Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Writing What You Love

by Michele Ann Young

One of my favorite parts about writing stories set during the late Georgian period, known by most as the Regency, is that you get to write about the styles of the day, both as regard to fashion and life. Of course, we all know in our hearts it wasn't the most ideal time to have been alive unless you were one of the very few wealthy landowners.

But we can always imagine that we were.

I spend quite a lot of time going through what in those days were called fashion plates, to pick out just the right costume for the right event in my novels. In The Lady Flees Her Lord coming out in October I had a chance to use the outfit at the top of the blog.

This was an outfit designed for ladies to engage in one of the few sports they indulged in. If you guessed archery, you were right. It was probably the green that gave it away. And there is something "Robin Hood" about those dags at the hem and the slashes in the puffed sleeve. It just so happened that my story nicely lent itself to an archery contest, and although Lucinda did not have such a fancy outfit, one of the other ladies did.

And what about those lovely evening dresses? One does have to be careful, fashions changed from one end of the Regency to the other. This one is from 1811, right at the beginning of the Regency era. Only a slender woman would look good in this. Remember, stays were not the corsets of the Victorian times, so there wasn't much support for the bounteous figure.

And they had walking gowns, and morning gowns (to receive callers, although morning calls started in the afternoon) and they had undress gowns (what they wore before they got dressed in their morning gowns) and mourning gowns (for a family death) and half mourning and they had court dresses (which really were from the last century with hoops).

And last but not least there were Riding Habits. This one from 1815, the year Wellington won the battle of Waterloo.

A writer could have her heroine spend all day dressing and undressing if she wanted, because that is what they did in those days. It would be completely accurate. But not so interesting for the reader.

When I feel the need to play dress up, I use the equivalent of a paper doll on line.

We never even got to the gentlemen, all those lovely Darcy types and I've used up my space.

I know, I will save them for next time.

12 comments:

  1. OMG! That Regency girl dress-up is sooo cool. I love regencies after all, I cut my romance teeth with Jane Austen. I love everything about them but couldn't possibly write in the regency style. It'd be like writing in another language. I have a hard enough time with American English.

    Thanks for sharing Michele. Do they have a regency boy dress-up?

    Robin :)
    I can't wait until my daughter awakens so I can have someone to play dress-up with!

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  2. I love the descriptions of the costumes. :) It's harder to find what was "the" thing to wear in Medieval times--but I love doing the research! Nice blog, Michele!

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  3. Interesting info, Michele. I give you credit for the amount of research that must go into your work. Those of us who write in the contemporary world have it a lot easier! Congrats on the new book. Looking forward to it.
    Marie

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  4. I love the Regency clothes! Looking forward to the Darcy paper doll, too!

    In my books, I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum. Trying to decide what the people living in the future will wear is a challenge, but I do have have Star Wars to use as a guide! Clothing has become much simpler since the Regency period, but who really knows what the fashions will be in a thousand years?

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  5. Robin, Gotcha! Back to your writing at once. And no, no boy dress ups but there is a program doing the rounds of undressing a regency man. Shall I send it?

    Terry, I love medievals, and those knights in shining armor, to die for.

    Cheryl, just finished Slave. Loved it. Those were some pretty ummm unusual constumes. lol.

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  6. Great post, Michele!

    I LOVE looking at clothing from different eras. I like to see how ordinary people dressed as well as the wealthy. When I was in London earlier this year, my favorite exhibit at the Victoria & Albert museum was the clothing displays by decade from the early 1800s to the 1990s. GREAT FUN!

    AC

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  7. Yes, it seems like those Regency women had nothing to do all day but change from one outfit into another. No wonder they had to be dressed by maids! But I confess my own soft spot for the idea of all that frippery, and I can't imagine what those women would feel about my track suits, t-shirts and pajama bottoms. Horror? Envy? Incidentally you are now my new best friend for giving me an online paper doll.

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  8. Michele,

    Your posts are always so informative! Thanks for the info!

    Danielle

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  9. Glad you all enjoyed my little friend. I love talking about clothes.

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  10. I love costume! Thanks for the interesting post.

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  11. I had WAY too much fun with that Regency doll! Spent time that surely could have been put to better use! Thanks, Michele. Be sure to pass on the Darcy un-dress...that sounds like soooo much fun. *sigh*

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