Tuesday, October 6, 2015

All for Research Purposes, Of Course!

Ah, the glam life of a writer. (I do hope you realize I’m writing with tongue firmly in cheek.) Why lurk at home writing in your jammies when you can go to an awesome retreat for historical fiction writers, try on gorgeous (and authentically made) 19th and 20th century gowns, eat amazing food made from period recipes, and generally have a wonderful time?

Yep, I was back at the Historical Writers Retreat at Senexet House in Woodstock, Connecticut this past weekend, doing all of the above. It might say something that almost all of this year's attendees had come last year, and it was lovely to see old friends again, including the adorable Bear.

Friday night opened with a tour of the house's lower floor, where the servants' quarters and kitchens had originally been located...and then we had a "downstairs" dinner in the original kitchen, eating hearty "servants'" food (the bacon and leek pie was to die for) before returning upstairs to chat about writing (and eat decidedly non-19th century red velvet cupcakes!)

Retreat organizer Nicole Carlson, in addition to being a writer, has an extensive background in costuming and brought dozens of garments from her amazing collection, from corsets to bustles and gowns to evening cloaks...and hats...and...well, it was pretty amazing. I wish I'd been better about taking pictures, because I learned a lot that would have been fun to show you, such as the 18th century panniers (which give that extra-wide hip effect in gowns of the period--and which also served as quite enormous pockets (who knew?) And the early twentieth century corsets which actually fit below the breasts (yes, there were early twentieth century brassieres to wear with them!). And the gowns...! Nicole generously laced us into corsets in order to try on dresses from her collection, and we got to play dress-up got an in-depth view of period clothing to enrich our writing.

Saturday afternoon brought another sumptuous tea, followed by the ever-patient Katy Bishop coaching us through a Lancers quadrille, and then an elegant candle-lit dinner followed by a gathering to talk about the popularity of spiritualism in the Victorian and Edwardian eras (and share a few spooky experiences of our own.)

But most of all, sharing a weekend with other writers who are as obsessed by the fascinating details of history and eager to enhance their stories with them--well, that's just priceless. It was a wonderful weekend, and I hope to be there again in 2016.


Lena Goldfinch said...

So much fun! I enjoyed hanging out with you again this year. What an amazing weekend. And, yeah, the food! Wow.

Marissa Doyle said...

We need to hang out more often, I think!

QNPoohBear said...

It sounds like an amazing time! What a coincidence you want to show 18th century undergarments. They look something like this:
(not my shop but just sold by a friend of mine)

Modeled by my own research assistant

Pocket hoops (two pieces instead of one pannier)