Sunday, February 15, 2009

Winning Fashion

Lois Greiman

Fashion. It’s a crazy thing. Are you old enough to remember when we weren’t allowed to wear pants to school? It seems a little silly now. I mean, especially since the dresses I wore in high school were far more scandalous than any pants ever designed.

But despite how we may feel about today's fashions, there have been crazier times.

And that’s part of the beauty of penning historical fiction. As writers we can mentally design amazing costumes. The Renaissance garments were…well sometimes they were a little strange--I mean, men wearing velvet doublets and breeches and lace. Codpieces in every conceivable color and design! Notice the fellow with the hound. Is he proud or what?

But sometimes the clothes were marvelous. Personally, I’m pretty sure every manly man should have a hardy pair of cuffed boots and a plumed hat for whenever he has to go maraudering…or whatever.

And although I’m not crazy about the
idea of spending my days trussed in a whalebone corset and wearing a clown collar, this 1575 portrait of Queen Elizabeth’s gown is all but mesmerizing.

Marie Antoinette was beheaded in the late 18th century, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of her fashion sense. I mean, who doesn’t want to wear a cotton candy wig floating a made-to-scale man o’ war?

And the Regency years! Despite its foppish foolery, women’s clothing returned to a kind of Grecian elegance. True, sometimes tons of cleavage was involved and more than a few 19th century ladies would wet their gowns to show their ummm…charms.

But I’d throw out every article of clothing my husband owns in lieu of a tail coat and a tall pair of Hessians. I mean seriously…that era understood sexy.

The world has been having a love affair with clothing for hundreds of years. Personally, I rather desperately long for the triumphant return of bonnets and gloves that reach your elbows but only if they can be freely exchanged for ratty cowboy hats and woolen mittens.

So how about you? What bygone years do you find most intriguing? Is there a particular article of clothing you’d like to see resurrected? Or are you thrilled to spend each and every day in well-worn sweats and house slippers?

I’m giving away a copy of Seduced By Your Spell (released Feb. 24th) to one commenter, so please blog on.


Cindy Gerard said...

Wonderful blog, Miss Lois
I personally am delighted to hear that bell bottoms (at least flared bottoms) are coming back. As someone posted earlier this month, the flared legs make your legs look longer and your hips look slimmer.

And I have to ask: You said: "19th century ladies would wet their gowns to show their ummm…charms."
Okay ... WHAT????

lois greiman said...

:) They'd douse themselves so others could see through their dresses. Which makes today's girls with their visible bra straps look pretty tame.

Kylie said...

Wouldn't they also rouge their nipples? So the dresses must have been pretty low-cut!

I'd be a sucker for the white shirts with billowy sleeves, vests and cuffed boots. Sigh. Robin Hood, take me away...

The regency period always caught my interest. The clothes and the parties and manners.

Keri Ford said...

Kylie, rouging their nipples is the first I've heard--but I do know some of the women would have their dresses cut low enough to simply show them off. Women of the ton were born to marry well. That was their “life’s work” so they did whatever they could to catch the eye of the best man on the market!

It was early regency when the gowns were just straight see-thru for a silhouette because the material was so thin. :O)

Lois if I remember right, man with the hound has syphilis and, part was wrapped in gauze--causing for the large codpiece!

magolla said...

Love ths swashbuckler look! Actually, I'm glad to see hip-huggers back. Not because they look good on me, but because the low rise actually fits at my waist! Curse my lack of height that results in my boobs sitting at my hips.

Cindy Gerard said...

Lois - okay. Got it. And need I say, "ick!"

Kylie - remember Seinfield and his 'Puffy Shirt'? Seems that look didn't translate well to 'nowadays' :o)

Kathleen Eagle said...

My almost 5-yr-old granddaughter asked me the other day if she could have my jeans when her legs get longer! The pair she wants is the new bell/hip-hugger model. Not too low, fairly modest flare, comfy.

I was just looking at some old pictures and noticing how short my skirts once were. And, yes, I remember dresses only for girls in school. I love dressing girls in dresses, and they love twirly skirts. (Isn't that a given with girls?)

Fashion history is so interesting!

Nothing looks better on a man than a good pair of jeans, imo, but I do like that flowing white shirt--open in front, of course.

Michele Hauf said...

Give me a lace-drenched fop with wide-cuffs and damask and bucket-topped boots any day! Love it! The 18th century is my time period.

You know, I'm pretty sure Marie Antoinette was beheaded for her fashion sense. Spending all that money on dresses and shoes did not please the peasants overmuch. I'm sure it was part of the reason. :-)

Anyone got a time travel machine? I want to go back and see those costumes!

Betina Krahn said...

Okay, I can really go for the Regency era "Beau Brummel" guy with the fitted black trousers and vest and snowy cravat. I also swoon at the notion of Hessians and stiff, proper collars.

But I think my favorite era for male couture(which could probably be voted tops by acclaim) is the 18th century French romantic. . . the "musketeer" or "cavalier" dress. . . big soft boots, snug trousers and blousy shirts, padded doublets, hats with feathers. . . and great gloves and elegant swords.

I'm also a big fan of the Roman and Greek warrior look. . . armor breastplate, leather bail skirt, lace up boots, and a fierce-looking helmet. Those "300" guys did it for me big-time.

For women, I adore the Regency era gowns for their grace and freedom. Most women did still wear corsets underneath, however. They were just briefer than before or after. And rouged nipples did indeed happen-- they were just a mark of a certain kind of woman. Know what I mean?

It's not popular, but I do like the late Victorian "Gibson Girl" look. Unfortunately the clothes were restrictive and heavy and only look great on fairly thin females.

I can only imagine the torture of having to wear a corset AND panniers-- those basket-like frames on either side of the body, worn in the time of Marie Anoinette. Talk about unable to move.

I do love historic clothing. . . even the Tudor collars and ruffs and brocades fascinate me.

lois greiman said...

Yeah, those laced tunics. Yowsa? Did anyone see George of the Jungle when he's playing with the horse and all the women are standing around watching. Some guy says, "what is it about chicks and horses?" Love that.

Cheri2628 said...

I am glad to have the comfortable dress of today. I live in the South, and I have seen what Southern Belles in the Civil War era had to wear. I don't know how they handled the heat and humidity while wearing corsets, lots of petticoats, and long dresses. I understand why they had to take afternoon naps!

lois greiman said...

Keri, really? Man with hound had syphilis? How do you know that? I guess they usually padded their codpieces and sometimes stored things in them. Money, that sort of thing. Hmmmm.

lois greiman said...

Keri, really? Man with hound had syphilis? How do you know that? I guess they usually padded their codpieces and sometimes stored things in them. Money, that sort of thing. Hmmmm.

My Writer's Attic said...

I love Regency dress, civil war era clothing, but I especially love the pirate look. Mmmmm

Debra Dixon said...

I love reading historical and even researching it. I have sooo much on the Regency era.

I loved ELIZABETH THE GOLDEN AGE. The clothing was incredible.

And I love watching THE TUDORS.

But sadly they don't stop in the movies and let you look at the bits and pieces of the clothing so you can see the embellishments and detailing.

lois greiman said...

Pirates! Maybe Captain Sparrow made them look a little more appealing than they were in real life, but still...yummy.

Virginia said...

I have always loved the dresses from back during the Civil, I think they are beautiful.

Keri Ford said...

Okay, Lois, I had to go digging to see where I remembered that bit about sypilis at. And what do you know, I had my men with their large codpieces confused. That's Charles V you've got there with that hound.

Henry VIII is the one with the stuffed codpeice and rumored sypilis. Apparently he set quite the trend and men began stuffing and...shaping.

Go here (both men are there, therefore creating my confusion):

Fascinating article on covering men's naughty bits through history. Even a nice picture of a Scot from behind showing off his, uh, undies?

lois greiman said...

Keri, I think I can learn a lot from 'naughty bits' or, at least be entertained by the pics.

Deborah said...

Hi Lois! Fascinating blog! For men I love the 18th century dress....blousy shirts, cuffed boots and plumed hat. They look so dashing and romantic! For women I love the Regency era gowns. They were so elegant yet sexy!

lois greiman said...

Personally I like bustles like the antebellum era. I mean, think how little your waist would look if you had a huge hind end. Oh wait...thanks to the holidays I already have that. :)

Anonymous said...

What a fun topic! Am I telling my age if I admit that until I reached 7th grade girls weren't allowed to wear pants? AND THEN once pants were allowed, they had to be "pantsuits" (i.e. the top and pants had to match!). It wasn't until I went to high school that girls were allowed to wear blue jeans.

I could not got the route of whalebone corsets. BUT I love the look of a pair of tall pair of Hessians. I love long dresses. I actually wore a hoop dress to a dance in high school. IMPOSSIBLE to sit down. :)

Lois - one 2006 I was at RT in Daytona. Was it your son they talked into being in the Mr. Romance Contest? He was in college with plans for med school.. wasn't that your kid? (A real cutie)

Estella said...

Fashion histor is very interesting, but give me jeans and a sweatshirt or t-shirt anyday.

lois greiman said...

Cyndi, yessum, that was Travis. He is kind of adorable. Just now got accepted into medical school. Yay for him.

Margie said...

I love the gowns from the Civil War era. They were gorgeous! Thanks for the fascinating blog on fashion history!

Jill James said...

I love the Civil War dresses. I watch North and South and Gone With the Wind just to see the clothes.

robynl said...

I love the looks from the Roaring 20's - the shift style dresses, the long strand of beads and the headdress thing. Love it.

catslady said...

Lol Cyndi - I graduated high school never being able to wear pants, pant suits came in while I was working and the top had to reach at least to the bottom of your fingers when your arm was straight down. I remember having to wear a girdle to hold up nylons. Back when of course I didn't need one. And we had these wooden stools in our lunch room so you usually went home with a runner every day - I was so happy when they invented nylons that only ran up lol.

I love looking at all the beautiful clothes, but I would hate having to get into and out of the things - although I bet the anticipation when trying to take things off could have been exciting (or frustrating?)

kimmyl said...

The corsets. I wonder what it would be like today to see women with tiny waists.

Anonymous said...

Lois - I had my niece with me in Daytona and I kept trying to throw her toward him! LOL LOL

Glad to hear he got into med school.

Catslady - OMG - The girdles! I had one in Jr. High! It was purple with yellow paisley prints. But that was before panty hose, so it was that or a garter belt. I remember when panty hose first came out.I loved them. Now? I can't remember the last time I wore a pair...don't miss them either.

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