although living with the gossipy, snarky, hypocritical residents of Riseholme would be a sort of hell on Earth for someone like me, socially clueless hermit that I am, it’s delightful to read about it. The characters are mostly so quite dissembling, thoughtless and haughty that I rather hope that they get their comeuppance, and the author then kicks them around quite so thoroughly. So thoroughly, actually that I start to feel bad for them and hope they don’t get hurt too badly, even if it was coming to them, because their gossip and vanity is really all very harmless and none of them are bad, just silly. There’s a comparison to a Jane Austen novel here (especially because now I’m listening to Persuasion), if she was a shade more malicious and didn’t focus on romance.

Anyways, the main character is Lucia Lucas, who in Queen Lucia portrayed herself as a sort of refined lady born in the wrong age who worshipped Shakespeare and Beethoven and had a perfect horror of modern contraptions such as gramophones and London, and she contrived so that the whole town seemed to revolve around her. In the book I’m reading now, Lucia in London, she and her husband inherit money and property in London and suddenly her hatred of the city, modern art and music and so on simply vanishes. She even — oh my! — shingles her hair and wears short skirts. When I was listening to Queen Lucia I thought I should do an Elizabethan paperdoll outfit in deference to Lucia’s despising of modernity (and, also, to my inability to figure out when the book was set, my normal attention to details fixing a book in time quite baffled by Lucia’s quirks and Riseholme’s sleepiness), but now that she has gone to London I thought I had better get with the times as well.

The style doesn’t fit my poor Sylvia or Iris well, as they have no access to the kind of undergarments one would likely wear with such a dress, but oh well. It is based off of a McCalls pattern from 1927, which is when the book was published.