Category: History

When Is a Dress Not Just a Dress ~ Regency Fashion Explained

If you’ve ever read a Regency-set novel, you’ve no doubt run across a description of the heroine’s clothing. It’s one of those things we do. But have you ever stopped to wonder what makes an afternoon dress different from a carriage dress? Or a ball gown different from a dinner gown?

Here is a rundown of a few of the qualities that make a Regency dress fit for the proper occasion.

MorningGownRuffleMorning Dress

Morning dresses were used for just that. Morning. They weren’t meant for company or for going out. They were the yoga pants of Regency England. They were plain, unadorned, and frequently made of thinner, cheaper materials than a woman’s other clothes. Silhouette-wise, morning dresses were the same as any other day dress, though they were replaced less frequently given that no one cared whether or not their morning dress was fashionable.

Often times, an old afternoon dress might have the trim salvaged off of it before being used as a morning dress.

Afternoon Dress

Which then does beg the question of what makes an Afternoon Dress.

rdAfternoon dresses were meant to be seen. Afternoons were for going visiting or walking in the park. As these were still day dresses, they had high necklines and full length sleeves. They would, however, been trimmed and fitted to the best of a lady’s fashion ability.

There were several types of afternoon dresses as there were several types of activities one could participate in during the afternoon.

Walking or Promenade Dress

Often the most decorative of the afternoon dresses, a walking dress was for strolling among the masses. Because they were meant to be noticed, care was taken to make sure they were flattering and impressive.

They weren’t, however, always practical since they followed the fashion of the day like everything else, including when it came to the length of the train.

ridinghabitCarriage or Traveling Dress

Carriage dresses were made of heavier fabrics, intended to put up with the stress of traveling by coach for long periods of time. The cotton muslin frequently used in walking dresses was prone to wrinkle. Carriage dresses were also less trimmed, since those could get crushed while traveling, particularly if your coach was full of companions.

Riding Habits

Riding habits were very sturdy, very simple, and very modest. They would have very full skirts to drape over the lady’s legs while riding side saddle.

Evening Dress

GauzyEveningDressEvening dresses were the finest dresses in a lady’s wardrobe. The fabrics were thinner than the afternoon dress but were also much finer. Silks, satins, light taffetas, and very fine muslins were the fabrics of choice. Sleeves were frequently shorter and bodices were cut lower.

The different types of evening dress were indicated more by the level of embellishment than by the style. A lady’s ball gowns would be trimmed and embroidered to the utmost fashion, with the intention of catching the light as well as the gentleman. Many ball gowns were actually two gowns, with a sheerer gown worn over another. The bottom gown was sometimes colored and the top layer might only fall 3/4 of the way down the skirt, allowing the embellished hem of the underdress to show.

Opera gowns and dinner dresses were, by comparison, a bit simpler. They were still made of fine fabrics, still cut to show off more than a day dress, but were not intended to be quite as impressive as the ball gown.

Court Gowns

courtdressCourt gowns were worn for the very special and rare occasion that a young lady went to the royal court. These gowns were a throwback to a bygone era, forgetting fashion entirely in the name of tradition. Wide, hooped skirts, long trains, and overly elaborate hair decorations ruled the court.

When people tried to mix these traditions with modern fashions you ended up with some very silly looking high-waisted gowns with elaborate bell-like skirts.

 

With all these dresses, it’s a wonder that Regency ladies ever got anything done besides changing their clothes.

Originally posted 2015-05-05 14:26:53.

Blast from the Past: Marion Chesney’s Regency novels

Hi all, Susan Karsten here!

…Back from an absence of about four months (that pesky tax job). Since I enjoy Camy’s posts on older regency books so much, I am bringing you info about a book, and its author, and telling you about her extensive and delicious back-list of regency reading fun (over 90 titles). If the author Marion Chesney is not familiar to you — get thee to a bookstore — or library in this case — since she isn’t (boo-hoo) writing regencies anymore.

No, she now only writes fabulously popular cozy mysteries now and you may know her as M.C. Beaton. However, her regencies are GREAT, and with some digging, are still available to the avid fan. She’s got some of her backlist out as e-books lately, too.

Chesney’s debut (writing under her own name) book, which I happen to own, is “The Poor Relation.” Heroine and former debutante Amaryllis Duvane’s fortunes have sunk low and she is reduced to the status of serving her wealthier relatives. Her past love, the Marquess of Merechester, shows up to court one of these wicked stepsister types, and the drama begins.

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I’ll happily admit to being a huge fan of Chesney, in all her genres. But the chance to read one of her first efforts makes me admire her career trajectory even more. As one familiarizes oneself with her work, it’s clear that as she gained publishing popularity and confidence, more and more of Chesney’s delicious humor comes out on the page. I can only hope to instigate half as many snickers for my own readers…someday…when I make my debut!

If you’ve ever enjoyed Chesney’s regencies, please add a comment.

Susan Karsten

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Originally posted 2015-04-30 09:56:35.

Dickens Meets Sherlock Holmes

Brentwood's Ward Cover PeekWhat do you get when you mix a shade of the darker side of Regency London with a quick-witted lawman? Nicholas Brentwood—a hero who’s a little rough around the edges, colorful as a Dickens character, and observant enough to be a forerunner of Sherlock. But he’s not just any lawman . . . He’s a Bow Street Runner.

Traditionally, male householders in London were expected to police the streets in their neighborhood, and every citizen was to report anyone they witnessed committing a crime. This changed in the eighteenth century because of increasing concerns about the threat of dangerous criminals who were attracted by the growing wealth of London’s middle class.

Prompted by a post-war crime wave in 1749, Magistrate Henry Fielding hired a small group of men to locate and arrest serious offenders. He operated out of No. 4 Bow Street, hence the name “Bow Street Runners.”

Fielding petitioned the government and received funding, but even so, he soon ran out of money to pay these men a worthy salary. Still, the runners were committed to justice, so they took on odd jobs such as watchmen or detectives for hire or even—as in the case of Nicholas Brentwood—guarding people or treasures.

What attracted my interest as an author was an old newspaper advertisement put out by Fielding. It encouraged the public to send a note to Bow Street as soon as any serious crime occurred so that “a set of brave fellows could immediately be dispatched in pursuit of the villains.” I wondered about those “brave fellows” and what kind of villains they might come up against, and thus was born Nicholas Brentwood.

Despite Bow Street’s efforts, most Londoners were opposed to the development of an organized police force. The English tradition of local government was ingrained deep, and they feared the loss of individual liberty. So, as gallant as the Runners were in tracking down criminals, the general public did not always view them in a positive light. Even the nickname given them by the public—Bow Street Runners—was considered derogatory and was a title the officers never used to refer to themselves.

Bow Street eventually gave way to the Metropolitan Police, and by 1839, the Runners were completely disbanded. But that doesn’t mean they don’t live on in the fictional realm. See if you can match wits with an experienced lawman as he tracks down a dangerous criminal in BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .

SPRING FLING 1

There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.

 Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers. But even better is that here’s your chance to WIN AN AUDIOBOOK! Hurry, though. This drawing ends tomorrow, April 17th.

CLICK HERE

 

Originally posted 2015-04-16 06:00:52.

Book recommendation: Minerva’s Marquess

Camy here! I recently read this oldie-but-goodie from Sheila Walsh and really enjoyed it. It’s not Christian, but it’s clean and a very sweet romance. I tend to really like marriage of convenience romances, so I admit I was a bit biased and ready to like the story because of that plot type. I liked how the heroine was sensible and forthright and willing to take charge of her own life. The hero is also a strong character but not too brooding. And there’s a light mystery thread to keep the story moving at a nice pace.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

The former Miss Minerva Braithwaite thought it a promising proposal when the lord whom she had shamelessly snared into wedlock suggested they go to Paris for their honeymoon. But all too swiftly that promise turned into peril for her hopes of happiness.

First the fearfully handsome, infuriatingly arrogant Lord Dominic Claireux refused to touch her on their wedding journey. Next she discovered that waiting in Paris was the ravishing Lavinia Winterton, who had broken Dominic’s heart once, but who now was eager to make amorous amends.

Somehow the beautiful Minerva had to find a way to melt her husband’s icy reserve and best a hot-blooded rival for his love. And clearly it was going to be a game of enticement and intrigue that only someone as daring as Minerva would gamble on winning…

Anything you’ve read recently that you enjoyed?

Originally posted 2015-04-13 05:00:23.

Make Way for the Postman

Today, the sound of a siren and the flashing red or blue lights make drivers clear the road to make way for the emergency vehicles. They trump all normal road rules because of the importance of their job.

rm_guard
Royal Mail Coach guard in uniform with his clock carrying bag and coaching horn.

In Regency England the road was ruled, not by a siren but by a horn, one carried by the mail coach guard.

This wasn’t the overcrowded stage coach you sometimes hear about. The Royal Mail Coach traveled fast and kept to a very strict schedule, hence the use of the mail coach guard and his horn.

The guards were issued a uniform that looked strikingly similar to the ones used by the military. They were also given guns, a watch, and a very long, tin horn. The watches were all synchronized in London and any variance from the schedule had to be recorded along with the reason for the delay.

Along with providing protection for the coach, the guard would blow the horn. Different tunes meant different things. Some were simply an message to fellow drivers to get out of the way or letting people know they were turning.

But two of the tunes were vital to keeping the mail coach on target.

Royal Mail Coach via Wikimedia Commons
Royal Mail Coach via Wikimedia Commons

One let postmasters along the route know they were coming. If the coach wasn’t scheduled to stop and change horses or some other necessity, the mail for the town was dropped at the postmaster’s feet while the postmaster tossed up the bag of outgoing mail for the guard to catch.

Another let tollgate operators know the Royal Mail Coach was coming and to open the gate. The mail coach didn’t pay the tolls and didn’t stop at the gates. If the operator didn’t have the gate open in time, he could face a very hefty fine.

Knowing the importance and the power of the horn, it’s no wonder that many of the mail coach guards had their own made out of materials much finer than mere tin.

Though the uniforms have changed and the mail delivery vehicles now have to follow all the rules of the road, the Royal Mail in England is still a very efficient machine. You can see the Top Gear guys try to race a letter across the country in a Porshe here.

Originally posted 2015-04-02 01:05:09.

Why would I move from London or all of England?

Vanessa here,

Migrations have happened through the ages. So peoples in even during the Regency had wanderlust, a strong desire to see the world. And dare I say it, they even moved beyond the ballrooms of Almack’s. They traveled, they went on holiday, and upon occasion they conquered.

After the Seven-Year War,  George Macartney in 1773, talked of the vastness of England’s reach, “the British Empire on which the sun never sets.”

The common attitude of having at least 184 colonies (accumulated from the 1700’s to 1950’s) around the globe supports the concept, making adaptations of the phase very popular:

  • “The sun never set on the British Flag” (Rev. R. P. Buddicom, 1827)
  • “The sun never set on British Empire” (Christopher North 1839)

When I study the list of colonies, I believe they are quite right:

Antigua and Barbuda Dog Island, Gambia Mombasa Sabah
Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina East Jersey Colony of Natal Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla
Province of Avalon Essequibo (colony) New Brunswick Saint Kitts and Nevis
Bangladesh Falkland Islands Dependencies New England Colonies Sarawak
Barbados Fiji New Hampshire Crown Colony of Sarawak
Basutoland Florida Province of New Hampshire Sheikhdom of Kuwait
Belize British Gambia New Hebrides Singapore
History of Belize Gambia Colony and Protectorate New Jersey Singapore in the Straits Settlements
Bengkulu The Gambia Province of New Jersey Post-war Singapore
Berbice Georgia (U.S. state) New South Wales South Africa
Bermuda Province of Georgia New York South Australia
Black River (settlement) Gibraltar New Zealand South Carolina
British Honduras Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony of New Zealand Province of South Carolina
British Bencoolen Gold Coast (British colony) Newfoundland and Labrador South Sudan
Colony of British Columbia (1858–66) Grenada Newfoundland Colony Southern Colonies
Colony of British Columbia (1866–71) Guadeloupe Nicobar Islands Stoddart Island
British Kaffraria British Guiana Nigeria Straits Settlements
British West Indies Heligoland Nikumaroro Sudan
British Western Pacific Territories Hilton Young Commission North Australia Swan River Colony
Brunei History of West Africa Crown Colony of North Borneo Tasmania
Burma Hong Kong North Carolina Colony of Tasmania
British rule in Burma British Hong Kong Nova Scotia Thirteen Colonies
Canada India Nyasaland Tobago
Province of Quebec (1763–91) Jamaica Ohio Tokelau
Province of Canada Colony of Jamaica History of Ohio Transvaal Colony
The Canadas Jordan Ohio Country Trinidad
Cape Breton Island Kunta Kinteh Island Operation Sunrise (Nyasaland) Trinidad and Tobago
Cape Colony Crown Colony of Labuan Orange River Colony United States
Province of Carolina Lagos Orange River Sovereignty Historic regions of the United States
Carriacou and Petite Martinique Lagos Colony Pakistan Upper Canada
British Ceylon Lakshadweep Territory of Papua Van Diemen’s Land
Chesapeake Colonies British Leeward Islands Pennsylvania Colony of Vancouver Island
Chopawamsic Lower Canada Province of Pennsylvania Victoria (Australia)
Colonial Nigeria Maine Plymouth Company Colony of Virginia
Colonial Fiji Malabo Prince Edward Island Walvis Bay
Côn Đảo British Malaya History of Pulicat Weihai (British Colony)
Connecticut Malayan Union Colony of the Queen Charlotte Islands Wessagusset Colony
Connecticut Colony Malaysia Queensland British West Africa
Cook Islands Malta Restoration (Colonies) West Indies Federation
Cook Islands Federation Crown Colony of Malta Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations West Jersey
Cyprus Massachusetts Northern Rhodesia Western Australia
British Cyprus (1914–1960) Province of Massachusetts Bay Colonial history of Southern Rhodesia Western Samoa Trust Territory
Delaware Mauritius Southern Rhodesia British Windward Islands
Delaware Colony Middle Colonies Rivers State Wituland
Demerara Minorca Rodrigues Zimbabwe
Demerara-Essequibo Mississippi Rupert’s Land Zulu Kingdom

Lately, I have been thinking about the hopes and dreams that sent people on a journey to an unknown world. Was it religious freedom like the Quakers? Could it be the quest of gold or the hope for eternal gold by proselytize a different people? What attitudes did they bring? Did social station withstand the hard work of building a colony timber by timber?

For my birthday (March 13 – shameless plug), my lovely husband bought me two copper engraved maps, one of England (1810) and one of South African (1835). I see stories brewing. Stay tuned.2015-03-09 00.22.32

 

References:

  • Bartlett, John (1865). Familiar quotations (4th ed.). Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 388.
  • Bacon, Francis (1841). “An Advertisement Touching a Holy War”.
  • Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis of the British Empire, 1480-1630.
  • Wikipedia: English Possessions Overseas.
  • Wikipedia: British Colonization of the Americas.
  • Wikipedia: British Empire.

Originally posted 2015-03-09 08:00:00.

Miniature Portraits: The Instagram of Regency England

While the first known photograph was taken not long after the Regency period closed, the idea of capturing someone’s likeness was hardly new. Portraits, sketches, and tapestries have existed for many years, giving us glimpses of the history before there were cameras.

Amadeus Mozart and his sister, 1765
Amadeus Mozart and his sister, 1765

But a portrait was time consuming and expensive. Only the very wealthy and important sat for multiple portraits in their lifetimes. It wasn’t uncommon for someone, even of the middle class, to have only one portrait done in a lifetime.

At least, it wasn’t uncommon until the miniature portrait rose to popularity.

Miniature portraits had been around for a long time, but in the late 1700s a new technique was developed that made then sturdier, easier, and even smaller. They were stippled onto ivory backings using tiny dots.

'Portrait_of_a_Boy',_watercolor_on_ivory_portrait_miniature_by_James_Nixon,_c._1810-1820,_Museum_of_Fine_Arts,_HoustonWhen King George III’s wife wore a miniature portrait of him on her wrist while sitting for a full size portrait of her own, the craze began. Even the middle class got into the game, since smaller portraits required less time and supplies and were therefore considerably less expensive.

Unknown_boy_by_StroehlingPeople could even afford to commission portraits of their children and significant events.

Royals had several made to give out as tokens to dignitaries and honored friends.

Through the Regency period, multiple painters switched to making their entire livings off of miniature portraits. Ranging from 1 to 7 inches tall, these portraits were used to remember a loved one, whether distant or deceased, commemorate milestones, and as secret tokens of love.

Princess Charlotte's eye
Princess Charlotte’s eye

Close-up miniatures of eyes or even mouths were given as intimate tokens of love, sometimes rather inappropriately. Because a single eye couldn’t be identified as any particular person, the painting could be given in secret, with only the recipient knowing who was really in the picture.

Mrs_Jonathan_Leavitt_(Emilia_Stiles).jpegOnce painted, the smaller miniatures were set into jewelry, including brooches, necklaces, and bracelets. Larger ones were framed, possibly kept on bedside tables or in other living areas, providing easy access to the beloved images without restraining them to a gallery or significant wall space.

While there aren’t any examples of someone immortalizing their favorite chocolate cake on a brooch, beloved pets or homes were occasionally painted as well.

All pictures obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Click on picture to go to original posting. 

Originally posted 2015-03-05 01:00:00.

A Matter of Trust ~ Brentwood’s Ward and a Chance to Win

Trust. It’s not something people give easily anymore. Between media snafus, misleading internet articles, and photoshop, it’s hard to know what to believe in, so we choose to trust in nothing and no one but ourselves.

Brentwood's Ward Cover PeekI saw a lot of elements of trust play out in Michelle Griep’s Brentwood’s Ward. Trust of ourselves, of others, and of God.

Without giving away too much of the book, I can tell you that at the beginning of the book Nicholas Brentwood doesn’t put much trust in anyone but himself. Even when he knows he should be trusting God, he struggles with shouldering the entire pressure of finding a solution to his sister’s problem. Interestingly, this situation requires him to trust people he barely knows to help him.

Throughout the book, Emily and Nicholas have to learn to trust each other as well as God. When they don’t learn this lesson quickly enough, bad things start to happen. While Nicholas wants Emily to trust him and be honest with him, he isn’t very forthcoming with her. Only when the trust becomes a two-way street do they start to see their relationship blossom.

I loved Nicholas’ sister in this book. For me, she stole every page she was on with a shining light of one who trusts in God completely.

Do you struggle with deciding who to trust and who not to? When tough situations arise, do you keep your trust in God or do you try to control your own future? Perhaps taking a little journey with Emily and Nicholas will help you sort things out.

Leave a comment below to be entered into a drawing for your own copy of Brentwood’s Ward. Everyone who comments on the book’s posts over the last two weeks will be entered. Drawing will take place Sunday, March 1.

 

Originally posted 2015-02-26 01:55:58.

Coffeehouses: Nothing New Under the Sun

a-cup-of-coffee-399478_1280“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy coffee . . . and that’s pretty close.”

~ Anonymous

Hipsters may think they’re trendy by hanging out at the local coffee house, but nursing a cup of java while discussing the politics of the day has been around a long, long time. In England, this dates back to the seventeenth century. Surprise! Who’d have thought those proper tea-drinking Brits even knew what coffee was?

Here are a few fun facts:

  • First coffee house opened in Oxford, 1650.
  • In the 17th and 18th century, there were more coffee houses in London than today.
  • A mug o’ joe cost a penny, which was a great price because you also gained an education. It was said that a man could “pick up more useful knowledge than by applying himself to his books for a whole month.” Hence the nickname: Penny Universities.
  • English coffee houses started the custom of tipping servers. Patrons who wanted good service and better seating would put some money into a tin labeled “To Insure Prompt Service (TIPS).

Brentwood's Ward Cover PeekIn my Regency era historical, BRENTWOOD’S WARD, I highlight the coffee house phenomenon by setting a scene at The Chapter Coffee House. Women of the times didn’t usually frequent such establishments, but this historical venue is a little different. It was a known haunt of booksellers, writers, and literature hounds. Even Charlotte Brontë visited on occasion.

And just in case you’re wondering if historical coffee would taste the same as today’s brews, here’s a recipe so you can try it yourself:

Coffee ~ A Regency Recipe

Put 2 oz. of fresh-ground quality coffee into a coffeepot. If you must take your coffee extremely strong, use 3 oz. Then pour 8 coffee-cups worth of boiling water atop. Let it rest for 6 minutes. Then add in 2 or 3 isinglass-chips and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on top. Set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for 10 more minutes, and you will have coffee of a supreme transparency.

Serve with fine cream and either fine sugar as well, or pounded sugar-candy.

Whether you love coffee, or love to hate coffee, there’s no denying its deeply imbedded in societies all around the world, present and past. And if you’re looking for a great read to go along with your mug o’ joe, here’s a blurb for BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .

Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.

Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.

Michelle Griep HeadshotAbout the Author:

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager. She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones.

Follow her adventures at her blog WRITER OFF THE LEASH or visit michellegriep.com, and don’t forget the usual haunts of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.

 

Originally posted 2015-02-23 12:01:36.

Get to Know Michelle Griep, Strawberry Hater but Regency Enthusiast

Vanessa here,

For me, the month of February is a time to reflect on history and progress, as well as love. So, it is my pleasure to spend a little time with Michelle Griep on my southern porch. She’s a woman that writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. I thought you would like to get to know another side of one our Regency authors.

As I gussied up things, I decided to offer ripe strawberries dipped in a healthy dose of chocolate. I hadn’t had quite enough on Valentine’s Day, (thank you, Dear Hubby).

But my friend Michelle won’t have any. Not one bite.

“I hate fruit,” she said, “No, really. Not even strawberries.”

Ok, as I put the tray away for munching later, I begged Michelle to tell me more about herself, something far from London and the 1800’s.

“I am a Trekkie at heart, though I am not fluent in Klingon. Yet. I love to garden, specifically flowers and herbs. Reading is a huge passion of mine, as is eating chocolate, rollerblading, or walking my dog, Ada Clare, Princess of the Universe.”

Brentwood's Ward Cover PeekSeriously, Michelle is a writer’s writer and has carefully studied the craft of writing for years, and as we celebrate her latest release, Brentwood’s Ward, she has also released a book on craft. How did you find the time between rollerblading and the Princess?

“I needed to get this book out. Writers of Regencies and other genres need to know, how do you go about composing and selling the next Great American Novel? WRITER OFF THE LEASH answers these questions and more–all in an easy to understand, tongue-in-cheek style. This is more than a how-to book. It’s my attempt to blow the lid off stodgy old-school rulebooks and make it clear that writing can–and should–be fun.”

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Michelle Griep HeadshotFollow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

 

Originally posted 2015-02-19 08:00:00.