Have you seen the movie The Holiday? One of my all-time faves, it’s a wonderful piece of chick-flick ah-maze, complete with Jude Law (shirtless) and two beautiful women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, to die for) who find strength and confidence in their own. If, by some cruel twist of fate, you haven’t seen it, then go: stop reading, make some popcorn and watch it.
BUT if you have already, then you’ll know what I mean when I say “gumption”. How she shrieks with joy because she’s found strength in herself, aware of her worth as an individual, as a woman? Hells yeah: gumption.
I really want to talk to you about a woman (with a whole lot of gumption) who shared her sass and ‘tude with the world some 2000 years ago.
Empress Theadora was the wife of Justinian, Emperor of the Byzantine Empire way back. She began her life in Constantinople as an actress and child prostitute, and as a teenager became known as “the naked dancer of Subura”. She soon became the mistress of Hecebolus, Governer of Pentapolis and returned with him to North Africa. They quarrelled; they parted. She returned to her work in Constantinople where she drew the attention of Justinian, heir presumptive of the Byzantine Empire. He fell in love with her, and she encouraged him to change the law, allowing them to marry despite her roots and profession. At 27, she became Empress.
“The classic rags to riches story is made richer still by Theodora’s achievements in power. As empress, she worked on the paper On Pimps, an attempt to stop pimps making their money from prostitutes. Well aware of the impossibility of marriage and a safe life for such women, she set up a house where they could live in peace. Theodora worked for women’s marriage and dowry rights, anti-rape legislation, and was supportive of the many young girls who were sold into sexual slavery for the price of a pair of sandals. Her laws banished brothel-keepers from Constantinople and from all the major cities of the empire.” (Stella Duffy, in The Guardian, Thursday 10 June 2010. Read the whole article here).
She was intelligent, strong, ambitious and imperious. If that isn’t enough, she was also incredibly beautiful and draped herself daily in pearls, emeralds, luxuriously heavy silks and gold. She had gardens filled with peacocks, ibis, fountains with scented water, mosaics, Chinese lanterns and every luxury imaginable.
I came across this somewhat elusive but wholly inspiring Superwoman of Byzantium a week ago in class, and have been inspired by her strength, intelligence and ambition.
Sometimes, though, I find it hard to imagine how a woman like Theodora can be transposed into today’s world. How would she behave, dress, survive today? How can I take inspiration from this woman of courage and use it to change the way I behave, nearly 2000 years later?
Enter: Dolce & Gabbana. Their latest Ready To Wear collection (Fall 2013) is entirely Byzantine in approach, but transposed for the modern woman (genius, truly). A woman wearing this D&G collection would be able to take over any empire, Byzantine or otherwise.
See also Chanel Pre-Fall 2011. I sense a theme here..
Woman of the modern world! (says Empress Theodora):
Don’t take shit from people (especially men). Know your worth. Know your strength (being strong is a conscious decision). Fight: for yourself, but importantly, for others. Be vocal (say what you need to say). Wear rich silk when possible. Also wear D&G when possible. Pearls should and must be draped. Show gumption (using that word in a sentence helps you to act it out). Finally, don’t let ANYONE make you feel unimportant (not in the Byzantine era, not ever).
(Love from Cait, Marten and Theodora… bisous)