I’m in the middle of revisions & have caught a cold, so I guess we can forget about this blog being deep and meaningful.
Today we’re taking a short look at weird clothes in LORD OF SCOUNDRELS, my longest running production. I wrote this book well over a decade ago, and apparently did a good job. It won a Romance Writers of America Rita award, and readers continue to buy it and continue to let me know--either in their emails or via polls---that it’s one of their favorites. You can expect to hear more about it in the coming months, here and elsewhere.
What you won’t be able to find easily (or nearly so cheaply) is the hardcover version. It had a brief life, a small print run, and has now fallen into the hard-to-find-and-expensive category. I had only two hardcover copies myself.
This brings me to my short Public Service Announcement: I’ve autographed one of these hardcovers and donated it to the All About Romance Auction for the benefit of Hands On New Orleans. The auction began 15 October. There’s still plenty of time to bid on it as well as on some special editions and sets of other books--a chance to get a rare edition while contributing to a worthy cause.
Lord Dain, my hero, does not fail to notice the weird stuff women are wearing. This is from his first encounter with the heroine Jessica Trent, in an antique shop:
“She was not wearing a ridiculous bonnet but a lunatic hair arrangement even more ludicrous. Shiny knots and coils sprouted from the top of her head, and pearls and plumes waved from the knots and coils.” (These delicious illustrations are from C. Willett Cunnington's English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century.)
The two colored plates below come from The Costumer's Manifesto site. For more, look here.
Lord Dain's gaze moves downward: “The oversize ballooning sleeves of her silver-blue gown didn’t even have shoulders. They started about halfway to her elbows, primly covering everything from there down--and leaving what should have been concealed brazenly exposed to the view of every slavering hound in Paris.”
Later in the story, Jessica dares him to box with her. This heroine knows the ways of men. She understands the principles of fisticuffs. But she is no tomboy by any stretch of the imagination:
“She was wearing an immense leghorn hat, with flowers and satin ribbons sprouting from the top. It was tied under her left ear in an enormous bow. The carriage dress was the usual fashionable insanity of flounces and lace and overblown sleeves....He could not remember when he’d seen anything so ludicrous as this silly bit of femininity gravely poised upon a stone in approved boxing stance.” (The carriage dress at left is from Ackermann's Costume Plates: Women's Fashion in England, 1818-1828, edited by Stella Blum)
Underneath, women of the time are all wearing pretty much the same thing, and this half-undressed view would be one of Dain's favorite views of Jessica (although she'd have him or her maid doing the undoing). Like many other men, the Marquess of Dain doesn't understand women's fashion and really just wants to see them wearing as little clothing as possible.
Not all of my heroines are fashion plates. Some are the exact opposite: They don’t care about their clothes or they use clothing as armor. But Jessica Trent and my new heroine Francesca Bonnard (of YOUR SCANDALOUS WAYS) are fashion mavens. The way they dress, to a great extent, tells us who they are, in the same way that other heroines’ simpler or less fashionable attire expresses something about them.
I think most of us identify with certain heroines' attitudes toward their attire. I know I do. I'm more the Jessica Trent-Francesca Bonnard kind of girl, though it's only in my dreams. I don't have their bank accounts. What about you? Which heroine's style of dress do you most strongly relate to? Is the dress important? Or do you barely notice how the author garbs her characters?