Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Welcome to this fine Woven Wednesday. I’d like to introduce you to Adela, a young lady who had the unique opportunity of attending Harvard College during the early 1880s, along with three friends who shared a bond closer than sisters. Adela and two of her friends become disillusioned with the elite society of Cambridge for different reasons and travel west to become mail-order brides.
I know all this because I’m the author of their story. And I told her to look apprehensive.
Hundreds of mail-order bride stories have been written, and I’ve read most of them. But my writing experience has been different in that I may one of the few authors who get the chance to make the heroine’s dress. Most probably wouldn't want to.
When I prepared to share my vision for the covers with the designer, I started following the historical sewing blogs. Pictures just weren’t enough. I wanted to make one of those outfits—or three.
The trouble was I hadn’t sewed in years. When I was young, I made all my clothes, and my daughter didn’t get a store-bought dress until she was about ten. But life took up my time, and even when my granddaughter came along, I just didn’t have the passion.
Fortunately, my passion for writing spilled over into sewing, and before you knew it, I was gathering patterns and fabrics and notions. As you can tell, I chose pink for Adela, my brunette with dark brown eyes that have a way of making her intended lose his train of thought.
The heroine of the second novella, a curly-haired, blue-eyed blonde, will wear blue satin. The third novella will feature a green-eyed red-head, who’ll wear green print with emerald satin.
I let my heroines choose their dresses. Since Adela was going to be a farmer’s wife, she wanted her outfit to be understated. She chose the pink summer print cotton, the closest thing in her wardrobe to calico, and with little trim. It was normal for Victorian dresses to be greatly embellished. Fortunately for me, my heroines didn’t like too much embellishment. Fancy or not, these dresses take from ten to twelve yards of fabric, most of it in the overskirt.
I’m going to be sending the first pictures to the cover designer in a couple of weeks. I don’t know that any of these creations will be acceptable, but even if they don’t make the covers, I am going to be creating memes with them.
These photos were done for the blog, using a phone camera. We didn’t have time to get Adela’s hair up, as she would have insisted on before going out in public. And I didn’t have the all-important bustle finished when my model came over. That’s why it’s missing in the picture at right. Without the bustle, the back sags, and a Victorian woman would never let her posterior sag.
Here’s what the bustle looks like. Just a fabric sack that can be shaped with a wire frame—or in my case, stuffed with fiberfill. My husband offered to model it, but I decided to spare you. Also pictured with the bustle is another piece of clothing essential to the Victorian lady, the corset. Would you believe the corset is sized according to the measurement you want to cinch it to, not the waist size?
One thing hasn’t changed over the centuries; women’s clothing has always been designed more for appearance than men’s clothing. Shirts, pants and suits for men of the nineteenth century look much like today.
Do you think women care about their appearance more than men? Why or why not?
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