Have you noticed? Not exactly historical romance book related, but if you read the genre, you probably watch the dramas.
“One of the best things about watching period dramas is arguably the costumes. They play a huge part in conveying the full effects of the period, even if they’re not 100% historically accurate. Bonnets, top hats, spencer jackets, petticoats, and tight breeches: What more could you need in a costume drama?”
An era of reasonableness in ladies fashions has returned. The skirts are slimmer, the waists are smaller, the collars are high, and the sleeves are tighter. These are the decades that I drool over the fashions, knowing full well even in my twenties, I didn’t have a waist that small. The dresses are absolutely gorgeous for the next three decades. The hoops are gone, and the bustles have made an appearance. It’s the hourglass figure with crushed organs and narrower skirts.
There were morning dresses, afternoon dresses, tea gowns, evening gowns, and ball gowns. The rich changed throughout the day into various fashions, showing their wealth and status by the frocks they wore. Women who could afford beautiful clothing were delicate in appearance, adorned in silk and lace, and tied up very neatly in tight corsets. I, on the other hand, run around in blue jeans, blouses, and sneakers all day. The first thing I do when I get home is strip off my bra. Comfort is the order of the day in the twenty-first century, while ladies of the past didn’t care how tight they were wound to look like a million while they sought husbands.
Imagine a heroine in that gorgeous red 1875 British ball gown waltzing with the hero in a historical romance novel. Thanks, again, to the Metropolitan Museum of Arts posting these wonderful fashion creations. (Click on the pictures to enlarge and use the arrows on the right to scroll through the collection.)
I’m in love with outrageously large hats from long ago. I’ve been watching Mr. Selfridge on Masterpiece Theater recently. I’m enthralled with Lady Mae wearing her fashionable dresses and hats of early 1900’s.
In my book The Price of Deception, I had a few passages about hats.
“Robert curiously viewed his wife as she donned her latest flashy, Parisian monstrosity on her head.”
I also mentioned that his mother became overly excited when her daughter-in-law brought a gift back from Paris.
Jacquelyn hugged her mother-in-law tightly and immediately brought her attention to the newest purchase perched upon her head. She twirled around and flashed a smile. “What do you think? Isn’t it gorgeous?”
Mary gave the purple silk, netting, lace, feathers, and flowers resting on top of her golden locks a keen inspection. “Gorgeous,” she complimented, with jealousy.
I often ponder about how large hats must have messed up women’s hair when they took them off, or how in the world a man ever ducked underneath a large brimmed hat to steal a kiss without getting popped in the nose. Perhaps hats were a tactic of propriety to keep men away from the lips of women during certain eras. A hat like the one to the right reminds me of blinders on a horse so a woman’s eyes wouldn’t wander where they shouldn’t.
There is a wonderful website on Tumblr entitled, “Hats From History” that you might want to visit. It’s filled with a variety of hats from various eras if you’d like to check out the fashions.
My mother was born in 1912, so she grew up in an era of hats. I remember even in the 50’s the little pill-box hats she would wear with netting over her eyes. In fact, I still have two of her old square hat boxes. I frankly cannot remember the last time I saw a woman where I live wear a hat, unless it was a brave one on Easter Sunday morning in church.
Credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Abaca
In contrast to our practice in the United States, I’m very happy that the British monarchy and women of the realm have kept the hat alive and well. Half the fun for me during some important British occasion, is to check out the variety of hats worn by the aristocracy. Kate Middleton was named “Hat Person of the Year” in 2012 by The Headwear Association. You must admit, she wears hats very well. Kate even works with her milliner to help design the hats she wears.
As authors of historical romance, we probably write more about the love affairs of rogues, knights, or men in kilts than we do about the love of fashionable hats. Even though I see a lot of romance covers with men in britches, boots, and naked chests, along with women in low necklines and dresses with low backs, I rarely see one on the cover of a book donning a hat. Why is that? I think all of period clothing, including what has perched upon the head of a woman, is part of the wonder of long ago love and the stories we tell. After all, fashion makes the woman, doesn’t it? (As I look at my jeans and tee-shirt, I realize I need help.)
Tidbit: Do you know where the term “mad as a hatter” came from? The process of making felt involved toxic mercury that drove hat makers to madness. (From The Hat Museum – Portland, Oregon)