Friday, May 18, 2018

Dressing the Bride, 19th Century Style

This weekend will see a royal wedding. I wasn’t invited. That’s okay. I’m too busy writing. But in case you’re in the mood for weddings, I thought you might enjoy a few nineteenth century wedding gowns to ogle.

The one on the right dates from around 1816. Love the clumps of roses along her hem, and isn’t the headdress lovely?

Here's 1824. Love the shine of the material and the way the leaves above are echoed below.

Ah, 1827. Seems crimping was in—the hair, the collar, the sleeves. Not sure I’d wear this one.

About ten years later. Less crimping. Love the graceful collar.

Early 1840s. Simple and elegant, but I can’t decide if the color is on purpose or darkened with time. It is a museum piece, so I’m thinking the apricot was a choice.

1850s. Love this one—the embroidery, the train. I’d wear it in a heartbeat.

1860s, and a royal wedding! This is Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

1870s. Ah, the crimping is back. But I like this one. So sleek and so fussy at the same time!

1880s. Yards of material and very fluffy. Can’t decide.

Finally, 1892, fitted design and tons of lace.

Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Newer Additions to My Collection 1813, Part 2

More eye candy from my collection, featuring the second half of 1813. Soooo pretty!

June’s Promenade Dress is “A plain morning gown, of fine cambric or jaconot muslin, with long sleeves, and front cut low at the bosom, appliquéd with lace; a shirt of the same, with a full gathered frill round the throat. A Pomeranian mantle of jonquille satin, trimmed round with a deep white lace. A provincial bonnet, composed of jonquille satin and Chinese cord, confined under the chin, and ornamented on one side with corresponding ribband, a cluster of flowers on the other. A sash of jonquille ribband, tied in front of the waist. Gloves and half-boots of pale lilac or jonquille kid. Parasol either white or pale lilac.” However, I confess to being a little perplexed by this description, as the mantle depicted is blue while “jonquille” is  yellow. A miscommunication between the magazine and the colorists?

Love this Ball Dress, also from June’s issue! “A Grecian round robe, of lilac or apple-blossom crape, worn over a white satin petticoat. A satin bodice, the colour of the robe, ornamented with white beads and drops, à la militaire; the same continued down the front of the dress; short Circassian sleeves, with similar ornaments; a deep Vandyke trimming of lace, or lilac Angola silk, round the bottom of the robe. An Indian turban, of silver frosted crape, decorated with pearl or white beads; and a bunch of spring flowers beneath, blending with the hair over the left eyebrow. A necklace and locket of large pearl, or the satin bead. Ear-rings and bracelets en suite. White satin slippers, trimmed with a narrow silver fringe. White kid gloves. Fan of ivory, decorated with coloured feathers. Lemon-coloured or white scarf, with rich embroidered ends of gold and coloured silks.  Hmm—another color confusion there, as that is definitely a blue scarf!

Tassels seem to be the thing for 1813, as here’s another Morning Walking Dress featuring a mantle adorned with them. Her bonnet, of a slightly wider, flatter shape is quite fetching too. And notice the ring around the top of her parasol, to help keep it closed when it’s furled. (July)

August’s stunning Evening Dress has an interesting description: “THE VITTORIA OR WELLINGTON COSTUME, FOR EVENING DRESS, is composed of Venetian crape, placed over a white satin underdress; a treble row of shell-scalloped lace ornaments the feet, above which is seen a border of variegated laurel. A bodice and Circassian top sleeve of Pomona green satin; the bosom interspersed with shell-scalloped lace, and correspondently ornamented. Shoulders, back, and bosom much exposed. Hair in dishevelled curls, with variegated laurel band in front, and a transparent Brussels veil thrown across the back of the head, and descending irregularly over the back and shoulders. A chain and cross of pale amber earrings, [sic] and bracelets of pearl. Slippers of white satin; gloves of French kid; and fan of carved ivory.  The name of the dress is presumably  in honor of Wellington’s June victory over Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jourdan in the Battle of Vittoria, a victory that would prove decisive in the Peninsular War and pave the way for the coming invasion of France itself.

Also for August (and covering a great deal more than the previous dress) is this Morning or Domestic Costume, consisting of “A petticoat of jaconot or cambric muslin; with a Cossack coat, or three-quartered pelisse, of lemon-coloured sarsnet, with Vandyke Spanish border of a deeper shade. Full sleeves, confined at the waist with a broad elastic gold bracelet; confined, also, at the bottom of the waist, with a ribband en suite. Foundling cap of lace, with full double border in front, confined under the chin with a ribband the colour of the pelisse, and tied on one side; a bunch of variegated carnations placed on the left side. Gloves and Roman slippers of lemon-coloured kid.” I’m not quite sure why the pelisse is not tinted yellow, as her slippers just peeking out from under her gown are.

This Evening Costume from September has a very interesting sleeve and bodice treatment, don’t you think?  And the bust was definitely emphasized in most of the evening dresses we’ve seen this year. I wonder if the lace veil was pinned into her hair, or left loose so that it could be used as a scarf if the night was chilly?

Finishing off 1813 is this Morning Dress from November, “A fine cambric or jaconot muslin round robe, a walking length, with round bosom, a demi height; long sleeves, and shirt, with deep fan frill of vandyke lace: the dress ornamented at the bottom, to correspond. A spencer of Peruvian green velvet or satin, with Spanish slashed sleeves, and deep cuffs of vandyke lace, to correspond with the frill of the shirt, which rises above the spencer, confined at the throat with a pearl or other suitable broach, from which are suspended tassels and cord. The spencer appears unconfined in front, and is lined with white satin, decorated with small cord and buttons. The hair disposed à la Madona, flowing in loose curls on the crown of the head, a small spring of barberry in front. The Swedish slouch hat is worn with this dress in the out-door costume: it is composed of the same material as the spencer, lined with white satin, and ornamented with a curled ostrich feather. Half-boots of velvet, or kid, the colour of the spencer. Gloves, a pale lemon color.”  I do wish we could have seen the hat, and gotten the full effect of this charming costume!

And that wraps up 1813...what dress do you think you would have liked the best?

Friday, May 11, 2018

A Family Legacy, in Pictures

If you look at my family tree on my mother’s side, you will see a lot of sons and relatively few daughters. I am the only granddaughter, the only niece, and one of a few great-nieces. In my family, that means one thing: I inherit stuff. I have my grandmother’s china set she built piece by piece through the Depression, my great-great grandmother’s porcelain bowl she brought with her from the old country. They are easy to notice, full of memories. My great-great aunt left me her postcard albums, and it was only recently I realized what a treasure they are.

Most date from the early 1900s, so are 100 years old or more. They show a world few have seen these days.

Take the one above. That is Multnomah Falls, in the Columbia River Gorge. I’ve visited many times, driven past it many more. According to the USDA, more than 2 million people come to view the falls each year. Here’s a similar photo from 1982. 

My husband spotted the difference right away. The bridge crossing the river is missing in the original picture. It was built in 1914, 5 years after that photo was taken.

Here’s one from Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. (And the exposition is a post all on its own—dibs!). This one is near to my heart because the buildings and land for this world fair because the current home of the University of Washington, my alma mater.

Then there’s an entire series of ones taken of family members. Around the turn of the century, it was possible to take pictures yourself and have them printed on postcard stock. On the back, this one reads: “Bringing in the hay this year. That’s me at the top of the stack.”

Yes, I inherit stuff. But, thanks to my aunt, I have been given a piece of history.

1982 photo of Multnomah Falls by Andolent at

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Regency Fabrics, Part 19

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.

Today’s four samples are from the June 1811 issue of Ackermann’s. The overall condition of my copy is good: the page itself is most free of foxing and toning, but at least one of the samples has picked up some offset from the facing page.

No.. 1 An imperial striped gauze, for evening or full dress; which is becomingly ornamented with white or amber beads, thread-lace, or narrow wreaths of flowers. To be had of Messrs. Coopers, 28, Pall-Mall.

My comments: Oh, this is pretty stuff! It’s more open-work or net than gauze, and would be stunning over a colored slip or underdress. It’s somewhat stiff but the texture is smooth and silky and reflective—definitely an evening dress sort of fabric.

No. 2 Barrosa lace, for the same order of costume; admitting only trimming of lace, white beads, or silver; and worn over slips of white satin or sarsnet. Sold by Mr. Threshar, 15, Cheapside; and may be had of any colour.

My comments: I don’t think it’s as pretty as No. 1 nor as dressy in appearance--it has a matte appearance, for one thing, cotton rather than silk. It’s very airy and light, not as stiff as No. 1.

No. 3. An entirely novel printed muslin, entitled the regent’s plume; from the house of William Bowler & Son, of King-street, Cheapside, by whom it is vended to all the fashionable houses in town and country. The same pattern is to be had on azure and jonquil grounds. The union of colours is quite unique, and their effect particularly attractive and pleasing; at the same time it is reasonable in price.

My comments: It’s a little difficult to judge how attractive and pleasing this fabric is, as the print is almost entirely gone in my sample--you can just see some very faint signs of it. So I did a little research, and found a slightly better preserved piece. The Prince of Wales feather form the pattern; I suppose it’s fun enough for a morning dress, but the fabric itself is thin and not evenly woven, so I’m reading a little more of flattery than truthfulness into the effusive description.

No. 4. A mourning printed cambric, of an entire new pattern. There needs n comment on the appropriation of this article, which speaks decidedly for itself. To be had of T. and J. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden.

My comments: More 1930s quilting fabric! No, not really, but it would fit right in on a vintage quilt (down to the Le Moyne star pattern!) I assume this would be for a morning mourning dress—daywear rather than evening. The fabric itself is much sturdier and finely woven than No. 3.

Any thoughts on this month’s fabrics?

Friday, May 4, 2018

May the Fourth be With You: Regency Style

I couldn’t resist. It isn’t every year that this awesome holiday falls on the day I’m slated to blog. Today is Star Wars Day, and I’m a fan. So, I went digging to see if there were any associations between Star Wars and the Regency period. What I found amazed me.

Now, I would love to post the pictures on this blog, but I couldn’t find a way to ask permission. So, I will point you to this link instead and describe just one of the wonderful portraits of Star Wars characters in Regency garb: Kylo Ren, all in black, in a double-breasted coat, patterned waistcoat, and cravat. Be still my heart!

I wasn’t the only one moved. Two cosplayers were inspired to take these pictures live. Nicely done! 

And it turns out there’s actually a thing on Tumblr of Regency Reylo (Kylo Ren and Rey romantically involved, in Regency garb). Who knew? 

May the Fourth inspire you to go and be creative too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Cover Reveal: Introducing Between Silk and Sand!

I am delighted, excited, and generally over the moon to unveil the cover of my upcoming young adult fantasy novel, due out on July 31, 2018 from Book View Café. May I please present...

The best-laid plans, even of princesses, can go awry...very, very awry.

Seventeen-year-old Saraid of Thekla is on her way to marry the ruler of far-off Mauburni. But she’s not sobbing into her silk-curtained litter at the thought of leaving home, because she has plans—and The Book. She’s studied this ancient treatise on the art of kingship for months to make herself the ideal queen for her adopted country. Once her new husband sees that, he’ll fall madly in love with her. It will all be perfect. She knows it.

But The Book is silent on what to do when one’s journey across a cursed desert wasteland is halted by a mysterious young warlord. Cadel has plans of his own—plans that don’t include her going to Mauburni. As she begins to unravel his secrets, Saraid will have to put aside The Book and trust her own wisdom—and her heart—to navigate the treacherous shoals of politics and power and become the queen she yearns to be.  

Between Silk and Sand (stop by my website for more info and a sneak peek at the first chapter! ) is my first young adult novel in...well, a long time. It’s been a long time coming, too—I wrote the first incarnation of this story as my very first book back in 2003. It’s almost unrecognizable as that book I wrote so long ago (which is a good thing, believe me—that first effort was terrible!), but it’s a story I had to tell...and now, here it is. Regina wrote a few weeks back about how important a writer’s friends can be. Without the friends who read parts or all of Between Silk and Sand and gave me their honest, thoughtful opinions and then pushed me to not give up, this book would never have happened...and to all those friends, this book is dedicated.

And isn’t the cover gorgeous? I cannot thank Book View Café’s Dave Smeds enough for his beautiful work on it—it truly sings.

Between Silk and Sand will be available at all the major on-line retailers—Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and GooglePlay (all of where it can be pre-ordered--link for Amazon coming shortly)--as well as, of course, Book View Café’s own online store (which you really need to check out if you haven’t already because there’s a wealth of good reading there) and in print from your favorite bookstores. You can also add it to your want-to-read list on Goodreads here.

I'm so excited! I hope you'll check out my pretty new book!

Friday, April 27, 2018

What’s a (Poor) Lady to Do?

We have, over the years, discussed the activities and challenges of the young lady of the Regency period, as well as her somewhat limited career choices. Novels abound of gently reared ladies having to make do when circumstances conspire against them. My Fortune’s Brides series features gentlewomen down on their luck, so I’ve been doing some pondering as to what the actual choices were for such women, particularly those who are not looking to marry and would prefer not to lower her status terribly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Governess—The old standby. If you’ve survived a Season or two, if you learned some history and science along the way, perhaps another language such as French, you probably have what it takes to teach other young ladies. A slight variation on this would be a finishing school teacher, but those were somewhat rare in the Regency (even though I’ve given my heroines that profession in at least two stories 😊).
  • Nanny—I see this frequently, and I’ve certainly used it myself, but I haven’t found too many contemporary sources claiming a young lady who had been raised for finer things took it upon herself to become a nanny. Still, if you had a motherly instinct, if you were raised with many brothers and sisters, and if you were willing to be seen as a servant, you might be able to handle this position.
  • Housekeeper for a relative—this is a difficult one. Technically, a housekeeper is a servant position, although higher on the servant food chain. But if you served a relative who was willing to treat you more like family so that the role was more of chatelaine, this one might do.
  • Lady’s maid—another difficult one. Again, you are a servant, and chances are you won’t be mixing socially with the upper crust. But if you are a dab hand at sewing, know your way around a cosmetic jar, and have a good ear, you could do well here.
  • Companion—another old standby. Families seem to have a plethora of aged female relations who require someone to fetch and carry, to share confidences, to help with daily care and entertainment. And there’s always the off chance that said relative will be kind in her will.
  • Assistant—I’ll be using this one in my fourth Fortune’s Brides series, but it is a challenging one as well. Secretaries and personal attaches were generally men serving men. A lady really cannot spend time alone with a gentleman. But say a prominent lady, who doesn’t want to claim her age requires a companion or needs specialized skills? Perhaps.
  • Sponsored artist—Sometimes your gift could be your livelihood. Wealthy patrons might sponsor a painter, a musician, or a composer. Most of these sponsored positions went to men, and it would look odd for a lady to be sponsored by a gentleman. But, under the right circumstances, I could see a woman sponsoring another woman.
So, what do you think? Have you heard of other ways for an impoverished young lady to keep her head and her dignity above water?