Sunday, September 30, 2012

Oh, the Fashion!

The elegance of 19th century fashion is one of the many reasons I write historicals. I’m forever fascinated by the gowns, accessories, and undergarments worn by women of a bygone age, and I love inserting those details into my novels. The variation from the fashions of the Regency to the early 20th century is fascinating.  I thought it would be fun to see the changes throughout the century by taking a brief look at the fashions of the Regency era to the end of the Victorian era, thus compare how things altered…and how they stayed the same.

Regency- 1810-1820
The one word I would use to describe Regency fashion would be- simplicity. Compared with the large bell skirts of the 1850’s and 1860’s, to the elegant clutter of the early 20th century, the straight skirts and simple muslin frocks have an understated beauty that the rest of the era (despite being oh, so gorgeous) lacks.

Regency ladies went light with the undergarments; a thin chemise, stockings, and petticoat were all they wore with their stays. Corsets weren’t the Scarlett O’Hara affairs of later decades and could be either very long and, with lacing down the front and little boning, or very short and flimsy. They were tied snugly, but not as tightly as in later years. A fuller more natural figure was “in” as opposed to an hourglass shape.
The gowns were high-waisted and very Grecian looking. Tight at the bodice, they flowed loosely down to the floor. Pastel colors were favored although daring ladies still wore flashy darker colors. White was the only color a debutante could wear. Long sleeved jackets called pelisses were worn out of doors, along with a brimmed bonnet tied under her chin with a ribbon.

Victorian - 1820-1900
A whirlwind of fashion ensued after the Regency ended. From the crinolines and bell skirts of the 1850’s and ‘60’s, to the leg o’ mutton sleeves and shorter skirts of the ‘90’s, things were a changin’.

Corsets changed drastically with the invention of metal grommets, which made them sturdy enough for a lady to completely reshape her figure. Contrary to common belief, a lady didn’t put on her corset and pull it until she couldn’t breathe. Training for a corset started early, beginning with a training corset when a girl was 13 or 14, which was slowly tightened to make the waist smaller. In the 1820’s and 1830’s, heavy petticoats were used to accentuate and make a small waist stand out, but by the 1850’s cage crinolines replaced petticoats, which were made of metal, bamboo, and horsehair. The predecessor of the bustle, half-crinolines, which made the back of the dress stand out became popular in the late 1860’s. In the 1870’s and 1880’s, the crinoline was replaced completely by the bustle, a padded undergarment worn at the back of the dress.

Every decade saw changes in dress, and a lady who left high society in the 1860’s, would be amazed if she came back ten years later and saw what everyone was wearing. In the 1840’s and 50’s, gowns were small and tight at the top, expanding into a bell shape created by petticoats and crinolines. A modest long sleeved dress was worn during the day and an off the shoulder gown in the evenings. In the 1860’s a half crinoline made the front of the dress flat and accentuated the back, evening dresses were the same as in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. Colors were more loud than in the Regency era, darker colors were favored. In the 1870’s, the bustle took over, making it much more difficult for a lady to recline back in a chair. Thankfully, the invention of the tea gown; a flowing corsetless gown to be worn during the late afternoon hours made it possible to get some comfort. By the 1890’s, the Gibson Girl look took over and “modern women” wore puffed sleeved blouses and simple skirts, to compliment their poofed hairstyles. Their evening dresses were slimmer and without wide hoops, and were similar in many aspects to their Regency counterparts.


So there you have it! Fashion in a nutshell. I could go on and on for pages about the intricacies of 19th century fashion, but hopefully this gives you an inkling of what it would have been like to wear one of those fabulous gowns. I certainly would love to try it!

Until next time,

Your Turn – What’s your favorite fashion era? Your least favorite? As always, if there are any topics you would like to see covered in my historical posts, leave a comment and let me know!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We Have A Winner!!!!

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Maggie Brendan, the winner of the conference consolation kit. She has been contacted and her package will be mailed to her shortly.

Thanks so much to all who entered!

Happy Writing,


Sunday, September 23, 2012

What A Conference!

Wow!!! I’m back from Dallas and what a wonderful time we had!!! So many unforgettable moments! Listening to Michael Hyatt’s great keynote speeches, attending many fabulous workshops, meeting so many great authors and even a few blog readers, these were only a handful of the many great highlights! ACFW 2012 was a blast!

Here’s the best of the best, because really, it was all good!
1 – The Workshops – I learned so much from all the amazing workshops I attended. Susan May Warren gave a great continuing education session about developing the inner journey of your character and I took pages and pages of notes. As I said before, Michael Hyatt did a great job teaching us about platform and gave so many tips about building a platform in the ever-changing publishing world.

2 – The Authors – It’s very hard not to be star struck when chatting with such authors as Susan May Warren, Laurie Alice Eakes, Keli Gwyn, and so many more, but I did my best. J They are all so nice and welcoming and I loved meeting each and every one of them! I loved their books, but now I love them even more knowing the person behind the novel.
3 – The Bookstore – I loved the bookstore! (my pocketbook not so much) Once you got in there, you just HAD to buy books! J I picked up Rosslyn Elliot’s Fairer Than Morning, Laurie Alice Eakes’s A Necessary Deception and several more. They had so many great sales, plus gave away a lot of freebies, so I came home with enough reading material to last me…um maybe a month. J

4 – The Gala - Who doesn’t love to get dressed up in a gorgeous dress and cheer for your favorite authors to win awards? I know I do, since what I wear to my writer job isn’t quite as glamorous. J My friend Roseanna White and I, both dressed a la Downton Abbey, and I’m posting pictures below. Isn’t her hat to die for? A huge congratulations to all the winners, both of the Genesis and Carols! You all are the best!!
5 - The Devotions and Worship Team – At every ACFW conference, you are not only encouraged in your writing, you’re also encouraged in your spiritual journey. They do a great job putting the focus on the Lord and off the busy schedule.

I could go on and on about the wonderful experience it was and I was truly blessed to be able to attend! It’s always sooo fun to get together with other writers who understand the “voices” in your head, don’t mind if you argue loudly with your characters, and ponder ways to poison people.

Now for some pictures!

Me and friend and fellow writer Keli Gwyn.

Me with friends Roseanna White and Stephanie Morrill



Me by the Bethany House table. Would love for my book to be there someday.

Me with Roseanna both in our lovely Edwardian era gowns

Another one of me in my formale attire.


Gala night!!!!

Me with new friends Jeanne Leach and Tiffany Amber Stockton.

Conference Consolation Kit - If you didn’t get a chance to attend conference, I put together a pack of some goodies, so you can have your own mini conference at home. Included are the newest edition of the ACFW journal, a notebook and pen from the Hyatt, A Kauffman Amish Christmas Collection: by Amy Klippston, and chocolate of course! Just leave a comment with your email address and I will announce the winner on Friday, September 28th.

As always happy writing!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

5 Things You Can’t Forget- Conference Countdown!

If you’re heading to Dallas for the national ACFW conference in a few days like I am, you’re probably drowning in lists. I have a one that I typed out that includes everything from my one sheets to toothpaste. As I check things off, I know they are packed and hopefully, I won’t forget a single thing.
But as we hurriedly make lists, iron gala dresses, and print out one sheets, do we miss the most important things we need to be taking? So as we countdown the days to Conference, here’s a final list to consider.

1 – A smile – They say you’re never fully dressed without one, so don’t forget to pack your smile. And not just at your dream editor or best friend/critique partner. Smile at people you don’t know. Huge conferences tend to be overwhelming and it’s easy to feel a little lost. Especially if you’re new. So challenge yourself to not only see old friends and pitch to editors, but to be a bright spot in someone else’s day. Simple gestures often have long lasting results.

2 – An open mind – In a changing publishing industry, things don’t always go the way we plan. And when our hopes get dashed, it’s easy to feel discouraged. Remembering to keep an open mind before the conference makes it so much easier to handle if the unexpected happens.
3 – A willingness to learn – There’s an abundance of information to be gleaned at a writer’s conference, so be prepared to learn it. Not only during workshops, but in all aspects of the conference. Are you ready?

4 – A readiness to assist – Be prepared to be there for other people and to make your conference experience more than just about you. Taking the focus off yourself and onto others will help calm your nerves, plus make someone else’s day in the process.
5 – Prayer – More important than any of the others, this is number 1. Being too busy or too preoccupied with everything to pray, leaves out the Lord who is our reason and ability for even being there.  While the conference is huge and hectic, find time for a few minutes with the Lord. It will bless you beyond belief! And if you need prayer, visit the prayer room. It’s a special perk of the conference.

Have we added these items to our lists?

Looking forward to seeing many of you in Dallas!
Happy Writing,

P.S. Check back Wednesday, September 26th for a conference recap. Expect lots and lots of pictures!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Let the Party Begin! English Country House Parties!

We had an Indian tent set up under the cedars on the lawn where I used to sit with our guests. We always brought out the Times and the Morning Post, or a book or two, but the papers were soon discarded for conversation…  Sometimes we played tennis or rowed on the lake and in the afternoon the household played cricket on the lawn. The tea table was set up under the trees. It was a lovely sight, with masses of luscious apricots and peaches to adorn it. There were also pyramids of strawberries and raspberries; bowls brimful with Devonshire cream; pitchers
 of iced coffee; scones to be eaten withvarious jams, and cakes with sugared icing.
– Consuelo Vanderbilt, The Glitter and the Gold.

I don’t know about you, but I want to crash that party. That party being a house party at Blenheim Palace.
House parties were one of the most time-honored social customs in Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian England. They were generally held between the months of August through December, when guests had returned from their London houses and were gearing up for pheasant shooting and foxhunting, the former, which began the first week of September. Ah, the social whirl.

In the Regency era, country house parties could last up to several weeks. But by the Edwardian era, with the invention of the railroad, and by the early 1900’s, the motorcar, they were typically Friday evening to Monday morning events. Typically twenty to thirty guests were invited with invitations sent out several weeks in advance. They were nerve wracking affairs for even the most experienced hostess who had to make sure the numbers were balanced, which meant that there were enough single ladies and single gentlemen, and be sure to have enough rooms prepared. Plus menus needed to be gone over, entertainment decided upon for the ladies who didn’t care to watch the men shoot, arrangements for the servants who came with the guests, and the list went on. Luggage was extensive, as a lady needed a breakfast outfit, something fancier for luncheon, a tea gown, and then the dinner dress. And a lady tried not to wear the same outfit twice during the same weekend, so during a three day country stay you could wear fifteen different costumes. For men it was simpler, tweeds during the day and white tie in the evening.
The guests typically arrived Friday evening in time for dinner, leaving Saturday occupied for shooting, one of the most important aspects of a country house visit. The gentlemen competed with each other to see who could “bag the most birds.” King Edward VIII was a champion of shooting and even had the clocks set forward a half an hour at his estate Sandringham, to allow more time for hunting. This became known as “Sandringham Time.” The crack of gunshot could be heard across the spacious lawns to within the county house where ladies lounged in the drawing rooms, scribbling letters and playing bridge, idling away the time until the men had finished the day’s sport. Sometimes a hostess would arrange for a few men to join the party, who didn’t shoot, to amuse the ladies indoors. In the case of Mr. Bott in Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her he would have probably been better off indoors as Trollope writes that, “Twice he went out shooting, but as on the first day he shot the keeper, and the second very nearly shot the Duke, he gave that up.”

Besides hunting there were two other main occupations during a house party. Eating and flirting. Both were favorites of King Edward who defined society from the 1870’s onward to 1910 and attended many of the house parties himself, including the ones held by Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough.

There were three large meals during a house party, four if you included the afternoon tea observed by the ladies. Breakfast was served between nine and half past ten. Although meals were simpler during the Regency era, by the Edwardian they were veritable feasts, including fruits, eggs, meats, fish, toast, rolls, tea cakes, muffins, hams, tongues, pies, kidney and fried bacon. Tea, coffee, hot coca, and juice was the common drinks. Breakfast was laid out on a sideboard and guests could help themselves, much the way continental breakfasts are served today at hotels.
Luncheon could be both formal and informal. The formal events were similar to dinner, with everyone seated according to rank in the dining room. Informal could mean the ladies joining the gentleman out of doors for a shooting luncheon, a very lavish picnic. Dinner of course, was very formal with full dress and everything done as it would be at a dinner party.

After dinner, charades and other games were played, or the carpets were rolled back and an impromptu ball begun. Cards were also de rigour.
House parties signified the end of the London Season and many a desperate miss, who did not find a husband in London, did her utmost to assure her social success at a house party. Activities such as picnics, walks, riding, croquet, billiards and lawn tennis could show off the young lady and perhaps help her secure an offer. They were also a time for a newly married couple who had wed at the end of the Season, to begin to establish themselves in society.

House parties are still in existence today and I would love to attend one. J What better way to spend a weekend (whatever that is) changing clothes, sitting on a chaise lounge, and dancing the night away.

For Further Study

The Country House Party by Phyllida Barstow
The Marlborough House Set by Anita Leslie
Society in the Country House by Thomas Hay Sweet Escott
The Glitter and the Gold – Consuelo Vanderbilt
What Jane Austen ate and Charles Dickens Knew – Daniel Pool


As always,

Happy Writing!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Conference Packing List

Okay, I admit it. Similar to obsessing over what to wear to prom, I’m debating between outfits and picking out accessories to wear to the ACFW Awards Banquet at the upcoming conference. Plus, I’m scanning my array of business casual,  wondering what would make me look most like “an independent professional woman”, as Lady Sybil says in Downton Abbey.

But what if I forget something? What if I don’t pack enough one sheets or forget my proposal altogether? Thankfully, I’m making this list. Hopefully it will help you as much as it does me while you wonder how you’re going to fit it all into that one little  suitcase.
1 – Business Cards – BRING A LOT! I handed out at least 30 business cards last year, most to new friends I wanted to keep in touch with after the conference. These little cards are not just for agents and editors, so stock up. The little pocket inside your name badge is a great place to store these so you’ll always know where they are.

2 – One Sheet and Proposal – I’m bringing 10 copies of my one sheet, plus a copy of my proposal.
3 – First three chapters – 2 copies. Last year, I actually gave a copy to a friend of mine who read it on the plane ride home. So although an agent or editor might not want these, they’re great when hooking up with potential crit partners.

4 – Pitch – Hopefully I can recite this in my sleep by then, but I’ll write it on an index card just in case.

5- My camera – I forgot this last year and was sooo sad when I couldn’t take any pics to share on my blog.

6 – Clothes and shoes - Find out what the weather will be before you pack so you can bring clothes appropriate to the climate. Also keep in mind that this is a business event, so jeans and T-shirts aren’t recommended. I consider how I’d want to look at a job interview for my dream job and pack accordingly. Still, don’t go overboard. High heels aren’t for everyone and you don’t want to fall at the feet of your dream editor. J  Be comfortable, yet neat and professional.

7 – Gala Dress – The gala on the last night of ACFW is always a much anticipated event. Not only do we get to hear who won the Genesis and Carol awards, we get to dress up, something most writers don’t do very often while chained to their laptops. Sunday best, to formal, is what it says on the ACFW website and it is always a very elegant evening. Some authors even go in period costume, and this year I’m trying my best to create an Edwardian/Downton Abbey style outfit, with minimal success.

8 – Laptop – I usually bring this so I can check my email and read blogs in the evenings, or in the morning before breakfast. Plus, if you have family traveling along, they can use it to watch the live video blog of the gala on Saturday night. Don’t forget your charge cord!

9 – Thumb drive – If you have to make extra copies of something, this is definitely something to pack.
10 – Cell phone – This is a must if you want to find your friends or meet up with someone. The Hyatt is huge!! Again don’t forget your charge cord!

12 – An empty duffle bag – For books that you buy or for all those workshop handouts and goodies. They do give you a nice tote bag, but you might want to have a larger one on hand just in case.
11 – Books to read - I’ll usually bring a few books to read in the car or plane or a hard copy of the manuscript I’m currently editing. But don’t take too many. A Kindle or e-reader would be great to use!

12 – Pocket Bible – It takes up less space than a larger Bible, plus you can keep it in your briefcase. A Bible on Kindle or Nook would work too.

13 – Misc items such as the following:

Cash for buying books, tipping, eating out, etc.
Hair stuff, such as curling iron, etc.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Tylenol or Ibuprofen
Safety Pins
Sewing Kit
A movie or two, but usually I’m too tired to watch them.


Whew! What a list! But I feel more organized already after making it. Did I miss anything?
See you there,