Showing posts with label Regency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Regency. Show all posts

Sunday 23 April 2017

A Selection from the Fashion Museum 100 Objects...

I hope you've enjoyed my blog posts about my museum visits last month: the Museum of Bath Architecture and the Bath Postal Museum.

Now it's the Fashion Museum and their History of Fashion in 100 Objects, running until January 2019, alongside their smaller and recently opened Lace in Fashion.

I've split up my selected images between my blogs here and over on my Serena Lake website, so I hope you'll visit Serena's page to see some of the interesting 18th century items I've chosen, reflecting the time periods I'll be writing historical romances in, under my pseudonym.

Over here I'll be going 19th to 20th century.

(Many of these images have had light applied in the preparation for sharing them with you. Also with the big panes of class reflections or shadows do sometimes get caught, so whenever possible I crop the images to centre in on specific items.)

Bath is often associated with Jane Austen and the wonderful costume dramas of her works, so here's a section of dresses from the first half of the 19th century with it's muslin and printed cottons, elegant classical designs and trains going onto frills and flounces...

Early to mid-1800's...

The shoes on the raised platform (bottom left) can be seen in more detail on Serena's blog post.

There was a delightful display of baby bootees too, again from the 1800's. Some were embroidered, others quilted and fairly plain.

Baby footwear...

Some men's clothes were included in the 100 objects, but I suspect that not as many items may have survived as women's. There were waistcoats, jackets and a lovely velvet suit- whoever the man was that wore it, he must have had women wanting to say hello!

Also there was a pair of men's trousers from the 1820's, as the display moved into the Victorian period and clothes seemed to become more sober.

There were a few items in their own individual display cabinets.

I particularly liked the Dolman from the 1870's.

Lady's Dolman from
the 1870's...

This would have been worn over a dress with a bustle. It was part cape, part coat. Some of the large cashmere or paisley shawls were used to make these new types of outdoor wear. As it hangs over the bustle at the back, it does drape well and add to the shape.

Underwear did feature. There were some stays, and this corset from the 1890's.

Evening corset...

It's silk stiffened with whalebone. The waist is 21.5 inches with the tight lacing, but could be let out if needed. I'm not sure anyone would want to eat much laced that tight!

On into the 20th century I chose one item I hadn't realised existed- and I suspect they will appear in the party scene in my 1920's story. Dress Clips.

A selection of 1920's Dress
Clips from the Beeson

The dress clips were designed to add sparkle to the corners of the square-neck dresses and round or V shape necklines.

These clips are just a small part of 350 that were collected by a primary school teacher, in Frome, Somerset, Sheila Beeson - over a 40 year period.

From there the exhibition moved on through the WWII and the post war period.

For me fashion seemed to have lost its way after the 1930's. Now we're just repeating the past 50-60 years with slight variations.

Choosing the 100 objects that represent the changing face of fashion history must have taken a lot of discussion and planning. And that's before the museum even began the process of creating the display.

No matter the time period you're interested in, there's something in the exhibition to be appreciated.

There's more shoes, and the additional Lace exhibition in the darker storeroom area, displaying how hand-made and manufactured lace has been used in clothing across the decades too.

Thursday 30 March 2017

Back from My Travels to Bath...

Last Friday I went down to Bath for a long weekend. It was a wonderful and much-needed break after a stressful six months.

As I've been so busy since I came back I haven't had time to sort out all my photos and pick the best ones for my blog posts here, and over on my Serena Lake site.

So that's my job this weekend.

The History of Fashion in 100 Objects at the Fashion Museum was fantastic, and if you get the opportunity do go and see it. Their smaller Lace exhibition was equally as interesting.

It's going to be difficult choosing my favourite images from all those costumes and items that were on display...

I'll be doing a couple of blog posts on two smaller and lesser known museums that might get missed if you've never been to Bath before: The Postal Museum, and the Museum of Bath Architecture that is housed in the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel.

Both of these held surprises and answered a few questions I had...

I did a lot of walking- fortunately the weather was dry and quite bright, although the evenings were chilly.

But all that exercise meant I could go into the Pump Room for tea (on Mother's Day) without feeling too guilty. It's very elegant, and there was music provided by a trio of musicians.

The evidence has been eaten...

There are a number of parks around Bath too which are clearly enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.

Sydney Gardens, behind the Holbourne Museum, has both a canal and a railway line running through them, though I believe they were actually there before the Gardens were laid out around them.

Henrietta Gardens lies between Great Pultney Street and Henrietta Street (where the hotel we were staying at was located), so it was a delightful diversion from one road to the next.

So look out for my next post at the weekend...

Sunday 15 June 2014

Historical Heroes Writing Competition 16th June to 6th July...

Mills and Boon have a writing tournament for historical heroes for the next three weeks, and you could win a detailed editorial consultation on your full manuscript...

Each week Mills and Boon will be looking for first chapters that feature particular categories of heroes.

This Monday, 16th until Sunday 22nd June it's Regency/Victorian heroes.

Then from the 23rd to 29th it's for Medieval/Tudor Knights/Lords.

For the third week 30th June until the 6th July, it's Warrior Heroes. (This is where your Vikings and Highlanders fit.)

So when Monday rolls round what do you need to send?

A short pitch: Setting,- where and when; a short blurb. You've got 100 words to pitch your story, so you need to make every word count. And there's a link to their current historical books so you can see the sort of thing you're aiming for. Then the big question to answer, why is your hero the best, and "what makes your hero the most delectable man in history".

Your first chapter: 3000 to 5000 words. Don't forget your contact details.

You can only submit once to each of the categories...

Then the editors for the M&B Historical will pick their favourites from the three sections, and they will feature on the Mills &Boon website for a public vote. 

Finally three different chapters will go online on the 14th July and the public votes again.

Midday (GMT) on the 18th July the winner will be announced. 

The winner (Tournament Champion) receives a detailed editorial consultation of their 'full manuscript'. 

There will be a variety of tips, blogs and other snippets across social media, so look out for during the three weeks with the #HistoricalHeroes.

The full competition details are here

You'll also find the Twitter handles for the editors of the historical books, so you can follow them and hear the latest news on the competition, with the #HistoricalHeroes.

If you haven't read any of the M&B Historical then have a peek here.

It's good to see historical romance getting some attention...

Friday 23 May 2014

Bath: Part 2, Saturday - Going Georgian...

Saturday's 'Georgian' visits are going to be split up into two blog posts, as the Fashion Museum deserves a post by itself; and as No.1 Royal Crescent doesn't allow photography, I don't have any of my own images to show you, just links where you can see more. So No.1 will share a post with the Jane Austen Centre...

*   *   *
Assembly Rooms with the
Fashion Museum

The Fashion Museum is downstairs in the Bath Assembly Rooms.
It is just around the corner from The Circus, and just beyond that is the Royal Crescent.

As I was at the Pultney Bridge end of the city I had to walk uphill for quite some distance, but at least going back it was all downhill.

2014 is 300 years since the ascension of George 1 to the English throne, there have been a number of exhibitions, and television/radio programmes, taking place about the Georgians. 

Bath has such strong associations with Georgian Society, so where else would you expect to see the wonderful clothes worn between 1714 and 1830...

For anyone unfamiliar with original historic costume, displays such as this have rules. No flash photography- bright light or even natural light (sunshine through the window) would damage and fade the material, so you'll see from my photos that the lighting is low. Likewise the environment around the clothes is strictly controlled. At the end of the year, the clothes on display will go back into storage to rest... 

Woman's Closed Robe 1730's and Man's Light Pink
 and Green Woven Silk Coat 1750's
I'm only going to pick out a few of the images I took. But it will give you an idea of the range displayed. If you can get to the exhibition you won't be disappointed.

The Georgians were not scared of colour, and even the men wore pink- sort of!

I'd seen one of the Mantua Court Dresses before- many years ago- but there were three on display, and my photo does not do them justice- they are wide!

My favourite has to be the Red Woven Silk Damask dress from about 1750, I could see my Dorset novel heroine wearing this...
The Red Dress

You have an audio guide that you take with you, and whenever you see the guide symbol with a number beside it, you press the buttons and press play, to hear details and relevant information.

Now to the gentlemen,  though they featured more noticeably in the storage area of the exhibition that goes from 1800 to the early 20th century.

Here are two men's coats from the late 1700's- 1780/90 approx

The image of the men's coats has been digitally lightened so you can see the decoration against the dark fabric, which isn't as clear in the original light level.

(You can see the audio symbol with 77 beside the bases for the men's coats...)

The exhibition moved onto a small display of designer outfits inspired by Georgian fashion- including a Vivien Westwood dress- long, pink and purple with a big bow...

If you think the Georgians used a lot of embroidery then you have seen nothing until you reach the 17th century gloves on display. They are currently on loan to the museum from The Glove Collection Trust, but were items where photography was not allowed at all. Their original owners were definitely peacocks where fashion was concerned...

There was then a section of the modern- an ongoing exhibition- with fashion designer David Sassoon's donated archive of fashion drawings, charting the history of the firm Bellville Sassoon Lorcan Mullany.
This part of the display included three outfits designed for Diana, Princess of Wales, and immediately recognisable- she was a Spencer before marriage, and was related to Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, a well known Georgian.

Moving on it's the Georgians in the 19th century and a peek into a part of the storage area. This was much darker, so again no photos.

Fortunately there was seating available as some of the audio commentary was longer than earlier pieces.

Each display featured a specific time period set among stacks of labelled identical storage boxes. The first featured simple white muslin gowns from 1800, and there was a coat worn by Lord Byron's bride- her going away outfit...

As you moved round the room you could see how fashions changed as you progressed from the Georgian into the Victorian.

Each display highlighted certain aspects of the changing designs; and in one case to one side there were rails of neatly hung but covered waistcoats- I would have liked to have seen all of them...

My tour was over and I climbed the stairs back to the present day. I couldn't leave without popping into the ballroom first, and peeping in to the Octagon, set out with chairs and display equipment for some event.

I wandered into the Tea Room and on into the Card Room that is now set up with a bar and a café.

As I sat there fortifying myself with drinking chocolate and a scone ( plus jam and cream of course) before I made my way to The Royal Crescent, I couldn't help but imagine those men and women who had passed through the rooms in their finery, each with their own dreams and fears...

How to Dance

You can find out more about the Fashion Museum at:


Twitter: @Fashion_Museum

Saturday 16 March 2013

A Costume Book I Couldn't Resist...

Now I have to admit I do have a weakness for books on historical costume.

If it's a full size beautifully illustrated book and the content will be helpful in my research, then I will probably buy it- though I will look for the best price...

Some people collect pottery, and no one blinks an eye at how much they might pay for a teacup. I like costume books. :-)

So my most recent purchase came about via a post on Facebook by Rachel Knowles. Her blog, Regency History can be found here, and will be a useful starting resource for anyone wanting to find out more about this time period...

Go to Amazon and use the look inside option
- image from
The book reproduces a selection of the fashion plates that were published in Ackermann's Repository and covers plates from 1809 to 1820, with the description and spelling of the time they were published.

I suppose you could consider Ackermann's the Regency version of today's Vogue, or Harper's Bazaar.

The book was inspired by romance author Candice Hern who has a large collection of Georgian and Regency antiques and a great selection of images and information on the objects on a section of her website, here.

I have a few favourites in the book. There's a lovely ball dress of April 1812- " A round Circassian robe of pink crape, or gossamer net, over a white satin slip, fringed full at the feet." The "peasant" bodice was clearly designed to show off the fuller bossomed woman...

And there's a fantastic "Spanish lappelled coat of fine orange Merino cloth", part of a Promenade Dress from January 1814 that I adore.

Mantles and capes, I would happily wear them today if they were made in my size.

So that's enough, or I'll be talking for days.

Do you have a favourite costume style - from any time period?

Monday 9 April 2012

Historical Time Periods: Which Do You Prefer?

Over the years I've read novels that have ranged from Roman to Medieval, and on to Victorian times- I've enjoyed some more than others.

In college I studied Ancient History for O'level and when I moved on to A'level History I was starting in the 18thC, and I really couldn't get on with it.

I enjoyed the Victorian section of the course, with all the political change, but the 18thC was my downfall...

So perhaps it wasn't so surprising when my first novel was set in the early Victorian period when a lot of advancements began to take place- the continuing decline of the old horse-drawn coach services and the emergence of railways.

(No it didn't get finished, it only got to 40,000 words. Mainly because I realised there was a big chunk of story that had emerged during the writing, and it had completely changed emphasis- there was a romance developing against the story background which hadn't been intentional.

With that realisation there was the need to change the time period to fit the romance plot.
And I didn't have the knowledge and experience then to know I should just keep going and sort it out later...One day I might get back to sorting it out...)

I like reading novels set in the Regency, but I don't think I could write one. But if you want a source of information then Social Customs During the Regency on the blog for Jane Austen's World, has a lot of links under the numerous topics- too many to list here, and wide ranging.

It was actually my Dorset novel that started to get in the way of that first one, and it hastened the 'put it in a box and move on' moment.

Originally my Dorset novel was going to have a smuggling background, but again the facts and circumstances of the time period interfered- and for certain elements that I needed for my plot, a slightly earlier setting than I'd originally anticipated was essential.

It was during my research for that time span that I finally started to grasp the 18th C.
If I'd been able to approach the 18thC in this way back when I was doing my A'level, I might have got  the 1700's when I needed it...

Friday 16 March 2012

Costume Heaven for the Writer of Historicals...

The Dictionary of Fashion History by Valerie Cumming, C W and P E Cunnington published by Berg (an imprint of Oxford International Publishers Ltd). This is a revised and updated version of the latter two authors dictionary.

(When I saw the cover image of the Victorian, red and yellow corset, close to, one of my future (but unknown) characters flitted by wearing it...)

Now admittedly I do have quite a few books on historical costume on my bookshelves, some are general, other specific to certain time periods such as the 18th or 19th century. But they each have elements that the others don't.

The newer books have beautiful coloured illustrations, which allow you to see detail, while the much older books relied on old illustrations and black and white images to accompany the text. But old copies of books by Phillis and her husband can be very expensive second hand- and I've picked up a couple in charity shops, but still had to pay quite a bit for them.

The updated dictionary gives a general date period, and a description of the garment, sometimes even a relevent quote. I like the mid-19thC term Howling bags, a slang term for trousers which sport a very 'loud' pattern. I've seen some modern trousers that would certainly fit that description!

If you've ever wanted to know what a particular fabric looked like, or what fibres it was made from, then there's an A-Z covering 50 sides; a glossary of laces- again with dates and descriptions, and a page of obsolete colour names.

Now I don't think anyone would question why the (16th C) Yellowish-green Goose-turd became an obsolete colour...

There's a comprehensive Bibliography too- and I do have a few of the books mentioned.

As many of my characters inhabit the 18th and 19th centuries, I can visualize their clothes better and appreciate the effect on their movements, as well as the texture.

In my Dorset novel my heroine sometimes has to wear clothes that are completely different to her normal attire, and I know that when she first puts them on it will feel strange to her...

Ideally I'd go and look at costumes on display, but costume museums are few and quite a distance from me, and won't necessarily have garments from the time period I need. So books, the web and costume postcards are very useful.

If I chose a particular costume item I'd like for using now, it would be a Calash- especially when I've been to the hairdressers and the weather is breezy... :-)

From any century, what item of clothing, footwear or headgear would you choose?

Saturday 3 March 2012

Infidelity and 'Forced Seduction' in Historical Romance Novels...

I decided to blog about character behaviour after reading a couple of items on the Heroes and Heartbreakers website- they came up on Twitter links; then today I was in my local Waterstones branch glancing through a couple of new romances, and one of them brought these articles to mind.

The issues of infidelity, and 'forced seduction' (so wrong, in so many ways) have more relevance to historical than contemporary romance fiction. And perhaps mostly related to books produced for the US romance market.

A romance novel doesn't have to have a sex scene- or more than one of them- to make a good story with believable characters. But some of those characters will do it- it's part of who they are and it would be daft to deny it.

Personally I consider it's up to the individual  author whether they show that aspects of their characters. In my stories, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. My characters are usually quite clear about that point in their developing relationship.

Women today have freedoms and advantages that their sisters in earlier centuries didn't; so I don't feel it's right to apply modern day thinking to stories set in the past.

So let's start with Infidelity.

Here's Limecello's piece on the H&H website: 'When Going Strange...Isn’t: Adultery in Romance'.

Read any social history of the aristocracy covering 200-300 years ago and you'll quickly discover that infidelity was accepted if it was carried out discreetly. A number of  younger aristocratic children were actually fathered by other men- not the man whose surname they carried through life.

The ideal is fidelity within marriage- I believe in that myself. 

But in the circumstances of the two novels mentioned in the article, I could understand and agree it's not infidelity- when both partners know and agree to the situation for their own reasons.

Yes it goes against my personal view, but I can't impose my morality on another writer's characters/story.
If a storyline offends me, or just doesn't appeal, then I won't buy the book.

'Forced Seduction' is another thing entirely... It truly belongs in the past of the so called Bodice Rippers- horrid description.

Here's a list on Amazon that gives you an idea of some of the titles from the last thirty years- and yes I can confirm that over the years I've read a few of them- especially those by Johanna Lindsey...

Sexual violence against any woman is wrong. Sexual coercion is wrong. Seduction is not coercion.

( I'm not including erotica, bondage and associated preferences in this category, as it's legal and it's between consenting adults.)

I have to say that the line between coercion and seduction can be very thin for some writers. As I saw today when I was looking through the improved romance section in my local Waterstones.

I picked up a book by a US author whose name I recognised (but her stories have not appealed to me previously) and after reading the blurb on the back of the book, I did my standard routine of opening the book a couple of times at random pages and reading on.

Unfortunately I found myself on part of the story where this very thin line between coercion and seduction was on show. Perhaps it was tied up with the author's word choices in that scene, but I decided not to buy it.

Fortunately there are still a lot of good books from both the UK and US on the romance shelves that don't see the need to walk that fine line...

Monday 9 January 2012

Stand Alone or Serial Romance?

I've read a lot of romance novels over the years (apologies for the cliché) and they've been a mixture of both types of books.

Every novel should stand alone even if it is one of a series-who wants to have to read half a dozen books to find out what happened with everyone else, to make sense of the current book?

I know Mills and Boon Presents often had mini series- brothers, a set of close friends (male or female)- characters from one book popped up in a secondary role in the others in the series.

Certainly some (originally) US published historical romances I've read, and enjoyed have followed family groups- Jo Beverley's, Mallorens, Stephanie Laurens',Cynsters, and Johanna Lindsey's Malory family stories. And some times you do need the family tree the authors' provided (in the books or on their websites) just to keep the relationships straight in your head...

I've lost count of how many Regency spying groups there's been with anything from four heroes up to half a dozen. Sadly I think that category has been over-used...But they're fun to re-read.

Perhaps it's the influence of all these books over the years, but my novel does have a secondary character who has his own story too, and his lady love has an interesting brother... But that's for sometime in the future when the current novel is complete.

I don't read as many contemporary romance novels as I should- I have a few on my e-reader to get on with-so perhaps these are more stand alone.

Or is this one of the difference between the categories, or even between romances published in the UK and the US?

As a reader, do you prefer single novels, or do you like to read a follow-on novel centred on one of the secondary characters from the previous book?

Friday 28 October 2011

Reading or Writing?

I was trying to decide which of two ideas to blog about today. First, I thought I'd share my latest writing dilemma, trying to write 250 words on a set theme, but then I saw an article online and thought I'd prefer to chat about the idea discussed.

So the 250 word issue will be Monday's post.

The article that caught my attention was 'I’m not ashamed of what’s loaded on my e-reader – are you?' by  in The Telegraph online, book section.

Now this appears to have come about from a survey- though who compiled it isn't mentioned, so judge it how you will.

" Meanwhile, a quarter of us are too embarrassed to admit to owning the e-books we are actually reading – mainly thrillers, mysteries and fantasy."

I find that admission surprising as the people I know with e-readers wouldn't be embarrassed to admit owning such books in digital form. So perhaps the people who answered the survey were high-brow types whose usual (admitted) reading matter is literary fiction...

It's understandable that sales of erotica in e-book form would have increased. In the view of some of the population, anyone seen reading erotica (with their revealing covers) might be considered disgraceful- to put it politely. While many readers and writers know that it is a popular genre, and if you want to buy it and read it then, fine, no problem.

There are likely to be quite a few classics that have been downloaded for free, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the Brontes among them. I know I have quite a few classics on my e-reader.

Here is a small  selection of e-books I have on my pocket reader currently- I have more in my reader library that I've read and taken off my reader, so I only have the ones on there that I'm reading, or have yet to read.

  • Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexander Dumas (I read this as a teenager, along with The Three Musketeers).
  • Delight and Desire- Joanne Maitland.
  • Diamonds and Pearls- assorted writers (brilliant book).
  • Four in Hand- Stephanie Laurens (a favourite, always makes me smile when I read it).
  • Georgette Heyer's Regency World- Jennifer Kloester (I have a book copy too).
  • Innocent Courtesan to Adventurer's Bride- Louise Allen.
  • Loves Me, Loves Me Not-Romantic Novelists' Association (another must have).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams (I've actually finished it now).
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell-Susanna Clarke.
  • The Uncommon Reader- Alan Bennet.
  • The Unlacing of Miss Leigh-Diane Gaston.
You get the idea. I won't bore you with all the current 71 books...:-)

So what books have you got on your e-reader? Are there any on your e-reader that you would not want to admit to owning? (If there are, you don't have to tell all.)

Now I'm off to browse some e-books by a couple of authors I haven't read before...

Monday 26 September 2011

Regency London...

I was just browsing the online newspapers and came across a walk around what can still be found of the Regency London that was mentioned in a number of Georgette Heyer's novels.

The piece appears in The Telegraph online- Regency London: Let a romantic novelist be your guide.

I can vaguely remember a few of the areas Sue Attwood's walk passes through, but I certainly never got to see St James's Street- originally home to numerous gentlemans clubs and entertainments...

It's good to know some things do survive nearly 200 years later...