Category: 19th Century Fashion

Women’s Hat Fashions in the 1800s

 

Much has been written here on Petticoats and Pistols about the advent of the Stetson, cowboy hats, and bowlers. I wanted to balance that with a look at

Women’s Hat Fashions.

It seems there weren’t many professions for women in the 1800s where they could make a respectable living on their own. School teachers abound in many western historicals. The other occupation I’ve noticed is that of a milliner.

I’ve always had a thing for hats. I’m sorry that they aren’t worn more in today’s world. I love seeing the hats worn by Princess Kate and Queen Elizabeth. I have never see the Queen without a hat. Such elegance!

It seems in the past everyone wore hats. Why? What made them start wearing hats in the first place? Was it due to necessity? Or is a hat simply a frivolous accessory like a tie or jewelry? And other than for certain events like the Kentucky Derby, why don’t people wear hats today?

The first known example of a hat is from a tomb painting in Egypt – ca. 3200 BC. In the Middle Ages, the church decreed that all women must cover their hair. In 1529, the term “millaner” was first recorded. It referred to the haberdashers—men who traveled to Milan, Italy to obtain the best and most popular straw products for hats.

Hatmaking and millinery is the designing and manufacture of hats, with the term “milliner” more closely associated with the making of women hats. In the past, a millinery (owned by men and women) sold all types of clothing to men, women and children, including undergarments, neckerchiefs, handkerchiefs, ties, coats, and hats. It is only more recently that the term has become specialized for women’s hats more than anything else.

Source

Throughout the years, hats have served several functions for women:

  • A declaration of lifestyle. (Ex: Catholic nuns and their habit)
  • Protection from the elements. (Ex: Sunbonnets)
  • Protection from unwanted male attention. (Ex: Bonnets)
  • A declaration of social status. (The rich often wore larger, more expensive hats.)
  • For vanity.

It can also reveal personality and etiquette. (Don’t you love it when a gentleman tips his hat to a lady?)

1860 Straw Taffeta Bonnet

In early 1800’s America, bonnets were popular. Their brims increased in size until the late 1830s and some also sported netting or veils. In the 1840s, brim size began to decrease to reveal more of a woman’s face and hair. A ribbon frill or bow was often placed at the back of the bonnet to cover any exposed skin at the neck as this was considered an erogenous area. (Hence the high collars on dresses too!)

 

 

 

The tradition of wearing hats to horse racing events began with the Royal Ascot in Britain. They enforced a strict dress code for those attending the races. This tradition was adopted at other horse racing events. In 1875, the first Kentucky Derby initiated the largest hat fashion event in America. To this day, to attend without a hat is considered a social faux pas.

In the late 1890s, hat brims once again increased in size, some becoming so large that a woman would lose her balance.

 

Source

Hats were decorated with feathers, stuffed birds, silk flowers, lace, bows and ribbons. In Florida, 95% of the egret population was killed off for their beautiful white plumes to decorate hats for women. In 1901, early environmentalists pushed for President Theodore Roosevelt’s help to pass a law making it illegal to shoot the birds.

A bit of trivia:  January 15th marks the unofficial National Hat Day. This was started by hat enthusiasts for no other reason than to celebrate their favorite hats.

What about you? Do you like hats? What type? Would you like to see a comeback or do you think their time has passed?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of my story ~ His Springtime Bride which is part of the Anthology. (I’m ready for spring!)

Western Spring Weddings

A New Research Source

ruffled dress 19th centuryWhen I stumble (sometimes literally) on a new source for research on my time-period-of-choice, Victorian and the mid to late 1800s, I tend to glom on and drain the source dry. So far, this source just keeps on giving.

As a Cowboy Action Shooter, Recollections.biz is one of our best sources for period/reproduction clothing. And I was thrilled to discover they do a blog about period subjects: gloves, corsets, etc. This week the discussion is on ruffles. You heard me, ruffles! “From Bouillonné to Ruching – gather your ruffles!”

Not everything is appropriate to the time period I write, of course, but there are so many little gems of information here. A few of their recent blogs:

   Mantle or Mantel? Mantelet? It’s all Cloak to Me

   The Victorian Evolution of the Corsage

   Health Takeaways of the mid-Victorian Era


Since I can’t possibly share all the cool stuff they’ve published—and I’d be violating copyright if I did—why don’t you drop by and browse for yourself?  http://recollections.biz/blog/

Enjoy!

Costumes – Not Just for Halloween

Photo Credit: Michal Jeska via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Michal Jeska via Compfight cc

Did you ever place dress-up as a kid? I remember trying on my mother’s shoes and throwing her purse over my arm and pretending to be a grown up. There is something powerful in the act of putting on a costume and pretending to be someone else. Perhaps someone you wish you could be for just a short time.

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

I think that is one of the reasons readers (and authors) love historical novels. We get to step into the shoes of someone who lived in a different era and imagine what it would be like if we had lived then. And it’s not just novelists and readers. Think of all the living history museums there are around the country. How many reenactors dedicate months of their time and significant dollars from their bank accounts to recreating battle scenes from the civil war. How many historians make presentations in costume to help bring their topics alive to their audiences.

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: HornintheWest via Compfight cc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one of the writing conferences I go to every year, there is a genre dinner on the first night where authors have the chance to dress up like one of their characters or in a way that represents their genre. I typically wear a denim skirt, boots, and cowboy hat, but I secretly long to become more authentic in my dress-up.

BHP Spotlight

I recently found a website that offers professionally made historical costumes, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. A rather expensive candy store . . . but there were so many delights, I stopped caring about the price tags.

I’ve decided to start saving my pennies. Maybe by next year, I’ll be decked out in the outfit below.

Dream OutfitShoes – $50

Cameo Brooch – $20

Crinoline for underneath – $50

Professionally made Polonaise set – $275

Getting to step back in time and live for a few hours as one of my characters – Priceless

I think I’ll have to watch for a sale. If you like to geek out on historical clothing, the site where I found all this great stuff is Recollections: Historic Clothing Reminiscent of Centuries Past.

  • If you could dress up this Halloween as a character from your favorite novel or time period, what would you choose?
  • Have you ever been to a living history museum? Did the costumes add to the atmosphere? Did you wish they handed them out at the entrance so you could truly immerse yourself in the experience?

 

ARCHERY: VICTORIAN STYLE by Cindy Nord

Cindy Nord - Professional Image

 

I absolutely adore the Victorian years…indeed, those golden decades when Queen Victoria sat her throne. And as we know, what the good queen mandated across the big pond, so obeyed the middle and upper class of America.

Archery1_LaBelleAssemblee_1831

During this era, participating in genteel pastimes allowed a well-heeled lady freedom from the humdrum of her everyday life of reading, playing the piano, or passementarie needlework. Any opportunity to appreciate the great outdoors would most certainly be well accepted. From croquet to tennis to horseback riding, these informal, yet socially-appropriate, affairs helped to bring excitement to her life. Yet, no task delivered as much enjoyment as did the recreation called archery.

 

When the Queen of England proclaimed her love of this hobby, deeming it worthy of a lady’s attention, her vanguard of devoted followers took heart. Archery caught on like wildfire, blazing across nineteenth-century womankind to become the first organized, competitive sport for females. But ladies never lost sight of their femininity. In fact, at the Grand National Archery meeting in Norwich, England, in 1866, the first prize was a magnificent Spitalfields Silk shawl — a coveted item, to be sure! By 1880, archery clubs for the genteel in America could be found coast-to-coast, but only the wealthiest women could afford the equipment needed to join.

Archery2_ScientificAmerican_1894

 

A lady’s bow weighed 40 pounds at full draw and arrows were 30-inches long. Soon archery became the sport, which could even be enjoyed upon a whim as it did not require the changing of dress that accompanied the activities of croquet or tennis. In fact, the lady’s archer outfit simply consisted of her dress for the day. A small quiver containing extra arrows draped one shoulder. Across the archer’s other shoulder draped a “scoring kit,” of sorts. Inside this and usually made of silk was an ivory, acorn-shaped container that held beeswax to keep her gloved fingers from sliding off the bowstring, an ivory pencil, and a small, circular disc containing paper to keep score. Also tucked inside was an extra bowstring and several gold tokens. With every archery match won, the champion would receive a coin from each of her opponents. Archery3_HarpersWeekly_1881

 

Collecting these coveted tokens became the quest of every lady archer. The afternoon event was usually followed by a gala dinner and an evening of a grand and glorious ball. The wealthiest even built their own lodges to host said celebrations. So the next time we wonder what activities the affluent ladies of the Victorian era did to pass the time, now we know exactly which one they preferred.

Cindy will gift one ebook of With Open Arms to one blogger today!! 

 

 Archery4_HarpersWeekly_1878

 

 

 

Author bio:

Historical romance writer Cindy Nord is the author of No Greater Glory, a number-one Civil War romance at Amazon for more than a year and book one in her four-book The Cutteridge Family series. With Open Arms, book two in the series, debuted in August 2014. Cindy also contributed to the non-fiction anthology Scribbling Women and the Real-Life Romance Heroes Who Love Them. A blend of history and romance, her love stories meld both genres around action and emotionally driven characters.NoGreaterGlory (1)

 

Website:  www.cindynord.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.nord.9

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/cnord2

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/cnord2/

 

GetAttachment with open armsWith Open Arms (http://amzn.com/B00KT23WO0)

A war-weary ex-soldier. An untamable hellion. Love doesn’t stand a chance in hell…

Hardened in childhood by the death of her parents, then left to run the family’s southwestern territory ranch when her brother rode off to fight for the Union years before, Callie Cutteridge hides her heartbreak behind a mask of self-sufficiency. Breaking horses for the army proves she’s neither delicate nor helpless. When a former cavalry officer shows up claiming to own her brother’s half of the Arizona ranch, she steels herself to resist the handsome stranger’s intention to govern even one single aspect of her life. After all, loving means losing…to her it always has.

For months, Jackson Neale has looked forward to putting the bloodstained battlefields back east behind him. Callie isn’t the agreeable angel her brother led him to believe, but he’s damned well not the useless rake this foul-mouthed hellion thinks he is, either. His quest for calm stability contradicts sharply with her need for control, yet still their heartstrings tangle. But how can these mistrusting partners transform their fiery passion into a happily-ever-after when all Callie knows how to do is fight…and all Jackson wants is peace?

 

 Image credits:

Archery1_LaBelleAssemblee_1831.jpg: Illustration from La Belle Assemblee, 1831

Archery2_ScientificAmerican_1894.jpg: “Meeting of the Toxophilite Society.” Scientific American, 1894

Archery3_HarpersWeekly_1881.jpg: “The Archery Tournament, Prospect Park, Brooklyn.” Harper’s Weekly, July 23, 1881

Archery4_HarpersWeekly_1878.jpg: “Archery Practice on Staten Island.” Harper’s Weekly, 1878

 

Updated: September 13, 2015 — 2:11 am

These Boots Were Made For Walking


LLBroday
In historical westerns four things are always in everyone of my stories – Hats (Stetsons usually,) Guns, Horses and Boots. Not necessarily in that order.

 

But who were the boot makers?

 

New BootsThe first boots, and for sure the forerunner of the western kind, were reportedly worn by Genghis Kahn way back in the Mongol Empire. He wore a pair of red boots with wooden heels. But definitely the Wellington boots worn in 17th and 18th centuries of England were a precursor of the boots cowboys wear. They rode high on the leg, had a low heel and were made of the same four part construction as cowboy boots.  Soldiers in the Civil War preferred them and when they went home from the war, they took their boots with them.

 


Old BootsOne on the earliest known cowboy boot makers was Charles Hyer in Olathe, Kansas in 1872. He and his brother Edward founded the Hyer Brothers Boot Company and outfitted many a trail driver.

 

Down here in Texas as the cattle drives accelerated, bootmakers popped up in the towns along the trails. The Justin Boot Company and the Nocona Boot Company in Texas are among two of the earliest makers of western footwear. I’m sure there were many others. Justin Boots is world famous. It was founded in 1879 and George Strait still wears them today.

 

Justin Ropers

Worn Justin Ropers

Nocona boots were long made by H. L. Justin before he ever formed the company. He was a maker of fine boots in Spanish Fort, Texas which was on the Chisolm Trail. Cowboys would stop on their way north and let him measure their feet and pick up their boots on the way back.

 

In 1911, Italian immigrant Tony Lama, who learned the trade at age 11, set up shop in El Paso, Texas and began that lucrative business. Today there are many, many brands.

 

Boots are worn by rich man and poor, presidents, country singers and the cowboys of today who work the ranches, herding cows and riding the rangeland.

 

I have three pair of western boots– an old pair I bought in Reno, Nevada in 2002, my Justin Ropers and a new pair I bought last month to wear to NYC to a writers’ conference. The new pair is made by the Abilene Boot Company and they’re as comfortable as my Justins. I’ve always had trouble finding shoes that don’t hurt my feet. I never have to worry about my boots.

 

So what about you? Have you tried cowboy boots?

 

I love talking to readers. You can reach me at these links:

WEBSITE      FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE     PERSONAL FACEBOOK    TWITTER

 

 

Welcome Guest Pam Hillman!!!

The Boss of the Plains
The Boss of the Plains
Pam Hillman

Pam Hillman

I’ve always heard that the first thing a cowboy puts on when he rolls out of his blankets is his hat, followed immediately by his boots. After reading about the care John B. Stetson took to create a hat that demanded that kind of respect, I now believe it.

Stetson learned the hat trade from his father. In a time when being a hatter wasn’t considered a respectable trade, Stetson took his trade seriously. He wanted to make a durable, high quality hat best suited for the rugged west, the  cowboy, and the plainsmen who flooded west in the 1800s.
 
In 1865, Stetson headed west, and in a small rented facility, with his tools and barely enough money to purchase the fur he needed, he made his first hat that would eventually become known as the famous “Boss of the Plains”. The Boss became synonymous with hard-working, rough-housing, loyal cow punchers the world over, but especially in the American West.
 
At first glance, the “Boss of the Plains” doesn’t look like what we think of as the traditional cowboy hat. But that was the beauty of the design. Men could shape it however they wanted to. Picture a cowboy grabbing that hat over and over with three fingers. Eventually, the crown and the brim would crease in exactly the way the cowboy wanted it to.The high crown provided insulation and a bit of air-space for ventilation for the top of the head. The wide brim offered protection from the harsh sun, rain, wind. But probably the most innovative part of the Boss was that it was made from the underbelly of 42 beaver pelts and was extremely durable, lightweight, and waterproof.
 
While I haven’t tested a Stetson myself, I’ve seen movies and read books that made me wonder how someone could continue to ride in the deluge of hours and hours of rain and not get soaked through. According to history, some Stetsons were so waterproof, they could be used as buckets, and at least one story tells of a cowboy whose canteen sprung a leak, and he used his Stetson to carry water across the desert. And while I’ve never seen someone offering water to another person out of a hat, I’ve seen it many times in movies. I might have scoffed at that before I discovered how watertight these hats were.
 
Dodge City Peace Commission
The Dodge City Peace Commission, some wearing The Boss
 
Not only could the Boss double as a bucket, the wide brim served as an umbrella against rain and shaded the eyes against the relentless sun. The brim could be tented to provide a drinking cup as needed, or pulled down and tied over the ears to protect against frost-bite.
 
It was the bellows that fanned many a campfire into existence and, in reverse, was also the bucket that carried the water to douse the fire when breaking camp. The hat was doffed at pretty ladies, and swatted against a pokey horse’s flank to escape a raiding war party.
 
Rolled up, it became a pillow at night, or the extra bit of padding to ease a sore shoulder or aching back. Waved over the head, it was easily spotted from long distances. In a shoot-out, it was hoisted on a stick to draw fire to scout out the location of the enemy. And it was removed and held over the heart when saying goodbye to another cowboy as the final prayer was said over his grave.
 
It’s no wonder that a cow puncher forked over as much as two to six months’ wages on his hat. And not surprising that he’d defend such a purchase with his life and his Colt 45!
 .
Want more? Check out this cool video: The Making of a Stetson Hat
  • Pam is giving away an autographed copy of Stealing Jake to one lucky reader. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. If you had to pick someone from movies, TV, or your own backyard who looks great in a Stetson (or any cowboy hat), who would you pick?
Stealing Jake Board

STEALING JAKE by Pam Hillman. When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-Fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy?literally while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town?as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off?Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

 
CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com

Shanna Hatfield’s Invitation to the Ball

ShannaHatfieldMy wagon is loaded full of thanks to the Fillies for inviting me over to Petticoats and Pistols today.

Rather than jingle my spurs and slap dust from my ol’ cattleman’s hat, I thought I’d veer a different direction and talk about dresses, specifically ball gowns.

Wouldn’t it be a hoot to receive an invitation to a ball and have the opportunity to choose a fancy gown, pin up your hair, and dance the night away?

Admittedly, I love the attire from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. I’m especially fond of the Gibson girl era. A new corset that bent the figure into an S shape was all the rage and shaped the fashions of that time. The resulting silhouette was undeniably feminine while the fabrics were soft and flowing.

If it wasn’t for the fact a winch, pry bar, and a healthy dose of tranquilizers would be required to get me into the corset, I’d vote for wearing those fashions all the time (at least when I could leave the home place and head into town).

LaceEvening gowns of the day often featured frilly embellishments with lace and ruffles. Ornaments of beading, spangles, rhinestones, and velvet ribbon were popular, as were skirts that flared at the hem, most with short trains.

 

WheatThe wheat on this dress makes me think of the women from my Pendleton Petticoats series. Pendleton, Oregon, the setting for the stories, was (and is) wheat country. It’s easy to picture one of the characters wearing this gown.

 

RosesI lose the ability to think rationally when I see the combination of roses and lace. This gown whispers quite loudly to my heart and makes me wish I could attend a ball.

Oh, wait…

I am attending a ball – and you all are invited, too!

Ball

Dust off your dancing shoes and choose your formal attire for the Petticoat Ball Party on Facebook April 9, 2015 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Giveaways and games will make for a splendid event as we celebrate the release of Thimbles and Thistles and the debut of Lacy!

The talented and fabulous guest authors (including sweet Fillie Karen Witemeyer) joining in the shenanigans include:

10 a.m. – Julie Lence
10:30 – Kathleen Ball
11 – Rachel Rossano
11:30 – Christina Cole
Noon – Peggy Henderson
12:30 – Kristin Holt
1 p.m. – Karen Witemeyer
1:30 – Kayla Thomas

Invite your friends to the party, and you could win a $25 Amazon Gift card. Go to the Facebook Party Page, click on the “invite” button, invite your friends, then post how many you invited. One randomly drawn person will win, but you get additional entries for every 25 people you invite! Also, ask your friends when they join the party to share that you invited them on the party wall. Each friend who mentions your name, earns you another entry in the contest! The winner will be announced prior to the start of the party April 9! http://tinyurl.com/petticoatball

In celebration of the ball, and because I’m so doggone happy to be here today, I’m giving away an e-copy of both books in the Baker City Brides series to one lucky commenter.

To enter to win CRUMPETS AND COWPIES and THIMBLES AND THISTLES, just answer this question:

What would you rather wear… a ball gown or a pair of dusty boots?

 

Freebies

TThimbleshe second book in the Baker City Brides series releases Thursday, April 9!

Thimbles and Thistles takes readers back to Baker City as spring arrives and love is in the air. You can reserve your Kindle copy here: http://amzn.com/B00TCV6BFG

Maggie Dalton has no need for a man in her life. Widowed more than ten years, she’s built a successful business and managed quite well on her own in the bustling town of Baker City, Oregon. Aggravated by her inability to block thoughts of the handsome lumber mill owner from her mind, she renews her determination to resist his attempts at friendship.

Full of Scottish charm and mischief, Ian MacGregor could claim any available woman in Baker City as his own, except the enchanting dress shop owner who continues to ignore him. Not one to give up on what he wants, Ian vows to win Maggie’s heart or leave the town he’s come to love.

LacyLacy, Book 5 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, will be available for pre-orders April 9.

Be among the first to order the long-awaited story of Grant Hill. Talk about losing at love… eligible banker bachelor Grant needs to find the right girl.

Those attending the party will also get a first look at the cover!

“Will the bonds of love be stronger than the bonds of tradition…”

It just wouldn’t be a party if there wasn’t a book available for free! Aundy, Book 1 in the Pendleton Petticoats series, will be available for free Kindle download April 9. Make sure you grab your copy! If you’ve already read it, tell your friends to download it. If you haven’t met the characters from Pendleton Petticoats, here’s a brief intro:

AundyAundy (Book 1) – One stubborn mail-order bride finds the courage to carry on when she’s widowed before ever truly becoming a wife, but opening her heart to love again may be more than she can bear.

Caterina (Book 2) – Running from a man intent on marrying her, Caterina starts a new life in Pendleton, completely unprepared for the passionate feelings stirred by the town’s deputy sheriff.

Ilsa (Book 3) – Relying on others to guide and protect her, Ilsa finally finds the strength and courage to take control of her life. Unfortunately, her independence drives a wedge between her and the man she’s come to love.

Marnie (Book 4) – Giving up on her dreams for a future, Marnie finds her hope rekindled by one caring, compassionate man and the orphans who need her.

In conjunction with the Petticoat ball, you may also enter the drawing for a $50 American Express gift card, autographed books, digital books, chocolates, and original western artwork, fill out this form.

 

BioConvinced everyone deserves a happy ending, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield is out to make it happen one story at a time. Her best-selling sweet historical and contemporary romances combine humor and heart-pumping moments with realistic characters. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Find Shanna’s books at:
Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple

Shanna loves to hear from readers! Follow her online:
ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Sometimes Only a Cowboy Will Do

 quotescover-JPG-98 cowboy 2

If you’re like me, you love to watch historical shows and movies, but really crave anything with a western flair.  There have too little of them lately, too few and far between.  My latest fan crush is OUTLANDER (Scottish–not western but wonderful) and my biggest gripe is that there were only 7 made for Showtime and the next full season doesn’t start until April 2015!  That’s a long time for an avid fan!  

Here’s a list of IMDb’s (Internet Movie Database) Highest Rated Western Television Shows.  I think you’d be surprised with some of them.  

1.    Deadwood   2004

deadwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.    The Adventures of Brisco County   1993

3.    Trigun  1998 Animated

4.    Have Gun Will Travel  1957

5.     Saber Rider and The Star Sheriffs  1987 Animated 

6.      Hell on Wheels   2011

7.      Zorro  1957

8.    The Rifleman   1958

9.    Maverick    1959

10.   The Wild Wild West  1965

11.   Rawhide   1959

12.   Longmire   2012

13.   Gunsmoke  1955

14.   The Big Valley   1965

15.   King Fu   1972

Hell on Wheels

 

 

 

 

I was surprised Bonanza wasn’t in the top 15.  It came in at  #17, while Little House of the Prairie was #19 and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, was 20th. Looks like westerns rocked the television screens in the 1950’s.   Now, occasionally a good western will come our way, but not often enough if you ask me.

Is your favorite on this list?  What are your top 5 westerns, movies or television series?  

I have a great two-in-one Desire to give away to one blogger today!  (Suddenly Expecting and The Texas Renegade Returns)

 

LOOK FOR MY NEW HARLEQUIN ONLINE READ coming in January to kick off my Moonlight Beach Bachelors series! TITLE TBA

HER FORBIDDEN COWBOY coming in February!

 

 

 

 

Updated: October 15, 2014 — 12:58 pm

The Victorian Parlor: aka The Chamber of Horrors

MargaretBrownley-header

This past week I wrote a scene in which my cowboy hero was forced to sit in a formal parlor. It was during the 19th century age of clutter which meant the front room was filled to capacity with ornate furniture, needlepoint cushions, framed photographs, musical instruments, and enough froufrou to create a dusting nightmare. The poor man in my story couldn’t move without knocking over a beaded fringed lamp or a delicate music box. Worse, he had to trust his six foot parlor6two bulk to a spindly chair since no “sincere” furniture existed.

Parlors Were Never Designed for Comfort

A proper parlor had one purpose and one purpose alone; to showcase a woman’s gentility to all who entered.

In his book Domesticated Americans Russell Lynes describes the parlor as a chamber of horrors for children. “It (the parlor) set husband against wife, daughter against father and swain against maiden.” It also took a lump out of the family budget.

A Hostess Must Avoid Any Allusion to the Age, Personal Defects or Ill-manners of Guests

No one really knew how to act in a parlor and this unleashed a steady stream of articles and books on the subject. Not only were people counseled on how to enter a parlor without “Jiggling their bodies” but how to leave it.  Phrases, such as”What-d-ye call it,” “Thingummy,” “What’s his name,” or any such substitutes for a proper name or place were to be avoided at all costs.

Go Already!

The Ladies Indispensable Assistant explained the rules of exiting in great detail. “Don’t stand hammering and fumbling, and saying ‘Well I guess I must be going.’ When you are ready go at once.”

parlor2Parlor rules existed for every possible situation, even courting. Never was a man to sit with his “arms akimbo” or strike an awkward pose. Nor was he to enter a parlor without the lady’s invitation.

God Made Weather to Give Us Something to Talk About

Visitors were cautioned against talking about religion, politics, disease, dress or, heaven forbid, one’s self. Cookbook and etiquette writer Miss Leslie wrote that inquiring about a hostess’s children was to be done “with discretion.” Saying that a son “was the very image of his father,” could be offensive if the father was not a handsome man. Even then the visitor could be treading on ice if “the mother was vain and wished the children to look like her.”

Sparlor1everal things happened to make the parlor with its endless rules fall out of favor. Women were admitted to college and soon after entered the work force. No longer was a woman judged by her parlor but rather by her contributions to society.

The westward movement should also receive credit for putting sanity into the home. Though some pioneer women tried to carry the tradition westward, many soon learned the folly of such ways—much to their husbands’ gratitude.

 

Not all parlors died a quiet death. Some lingered into the twentieth century. As a child, I remember our next door neighbor’s parlor—and yes, that’s what she called it. Everything in it including the lampshades was covered in plastic which made a crinkling sound if you wiggled. Did any of you spend time in such a room?

Working Undercover is no Job for a Lady!

Click cover to pre-order book 1 in Margaret’s exciting new series

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Unusual Frontier Fashion

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I’ve never been much of a fashionista myself. Comfort trumps style in my life except for a few special occasions. But there is some part of me that still loves to play dress up, at least where my characters are concerned.

Researching time-period clothing is one of my favorite areas to explore when starting a new novel. I’ve collected quite a few reference books and bookmarked dozens of websites where one can find full color fashion plates or scans of 19th century fashion magazines. It’s rather like playing paper dolls or having unlimited outfits for Victorian Texas Barbie.

My latest novel, Full Steam Ahead, took me to a time period I had not researched before. The early 1850’s. While many aspects of antebellum fashion mimic that of the hoop skirts so famous during the Civil War era, there were some notable differences. One of those most interesting to me was a staple of women’s clothing that was an outer garment and at the same time an undergarment. It was called simply, an undersleeve.

Undersleeves 2Undersleeves 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the arrows in these pictures, the undersleeves consisted of white or off-white fabric that extended beyond the bell-shaped sleeves of the formal garment. They could be plain or decoratively embroidered. Not only were they stylish, but they served a practical purpose as well. Since they were a separate piece and not sewn directly into the dress itself, they could be easily removed and laundered, thereby saving the dress from the wear-and-tear of excessive washings. A sleeve was less likely to be soiled by everyday activities such as eating, cleaning, or even writing letters when an undersleeve was worn.

I discovered these beautiful examples of undersleeves on an historic costuming site called Maggie May Fashions. The one on the left is a more plain, everyday example, while the one on the right has intricate needlework for a more sophisticated look. The undersleeves were often held in place with a series of ties or could be basted loosely by hand into the inner sleeve of the dress itself. Some ladies used an early form of elastic around the upper casing and kept them completely separate from the dress.

Undersleeves 4Undersleeves 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1850s Dress

 

Since my heroine worked as a secretary for the hero, she was always around ink, and was certain to wear her undersleeves. This is the dress that I pictured Nicole wearing  when she first met Darius in his study. I changed the color to a deep wine red instead of the green, but the rest of the description fits.

I was a little disappointed that the dress featured on my book’s cover didn’t have the deep bell sleeves and white undersleeves that were so typical of this era, but since the cover itself was so lovely, I didn’t complain.

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So what about you?

  • What is the most unusual fashion item that you found yourself falling in love with?

I was a child of the 80’s and while I never went in for the leg warmers or ripped t-shirts, I will admit to owning stone-washed jeans and having big 80’s style bangs.

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