One of the things I love the most about writing historical romances are the fashions my heroines get to wear. Which might seem odd, since my heroines tend to be working-class women, like Mae Parrish, or destitute and in possession of one measly dress, like my current heroine, Juno Brock. Instead of stunning damask skirts and prettily embroidered undergarments, my humble heroines wear ugly paisley dresses and practical linsey-woolsey skirts, which completely undermines the purpose of a book like Victorian & Edwardian Fashions for Women. Or does it?
I think what I like the most about this book is that it’s written for collectors, and so it goes into meticulous detail about bodice lines, sleeve lengths, and fabrics, which on the surface might sound tedious, but it’s not. Of particular interest to me as a romance writer is, ahem, the endless detail Ms. Harris goes in to describing women’s undergarments, from crinoline petticoats, bustles, and corsets, to drawers and embroidered stockings. It’s fantastic fodder for the imagination to ponder petticoats made of yards and yards of fabric and bedecked in scallops and ribbons and lace, and the commitment the hero has to actually make in order to remove said yards of fabric from the heroine. Hanky-panky in the 19th century required a lot of determination! Unfastening all of those hooks and buttons and cinched ribbons before the mood faded must’ve been a real challenge.
Each chapter of Victorian & Edwardian Fashions for Women is divided into a specific decade and focuses solely on those particular fashions. Not only does Ms. Harris include historical fashion plates and photographs, but she also shows off her own collection. Most of the dresses modeled throughout appear to be relatively simple frocks, but the sketches and fashion plates depict the more glamorous fashions. Included too are old advertisements and illustrations from Harper’s Bazar and Godey’s Lady’s Book, which were the fashion magazines of their day. Visually, it’s a nice overview on several decades of fashion for any author who writes historicals, or even any reader who would love to see actual photographs of the dresses so many of us read about in romance novels. It also helps us appreciate our modern Hanes bras and cotton underwear! After all, our 19th century counterparts didn't have it easy in a lot of ways. Those antique dresses might be beautiful, and getting to wear one for an hour or so might be thrilling, but then steer me to the nearest pair of sweatpants and a soft t-shirt, thank you very much.
Interested in learning more? This book is still available for sale on Amazon by clicking here.