Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Peek into Philomena's World



Manhattan, 1905
One of my FAVORITE things about writing The Hypnotic City was the historical research I did on 1905 NYC (insert nerdy emoji here), so in honor of the book coming out TWO MONTHS FROM TODAY, I thought I would write a post about Philomena's historical world (and include some hints and sneak peeks).

As the caption says, the picture above is Manhattan in 1905, when and where the book takes place. Even then, it was an enormous city with impressive skyscrapers.

Park Avenue

Lower East Side Market
Manhattan Apartment 
This picture of Park Avenue shows what the streets looked like in 1905. Most people got around by walking in Manhattan (which hasn't changed), or they took the streetcar or rode horse-drawn vehicles. Automobiles were just beginning to make an appearance (one character in The Hypnotic City drives one) but at that point they were still only available to the very wealthy, and most of the upper class regarded cars as a tacky fad. The NYC subway system had also opened the year before in 1904.



Vaudeville Theatre Poster


At the start of the novel, Philomena is living on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which at the time was mostly populated by immigrants. In the book, she shops at a market like the one above and lives in an apartment building like the ones shown in the picture below it. She and Jennie also dry their laundry the way it is shown in the pic, by hanging it on clotheslines stretched between the buildings.

Also at the start of the novel, Philomena is working in a vaudeville theater. As you can see from the poster above, vaudeville was a type of variety show that was extremely popular at the time.

However, Philomena's dream is to be on Broadway, not in vaudeville, and toward the beginning of the book she lands an audition at a real, historical Broadway theatre called The Casino, pictured below. Also below is a picture of Broadway chorus girls at the time, which is part of what will pose a problem for Philomena in her quest for the stage.
The Casino Theatre, 1905
Broadway Chorus Girls, 1908
Unfortunately for Philomena, the popular look for women at the time was tall, long-legged, and busty, as shown in the picture of the idealistic "Gibson girl" below. Like I said, for Philomena, who is waif-like and five feet tall in heels, this is a problem as far as breaking into show business is concerned. The most famous chorus girl on Broadway at the time was Evelyn Nesbit, also pictured below, and she fit this ideal of feminine beauty to a T.
Gibson Girl

Evelyn Nesbitt






One of my favorite things to learn and write about was 
Philomena's wardrobe. Though her everyday clothes would
be mostly like the black and white photo below (which
would have been a HUGE change from what she wore in The
Heartless City), she also gets opportunities to wear ballgowns
Edwardian Ballgown
like the one shown here, as well as extravagant stage costumes. I also included the picture of Edwardian undergarments simply because I think they are pretty. :)

Edwardian Daily Clothing
Edwardian Undergarments

Braided Gibson Tuck

Philomena's hair was also fun to write about. For most of the book she wears it in a braided Gibson Tuck, shown here, but she also has many chances to wear it in more elaborate up-dos and, of course, to wear it down.













I hope you enjoyed this little peek into Philomena's world. I can't wait for everyone to read about her journey!

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