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So I was all set to do this stupendous post about my corset. I visited the staymaker last Saturday armed with my camera and found the batteries had died. So much for that, but my staymaker is indeed hard at work making me a front-lacing corset, and I should say that it is a garment made of stout cotton for my equally stout body, without any ooh la la factor at all, as is the linen shift that I will wear with it.

By one of those strange internet associations I went searching on google for the term “liberty bodice.” Bet you don’t know what a liberty bodice is. Aunt Ada Doom in Cold Comfort Farm sends Judith to find hers when she decides to make a family appearance (great book and excellent movie with a terrific cast including Rufus Sewell as the earthy stud Seth).

The Way to Healthy Development
Free and unrestricted exercise is necessary to healthy growth and development. That is why most mothers choose the “Liberty” Bodice for their children. It gives firm yet gentle support, allows perfect bodily freedom, and transfers the weight of underclothing and “pull” of suspenders to the shoulders. The most hygienic garment made. Wears well and washes splendidly.

Yes, it was the late 19th-early 20th century unisex equivalent of a training bra, probably a direct descendant of the stays that were worn by children in the Georgian period and possibly also worn by elderly women, like Aunt Ada Doom, who’d decided to give up the discomfort of a corset (and by this period they would be uncomfortable). This article about a museum exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the garment, states the factory went out of business in the 1960s. Wow. You do have to wonder, though, about what sort of garments would be termed unhygienic.

Here’s a pair of children’s stays from the mid 18th-century, made of wool with boning and back lacing. Stand up straight, child! Yes, our manly heroes probably wore something like this (and a gown!).

So, tearing myself away from underwear reminiscences and explorations, let me move on to the beer. That, with books, is what the Baltimore Book Festival is all about, and it takes place this weekend. I’ll be there for a few hours beginning at noon on Saturday, reading from Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, talking about historical romance (and serving tea!) and talking about Jane Austen. Stop by and say hello! I’ll also be raffling off this fine basket of Austen-vamp related items, which includes tea, a teapot, a gorgeous red and black silk scarf, and various other delectable odds and ends.

If you’re green with envy and hundreds of miles from Baltimore, I’m giving away very similar prizes in my most recent contest. If you receive my newsletter, you don’t need to do anything at all: you’re already entered for the drawing (you should have received an issue yesterday if all goes well). If you don’t yet receive my newsletter (and why not? It’s infrequent, mostly harmless, and occasionally amusing) sign up on my website and you’ll be entered for Austen-vamp prize #2. While you’re there you can also read an excerpt from Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion and check out my Blog Tour. I’ll do the contest drawing and announce the winners on October 27.

Do you have a book event in your town? What would your dream line up for a book event be?

Those two words, plus Let’s Pretend… are part of the essential writer’s toolbox (or those of the average six-year-old, meaning that writers haven’t quite grown up yet).

So I like to play a game where I try to translate everyday life into the Regency, partly to amuse myself and partly as research or background building. Take getting up in the morning, for instance. Now my routine is pretty simple. I can get myself up and out of the house (usually with clothes on the right way out and right way around although there have been notorious lapses), with time to check e-mail, in about forty-five minutes.

But in the Regency… first I’d need someone to lace me into my stays, unless I was fortunate enough to own a pair of front lacing stays (at left)–rare in collections, but they did exist. And chances are there would be people around, because people did not live alone, and I’d have a servant or someone to help. In fact there might be rather too many people around. Let us pass over the bathroom issue, but assume some washing might well take place.

Choosing something to wear would probably be quite easy because either I’d opt for morning dress (i.e., slopping around the house wear), or I’d put on the clothes I wore yesterday and every other day except Sunday.

Next, the urgent need for a cup of tea. If I was unlucky the fire might have gone out, although I hope I would not have been so slatternly as to forget to bank it the night before. I might have to pump water. If I had someone to boil the water I’d still be the one to make the tea because I’d have the all-important tea caddy and its key. Someone would also have to look out in the street for the milkmaid and her cow so I could have milk in my tea.

As for breakfast itself–assuming there was anything to eat in the house with the price of bread at an all-time shocking high–if I were higher up the social scale I’d have toast or cake. All more labor intensive than you might think, certainly more fiddly than putting an English muffin (yes, there were things called muffins in England, but the English muffin is neither English nor a muffin) in the toaster. No peanut butter either.

I suppose the equivalent of e-mail would be reading a newspaper (although possibly several days old, passed on by someone I knew) or receiving the day’s post.

And leaving the house for work?–chances are I’d stay home doing piecework, and trying to keep my grandchildren out of the fireplace (note to daughter: this is not a hint). Or I’d leave to clean someone else’s house.

Think of what you’d do at any given time of day. What do you think you’d be doing if you lived in the Regency? What would you miss most? What do you think you’d enjoy most?

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