The Edwardian dandy has a lot to say; rather, I have a lot to say about him. Misty Rabbit evokes him through Elgar’s “Chanson de matin.” The incomparable Grace Coddington and my dear friend Hannah Teare paid homage to him (and his female counterpart) in the spectacularly dreamy Edith Wharton shoot in September Vogue. Hannah styled the men on the shoot, and – with apologies to Grace C. and Natalia V. – they completely steal the scene.
And there we have it: the scene. Shot by Annie Leibovitz, the scene in this case is The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Massachusetts estate from 1902 until 1911. As well as a gathering place for the great and the good - Teddy Roosevelt and Henry James among them - The Mount was the epitome of neoclassical good taste, fusing European and American design traditions and typifying the look of the American Renaissance.
In 1904 Wharton published Italian Villas and Their Gardens, which became a key work in the field of garden design. She argued that gardens should function as architectural compositions, or garden rooms; The Mount’s own gardens became a seminal example of landscape design in their own right.
“I am amazed at the success of my efforts. Decidedly, I'm a better landscape gardener than novelist, and this place, every line of which is my own work, far surpasses The House of Mirth…"
- Edith Wharton in a letter to Morton Fullerton
We’ll delve into The Mount’s design in subsequent posts and break down how we, dear reader, can implement its design elements into our own more modest homesteads. But today let’s take a look behind the scenes of the Vogue shoot and at Edith Wharton’s menfolk and their luscious style.
Hannah shared her styling inspiration and Annie Leibovitz’s historical references. Hannah kept as close to the 1907 date as possible when sourcing silhouettes and styling. Each man had a distinctive character and story in life, and Hannah wanted these differences to be visible, if subtle, in the shoot. Each man held very different social roles and professions, and their clothing reflected that. By our (pretty slack) modern standards, even their informal outfits are formal, with stiff collars, morning coats and tweed country suits.
Let’s check the boys out…
Theodore Roosevelt is played by James Corden in the shoot, and in life he was “a bear of a man,” in Hannah’s words. Hunting, the outdoors, the American readers among us will likely recall his boy scout tendencies and his thoughts on walking with big sticks. Hannah dressed James Corden in vintage boots, shirt and waistcoat but added a Ralph Lauren RTW suit (see him above, posturing next to Natalia Vodianova).
Henry James is played by Jeffrey Eugenides. (Have you read Middlesex? It’s gripping. As is The Turn of the Screw.) Here’s Henry/Jeffrey in Paul Stuart; formal, smart, dapper. Elijah Wood plays Charles Cook, Wharton’s loyal chauffeur. Hannah wavered on a formal versus a country suit for Charles/Elijah, but in the end chose the dark costume and goggles to set him apart from the other men. The third man in the photo is Morton Fullerton, Wharton’s big love and a renowned Romeo; he's played by Jack Huston. Hannah kept Morton/Jack dashing and smart throughout the shoot; for the most part he wears vintage, though this suit is Polo Ralph Lauren.
This luscious group of Wharton’s intellectual set is seated on the veranda of The Mount.
Take a look at Hannah, Grace and Annie’s historical notes on each character. Here's Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Farrand, played above by actress Mamie Gummer.
Diplomat Walter Berry (played by writer Junot Diaz)
Painter Max Parrish, played by Max Minghella above, looks so dashing and relaxed in comparison...
More to come on The Mount’s gardens, but until then, enjoy these luscious images. Sad but true, they are likely the first and last Annie Leibovitz photographs to appear on The Linden Green.
Let’s finish with a gander at the lovely Hannah Teare (take a number, boys), and don’t hesitate to check out her site for some utterly luscious fashion eye candy.