Sunday Reads: February 10, 2013

Books
By Invitation Only

By Invitation Only: How We Build Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkins Wilson

The story of how two HBS grads came from wildly different places to start one of the most successful online sample sale sites, By Invitation Only isn’t light reading but it’s definitely fun. I really liked how the A’s (as they refer to themselves) show every step in the startup process and how quickly things change in that environment. They give helpful management tips at the end of every chapter, highlighting what they learned from their experiences – I liked these because I could pretend I was doing homework for my management class!

Of course, I was predisposed to like By Invitation Only. I was an early convert to the online sample sale craze, joining Rue La La, One Kings Lane, Hautelook, and others just weeks after they opened. Even without all of my sample sale love the book stood on its own as an interesting portrayal of life at a startup.

life-below-stairs

Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants by Alison Maloney

As Downton Abbey mania sweeps the United States a whole slew of books about the Edwardian era have come out. Though it’s easy to fall in love with the glamour seen at Downton/Highclere, the reality is that running a house like that was hard work!In this rendition of “Upstairs/Downstairs” Maloney recounts typical menus, daily chores and standards of decorum. Interspersed with excerpts from Punch and other papers, Life Below Stairs was fun to read and definitely made me appreciate my modern household appliances!

Check out some other books about servant’s in the Edwardian era:

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell: This one is a memoir by a woman who was once a kitchen maid.
While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax : A little different, Wax’s book shows how the series bring a group of fictional women together.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon : If you just can’t get enough of Downton, check out this true history of Highclere Castle where it is filmed. I have this one out from the library right now so I’ll let you know how it is!
The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook: From Lady Mary’s Crab Canapes to Mrs. Patmore’s Christmas Pudding – More Than 150 Recipes from Upstairs and Downstairs by Emily Baines: Looking for something to eat as you watch tonight’s episode of Downton? Why not try Lady Mary’s Crab Canapés?


Films

I haven’t done much magazine or online reading this week, so instead I thought I’d share the films I’ve been enjoying:

 Valentino the last emperor

Valentino: The Last Emperor *– Ever since I saw The September Issue, I’ve been yearning for a good fashion movie. Valentino hits the mark with beautiful dresses, posh Italian accents and sweeping views of Paris – c’est magnifique!

Funny Face

Funny Face* – I’m a sucker for anything starring Audrey Hepburn but this might be my new favorite. She plays a nerdy bookseller who is taken to Paris to be the face of a magazine and a prominent designer’s new collection. As an added bonus the author of Eloise, Kay Thompson, plays the fashion editrix!

J.crew the man who dressed america

J.Crew and the Man Who Dressed America – Part business documentary, part profile of J.Crew this documentary is a wonderful escape from the real world. Clocking in at under an hour it’s the perfect lunchtime treat.

*available on Netflix

~ available on Hulu

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Christmas 2012: DVDs

Don’t worry, this is the penultimate gift guide for Christmas 2012. I wanted to share a few gifts that aren’t books or makeup so here are a few DVDs I’d love to see in my stocking!

DVD collage

1. Audrey Hepburn Collection (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Sabrina): Hello, my name is Alexandra and I’m addicted Audrey. Though I probably shouldn’t admit my addiction (or feed it with more movies) this movie deal was too great to pass up! It doesn’t include two of my favorites (How to Steal a Million and Charade) but it has all the big name classics!

2. Party Girl : Though I haven’t had the privilege to see this movie yet, all of my SILS professors keep raving about it!

3. Desk Set: Another movie I haven’t seen but my professors love!

The Children’s Hour

Warning: Non-fashion post below!

I promise a re-cap of my London weekend is coming sometime this week
(when the weekend is actually over and I have pictures uploaded!)

However, I feel the need to write about the performance I saw today ASAP:

The Children’s Hour

(starring Keira Knightley and Elizabeth Moss)

For a play whose central theme is gay love, there isn’t much mention of it in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour! Much like Knightley’s film Atonement a devastating lie ruins the lives of many in ways that cannot be reversed. Set in a 1930’s New England boarding school, the play attempts to show the effects of accusing someone of homosexuality. In the small town of the play, the repercussions are innumerable but the devastation, unfortunately, isn’t felt by the audience.

The script was a bit dry though the actor’s did their best to make the characters come to life–the only problem was, they never did. Between the stiff opening scenes. and Knightley’s constant accent slippage the characters failed to worm their way into the hearts of the audience. The detachment of the audience was furthered by the script’s odd focus on developing non-central characters throughout the first act. Little changed when the second act moved forward, despite the insight
into the central women’s lives. When Moss’s character commits suicide, instead of feeling intense sadness the audience feels nothing.

 

I would love the chance to see the 1961 film version of the play starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine to see
if the acting or the script was the essential flaw of this play. Here’s a clip of the movie to pique your interest:

 

Post more tomorrow,

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