On Saturday morning I wrote how friends from Alaska (I was a student at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks briefly in the late 1980s) were due to visit with us here in Hertfordshire (about a 30 min train journey north from central London) for lunch. For three weeks, they had driven themselves all around southwestern England and thoroughly enjoyed themselves at the likes of Stonehenge and down in Cornwall. Today, starting at Heathrow, they begin the (2 day) travel odyssey back to Alaska.
At one point we chatted about my books. Eventually we moved on to what my latest one will be about. As I explained it, my friend’s wife jumped in about women’s fashions of that era.
Art and fashion are passions of hers. She began noting how she believed ladies dresses and clothing was “dreadful” by the time of the U.S. Civil War in the mid-19th century. She declared emphatically that in contrast she felt late 18th century styles (the era in which Conventions is mostly set: the 1780s and 1790s) in London and Paris were simply (in her words) “gorgeous.”
I admitted that I knew only generalities, so I have been carefully researching details. They happened to have visited Bath too, and by coincidence while there she said they had been to the Bath Fashion Museum. She suggested if I could get there it might be worth a visit to see some of those fashions “in person.” (We’d actually lived near Bath in 2014-2015 and got to know the city pretty well; but I’d never thought to visit that. Ironic, no?)
Notice this English lady below is painted in a “Brunswick gown,” which was commonly worn by women travelers in England and France in the eighteenth century:
Fashion was not only about women. Men still wore breeches into the early 1800s. Trousers as we understand them did not start to become common until a decade or so later, in the 1820s:
From 1795, we begin to see an evolution to a more relaxed women’s style. (It had already begun to appear among women at Marie Antoinette’s court in the 1780s and spread from there.) Essentially, we see what is described by Jane Austen in her novels of the early 1800s: the “high-waist” takes hold (no pun intended). Look familiar to you (other) Jane fans?:
I know that some of you who follow are fashion bloggers. And I know some of you who read my novels also love to follow fashion bloggers. I may be a guy, but, see, as this post proves…. I can be both novelist and a bit “fashion blogger”! 😉
Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂
UPDATE: English friend who read that just messaged me: she wanted me to know that the “high-waisted” look was also known as the “Empire Line.” I knew that: I had seen that used already.
Lots of knowledgeable late 18th-early 19th century fashion aficionados out there! 🙂