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Tag Archives: Fashion

Let’s face it, ladies, even if your new dress is up to the very latest fashion standard in style, color, and fabric, if your accessories are not equally splendid, someone’s bound to notice. And you know what that means. If they notice, they’re going to gossip. We mustn’t have that!

Here then, are a few ideas about accessories to help you (or your female characters) stave off that terrible fate. Instead of the travel piece I had planned for this month, I am going to share some of the lovely items I was fortunate to see last week in an exhibit at the Concord Museum (Concord, MA) running through August. It was entitled “Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town, 1750-1900.” The first words were taken from a November 1816 Concord newspaper ad offering fabrics such as “figured flannels, crimson bombazettes, and white and black cambricks”.

While not a huge exhibit (small museum) and rather broad-ranging in time, the displays included some positively lovely pieces, and we were allowed to take pictures. Some items are American-made (although in the early 1800’s many goods were still imported), but at the equivalent time they still followed the fashions we are used to seeing in Regency England.

Let’s begin with hair combs. Not the kind for combing out your hair after you’ve washed it, the kind made of tortoiseshell and carved in intricate designs, to ornament your hair on a special evening or to impress a certain special someone. They had several beautiful examples in the exhibit, and I was reminded that such hair combs could be a lovely gift if your characters need one.The stylishness of wearing them is well-documented in portraits and silhouettes of the period –you wouldn’t want to perpetuate your image wearing anything unfashionable! (The comb and box in the center belonged to Henry David Thoreau’s aunt, Maria, and is dated 1813. The small portrait at right, of Mercy Davis, is dated 1818.)

Then we have ribbons. Ribbons for hair, of course, (see portrait at top, not from the exhibit) and especially ribbons for bonnets. Another possibility for gift-giving, and less costly than a comb. Distinctive and handsome ribbon was one way to make sure your new bonnet wouldn’t look too much like someone else’s, heaven forbid! 


I think you can see that the bonnets pictured would be fairly generic without the lovely wide ribbons that make such a fashion statement.

The exhibit included some samples of ribbons –moiré taffeta, grosgrain, of course, and the one on the left which looked suspiciously like a modern machine-woven trim I might buy for decorating a costume! But it represents yet another type to consider.

Even if your hair is dressed perfectly and ornamented with a beautiful comb, and your ribbons are gorgeous and unlike anyone else’s, there’s still the matter of your gloves, your fan, your reticule. Are they color-coordinated to go with your dress or your pelisse? Is your fan the latest style –with feathers, or without? This beautiful beaded reticule  in the exhibit was paired with a pair of blue kid gloves dyed to match the shade of this fan –ivory sticks, blue silk leaves, and originally with blue feather tufts at the top ends! 

As writers (and readers), we know all of these delicious bits are fodder for story-telling. So here’s a question just for fun: for writers, how have you made use of fashion accessories, or an accessory, in a scene you’ve written? For readers, can you remember a scene you’ve read where a fashion accessory played a part in what happened? (Let’s say other than fans, for we all know how easily those can play a role!) Please share with us in the comments section below! Thanks for visiting. 🙂

Happy February!

I have much to delight you with today, including some Shameless Self-Promotion but also a treasure trove of information. . .

Let’s get the shameless self-promotion out of the way. The seventh book in my My Immortals series released last week.

My Demon Warlord

Cover of My Demon Warlord, showing a hot shirtless man who looks exactly as you imagine Kynan Aijan would look.

Cover of My Demon Warlord

A Demon Warlord Bound by Dark Magic. . .

Kynan Aijan’s centuries-long enslavement to a mage left him borderline insane and bound to Maddy Winters, a witch he intended to kill in horrible ways. Though he’s sworn the bonds they share will never be completed, their very existence feeds his desire for her even as he accepts that Winters will never forgive him.

. . . to the Powerful Witch He’s Desired for Years.

For Maddy Winters, the fight against evil magic users always takes top priority. But her bonds to Kynan give her intimate access to his thoughts and experiences, and she can’t always ignore their chemistry. Her insistence that she has no feelings for him is a deception she can’t afford to give up.

As Kynan and Maddy join forces to stop a rebellious and murderous witch, the dark magic that binds them locks them into forbidden passions and magic that could destroy them both. Will their fight for what’s right lead to a fight for each other?

My Demon Warlord is the seventh installment in the My Immortals series of paranormal romance novels. If you like magical supernatural tales, explosive chemistry, and irresistible passion, then you’ll love Carolyn Jewel’s latest breathtaking romance.

Amazon | Barnes&Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play | All Romance eBooks | Print


In news about my historicals, I am working on Book 3 in my Sinclair Sisters Series. It’s early days and there are some areas of research that are cropping up. If I told you these particular areas, they would be enormous spoilers and, quite possibly, not even in the book by the time I’m done. But never fear! I will be posting research related discoveries later. I learn something new every time.

I’m pulling together the historical novallas I’ve written and getting them spiffied up or ready for release on their own. So there will be that to look forward to. At least, I hope you’ll look forward to that.

Catalog Downloads from the Met, for Free

Risky Sandy posted this link on facebook. It’s from — an awesome site, which mentioned that the Met has exhibit catalogs, including fashion related one, available to view online, order Print On Demand, or download as a pdf. And it is AWESOME. The Met Catalogs.

Lookit! Just as an example. If  I go over there again, I won’t get any work done.

The Academy of the Sword: Illustrated Fencing Books 1500–1800, LaRocca, Donald J. (1998)

It’s spectacular–all of it. I want ALL THE CATALOGS! There’s so much there that’s just wonderful and fascinating no matter what you might be interested in, and I want to hug the Met for this. And donate to them, too.

And so. Happy clicking around the Met.

We love you here at the Riskies.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has been running a lovely costume exhibit (“Death Becomes Her”, which closes tomorrow) covering mourning fashions roughly 1820-1920. I was invited to see it with a friend who knows how much I love costume history, and we recently spent seven hours at the museum, viewing many things in addition to the costume exhibit. We took a lot of photos –some will turn up in future blogposts! It was exciting to see two real examples of mourning gowns, from 1820 and 1824, that were worn at the end of our period. Don’t you love museums?

Met Museum-Widow & Child Mourning DressesThe Regency era technically ended on January 29, 1820, when the old mad King George III died and Prinny succeeded to the throne. One reason his Coronation wasn’t held until the following year had to do with mourning customs –it wasn’t seemly for the royal family or the bereaved country to hold a grand celebration too soon after the death of the old monarch.

Mourning customs followed by the upper classes at the personal level were even more de rigueur when it came to royal mourning, and the British had seen quite a lot of that by 1820. In November, 1817, Prinny’s only child, Princess Charlotte, died after giving birth to a stillborn baby. The old king’s Queen Consort, Charlotte, died in 1818. Prinny’s brother, the Duke of Kent, died just six days before their father, on January 23, 1820, so there was double mourning then. (The duke had won the race to produce the new heir to the throne with the birth of his daughter, Victoria, only eight months earlier.)

Met Museum-1820 Mourning dressIt’s not known if this 1820 dress exhibited at the Met was worn for the decreed royal mourning or for a personal loss, or both, but its sheer overlay on the bodice and sheer sleeves were very fashionable. Compare the 1818  illustration below.

My friend and I also loved this 1824 Scottish gown (below) embellished with ribbon trim and large scroll appliqués around the hem. But you can see clearly how the fashionable lady’s silhouette was changing from the slim columnar shape favored in the earlier years of the Regency!

Met Museum-1824 Scottish mourning gownWearing black for mourning dates as far back as the ancient Romans. As social mourning customs evolved, they dictated all levels of behavior –not only what you could and couldn’t do, but also what you were expected to wear, right down to the types of fabrics, for several distinct stages of mourning.

Widows were expected to mourn for at least two years, one of full mourning and one of the lighter half-mourning. Socializing was proscribed for at least six months to a year. Widowed men were not subject to the same expectations! The rules were less severe for the losses of other family members: a year to mourn parents and children, six months for siblings and grandparents, three months for aunts and uncles, and six weeks for cousins. Servants, and anyone in uniform, such as the military, wore black armbands. Door knockers were swathed in black to serve notice when a household was in mourning.

Met Museum-1818 Regency Illustration

1818 Mourning Eveningwear

Naturally, the Regency fashionable were guided in all this by such venerable tomes as Ackermann’s Repository. (Research tip: you can find issues online by searching The February issue for 1820 features a number of examples of mourning dress, for after all, one needed to carry the mourning through all occasions in the course of a day. How do you like this walking dress, or these two versions of evening gowns?

Ackermann's Mourning 1820- Walking Dress

Ackermann's Mourning 1820 - Evening Dress

Ackermann's Mourning 1820- Evening Dress-2








The rules for public mourning were announced by the Lord Chamberlain’s office, and could vary. Prinny, now the uncrowned George IV, “in consideration of the interests of trade” declared a “shortened” period of public mourning for his father, essentially three months. The first stage lasted until March 19, just over six weeks of wearing bombazine and crape. The so-called “first change” or second mourning called for “plain black silk” with “French grey bombasine” for undress, until April, and then colored ribbons and flowers could be added to the black silk, or white with black trimmings could also then be allowed. Ackermann’s noted that in addition to French gray bombazine, pelisses made of gray levantine (trimmed with black velvet), and some “high dresses of poplin” (trimmed with black gauze or net) as well as gros de Naples and corded silk had been seen. Mourning was to end on April 30.

The exhibit at the Met offered a lot of fascinating details about the fabrics used for mourning clothes. For instance, crape was favored, they said, because while it satisfied the first stage requirement of having no sheen, its fine weave and flexibility made it very suitable to be pleated or crimped or shaped into purely decorative ornaments that allowed the wearer to be fashionable while still following the rules of mourning.

Met Museum-2 Ladies -1840s-2While styles changed radically over the course of the 19th century, I noticed the same fabrics continued in use throughout. I have to include this picture of two dresses from the 1840’s, just for Susanna. Note the model’s “spaniel curls”!

I also have to include this photo (below) of two gorgeous sequin-covered 1902 evening gowns worn by Queen Alexandra (Victoria’s daughter-in-law) in half-mourning colors after Victoria’s death –they are mauve and purple–for Elena, because they are 100% sparkly!!

Met Museum-1902 Queen Alexndra Eve GownsHowever, advances of the Industrial Revolution: fabrics more available and less expensive, improved black dyes, and the boom in ready-made clothes after the invention of the sewing machine, served to support and spread the observance of mourning customs to the middle classes and beyond (more than Queen Victoria’s long mourning for Prince Albert). The “mourning trade” became big business after the Regency, with entire warehouses catering to the need for mourning attire. No doubt they had a vested interest in encouraging the fashion for public display, but if you went too far, you could be criticized for being ostentatious or, worse, insincere in your grief!

TPE orig coverMy heroine in The Persistent Earl is a widow. While I didn’t know as much about mourning customs and dress when I wrote that book as I do now, I tried to keep Daphne dressed appropriately in half-mourning colors. You may imagine my shock when I first saw the cover Signet gave that 1995 book –the heroine is depicted in a lovely, bright gold satin gown! When readers have asked me what scene in the story it represents, I’ve cheerfully told them it’s from AFTER the story ends. 🙂

Today, the complex social rules of mourning that held sway during the Regency and flourished during the 19th century are mostly obsolete. People follow the customs dictated by their religions, but mourning is generally a private affair. Governments may order flags at half-staff for the death of important public figures, but there are no society-wide expectations or judgment laid down. Attitudes about mourning have changed. Do you think that is for the best? Are we better off sucking it up and trying to function as normally as we can manage instead of wallowing in our sorrows and making a public show of our grief? Or was there a kernel of common sense that we’ve lost underlying these old rules, that gave the grieving some recognition and respect, a bit of protection, structure, and time to recover? Please comment, for I’d really like to know what you think!

“She’d worn that color, or gray in its place, for three years now. And unrelenting black for a year before that. It had been a bit of a badge, she realized, a uniform of sorts. One never had to worry about who one was when one’s clothing proclaimed it so loudly.”
Julia Quinn, When He Was Wicked

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