Thursday, February 2, 2017

Who Doesn't Love a Beautiful Dress?

Hi! Kit Morgan here. 

Ah fashion! Better yet, Historical Fashion! After all, it's one of the reason's myself and many other authors love to write in a historical setting. We love the clothes, the hats, the reticules, the shoes and boots women wore. To research such treasures is pleasurable, and one can get lost among the silks, muslin and taffeta. I have several wonderful books on the subject and every time I visit my daughter in Brooklyn, New York, I go to a particular little book shop about five blocks away from her apartment. During one visit I stumbled upon a book about the history of the modiste, or dressmaker as it were. The book was on the top shelf, and I kick myself for plucking it off, giving it a quick thumb-through, then putting it back. It was a complete history, tools of the trade, everything! And yes, I had to climb a ladder. Maybe it was my fear of heights that had me leave the book behind. My desire to have my feet back on solid ground outweighed my desire for the book. Silly me.
  Of course, I'm used to characters wearing simple prairie dresses and bonnets, with sturdy shoes or boots. Nothing fancy, just practical. Many of my characters have traveled west and settled. There was no need to study anything extravagant.  Even so, on my next visit, I'm going to see if the book is still there. 

  I didn't buy it because I never thought I'd need the information in my research library. Then, lo and behold, guess what my latest work in progress contains? A dressmaker and a tailor. Ah sigh.
  But, I'm not without a few things in my library, one of which I simply adore. Lucile Ltd. A  unique album of fashion designs from the 1890's by Lady Duff Gordon. Also known simply as Lucile. The pictures I've posted are just a few of her fabulous designs.

Lady Duff was probably the first fashion designer to have fashion houses in London, Paris and New York. She's been credited with staging the first fashion parade using beautiful models (this would be the precursor of the catwalk show), creating lingerie for 'ladies' and naming her designs -- now get this-- 'gowns of emotion'. Her designs drew a prestigious private clientele which included Daisy, Duchess of Warwick and Lillie Langtry. In later years she designed for the Ziegfeld Follies and they were worn by famous stars such as Mary Pickford, Lily Elsie, Gertie Millar And Irene Castle. Huge names back in the day. Lady Duff also survived the Titanic, in case you didn't know, and lived her life in the spot light. She was quite the woman of her day. A huge contributor of fashion, especially during the Edwardian era.   

Today we hear the word corset and cringe. But back then, they were as common to a woman's daily dressing routine as brushing one's teeth is to us. To be able to wear such incredible dresses would be fabulous (so long as one could breathe) and one woman in Washington state, has proven that you can wear clothing from the 1800's even today. Her name is Sarah A. Chrisman, and she wrote a wonderful book called This Victorian Life. Mrs. Chrisman does wear a corset everyday! Along with brushing her teeth. By the way, she's also written an entire book on how wearing a corset has changed her life. She and her husband wear period clothing all the time, they live in a victorian era house, cook on an old fashioned cook stove, and, as the title of her book says, live a Victorian life. 
  I'm not sure I'd want to go that far, but I do love to put on a period ball gown now and then, petticoats and all for author related events.  How about you? What do you love about the fashions of a by gone era?


  1. Ah yes, fashion in all its glory. I often wonder why I don't get as excited. Then I realized, I was wearing 'fashion' all my life as an actor and historic performer. It is just what goes with the job. *Sigh*.

    I do hope the book is still there. I've also gone through Mrs. Chrisman's book. A fascinating read. A fun and useful post. Good luck on the new story. Doris

  2. Yes, I too love the fashions of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. I've used Sara Chrisman's website 'This Victorian Life" quite a few times to make sure my memory serves me correctly while writing my historical fiction novels. Corsets might be a challenge, but the fabrics and sheer style of the garments are so feminine and graceful and much nicer than the comfortable 'jeans and T-shirts' of today.

  3. Kit here! Sigh, if only folks were interested in "dressing" now a days. But tee shirts and jeans seem to be the norm.