Got any loved ones with a taste for the finer things?
That doesn’t mean bottle service and name-brand handbags. No, we’re talking Versailles shit—the person who’ll travel two hours out of her way for a glimpse at some Baroque. The one whose eyes are irresistibly drawn to any fine-bone china in the room and in fact has opinions about blue willow versus Royal Albert. She maybe owns a dresser scarf and some doilies.
I am uniquely qualified to guide you through the process of holiday shopping for this person, because I am this person. I have the taste of an Edwardian maiden aunt who never took to Art Deco and bakelite. If I had my druthers, my living room would be chintz sofa covers against chintz wallpaper—but tastefully so! I am seriously considering paying Amazon.co.uk shipping in order to acquire Mary Stewart mysteries with just the right retro covers. One day, I plan to cover my plain white Ikea bookshelves with leftover patches of wallpaper from the 1950s.
Please; allow me.
A disgustingly romantic nightgown
Dorks like me, we like to swan around the house pretending we’re heroines in a Victoria Holt novel. Candles drip wax everywhere and frankly they’re a fire hazard, so it’s important to really nail the nightgown. This Eileen West number is simple and delicate falls at mid-calf, but it’s practically transparent. Which strikes the perfect psychosexual note! Your friend will think of you every time she has to find the toilet in an unfamiliar home in the pitch-black dark of midnight. (Eileen West, $72)
A reproduction of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Swing”
Fun fact: This 1767 Roccoco cupcake is a dirty joke disguised as high-falutin’ art. (Art.com, $84.99)
The Kyoto Costume Institute’s Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century
This two-volume set lavishly recounts the last three centuries or so of fashion, with a heavy emphasis on Western styles. Which means it includes the most frou-frou phase of all, the eighteenth century, with all those silk botanical prints and panniers the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Look—your friend needs something to go on top of her coffee table and underneath the vase that she means to put peonies in but peonies are so expensive so instead it just collects dust. Where was I? (Amazon, $36.79)
Fancy-Ass Hand Cream in Flowery Packaging
Neutrogena is for Norwegians, okay? That’s why they call it “Norwegian formula.” Hand cream should be packaged to resemble the Victorian advertising cards that would decorate the walls of a shopgirl from a late nineteenth-century novel about the grim economic realities of the industrial age. There are peonies on the packaging of this fragrant Lollia hand lotion—perfect for the friend who just keeps cheaping out on real-deal peonies. (Lollia, $9.44)
Trays (for fancy things)
You wouldn’t want to buy that nice, overpriced hand cream just to leave it lying on your bare dresser like some goddamn slob, would you? Staging—it matters. That’s why your friend with a drawer full of fancy lotions in too-precious packaging needs a tray to contain this stuff. Like, for instance, this glass serveware piece. Just like Great Aunt Mildred’s! Alternatively, you could pop over to Etsy and order some vintage china at very reasonable prices. (Macys.com, $40)
Some people say handkerchiefs are disgusting, bacteria-filled snot rags. Those people simply do not understand the true purpose of handkerchiefs, which is to very daintily wipe sweat off your dripping brow at the height of summer. Available in multiple palettes and varietals. (Amazon, $14.95)
A box of pralines
For when regular sugary just won’t do, and you need a bucket of sugar that’s been liquified and mixed with pecans and poured into small lumps and re-solidified to look like a normal cookie. (It’s not a normal cookie.) (One will leave you bouncing off the walls for hours—whatever you do, don’t feed them to a child after dark.) (They’re great.) (River Street Sweets, $31.95)
A bottle of Veuve Clicquot
What, you expect her to wash those pralines down with water? (Wine.com, $56.99)
An important element of the frou-frou lifestyle is to send handwritten notes at important moments. Or at least, to plan on sending handwritten notes at important moments. These lovely Crane & Co notes are engraved with beautiful peacock feathers! (Crane & Co, $29.00)
Literally anything made by Cath Kidston
Everything made by Cath Kidston looks like Lewis Carroll dropped acid with Queen Elizabeth and together they broke into some Cotswolds cottage and took a bunch of teapots because they thought it was a really unorthodox antiques mall. This is the perfect aesthetic for a makeup bag, as far as yours truly is concerned. It’s hard to get Kidston in the States, but they’ve always got a few items over at Asos. Pastel roses or pastel sparrows? Look, you know your pal better than I do. (Cath Kidston, $18)
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos via Amazon, Art.com, Macys.com, River Street Sweets, Verve Cliquot, Asos.
Illustration by Gawker Media’s art department