Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Dandies of the Regency Era and the shop keepers who dressed and fed them

As I'm working on another Regency romance, I decided to do a series of blogs about this fascinating era.
The Dandies
During the Regency, ape leader, Beau Brummel created a new simple and expensive style of dress. Absorbed with appearance, Brummel took  five hours every morning at his toilet, bathing in eau-de-Cologne and water, then an hour at his hairdresser and two hours 'creasing down'  his starched cravat until satisfied with the folds. He might discard a dozen or more cravats which he described as 'our failures' in the process. His obsession with fashion made the reputations of tailors, hatters, glovers and shirtmakers who gave him extensive credit in return form his custom.

The Storekeepers in and around St James's Street
Weston, Brummel's tailor in Old Bond Street and the shopkeepers in the area of St James's Street  benefited from him and the dandies that aped him. As did Hoby, the most famous of all the bootmakers, on the corner of Piccadilly and St James's Street who died worth 120,000 pounds. He made military long boots, fashionable Hessian boots with a tassel dangling from the V-shaped front, Hussar boots to be worn with pantaloons, top boots worn with buckskins or breeches. Wellington boots and 'highlows' or ankle boots, worn with trousers.
Lock's the hatters at No. 6  made hats to measure of the finest quality from beaver hats worn by the nobility and the gentry in the country to the glossy black top hats worn by the dandies in town and the chapeau bras which a gentleman carried folded up under his arm in the evening. Hussars and the Dragoons had to pay more for their beplumed and gold-laced shakos; but the dandies often got away without paying their bills from one year to the next.
The Berry Brothers at No. 3 St James's Street, the world-famous wine merchants were founded by the Widow Bourne in 1699. During the Regency they were grocers renown for the varieties of tea, they stocked, Congue, Pekoe, Souchong, Bohea and many others, coffee and tobacco from the New World and spices from the Far East. Their weighing machine used for huge bags of coffee began to be used to weigh customers. Brummell weighed himself regularly with and without boots, and before he got too obese, the Prince Regent used it to.
Friboug & Treyer's were famous snuff merchants with a thriving business at No. 34 the Haymarket, just off Piccadilly.  Lord Petersham, famous for his Cossack trousers and double-breasted coat named after him, was  an expert in the art of moistening, mixing and blending snuff. When he died, his 'snuff-cellar' was valued at 3,000 pounds. He left 365 snuff boxes, one for every day in the year.
Gunther's, the pastry-cook in Berkeley Square was the most celebrated confectioner in London could charge what he liked. He made all sorts of Biskets and Cakes, Fine and Common Sugar Plums and all sorts of Ices. Ice from the Greenland Sea was buried in the ground under the cellars of Berkeley Square to supply their cream and fruit Ices. Lord Alvanley once ordered a hamper from Gunther's which cost him 200 pounds. 
John Hatchard began Hatchard's Bookshop in Piccadilly with 5 pounds and a few second-hand books in 1797. Fortnum & Mason was founded by George III's ex-footman Charles Fortnum and the grocer, John Mason in 1817. Both Hatchard's and Fortnum & Mason have been rebuilt on their original sites.
 Society was dominated by the Dandies selfish pursuit of leisure and pleasure (The Pleasure Principal )
Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, 1828

Gambling at the Clubs in St James's Street - White's, Boodles and Brooks's, made many seek King in Clarges Street to mortgage their estates or pledge their inherited gold and silver plate or their wives' diamonds at Hamlet, the jeweler in Cranbourn Alley or Rundell and Bridge at Ludgate Hillge who not only sold jewelry but trinkets of all kinds from seals to snuff boxes.
While gambling at their clubs, a curious kind of self-discipline was adopted, for it was considered ill-bred for anyone to show his feelings when losing heavily, or to rejoice if fortune turned in his favor.

A Man's World
The clubs, the shops and the smart hotels were all dedicated to serving the fashion-conscious dandies and the wealthy aristocracy. No lady valuing her reputation would walk down Bond Street or St James's in the afternoon. In the morning, she would be accompanied by her maid, a footman or a page to protect her from being ogled by any dandies that found her attractive, although most would still be abed.
In Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy, Sophy  Stanton Lacy outraged Miss Wraxton by driving her down the exclusive male precinct of St. James's Street.

Next blog: The Women and their Stores
Regency London Stella Margetson Cassell & Company Ltd 1971.
Georgette Heyer's Regency World Jennifer Kloester

Sunday, August 21, 2011


As many authors claim, I am frequently plagued by a very mischievous muse who chooses the most inconvenient of times to summon me - most frequently waking me from sweet slumber or interrupting my shower!

A few months ago she pulled precisely such a prank by waking me at 2Am with the first stanza of a poem.

"A poem?" I asked. "What kind of joke is this? I don't write poetry! I don't even like poetry!" I insisted.

"You do now," she replied with a smirk.

In hindsight, I now realize that this narrative poem, half composed in my sleep, has served as the inspiration for an entire new series that I have named GEORGIANS AND JACOBITES.

Even if you are not a connoisseur of poetry, I hope you will enjoy the historical perspective it provides for the Jacobite rebellions.


While Queen Anne lay stiff in bed,
With no successor,
declared as dead,
Parliament sought up and down
A protestant to wear the crown.

But James the third, called pretender
Refused to be to be the faith’s defender,
Three crowns he’d forfeit for a mass,
Ere to Hanover would they pass.

Georg Ludwig in no hurry,
in his duchy long would tarry,
Ere to Britain deign to go.
Knowing not his kingdom’s tongue,
In his greed he would come,
His queer retinue in tow.

With Mustapha and Mahomet,
the Maypole and the Elephant,
George did claim his throne.
His faithless wife locked tight away,
(for twenty years, if a day),
This king would reign alone.

High Tory and the Jacobite
Would n’er accept the country’s plight
Contending yet for Divine right,
The Stuarts to restore.
For others with more Popish leanings,
in their closeted convenings,
Treason was the true meaning,
One could scarce ignore.
And many white cockaded hosts
Raised their glass in furtive toasts,
To James- forevermore.

No longer strife disguising,
Began the ’15 rising,
Though t’would prove a damned devising,
Headed by Lord Mar.
With Stuart standard he proclaimed
Scotland in his sovereign’s name.
South to England now his aim,
Intent on civil war.

With less sense than bluster,
The English north did muster,
Under Thomas Forster,
Wearing the general’s plume.
To Newcastle and Preston,
In a grand procession,
the army marched predestined
With a battle plan sure doomed.

'Pon news to Jemmie of the tidings
Of his Scottish clans uprising,
The unexpected, so surprising
Struck the king with disbelief.
But jubilation took its place
On this exiled sovereign’s face,
And for his Scotland he did race
To his troops’ relief.

Now at last had come his chance
Funded by the King of France,
Akin to some great romance,
Like the Holy Grail.
A most devout mission,
Coronation his ambition,
Ever closer to fruition,
The Chevalier set sail.

But arriving yet again too late,
His rebels conquered by the State,
According to the Stuart fate,
Once more doomed to fail.

Sheriffmuir lost, the rebels thwarted,
The guilty hung, beheaded, transported.
For nigh thirty years - the Cause aborted,
E’er springing back to life.
With Bonnie Charlie, the Young Pretender,
Brave and strong, a worthy contender,
Jacobite passions again engendered,
In the ’45.
- Emery Lee

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A PEER'S PRIVILEGE post by Emery Lee

Coronets and Nobel Hierarchy:

From Admirals to Generals, politicians to Royal bastards, a peerage has been the highest honour bestowed by a grateful Crown for almost 750 years. Over 2,560 hereditary peerages have been created by the Crown since the mid-13th century, of which 828 still survive. Additionally, 1,130 life peerages have been created in the last one hundred and thirty years, of which 595 are currently sitting in the House of Lords.

But what, precisely, does ennoblement entail?


“That they are free from all arrest for debts, as being the king’s hereditary counsellors. Therefore a peer cannot be outlawed in any civil action, and no attachment lies against his person. This privilege extended also to their domestic servants, as well as to those of members of the lower house, till the year 1770.”

The privilege of freedom from arrest applies to members of both Houses of Parliament, as they must be available to give advice to the Sovereign. This privilege was also adopted by the Constitution of the United States:”The Senators and Representatives … shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses.”

From 1547 if a peer or peeress was convicted of a crime, except treason or murder, he or she could claim “privilege of peerage” to escape punishment if it was their first offence. The privilege was exercised five times, and abolished in 1841 when James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, claimed he would invoke the privilege if he was convicted of duelling, but was acquitted of the charge.

In most cases, this privilege was invoked to avoid imprisonment for debt, but a peer’s immunity only went so far. A peer could, theoretically, be impeached if the House of Commons brought forth charges to the House of Lords, and while the House of Lords could try peers only for felonies or treason, in impeachments, charges could also include misdemeanors.
The last impeachment was that of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, in 1806 for misappropriating public money. Impeachment is now obsolete in the United Kingdom.


In criminal causes, they are only tried by their peers, who give their verdict, not upon oath, as other juries, but only upon their honour; and then a court is erected on purpose in the middle of Westminster Hall, at the king’s charge, which is pulled down when their trials are over. The right of peers to trial by their own order was formalized during the 14th century. A statute passed in 1341 provided:

Whereas before this time the peers of the land have been arrested and imprisoned, and their temporalities, lands, and tenements, goods and cattels, asseized in the King’s hands, and some put to death without judgment of their peers: It is accorded and assented, that no peer of the land … shall be brought in judgment to lose his temporalities, lands, tenements, goods and cattels, nor to be arrested, imprisoned, outlawed, exiled, nor forejudged, nor put to answer, nor be judged, but by award of the said peers in Parliament.


To secure the honour of, and prevent the spreading of any scandal upon peers, or any great officer of the realm, by reports, there is an express law, called scandalum magnatum, by which any man convicted of making a scandalous report against a peer of the realm (though true) is condemned to an arbitrary fine, and to remain in custody till the same be paid.
Under English law defamation was originally considered a matter for the ecclesiastical courts, whose remedy would be to order the offender to apologize. Deemed unsatisfactory by most of those whose good name, or personal honor was offended, many duels arised as a means of redress for a real or imagined injury.

The Statute of Westminster 1275introduced the offence of Scandalum Magnatum, stating; It is commanded, That from henceforth none be so hardy to tell or publish any false News or Tales, whereby discord, or occasion of discord or slander may grow between the King and his People, or the Great Men of the Realm.

The purpose was less intended to guard the reputation of the offended, but to safeguard the peace of the kingdom. By providing a lawful remedy, it was hoped that the “Great Men of the Realm” would forbear from violent means of settling disputes. The prohibition against spreading such “false News or Tales” was amplified in several subsequent acts of parliament, which forbade; Any false news, horrible and false tales concerning the Prelates, Dukes, Earls, and other Peers and great Men of the Realm …by which danger, mischief and destruction may happen to the whole Realm. Legislation of 1554 and 1559 expanded the act to include “seditious words.”
Notable examples of scandalum magnatum:

 In 1606 Andrew Melville, the Scottish religious Reformer, composed an epigram critical of the king’s religious sympathies and found himself summoned before the privy council, found guilty of scandalum magnatum and ended up spending four years in the Tower of London.

 On the 10 May 1680 the now infamous Titus Oates who committed to prison for calling the Duke of York a traitor and later fined £100,000 for scandalum magnatum. (Titus Oates was also convicted of perjury, and sentenced to be whipped, degraded, and pilloried, and then imprisoned for life. His judge, the equally infamous Judge Jeffreys commented that “He has deserved more punishment than the laws of the land can inflict.”

 In 1680 that the notorious Colonel Blood who was charged with scandalum magnatum for “fixing an imputation of a most scandalous nature upon the Duke of Buckingham” and found himself imprisoned and charged with damages of ten thousand pounds. (Colonel Blood was released on bail but died soon after.)

Even in March 1771, the printer of the Morning Chronicle found himself hauled up before the House of Lords, and fined £100 and imprisoned in Newgate for one month, for allowing his newspaper to print an “obnoxious paragraph” referring to one of their members in an unflattering light.


Because each peer is commonly considered a counsellor of the Sovereign, and, according to Sir William Blackstone in 1765, “it is usually looked upon to be the right of each particular peer of the realm, to demand an audience of the King, and to lay before him, with decency and respect, such matters as he shall judge of importance to the public weal.”Although the privilege of access is no longer exercised, it is yet retained by peers whether members of the House of Lords or not.


 The right to be tried by other peers of the realm instead of juries of commoners (abolished in 1948)
 Freedom from arrest in civil (but not criminal) cases
 Access to the Sovereign to advise him or her on matters of state.
 Peers also have several other rights not formally part of the privilege of peerage e.g. entitlement to use coronets and supporters on their achievements of arms.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 'romance' of Vikings?

Leif Ericsson arrives in Vinland, from a book of 1908 (source: Wikimedia Commons)Why are Vikings romantic?

When Vikings were raiding Celtic monasteries they were not romantic. When Vikings - unkempt, insanitary, prone to arthritis after years on the sea - ravaged coastal settlements and came upriver to pillage and steal, they were not romantic. When they desecrated Christian sites, they were not romantic.

When an Anglo-Saxon village caught a Viking raider they pinned his skin to the church-door, which took the romance right out of it.

Do real Viking nicknames like 'Geirmund the Shifty', 'Ragnar Hairy-Breeches' or 'Eysteinn the Fart' induce swooning?

So why are we drawn to them?

Perhaps because they were pirates, the free-wheeling buccaneers of their age, who refused to be overwhelmed by anything, including the glories of Byzantine Constantinople - their runes and messages have been found carved into the church of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul.

Perhaps because through their sagas and art they reveal a fierce spirit of independence, a laconic, 'give-it-your best-shot ' attitude that is appealing.

Perhaps because women in Scandinavian society had many freedoms and rights, and at home Viking men were hard-working and respectful to their wives and mothers.

Perhaps because the image of the tall, blond, blue-eyed hulking warrior is a delicious fantasy that - with the benefit of historical hindsight - we can indulge in.

Here, as a partial homage to the romance of Vikings, is my short story, Seal of Odin. This is a different version from my more paranormal story, The Beach and is the earlier of the two:

Seal of Odin (PDF)

Vikings also appear, in passing, in my A Knight's Captive, which takes place in 1066 and features the battle of Stamford Bridge where the Viking king Harold Hardrada was killed.

Best wishes, Lindsay

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Number One London

Addresses don’t come much grander than ‘Number One London’, the popular name for Apsley House.

On a recent visit to London and finding ourselves close to Hyde Park Corner where I was enjoying watching the Household Cavalry, we came upon it quite by chance.

It was the home of the Duke of Wellington following his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, and it seems to have changed very little since the days of the Iron Duke.
You can also see a statue of Napoleon, and one of the finest art collections in London, with paintings by Velazquez and Rubens as well as an amazing collection of silver and porcelain.

Best of all I loved the Waterloo Gallery where splendid balls used to be held. I could imagine the room packed with the very echelons of society, ladies in their pretty pastel gowns, the gallants in their smart uniform, footmen moving between them offering champagne.

Harriet Arbuthnot (1793 –1834) a close friend of the Duke, often acted as hostess for these splendid events. She was rumoured to be the mistress of the Duke of the Wellington, although this is disputed. It was said that he enjoyed his relationship with Mrs Arbuthnot because he found in her "the comfort and happiness his wife could not give him." They were certainly close and she frequently hosted his dinner parties as his marriage was a cold one, his wife residing mainly in the country. Earlier, Harriet was very friendly with Lord Castlereagh, calling him her "dearest and best friend" until his death in 1822.

Married to a Charles Arbuthnot, a politician and also a great friend of Wellington, was the friendship innocent or a ménage à trois? We shall never know. She was certainly a noted society lady in a perfect position to comment upon events, and became a noted diarist. Her observations and memories of life within the British establishment were full of gossip and detail, finally published in 1950 as The Journal of Mrs Arbuthnot. She sounds such a fascinating woman that I’d like to know more about her. But do call at Number One, London. Apsley House is most definitely worth a visit.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Change is in the Air - Anne of Great Britain by Stephanie Burkhart

Anne Stuart, 1705

As an American, I've always been intrigued by European monarchs. My favorite nations include: Britain, France, and Russia. I find it fascinating how that monarch shaped their times and how the times shaped the ruler.

Change was in the air when Anne Stuart was born. The Stuarts were probably the most controversial monarchs in history, torn between two religions, Catholism and the Anglican Faith, yet each of them tackled their struggles with a very human face.

Anne was the last Stuart monarch. What I find fascinating was how she faced the challenges of her time despite great personal hardship.

Anne was born to James, Duke of York and his first wife, Lady Anne Hyde in 1665. James had 8 children with his first wife, but only Mary and her sister, Anne, lived to adulthood.

Charles II, James' brother was the monarch at the time of Anne's birth. He was well liked and popular. Charles II had a slew of illegitimate children, but not one legitimate heir. Realizing Mary and Anne might succeed to the throne, Charles ensured they were baptized into the Anglican Faith.

Anne's mother died in 1670. 3 years later, her father converted to Catholism when he married Mary of Modena.

Charles II took matters into his own hands. He separated Mary and Anne from their father and they were given their own households. They were raised Anglican. James and his new wife had between 7-10 children, but only a boy, James, born in 1988 survived to adulthood. And there were plenty rumors swirling around his birth, too. (i.e. baby substitute)

Anne was 18 when she married George of Denmark in 1683. Two years later, her uncle, Charles II, died and her father took the throne. James II didn't last long. 4 years later in November 1988 (James II's son, James was born in June 1688.) William of Orange invaded with the intention of ousting James. He fled. The English people asserted James II abdicated his throne and welcomed Mary & William.

Anne came to the throne in March 1702. By all accounts her marriage to George was a happy one, but she had been pregnant 18 times. Only one son, William, survived infancy, but died in 1700 before she came to the throne. Imagine knowing how important it was to give the crown an heir and failing to complete the task?

Change was in the air, and Anne approved of the Act of Settlement dated 1701 in which the crown would be offered to the Electress Sophia of Hanover, a great-granddaughter of James I. The Electress Sophia was Protestant.

Anne's father, Catholic to the bone, died in 1701 after she agreed to the Act of Settlement. The British people had spoken – they wanted the Anglican Faith and they ensured its survival. After Anne, there were closer claimants to the throne, her younger brother born in 1688, but they were purposely excluded because they were Catholic.

The last openly Catholic Monarch (before James II) was Mary I, who succeeded her father, Henry VIII. Mary's cruelty earned her the nickname "Bloody Mary" and that cruelty resonated through the decades, guiding Anne and her people to take the nation down a different path to ensure the county's peace and prosperity.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Burkhart's latest release is a steampunk romance: "Victorian Scoundrel." Set in England, when Alice, Princess of York, follows her cousin, Edmund of Wales, into the past, will she cause more mischief than him by falling in love?

It's 2011 and compressed natural gas has taken over form the coal producing steam machines of the Victorian Age. Alice Windsor, Princess of York, follows her mischief-making cousin, Prince Edmund of Wales back to the past and 1851 where Prince Albert is hosting Britain's Great Exhibition.

Alice soon discovers Edmund has struck up a friendship with their great-grandfather, Prince Albert, and his mischief making entails leaving a dinosaur-sized footprint in history. She also meets Grayson Kentfield, Earl Swinton, and the Prime Minister, Sir John Russell. The Prime Minster finds her odd, to say the least.

It's only when Alice falls for the handsome Earl Swinton does she realize the dangers of time travel. How can she give her heart to a man from the past while striving to stop Edmund from changing time with his forward thinking ideas?





REVIEWS: 5 Stars, Readers Favorites, Molly E: I have never read a Steam Punk novel before, but because of her fantastic writing, her engaging plot line, and fun loving characters, it will NOT be the last. I highly recommend this with highest of 5 stars, and I can't wait until the second Windsor Diaries installment releases!

5 Stars, Tami Dee, Author of the Mists of Time Series: Stephanie Burkhart has a fresh, quick, quirky, inventive imagination and she gives the readers of Victorian Scoundrel a delightful mixture of all of the above!

Enjoy this excerpt:

Grayson escorted her to a door on the right, threw it open, and put his hand on her waist, guiding her inside. A gas lamp burned on a nearby table, throwing stark, deep shadows into the room.

Her determined man shut the door and pinned her against it. He plucked her glasses from her face and threw them onto the table with the gas lamp. Then he pinned her against the door, placing his hands on the door next to her arms. His breathing was erratic. The light from the lamp cast dark shadows over his chiseled features.


He stepped closer and lowered his hands, placing one on her waist. Heat spiked within her and settled low in her abdomen. His hazel eyes burned with desire. He drew in a deep breath and raised his forefinger, tracing her lips. Alice closed her eyes, but only briefly, savoring the gentle touch of his finger.

"You do wild things to my heart, sweet Alice," he finally whispered. His finger traced her cheeks, then her jaw.

She grew hot, yearning for more. Her senses spun from his sensual touch. She could hardly breathe. "Me?"

"Yes, you."
"What do I do to your heart?"

"You make it beat hard -- fast." He ran his finger down the side of her neck and traced the 'v' in her throat.

Alice met the raging inferno in his eyes and nipped at her lower lip with her teeth. "Is that all I do?"

He issued a low, deep groan from his throat and leaned forward. Their lips searched for each other, teasing, until finally they meshed into a heat-searing kiss.

Alice completely lost her head. His lips were hard, firm, staking his claim. His hands went to her waist as his long, lean body pressed against her. She placed her hands on his shoulders and glided her fingertips around the nape of his neck. She wanted this man. Etiquette and propriety be damned. Victorian values wafted to the floor. She wanted to feel every inch of him that she could. His lips trailed over her jaw, kissing the side of her neck.

"Oh, Gray..." she moaned, her flesh now highly sensitized to his touch.

She had never been kissed like this.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Seventeenth Century Aromatherapy

In the seventeenth century
many grander houses in England had a "still-room". This was originally a brewing chamber, but was soon taken over by women for alternative uses - drying herbs or spices, making sweet vinegars for cosmetic or medicinal use, particularly perfumed waters to ward off disease and scent the air.

Most perfumes were imported from the Netherlands and France where they had been made popular by Catherine de Medici in Tudor times. These ingredients were on sale at the apothecaries, the spicers, and the florists, so home-made perfumes were popular too.

Common ingredients were flowers such as lavender or pinks, called gillyflowers in those days, and imported spices such as cloves and nutmeg. If the lady was able to afford it, she would have small quantities of musk or civet oil to bind the perfume into a paste.

For makinge a sweet parfume.

Take jasmine, lavender and orange flowres and mixe well in a quart of aqua vitae and rosewater.

Put into it crushed root of labdanum, sweet flag, cloves, cinnamon, amber and storax. Add a few graines of oil of musk and civet mixed with honey for its sweetnesse.
Set to soake for three days in the sun until the flowers have lost their scent. Straine well. Use to sweeten a smellinge box.

A 'smellinge box' is what we might call a pomander. In England there was another word for it, a Pouncet box. The word 'pouncet' is from the french 'pounce' or pierce, because of the pierced metalwork, usually silver, which held a small rag or sponge soaked in perfume. These were usually strung from the waist by a silk cord or a silver chain. Later they became known as vinaigrettes and were used to contain "smelling salts" a powerful mixture of wormwood, sage, mint and rue in vinegar, which supposedly revived fainting ladies, and disinfected the room.

We are used to seeing pomanders at christmas where we can make a simple one, (similar to one carried by Henry v111 to ward off disease), by sticking cloves into an orange. Below is an example of a 17th century pouncet boxes.

I remember making perfume at home as a child by gathering rose petals and squashing them into a jam jar to make rose-water. The results were more often than not - floating brown mush at the bottom of the jar and a pale liquid that smelt only vaguely of roses. Has anyone else made perfume at home?

My next novel "The Gilded Lily" features an emporium devoted to women's cosmetics in the fashionable Restoration London, and a rogue up to no good.

My current novel, "The Lady's Slipper" is an adventure and romance and features a flower used medicinally. It's out now and you can read an extract here RT Book reviews Top Pick.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Short-lived medieval fashions

For many centuries in the Middle Ages the basics of fashion for men and women remained the same - a gown for women and a long or short robe or tunic for men. Fashions for sleeves, hats and shoes could be more fleeting or even extreme and it's those I'm looking at today, particularly in Britain.

The sleeveless tunic, based on a knight's surcoat, was a popular clothing choice for medieval men. Then in the middle of the 13th century there was a brief fashion which added wide sleeves to the tunic and sometimes a hood, turning it into a garment called a gardecorps. This was intended to replace the surcoat and cloak, combining both into a single item, however it never really caught on. Still with sleeves and male fashion, the bag-sleeve for men, a wide, baggy sleeve snug at the wrist and shoulder, was popular for about twenty years around 1400, but again never really caught on.

For medieval women, hair and headdresses tended to be 'the thing'. Between 1130-50 there was a fashion for noble women to wear their hair long in plaits and for them to sheath these plaits in silk, usually white with red circular stripes. These sheaths were called fouriaux. However it was with headdresses that medieval noble-women especially indulged and which set the medieval clerics scolding about excess and vanity. A brief fashion, lasting roughly thirty years, was the heart-shaped head-dress, a headgear designed with two 'horns' on either side of the woman's head. Sometimes these headdresses became even wider, which caused a cleric of the time to remark: "She is hornyd like a kowe... for syn." At Ludlow, within the church of St Laurence, there is a misericord carved with a woman portrayed as a scold - and wearing a horned headdress. Women in later years wore the steeple headdress or hennin, a tall cone arrayed with long, flowing veils, although this tended to be a European than British fashion. This was also railed against by clerics, particularly in France.

All classes craved fashion, as can be seen by the various sumptuary laws passed in 1363 and 1463 which tried to stop 'lower' classes dressing in furs and certain fabrics and aping their 'betters'. Such acts made no difference as people loved to dress up.

Men's vanity was often shown in shoes. Piked shoes - shoes with points - were popular with men in the Middle Ages, although the length of the points varied through the years. The truly exaggerated points were a short fashion. The idea that men wore the long points with chains attached to their knees to stop them tripping up may simply have been a mistake or a later urban myth. However, such cramped shoes did cause medieval people to have real problems with their feet, similar to those found in women of the 1950s who wore pinching, pointed-toed stilettos. An archaeologist working in Ipswich found evidence in a medieval cemetery of people with painful feet as a result of their shoes.

Everyone, it seems, suffers for fashion, no matter how short-lived that fashion may be.

Lindsay Townsend
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Primary Sources

Article – Primary Sources
 Primary sources, I feel, are a writer's best friend, especially a historical writer.
I collect Victorian diaries and journals, written mainly by women who have arrived in Australia after leaving England, but also by women born in colonial Australia. These diaries give me an insight to how they lived and what was happening in the world around them at that time. From their personal entries, we can learn what was important to them, their daily routine, their views and opinions. They can also lift some of those myths we in the modern world tend to think as true.
Diaries aren't the only primary source available to us. We have so many museums and art galleries. I love studying paintings of the different eras and visiting museums that have wonderful displays of every era.
We should be visiting our local or state libraries for books, letters, newspapers and articles written in the eras we write. Naturally this is difficult for those writing in the ancient periods, but those of us who write about the last few hundred years have sources available and we need to use them.
If you are writing about the area where you live, join your local historical society, where as a member, you can study maps, paintings and photos are that district. Also the local councils will have documents and maps going back years.
It is not always possible to visit your chosen setting, but if you can visit, make sure you don't simply go to the main attractions, like a castle, etc, but find the time to visit the graveyard of the local church, sit in a pew and study the stain glass windows, lay by the river and absorb the surroundings, listen to the birds sing, the insect buzz and imagine what it would be like in your period. Walk the back streets of the village or town, find the oldest parts and touch the walls of the buildings and think of nothing but how your characters would have lived. Would their footsteps have walked where yours have?
The photo is taken from a sketch done of Lower George St, Sydney, Australia 1828. Sketches and paintings like these give us the artist's view of those times and from studying it we can see a little of what life was like then.
I found this photo in a book, but the internet has many websites with great antique photos and paintings, some even for sale. We have to remember that what we see now isn’t always how it looked back then. So to get original drawings to study is an excellent way to recreate the correct setting as best we can.

If you write in the Victorian or Edwardian era, you may even have photos of your own family and this is another source you have to look at their clothes, etc.

I find it fascinating that we have so many choices to help us become better writers. I guess that is why research is never a chore for me. :o)