Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fashion Forecast: 1831

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in 1831?

By this year, the era of “big” is firmly established: big hats, big sleeves, big skirts, and in some cases, big hair, as in this print from February’s La Belle Assemblée. The lady on the left in the green Dinner Dress has a coiffure fearfully and wonderfully made (and probably involving a hair piece added to her own braided locks):

The heavy ornamentation of skirts seen in the 1820s has diminidhed but lingers on into the early 1830s, as we can see in the Evening Dress and Opera Dress from March’s La Belle Assemblée. Long fur tippets, or boas, will remain in fashion throughout the decade, a foretaste of the 1890s:

The sheer size of sleeves in this decade (until 1836) must have made tasks such as putting on earrings (as the young lady at right in the Dinner Dress is doing) less than easy. Sleeves achieved their size through stuffing with horsehair pads or through frameworks made of wire or wickerwork (June, La Belle Assemblée):

The Dinner Dress at left here is a bit of a throwback to the 1820s, with its gauze oversleeves and lack of crazy shoulder width...and the Ball Dress at right is just charming, with lace-frilled sleeves and an overskirt heavily decorated with flowers and more lace (July, La Belle Assemblée):

The big event of 1831 was the coronation of King William IV, who’d succeeded his brother George IV (a.k.a. the Prince Regent), and his wife Queen Adelaide, on September 8. In this print of the event from October’s La Belle Assemblée, it is curious to note that the female spectators seated in the balconies do not sport the excessive sleeves and headdresses currently in fashion (it's hard to see in this image because of the size, but trust me on this). I would not be at all surprised if that weren’t the result of official decree...or it could just be prudent ladies not wanting to have their sleeves crushed at such a crowded event!

The Carriage Dress on the left features a sort of capelet called a pelerine, in addition to a pleated linen double collar. Both it and the Dinner Dress at right have gigot sleeves...and there’s another fur tippet (La Belle Assemblée, November):

In this print from November’s La Belle Assemblée the lady at far right is wearing a mantle over her Opera Dress, a sort of combination of cloak and coat and the standard outerwear for women for the next several years. Her hat is very stylish, I must say—I love the jaunty angle at which it perches on her head, though I would not want to be sitting behind her in the theatre. The Morning Dress at left features Medici sleeves and overskirt and pelerine edged with a rounded dagged trim:

From December's La Belle Assemblée we have another mantle (or it could be a pelerine cape—it’s not always easy to tell the difference) over a fur-trimmed Carriage Dress—perfect for the time of year! The Dinner Dress at left features an embroidered and lace-bedecked muslin canezou-pelerine set over puffed sleeves with gauze oversleeves—a somewhat fussy look. Good thing the rest of the dress is very plain!

What do you think of 1831’s fashions?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Taking a Writer Back in Time: Pioneer Farm Museum

For a historical writer, first-hand accounts of the time period and well-researched history books are wonderful resources, but sometimes the answer to a pesky question can only be found by going back in time.  I would have loved to hitch a ride with the Doctor or hop into Mr. Verne's time machine, but for my current work in progress, set in Washington Territory in 1866, I opted for something a little more easily obtained:  a trip to Pioneer Farm Museum near Eatonville, Washington.

Pioneer Farm is one of those wonderful museums geared toward children, so everything is very hands on.  That’s an incredible bonus to a writer.  In a more traditional museum, many things are behind glass, so you can describe what your eyes see but only guess at the other senses.  At a museum like Pioneer Farm, you get to touch and smell and taste and hear what life was like in the late nineteenth century on the frontier.  I gleefully followed our tour guides around from the general store to the school house to the three cabins, barn, and blacksmith’s shop, peppering them with questions and poking my nose into everything.

So, what did I learn on my visit?

Planked wooden floors creak.  With every step. 

 Forges fired with coal really stink.

Oil lamps aren't really bright enough to read by, but they do warm up a curling iron nicely.

It takes a lot of time and work to grate enough cinnamon for one pie.

A lady could lay in the bottom of a wagon bed and not be noticeable from the street (key plot point, there!).

Pioneer Farm Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing living history, environmental, and cultural education through hands-on activities.  If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend a visit. 

I know some of you have been to great museums in your area.  Any recommendations to share?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

From my Collection...

I’m still collecting dance cards and aides memoire—you can see a few from my collection here—and have a couple of new pieces that I thought might interest you.

First, isn’t this wee aide memoire adorable? It’s the smallest in my collection, a dainty 1 7/8 inches long and under an inch wide, and with four leaves. I also like the ambiguity of the inscription, “Forget me not”...was it a gift from an admirer, a souvenir of a friendship, or just a reminder that this was the place to jot down things one didn’t want to forget?

This one was clearly meant to be used as a dance card: note the ring, so that it could be worn while dancing if one did not have a pocket or reticule at hand. I have a special fondness for these fan-shaped ones. This one has five leaves for writing on, two loops at the left to hold a minute pencil, and a sturdy clasp:

This last aide memoire is highly unusual; I’ve never seen one with a cover made of stone! The jasper (or agate) cover is very handsome and is translucent when held up to the light. Unusually, it has leaves for every day of the week, Sunday included...and the matching pencil is just plain awesome:

And in another type of collection, I was delighted last Saturday to make a new face-to-face acquaintance...long-time NineteenTeen reader and commenter QnPoohBear stopped by a teen book event in Rhode Island where I was a guest to say hello and bring me some printouts of WWI era articles and recipes from her collection. It was a pleasure to see you outside of cyberspace, QNPoohBear!!

Any other collectors out there? What sparks your acquisitive streak?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quiz: The Search for the Ideal Husband

The Master Matchmakers series focuses on servants who think they know the perfect match for their masters.  What about you?  Given your personality, which of the gentlemen featured in the series would your servants have considered a good match for you?  Take the quiz to find out, but beware!  I've added a fourth gentleman to the list, and he just might steal your heart!  (See the first comment for his identity and how to score your answers.)

1.  When traveling from one location to another, your ideal husband would prefer to
a.  Ride on a powerful horse
b.  Stroll along chatting with friends
c.  Walk as quickly and efficiently as possible
d.  Convince the duke with the largest carriage to give him a ride

2.  Your ideal husband’s leisure time reading would include
a.  A good treatise on the birthing of foals
b.  Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler
c.  The Transactions of the Philosophical Society
d.  Wordsworth’s poetry

3.  Your husband’s preferred outfit would consist of
a.  A coat, breeches, and riding boots
b.  A waistcoat, linen shirt with good range of movement for his arms, and water-proofed boots
c.  Whatever was closest to hand, regardless of whether it was clean or matched
d.  Perfectly matched, refined coat and trousers tailored to his person and indicative of his style

4.  Your husband would tie his cravat in this style
a.  Simply knotted
b.  The Corinthian, a fold currently popular among sporting gentlemen
c.  The Mathematical (but only when his valet was involved)
d.  An elegant fold that others struggle to copy

5.  Your husband would prefer to spend his time with you
a.  Riding across verdant fields, then a quiet picnic under the trees
b.  Holding you in his arms while he teaches you the fine art of fishing
c.  Listening to your stories in ardent appreciation
d.  Taking you on an adventure, whether sailing on the Thames or venturing into the deepest cavern in search of gold

6.  If your husband wrote his own wedding vows, he might say the following:
a.  “I will never be worthy of your love, but if you allow me, I will treasure you all the days of your life.”
b.  “I promise you will always come first in my life, no matter the requirements of my station or interests.”
c.  “You are my equal in all ways, and I will never be whole without you are at my side.”
d.  “Come with me and be my love, and we will all the pleasures prove.”

Leave us a comment to let us know who the servants would have campaigned for you to marry, and what you think about the matter.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No April Fool’s Here--How to Win Your Husband’s Heart

April 1 seems a strange day for launching my new release, The Husband Campaign.  I keep expecting my publisher to shout, “April Fool’s!”

But it’s no joke.  The Husband Campaign hits bookstore shelves and online retailers everywhere today.  This is the finale of my Master Matchmakers series, where servants play a key role in helping their masters find that perfect mate.  In this case, brassy maid Dorcus Turner is on loan from Rotherford Grange to help Lady Amelia become accustomed to her new role as mistress of Hollyoak Farm.  You see, Amelia caused a quiet scandal when she spent the night in Lord Hascot’s abandoned stable, and her parents insisted that she had no recourse but to marry the stern horse breeder.  Yet Amelia cannot help noticing there is more to John than his rough exterior implies.  How can she break through his hardened shell to the tender heart she is certain lurks inside?
Here’s some of Turner’s advice on how to win your husband:

“If you ask me,” she said as she helped Amelia into her nightgown, “a gentleman shouldn’t spend two nights in a stable, especially after being wed less than a fortnight.”

“Lord Hascot has a sick horse,” Amelia explained.

“He has a sick wife, too,” Turner replied, “sick of being alone, I warrant.”

“That will do, Turner,” Amelia said.

The maid’s lips compressed. She said nothing more until she had Amelia settled in bed. Then she stepped back.

“You ought to show him what’s what, your ladyship,” she insisted. “Just like you did with the butler and cook today.”

“Turner,” Amelia warned.

The maid drew herself up. “I warned you I can’t hold my tongue, your ladyship. Not when I see something amiss, and there’s plenty amiss with this house. You can send me back to the Grange tomorrow for saying so, but that man needs you. Everyone in the dale knows he’s lonely.”

Amelia frowned as she leaned back against the pillow. “Lonely?”

Turner took a step closer. “Yes, ma’am. How couldn’t he be, no one but horses and horse-mad folk to talk to?”

She made it sound as if John’s servants and buyers were somehow crazy. Or he was. “He seems content to me. I think he simply doesn’t like change.”

“He’s stuck in his ways, you mean.” Turner snapped a nod of agreement. “You could help him, your ladyship. Draw him out, make him smile.” She grinned. “I warrant he could be a handsome fellow if he smiled.”

Amelia had thought the same thing when she’d seen one of his rare smiles. “Thank you for your advice, Turner,” she said, unable to still a grin of her own. “That will be all this evening.”

With a curtsey, the maid left her.

But Turner’s words lingered. Was John as lonely as Amelia? Would he accept her companionship? Or would he even care? How was she to make a marriage when the other half of that marriage had no time or interest?

How indeed.  You can discover how Amelia won the day in The Husband Campaign at fine retailers near you or your keyboard:


Friday, March 28, 2014

Dowering Doddering Dowagers

Whether you’re watching Downton Abbey, reading a novel set in nineteenth century England, or keeping up with the Royals today, sooner or later, you’ll run into a dowager.  Often times, literature and productions show them as silver-haired ladies with a will of iron.  But that wasn’t always the case.

Take the lovely Lady Hascot of my upcoming release The Husband Campaign.  Caro married Lord Hascot, who had a twin brother named John.  When her husband died, John became the new Lord Hascot.  Caro remains Lady Hascot, but once John marries, she is the dowager.  A young, curvaceous, cunning dowager who causes no end of trouble, but that’s a story for another time. 

So, what exactly is a dowager?  The term originally applied to a widow who could apply for dower, or a certain portion of her husband’s estate that would be hers to use while she lived.  So some estates had a dower cottage, a house where the dowager might live after the new title holder moved into the larger house.  Although dower was still legally supported in nineteenth century England, more often families arranged matters of what the wife would inherit before the wedding in marriage contracts.  The term dowager, then, was generally used to distinguish between two ladies whose husbands had held the same title. 

For example, if Lord Whistlewait marries Amelia Peascoat, she becomes Lady Whistlewait.  Let’s say they have a charming son named Horace.  When Lord Whistlewait dies, Horace inherits his father’s title and proposes to his one true love, Constantinople Trubadore.  Dear Connie now becomes Lady Whistlewait, and Horace’s mother becomes the Dowager Lady Whistlewait.

Now, there is some question as to whether the term was ever used to the lady’s face.  Then as now, most women who became dowagers were of a certain level of maturity to which I am currently aspiring.  As you can imagine, not all ladies of such maturity took well to being called a dowager, even behind their backs.  Certainly, if only one of the Ladies Whistlewait was present, there would be no need to mention the term dowager.  Even if the two were together at an event, conversation might easily be arranged to avoid the potentially offensive term.

Could anyone offer a restorative cup of tea while I ponder becoming the Dowager Mrs. Scott?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WWI Recipes That Don't Inspire Giggles

So I’ve been having fun being a tad snarky about food conservation recipes from the first World War and how some of them seem...ah, less than appetizing. I was looking through some WWI era pamphlets recently, however, and found a few recipes that (ssh!) sound as if they might not be too bad.

This might make lovely tea sandwiches on thin crustless bread, don’t you think? (from Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose, 1917)

Fruit and Peanut Butter (for sandwiches)
¼ cup dates
¼ cup figs
½ cup peanut butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup raisins
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Wash figs, raisins, dates, and put through food chopper. Add salt, peanut butter, lemon juice, and corn syrup, and mix well.

Here’s a recipe for a chowder that doesn’t seem out of line to this New Englander, though we would use whole milk rather than skim (From Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose, 1917)

Dried Fish Chowder
½ pound salt fish
4 cups potatoes, cut in small pieces
2 ounces salt pork
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups skim milk
4 ounces crackers

Salt codfish, smoked halibut, or other dried fish may be used in this chowder. Pick over and shred the fish, holding it under lukewarm water. Let it soak while the other ingredients of the dish are being prepared. Cut the pork into small pieces and fry it with the onion until both are a delicate brown; add the potatoes, cover with water, and cook until the potatoes are soft. Add the milk and fish and reheat. Salt, if necessary. It is well to allow the crackers to soak in the milk while the potatoes are being cooked, then remove them, and finally add to the chowder just before serving.

This one could maybe use some cinnamon and nutmeg (and raisins and walnuts might be good too), but I like that it doesn’t have added sugar--a good recipe for carb-counters. (from Best War Time Recipes by the Royal Baking Powder Company, 1918)

Sweet Potato Muffins
1 cup flour
4 teaspoons Royal Baking Powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweet potatoes (mashed)
1 egg
1 cup milk and water

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add cold sweet potatoes which have been lightly mashed or put through a ricer. Add beaten egg and liquid, mixing well. Bake in greased muffin tins in moderate oven 25 to 30 minutes.

This sounds more like a soufflé than a fondue, doesn't it? (from Everyday Foods in War Time by Mary Swartz Rose, 1917)

Cheese Fondue
1 1/3 cups hot milk
1 1/3 cups bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter
4 eggs
1/3 pound cheese (1 1/3 cups grated or 1 cup cut in pieces)
½ teaspoon salt

Mix the milk, breadcrumbs, salt, and cheese; add the yolks thoroughly beaten; into this mixture cut and fold the whites of eggs beaten till stiff. Pour into a buttered dish and cook 30 minutes in a moderate oven. Serve at once.

Enjoy! And let us know if you try making any of them!