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Author Archives: Isobel Carr

comfort 1815 no drawers

Comfort, 1815

 

I’ve been mulling over ideas for my first “official” post as a Risky, and in the end, I’m falling back on clothing (shocking, I know, LOL!). I thought I’d do a post about “risky” clothing, or drawers. After all, what’s more risky than a risqué garment that we now think of as a necessity!

Knee-length drawers are reported to have been worn by women as early as the turn of the 19th century, but they were considered fast and unladylike, and were not commonly adopted from what I can tell. I’ve consulted with a lot of costume historians and museum curators over the years, and none of them see them as a common garment in the records, household accounts, or as extant garments before the Victorian period, really.

1810 2nd verision gilray drawers

Gilray,1810

They had a split crotch, usually being made up of two entirely separate legs on a drawstring waistband. An illustration from 1810 (included below) shows a lady wearing them, so it can be construed that they were somewhat accepted by then, but I do wonder as other images in the series seem to concentrate on highlighting the more deceptive aspects of a woman’s toilette (such as wigs).

 

1820lawndrawers

Woven linen drawers, c. 1820

 

The extant pairs we DO have from the Regency all seem to date from the 1820s. They have a split crotch, usually being made up of two entirely separate legs on a drawstring waistband.

An illustration from 1810 shows a lady wearing them, so it can be construed that they were becoming more accepted by then, but I would still hazard that they were not a universal.

stare case

Exhibition Stare Case, 1811 Click for a larger image!

And I would make that guess because of other images that clearly show them as not being worn (such as Comfort at the top of the post and Exhibition Stare Case, left).

So it’s always worth remembering that the daring, fast, risky move in the Regency period was to put on a pair of drawers. I’d love to see a book where the hero is scandalized by discovering his lady love’s undies, and I fully expect that if anyone can write that book, it’s one of the marvelous women I now share this blog with.

I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with to talk about in 2015!

 

Recently, an article about whether or not Mr. Darcy’s fortune was based on slavery set my Twitter feed alight. And I thought, well of course it was (in one form or another). This is the dark side of our wealthy, aristocratic characters that romance sweeps under the rug. It is certainly possible that the Darcy family fortune was based entirely on the profits of the mines in Derbyshire (harsh as those conditions might have been, they were NOT akin to slavery), but it’s much more likely that those profits were then put to use in ways that almost certainly have ties to slavery.hip0210043WHH%20v2

How so, let us tally up the ways …

1) Directly. Many families owned plantations in the West Indies (see this fascinating account of how the Earls of Harewood built their fortune on slavery, the products there of, and the overseeing of same).

2) Being paid off. When slavery was abolished in 1833, the British government spent a staggering amount of money to compensate the owners of slaves for their losses (good article about that here). Some families got the equivalent of millions of dollars. There were over three thousand claims, which lets you know how widespread slavery was and what its impact must have been on the fortunes of the top families.

3) Via investments. People invested in specific ships and ventures (sometimes called consortiums or syndicates). Many of those would have been involved in producing or importing some kind of product that was produced by slaves in either America, the West Indies, or India (sugar, rum, cotton, opium, tea, rice, etc.).

4) The East India Company. It’s worth noting that when Britain abolished slavery, supposedly throughout its empire, it made an exception for slavery in India. So all those fortunes made in India by younger sons, all those tea plantations, and cotton farms, and military careers, existed because of slavery (good summation on Wikipedia).

I’m sure Janet would have even more insightful things to say on this topic, but I wanted to bring it up for discussion given the timeliness of the article. I know romance is generally seen as escapist, and I don’t want to ruin that for anyone, but I do think it does history a disservice to gloss over these sorts of things to the point where they no longer seem to exist.

So what do you all think? Do you want to topics like this addressed in romances, or do you think it makes it too hard to enjoy the HEA and heavy topics are best left to those writing straight historical fiction?

 

75As is often the case, today’s post is brought to you courtesy of Twitter. After the first episode of Wolf Hall aired, there was a raging debate about the colors used in the costumes. I think the main thing that set people off was Henry’s brocade doublet and his bright red schaub coat (how sad is that I only know the German name for that garment, because I’ve spent all my time in that period studying Landsknecht costuming?).

Several people said they were simply too bright, too vivid, etc. to be historically accurate. They landed particularly on the reds as being impossible to achieve in that era (and then purple got brought up, which I’ll tackle next time I post). When I was done scraping my jaw off the floor, the tweets were fast and furious.

madderTo put it in a nutshell: YOU DO NOT NEED ANILINE DYES TO GET DEEP, BRIGHT, INTENSE COLORS! (and anyone who’s ever looked at extant textiles should know this)

Let’s outline the dye options open to Henry VIII (c. 1525, when he was trying to divorce Catherine):

First and foremost, there was madder root. Madder was cheap and plentiful. It produces decent reds, but is probably not what is being used to produce fancy brocades for the KiWall Hanging 16thCng of England. Top left you can see Dharma Trading’s madder root swatches, and as you can see, madder is pretty vivid on silk (and would be so on wool).

The next option is kermes, a red dye made from the body of a Mediterranean insect. It was used    throughout Europe and was a highly desirable (and very expensive) dye stuff. If you had money, fabrics made with kermes dyes were readily available. They were widely in use by the Church and by the nobility (and the wealthy in general; we know they were widely cochinealavailable, because they had sumptuary laws about red in some places). The detail of a 16thC wall hanging to the right is most likely dyed with kermes.

After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, you also have Mexican cochineal (first shipment in 1523, so it’s entirely possible that fabrics made with cochineal would have already joined those made with kermes on the open market). Bottom left you have Dharma Trading’s cochineal swatches, which on my compter are trending a little more purplish than they do in real life.

So, while I may have quibbles with the costuming on Wolf Hall (none of Anne’s gowns fit properly which I think is due to the fabric choices being too light for those style gowns; why are some of the men running around in jerkins with no doublets?!), I don’t have any qualms about the color of Henry’s brocade doublet or his overcoat.

For more examples of naturally dyed red clothing, see my post from last year about red Georgian era gowns.

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