Tuesday, April 26, 2011

FOR WRITERS: How to Undress an Eighteenth Century Gentleman

I put together a simple cheat-sheet for writers about eighteenth century clothing, and I thought it might not only be a good guide for writers researching the era, but also a bit of fun for readers who love history (although you may want to note the changes I made because of the fantasy aspect of my world). So without further ado, here’s how you might go about undressing my hero, Giles Beaumont, from my upcoming release THE LADY OF THE STORM:

1. Shoes
First, let’s get Giles comfortable be removing his shoes or boots. Like the women, men wore heeled shoes similar to our modern day clogs where you slip your foot in, but mostly of black with large buckles. The toes started out square, and went round by 1740.
Pumps had low heels. I prefer my hero to wear boots, however, and many a military man wore them to a ball. I prefer the half jackboots, which ended below the knee in a turned-down top, made of leather. Heavy jackboots went above the knee, and light jackboots were cut in the back so a man could bend easier. Slippers were worn indoors, usually heelless leather.

2. Coat
Now we might want to remove Giles’s coat. The most common coat for a gentleman had no collar, a flared skirt-like pleated bottom, buttons and very wide buttonholes down the entire front and along the sleeves. The buttons could be made of gold, silver, brass, and other metals. The sleeves were wide and turned up into a large cuff, and short enough that the frills on his shirtsleeves peeked from beneath. The front had two large pockets about hip-high. The skirt of the coat was often stiffened with buckram (a stiff fabric) and whalebone so it flared out widely from the waist. The coat fell past the knees. It was usually only buttoned at the throat and/or waist, so the rest of the buttonholes were just for show.

The frock coat was first worn by the lower class, having a less rigid and more comfortable cut. The gentlemen then adopted the coat for sports, riding & casual dress. The frock coat had a collar and sometimes, a slit in the sleeves. But otherwise, it looked similar to the coat described above.

As always, the difference between a gentleman’s dress and the lower classes was in the material. Silk, satin, damask, gold & silver stuff, etc. for gentlemen; ticking, rough wool & leather for the lower class. And I should also note here that a gentleman’s wardrobe was lined.

3. Waistcoat
You will then be able to remove Giles’s waistcoat, and it looked very similar to the coat, with buttons down the front and a large pocket on each side. But the long sleeves and the back were often made of a thinner, cheaper material, since it didn’t show. And it was shorter than the outer coat, around mid-thigh. Waistcoats could also be laced up instead of buttoned, have decorative lining around the hem made of embroidery, lace or fringe. In THE LADY OF THE STORM, Giles prefers buttons, since they are easier to remove, and less fussy.

4. Breeches
Depending on your mood, you might want to remove Giles’s breeches next, which could be made of the same material as coats, but didn’t have to match. Start by unbuttoning the waistband’s three buttons (set close together), and about three more buttons below that to fully open the front. Breeches only went to just below the knees, so then you need to undo the knee buckles. During the first quarter of the century, stockings were pulled up over the knees of the breeches and rolled back down below them over garters (woven silk, ribbon, braid). But soon the breeches were buckled over the stockings below the knees. Giles prefers this method, so after you unbuckle his breeches, you may then remove:

5. Stockings
The stockings were generally white and made of cotton or silk. You could certainly use different/contrasting colors for a dandy.

6. Drawers
In THE LADY OF THE STORM, Giles Beaumont doesn’t often wear them (I have found no evidence that drawers were always worn), but if he happens to have them on, they have to be untied at the waist and knees, and were generally made of linen.

7. Neckcloth or Cravat
Untie the cloth from under his chin, where the ends were left to fall to about his upper mid-chest, then slowly ease it off from around his neck. Made of muslin, lawn or linen, the ends were decorated with lace or tasseled. Commoners may wear a handkerchief knotted about the neck. There was other neckwear, including a stock and solitaire.

8. Shirt
And finally, gratefully, you can unbutton Giles’s shirt. Ruffles at the front and sleeves, often edged in lace. The ruffles at the neck were often referred to as a jabot, when the cambric or lace edging was sewn to both opening sides. For commoner or casual wear: plain sleeves with a narrow band, which is usually what Giles wears. Generally made of fine white cotton or linen material, referred to as cambric. You could distinguish a gentleman by how clean his shirt was.

9. Other:

Men usually had short, close-cropped hair, because they wore a white wig, longer at the beginning of the century, and of varying styles throughout. Wigs could be several colors, but were often powdered white. Real hair could be dressed to resemble a wig, and hair was worn long if you didn’t have one (artisans & commoners). However, black wigs were often worn by the military. Some had long and short curls all over, curls just at the sides, braided down the back, tied back in a queue. Wigs could me made of human hair, horse or goat hair, and feathers. There was such a variety of wigs that an author can surely use her imagination with them! In THE LADY OF THE STORM the men wear wigs to imitate the elven lords’ lustrous long white hair, and use silver glitter to try to copy the sparkle. Since Giles has the original, he does not wear a wig, but will often wear battle braids at the sides.

The cocked, or three-cornered hat, usually made of black beaver felt, was worn indoors under the arm. It was often quite large, and could be decorated with ribbon, feathers, lace, etc. Men often wore nightcaps to keep their shaved heads warm, but the elven lords had a full head of hair to keep them comfy at night. In THE LADY OF THE STORM, Giles wears his hat outdoors, but carries it under his arm the rest of the time, and he certainly never decorates it.

Giles Beaumont dresses simply, but when at court, he might also carry or wear: leather gloves, a sword (the hilt protruded through a side vent of the coat—Giles always wears his enchanted sword, although fancier swords were worn at court), and after 1730, a cane as well. Pocket watches, a snuff or toothpick box, a lace-edged handkerchief.

For outerwear: open cloaks fastened at the neck & Greatcoats (a big frock coat with back vent for riding). Military men preferred the cloak, as did spies, and Giles was no exception.

References: Costume in Context/The Eighteenth Century by Jennifer Ruby ISBN 071345772, A History of Fashion in Costume/The Eighteenth Century by Anne Rooney 0816059489, Daily Life in Eighteenth Century England by Kirstin Olsen 0313299331, Handbook of English Costume in the 18th Century by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington 0823801284.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Join me for a live chat tonight at 5pm Mountain Time - Arizona

or 5pm PST / 8 EST, at : http://www.nightowlparanormal.com/nor/Pages/Chat.aspx

No passwords are needed, just sign in. Communication will be in writing. I will be giving away an autographed copy of one of my books, and so will the following authors who are joining me:

Erin Quinn

Caris Roane

Erin Kellison

Looking forward to 'talking' with you!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FOR WRITERS: How to Undress an Eighteenth Century Lady

I put together a simple cheat-sheet for writers about eighteenth century clothing, and I thought it might not only be a good guide for writers researching the era, but also a bit of fun for your readers who love history (although you may want to note the changes I made because of the fantasy aspect of my world). So without further ado, here’s how my hero, Giles Beaumont, might go about undressing my heroine, Lady Cecily Sutton, from my upcoming release, THE LADY OF THE STORM:

1. Gown

First, Giles might wish to remove Cecily’s gown, and this can consist of:

A mantua, which is a formal dress worn at court, and is similar to a huge robe wrapped in front, held together with a girdle (belt). A decorated stomacher (more about this below) will often show through the opening of the top.

A sacque dress, which is unfitted both front and back (not drawn in at the waist) and the back has pleated material that falls from the shoulders all the way to the floor. Again, a stomacher will show through the open-to-the-waist neckline.

The skirt bottom of either of the above dresses can be opened or closed, which means it can be split to show a different or matching colored petticoat beneath. The petticoat will be as elaborate as the skirt itself in material and construction.

A day dress, consisting of a bodice (top) and skirt. This was considered ‘undress’ wear by the wealthy, and adopted by the workingwoman for practical reasons. The dress had elbow length sleeves, a fitted shape for the bodice, and depending on the lady, could be made of several types of material. Linsey-woolsey as the cheapest, progressing to satin, silk or velvet for the most expensive. The jacket bodice was usually held in place with lacing or hook-and-eye closure down the front. The skirt, like the petticoat, was tied on by a drawstring, either behind or a tie at each side, and was closed (no split).

The riding habit was also two pieces: a skirt, worn with a coat similar to a man’s but darted along the sides, with a buttoned waistcoat beneath. Also to simulate the man’s dress, a cravat could be worn around the neck and a tricorne hat on the head. Although hoops were often worn under the skirt, I use a quilted petticoat to keep mounting and riding simple.

2. Stays

Now Giles may tackle her stays, which is a boned support wrap that is tightly laced in the back, which flattens the bosom and pushes it upward. Often tied to the front of the stays is the stomacher, another boned piece of cloth with a ‘v’ at the bottom, which can be heavily embroidered and decorated for show. The stomacher is also often attached to the bodice itself, instead of the stays, usually sewn in place. Cecily finds it simpler to wear a stomacher that is attached to the stays. There is also evidence that workingwomen wore stays that released by ties in the front as well, which makes sense to me, as they didn’t have maids to unlace their backs, which were tied in a sort of criss-cross fashion, which took determination to remove. Another interesting note about stays is that they weren’t what we consider underwear. They were often worn without any covering while women worked, and often peeked through the open front of a gown, especially if they were elaborately embroidered or decorated. As the centuries progressed, and stays became known as the corset, they then became primarily underclothing. Because of consistency throughout the ages, I don’t use this fact in my books, and stick with the chemise as our modern idea of historical underclothing.

3. Petticoat

Then Giles must untie the hoop-petticoat, via a drawstring about the waist. A hoop was a petticoat reinforced with (usually) whalebone, in circular layers from top to bottom, which held out a lady’s skirt. Several types of hoops were worn during the Georgian era, but in general, they started out in a round dome shape, then graduated to a ‘fan’, where the front and back of the top of the hoop was flattened, pushing out the hoops to the sides. The oblong hoop extended the distance to the sides, creating the extravagant shape worn by Marie Antoinette. These were also called ‘elbow hoops’, since some were high enough that a lady could actually rest her elbows on them. In lieu of hoops, usually for workingwomen, a lady could wear a quilted petticoat to help shape her dress. A fancy (unboned) petticoat could be worn over the supporting hoop-petticoat, specifically when the lady wore an open skirt. Other types of support were also worn, like false hips and cork rumps, but this is for the writer, not the historian, and I try to keep it simple. (Also, the skirt of a dress was commonly referred to as a petticoat, but this can be confusing to the modern reader (and me!), so I stick with the separate terms.)

4. Chemise

Finally, Giles can remove her chemise, a thin shift which reached to about the knees. A rich woman’s chemise could be made of fine linen, elaborately embroidered or laced, especially about the sleeves, where it often peeked out from under the gown’s sleeves. The neckline was sometimes loosened by a string that gathered it closed.

5. Shoes

If she hasn’t already, Lady Cecily can kick off her shoes at this point, which resemble our modern-day clogs, where you slip your foot in. Often made of material to match her skirts, they had heels and were usually buckled or tied over the toes. She could also wear slippers, and a workingwoman might wear thick leather ones. Boots were often worn for riding.

6. Stockings

Stockings were usually white or black, held up at the top by a ribbon (garter) tied just above the knees. Usually cotton, the middle class might wear worsted, a rich lady would wear silk.

7. Drawers

I can find no evidence that a Georgian lady wore any form of what we consider panties. Which is fabulous news for Giles Beaumont, who can skip all the above and just lift her skirts when passion overwhelms him.

8. Miscellaneous

Lady Cecily might also carry/wear:

A tucker (scarf) could be tucked into the top of the bodice of any dress for modesty’s sake.

Hair was usually worn in a bun at the top in the back of the head, curls or waves of hair to frame the face. Ladies began to wear white wigs like the gentlemen, which later in the century grew to extreme heights, and were often decorated with feathers, jewels, birds, tiny hats, etc., especially for formal occasions or at court. In THE LADY OF THE STORM, the men wear wigs to imitate the elven lords’ lustrous long white hair, and use silver glitter to try to copy the sparkle. Since Giles has the original, he does not wear a wig, but will often wear battle braids at the sides.

Mobcaps were worn on the head indoors, a cap gathered in the front with ruffles at the sides, and often under hats, which varied from imitations of the men’s three cornered hat to straw hats. Pinners were worn as formal dress, caps usually made of lace, flat on the top of the head, with trailing ‘lappets’ down the sides (of the same material) that hung well past the shoulders.

Cecily may also carry/wear a drawstring purse, lace handkerchief, fan, muff, parasol, apron, umbrella and gloves (gloves were almost always worn). Aprons were not always used for practical purposes, but as an accessory to the dress, of sheer material embroidered or edged with lace.

For outerwear, she could wear a mantle, which is a long hooded cloak, often with a riding hood attached, a ‘caped hood’. A mantlet, which is a short cape. A scarf, wrapped around the shoulders. Again, the cloth varied based on wealth, but most were made of wool. Trim could be excessive, from fur to embroidery to gold piping.

This is a basic cheat-sheet for writers, and I kept simplicity in mind when putting this together. I used several references, but the primary ones are: Costume in Context/The Eighteenth Century by Jennifer Ruby ISBN 071345772, A History of Fashion in Costume/The Eighteenth Century by Anne Rooney 0816059489, Daily Life in Eighteenth Century England by Kirstin Olsen 0313299331, Handbook of English Costume in the 18th Century by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington 0823801284.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

We have a winner for the BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS contest!

Congratulations to Karen E. of Thiensville, WI! She was the lucky newsletter subscriber of my group who was randomly chosen as the winner of my contest for BENEATH THE THIRTEEN MOONS. Karen will soon be wearing this lovely moonstone necklace! I will be launching a new contest to celebrate the upcoming release of book 2 in THE ELVEN LORDS series, THE LADY OF THE STORM, so stay tuned!
Again, congrats, Karen! It's such a thrill to have a long-time newsletter subscriber & reader win!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

FOR WRITERS: Organic Writing

I might be coining a term here, but ‘organic’ is the most accurate way I can describe my writing process. I start with my characters and a general idea of the plot, and the rest just kind of grows naturally. I know where I’m going, but not exactly how I’m going to get there. And for me, that’s the magical part of writing.

I can explain better with an example, so I’ll use one from my fantasy romance book, THE FIRE LORD’S LOVER.

My heroine, Lady Cassandra Brydges, is leaving a ball after she has just arrived at Firehame palace and has no idea how to find her chambers. Being Lady Cassandra, she would notice an urchin stealing a bit of supper from the tables, and so I created Gwen to guide her. Now Gwen is a slave from the elven wars, and Cass would not be able to help feeling sorry for the girl, and wouldn’t it be just like Cass to elevate a slave to a servant? So Gwen became her maid, and then I realized that this would be the perfect way for Lady Cassandra to find out more about her husband, General Dominic Raikes, who grew up as a slave in Firehame palace. So they are off to the kitchens to find May, who is a friend of Gwen’s. With elven blood in their veins, each of the slave girls has to possess some type of magical power. So I gave Gwen the gift of ‘finding things’ (I just thought this would be fun), and May the gift of weaving anything that falls within her clever fingers (a reason for Cass to hire her to do her hair).

And then the girls became a part of the plot, and their magical gifts grew useful accordingly. Gwen’s magic became useful when Cass was looking for Dominic, and Lady Cassandra realized that Gwen may be able to using her ‘finding’ magic with a map, once Gwen explained to Cass that she could see the aura of items to find them (and that grew from developing Gwen’s powers a bit more).

And then it seemed logical that Gwen could also ‘find’ dreams. And since May could weave sunlight, it followed that she could weave dreams as well. And the girls had become so fond of Cass that they would surely do anything to protect their mistress, and so toward the end of the book, they used their magic to create a cloak of dreams to protect Lady Cassandra when the elven lord threatened her.

I had no idea when I introduced Gwen that she would become so fundamental to the story. She was originally only a secondary character that would help Cass find her chambers.

And so that’s why I call my writing process organic, because one thing grows from another and half the time I don’t know how the story or characters will develop. So for those of you who also write without a rigid outline, I can only advise you to trust yourself. Learn everything about the craft that you can, but only use what makes sense to your writing process.

Water your garden with your imagination and watch it grow.

I hope you found this peek into my writing process helpful,