Saturday, June 2, 2007

Clothes Encounters

Kilts. Jeans. Tuxedos. Pristine white cravats. Boxers. Briefs. Cowboy boots. Whatever our favorite heroes are wearing, they’ve probably got on too many clothes.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to period clothing lately, because in my new WIP Paradise, my tortured heroine Eden by necessity has to dress (and mostly undress) herself. And quickly, else she’ll get in trouble. I’ve already ditched her undergarments, sent her maid packing and she's sewing her own clothes. Too bad there's no Velcro yet.

And I’m thinking about privacy, too. In a household of more than a dozen people, how can one carry on a clandestine affair without anyone catching on? Oh. The secret staircase.

I’m not much good keeping secrets, but Eden has a huge one. I’m wondering if her combination of strength and submission is realistic. This new WIP is taking me places I never expected to go, and it’s a disturbing, dark road. Nothing may come of it, but I’ve written over 53,000 words since the middle of April (Thanks, VaNo.). I may have to work on my Key West Hiasonesque thing simultaneously just to shed a little sunshine on my gloom. Wouldn’t want to go nuts like Mrs. Rochester. I live in a cape and there’s no attic.

So, which outfit would you like best on (and off) your hero? Do you like your guys in suits or sweats? Have you ever worn period clothing? Ever kept a deep, dark secret? Tell all.

Thanks to all of you who shared such great perspectives for the Great Expectations contest. You always give me great things to think about and greatly enrich my writing experience. MsHellion, send your mailing address to and you’ll get your great stuff!


Atherley said...

Ohmy. Period clothing has always presented me with a challenge. A SERIOUS challenge. I initially envisioned small amphibians when Tolstoy, in War and Peace, described an hussar's uniform covered in GOLD FROGS.

Congratulations to MsHellion! Please DO let us know how hot that read is. (I'm getting red and flustered just thinking about it, LOL!)

Tessa Dare said...

Congrats, Hellion!

You know, I try to use somewhat period-appropriate clothing, but only to a degree. For example, in GOTH there's tons of historically inaccurate lingerie, but it's there to serve the plot. My personal goal is not to strive for a historical-fiction level of accuracy, but rather for a historical-romance level of fantasy. The historical setting is there to help the reader suspend disbelief and get lost in the story, IMO, so I don't have a problem tweaking the details of laces or stays or whatever it is to suit my narrative needs. But every writer is different there.

I must say, for a "Romantic Hero," that guy's fig leaf seems a tad small.

Anonymous said...

I dont know where you got that picture but it's brill. Itsa cracking me up especially with (as Tessa pointed out) with the tiny fig leaf.

I prefer my romantic hero sporting mechelin lace, satin breeches, and a rapier at his hip. Any dude who can seem masculine in such frippery is my kinda hero.

The only period garb I have ever worn was an authentic 1940s suit. Lauren Bacall in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT was one of my fashion idols growing up.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Anne, too funny about the frogs. They were on my Chinese pajamas too, and I never understood why my mom called them frogs when they were obviously knots.

Tessa, I concur that the fig leaf is disappointingly small. But at least it's not green pubic hair, as it first appeared to me.

Seton, I used to shop at vintage stores when I lived in NYC. I'll always remember the peach satin 40s blouse with shoulder pads that I ruined when I cried wearing it. Very bad date. The tear drops never came out. Sigh. Lauren Bacall is still amazing.

RevMelinda said...

Maggie! What a great picture! It's a real-life "Salad Man" (how "crisp" IS that fig leaf under her searching fingers?).

Ericka Scott said...

I know I have to describe a dress from around 1888. . . needless to say, it's just a highlighted blank in my WIP right now. If I start researching it, I may never get back to writing!

irisheyes said...

Hey, Maggie!

I guess it depends on the period the dress is from as to whether it does anything for me. I'm sorry but I just can't get into the guys in wigs and all that lace. I suppose I would lean more towards the Regency man than the Georgian one. One thing I'm definitely a sucker for is a coat/cape - kind of the duster variety. I love them on cowboys, but I believe they wore a similar type in the Regency era.

I went to a Halloween party about 20 years ago and borrowed my friend's grandma's flapper dress from the roaring 20's. It was awesome. It was deep red with black fringes and was very well made. Heavy material and sturdy. It was kind of neat knowing it was an original dress from that time period and not just a recreation.

Terri Osburn said...

Give me a man in the billowy white shirt carelessly left untied, the tight black pants and the boots that fold down at the knee and I'm toast. Love that. In other words, give me a good old fashioned pirate. *g*

And that fig leaf would fit Barbie's better half I would think but not good for any romance hero.

Period dress is probably one of the top reasons I could never write historical. I'd go nuts trying to figure out how the cravat should look and all that jazz. Hate that kind of research so I'll just stick to my contemps thankyouverymuch.

Hellie Sinclair said...

*squinting at picture to see if she can see anything extra* Wow! That's hysterical! And he looks a bit like James Purefoy. Has Tiff seen this? Of course, if it IS based off James, the fig leaf is definitely too small.

And more importantly, I WON! *hoots and hollers like a kid who won a trip to Disneyland* I'm very excited!

Hellie Sinclair said...

Oh, and on the serious note: when I get baffled about writing historical details about clothes--I get wound up in "what was the material exactly?"--I mean, because if I mention the wrong thing, I'd have hate mail telling me that fabric wasn't used until 1900; or so-and-so would never have worn that color because there was a bann (I didn't know about) against it.

For inspiration to describe, I pull out a period piece movie from that time and start describing from there. Cheating...but I'm a pirate.

Beverley Kendall said...

I love worn, threadbare jeans, scuffy boots and a t-shirt or cotton shirt. I love the cowboys and that's one of the reasons after I finish my trilogy I MUST write a romance set in America West.

Atherley said...

I'm still so enamoured of the Continental soldier's uniform that I wore one year at a reenactment (the girl "hiding" among the troops) that I quite forgot the 1830s dress I had to wear for a job I had at an historic site! It was authentically sewn, and included FOUR petticoats that filled out the skirt. In winter it actually kept me quite warm, even when it was 30 degrees and snowing. Fortunately, circumstances permitted me to forego the bizarre hair in exchange for an appropriate daycap and bonnet! But as I can't wear contact lenses, nothing could spare me the discomfort of those tiny wire eyeglasses, LOL.

Atherley said...

And yes, I had to wear an 1830's corset, too! In fact, we had all the proper period underpinnings. EVERYTHING was handstitched, even the corsets. I've no idea how the seamstreses made everything so quickly and so well. They were wizards!

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe said...

Beverley, I love a guy in jeans myself. Good luck with a Western!

Hellion, congrats! I'll get to the post office this week, I promise. I know what you mean about fabric...who knows what sarcenet is?

Ericka, I keep borrowing costume books from my library, but they're still tough to figure out. It amazes me what people thought was was fashionable. Like I need a bustle when God has seen fit to provide me with one naturally.

Anne, you reenact! Too cool. I used to live in a town where people camped out on the green every fall.

Irisheyes, I love to look at the construction of dresses. I was a flapper once, too, but my mom made the dress (out of curtains...she did Scarlett-y stuff like that all the time).

Terrio, I think Tessa's on to something. Most readers are not complete experts (otherwise we'd never buy the books with the off-the-shoulder Regency dresses...DID NOT HAPPEN.). So go make stuff up. It's fiction.

RevM...crispy critter under there, LOL!

santasmbslt said...

I adore a man in hessians, inexpressibles, waistcoat and a blue superfine jacket so tight his valet and butler have to help him out of it. Have you ever seen Sir Lawrence Olivier in that earlier version of P&P? That man could pull off a pair of inexpressibles, figuratively speaking.

Um, Maggie, do you think you could photoshop that fig leaf on that poor fellow? Just asking.

Hellie Sinclair said...

I thought sarcenet was a form of taffeta (or another name for it)? Am I wrong? Who knows.

santasmbslt said...

Forgot to say congrats to Hellion.

Sarcenet is a soft type of silk and was often quilted in women's gowns of the 19th century.

It's also a type of cat with a long tail and really perky ears.

Take your pick....

lacey kaye said...

I'm prefer historical accuracy, esp when it's easy like this. Clothing is sew well-known. Har, har! But seriously. I went to Kalen Hugh's period workshop last year in Atlanta and it was great. Since then, my cp and I have had so much fun undressing our heroines!

Also, the hero of my second book is a dandy. That's been extra fun, because he knows WHERE to buy in addition to WHAT to buy.

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