It’s Not Just Sew, Sew

The old West had a shortage of everything except hard times and backbreaking work and there was sure plenty of that. Pioneer women took extra pains with all their belongings and to lose something as small as a button really was difficult to take.

Buttons have been around approximately 4,000 years with its history dating back to Egypt. Archeologists have unearthed them in ancient tombs and in archeological digs.

At first buttons were used entirely for decoration. Men and women both wore buttons to adorn themselves. King Louis XIV of France spent $600,000 a year on buttons and King Francis I once had 13,600 buttons sewn to a single coat. The First Duke of Buckingham had a suit and cloak covered in diamond buttons. Talk about extravagant.

From ancient times, buttons have been fashioned from pearls, shells, glass, metal, wood, bone and antler, precious stones, porcelain, and leather among other materials. It appears that our ancestors made buttons from everything imaginable that was available at the time. Buttons with images of angels on them date back hundreds of years.

  

 

But buttons were not just for clothing. They could be found on purses, bracelets, belts, and shoes and still can today. Early buttons showed beautiful artistry. Artists filled their time painting portraits and scenery on them. Europe became so button crazy the church denounced them as “the devil’s snare,” mainly because of women’s front-buttoned dresses. Ridiculous I know. Even the Puritans condemned buttons as sinful.

No one is quite sure when someone came along and fashioned the first buttonhole, but it was quite an accomplishment. Everyone jumped on the button wagon. It was so nice to able to make form-fitting garments that didn’t have to be secured with a belt, hooks, or other devices.

        

Sadly, decorative buttons have become a lost art. Today, most buttons are mass produced from inexpensive plastic.

Button collecting began in the 1930’s. The National Button Society was formed in 1938. There are thousands of collectors today. People collect all kinds and shapes and some of the prices fetched for a single button is outrageous. Recently, a button was sold in auction for $850. People are serious about their buttons.

The Smithsonian Institution has an extensive button collection as do many other museums.

Did you know that March13-19 is National Button Week?

Most of us have buttons somewhere, either in jars or in sewing baskets. I have a zip lock bag full of buttons that I’ve cut off clothes before I toss them in the trash. I always think I’ll need one for something.

A friend of mine plays a game of buttons with her grandchildren. She lets them choose from her button collection then tells them some wild story about where it came from and who wore it. The more outrageous story the better. Their eyes grow wide as they listen to the tales she weaves.

Do you have a stash of buttons? I have some very pretty decorative ones. Can you imagine wearing a piece of clothing that has over 13,000 buttons sewn on it?

So You Think You Know How to Wear Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots are fun to wear, but I recently discovered I’ve been wearing them wrong—all wrong. Fortunately, help is on the way. Some of the top designers including Calvin Klein and Fendi are about to send cowboy boots down the runway this spring and you know what that means; our sacred footwear is about to get a makeover.    

To keep you from being out-of-step, here are some tips from fashion experts:  

  • Don’t go for the costume-y look. If you’re wearing boots, avoid cowboy hats, ponchos, spurs, prairie dresses and overalls or you’ll end up looking ready for Halloween.
  • Leave the accessories at home. (I think this means don’t wear your diamonds.)
  • Avoid fringes and sequins (ruffled skirts, okay)
  • You can’t go wrong with jeans (not the faded ones) and turtlenecks. If you’re brave or  immune to stares, you can even wear boots with shorts.
  • Pair cowboy boots with animal prints.

If you’ve been wearing your boots all wrong, chances are the same can be said for the guys in your life.  According to fashion pundits, men should adhere to the following guidelines unless working on the range:

  • Avoid dressing like Woody in Toy Story. Ditch the bolo tie and chaps.
  • Forget the spurs (unless you’re playing a bad guy in a movie).
  • Hats are okay if you going to a rodeo or rounding up cattle. Otherwise, leave at home.
  • Avoid light colored jeans. Dark fitted jeans are best paired with cowboy boots.
  • If you’re wearing a tux, only black cowboy boots will do (polished to a shine).

Men, if this is too much for you, don’t despair.  Everyone loves Woody.  As for the rest of us, Happy Halloween.

What is the best or worst fashion advice you ever got?

 

What happens when four mail-order brides get cold feet?

Amazon

B&N

 

Left Foot, Right Foot

 

Do you remember what it was like to put your foot into the wrong shoe? Young children do this all the time. I still remember how uncomfortable it felt when I got in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention. Shoot, sometimes I still do this! It feels horrible.

But did you know that up until as late as 1850 shoemakers didn’t differentiate between the left and the right? They made both shoes straight with no curve in them. I can only imagine how awful they were to wear.

Change came with the invention of machinery for making shoes and they were finally able to produce left and right shoes.

I had so much fun writing SAVING THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE that releases in two weeks. Nora and Jack are so funny. Nora has a real problem with her shoes and the pair she wears coming West to marry are very worn. The heels are shaky and the shoes are too narrow.

The book opens with a stagecoach carrying her and an outlaw who’d just been arrested. Everything is so new to her.

Complication #1. He’s attached to a marshal by manacles (which are two handcuffs separated by a six-inch chain.) When the stagecoach wrecks and kills the marshal, Jack Bowdre asks Nora to get the key from the dead lawman’s pocket.

Complication #2. The second Nora unlocks the cuffs she slaps them around her own wrist and tosses the key away because she’s terrified Jack’ll leave her at the mercy of the man who’s following her.

To put it mildly, Jack is furious. Now he’s handcuffed to a woman he’s never seen and he’s about to lose his one chance of escape.

Before leaving the wreck, he removes the marshal’s boots, thinking they might come in handy. He and Nora spend a little time searching for the key but can’t find it and he hears riders up above the ravine, so he rushes her away.

Complication #3. Nora can’t keep up because of her shoes. He stops and yanks them off, wraps her feet in one of her petticoats, and puts the dead marshal’s boots on her. They can move much faster. Then later on, she switches those boots for a smaller pair that belong to the man chasing her.

They’re afoot with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a posse close behind. It’s five days to reach the safety of the outlaw town and the rugged terrain is unforgiving. The odds are stacked against them.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Jack didn’t tell her he’s an outlaw—one of several things he left out of his letters. Nora has her trials.

I think you’ll love this fast-paced fun story, the second in my Outlaw Mail Order Brides.

Click HERE for a link to an excerpt.

I also have a Spring Sweepstakes going on. Enter to win an e-reader plus 25 historical western romances. Margaret Brownley has hers in this too. Click on the image to enter.

 

I have a huge problem with shoes myself because my feet and ankles swell. Dressy shoes are the hardest to find. I just can’t find any that fit well, look decent, and are comfortable. Boots really are the best but not with a dress. I’ve finally gone to the Clark’s brand and they work pretty well. Do any of you have a similar problem? What do you wear for everyday and dressy?

I’m giving away an autographed copy of the book to three people who comment.

  

The Bustle: A Pain in The Behind

A bustle was a pad or frame worn under a skirt to support the fullness and drapery at the back of a woman’s skirt. Though the bustle had long occupied a place in a well-dressed woman’s wardrobe, it was clearly the article of clothing that was most vilified, especially by men.

The bustle was also blamed for many women’s health problems, including squeezed or misplaced organs.

Shopkeepers considered bustles a nuisance.  Shops tended to be small and crowded and bustles were thought to take up too much space.

Shopkeepers weren’t the only ones complaining about the size of bustles. An editorial in a Boston newspaper asked why there was no city ordinance prohibiting bustles from protruding more than a foot in length beyond the sidewalk.  

Bustles also confounded soldiers during the Civil War. Enterprising women used bustles as a safe-deposit box to hide jewelry and other valuables from marauders.  Bustles would be ripped apart and stuffed with treasures.  It worked for a while.  But then some soldiers noticed a marked increase in the size and proportions of women’s behinds and grew suspicious. The discovery resulted in the theft of many bustles.

Bustles also caused an uproar with freight agents. Since it was cheaper to ship wire goods than dry goods, merchants listed bustles as wire goods.  Freight agents argued that bustles were made from feathers and wool and had no wire.  Merchants said that bustles superseded hoop skirts, which gave them every right to be billed as wire goods.  This view eventually prevailed, but freight agents weren’t willing to give up so easily; they simply raised the cost of shipping wire goods.   

Bustles came in many shapes and styles. As one Victorian merchant said, “There were more styles of bustles than herrings in a box.” The Washboard bustle was ribbed like a washboard.  The bustle was considered a good deal for the merchant.  For it was almost impossible to sit down without smashing the washboard, thus necessitating another trip to the store to replace it.

There was also the Brooklyn Bridge bustle, also known as the suspension Bridge or Two-Story bustle. As the name suggested, this was a series of bustles that extended down to the knees.

Another type of bustle was the Wind bustle, made of rubber.  This included a rubber hose so that it could be inflated.  This bustle was especially handy should a woman suddenly find herself in water, as it served double-duty as a life preserver.  

Some practical women would wear only bustles they made themselves out of newspapers.

-Wisconsin Historical Society

Mrs. Grover Cleveland is credited for unwittingly causing the demise of the bustle.   The story goes that two Washington newspaper reporters had nothing to report during a hot July. So, they made up a story that President Cleveland’s wife had abandoned the bustle. According to newspaper reports, Mrs. Cleveland later visited a department store and asked to see their bustles.  Supposedly, the merchant told her that since news broke that she had given up bustles, none had sold and had been moved to the basement.

Mrs. Cleveland then turned to her companion and said, “Well, if they say I’ve quit wearing the bustle, then I guess that’s what I need to do.”

 

 

Meet the Brides of Haywire, Texas!

Amazon

B&N

iTunes

Coming in May

Amazon

B&N

iTunes

The Music of Spurs by Linda Broday

I’m happy to kick off this Bustles and Spurs week. I just love writing everything about cowboys but especially the little visual details that can add so much to a story. The smooth way they walk. The way they talk—from the hard edge they add to their voice when they have to—to the quiet, gentle words reserved for their lady, kids, and animals. Then there are the sounds—the slap of leather chaps against their legs, their boot heels striking a wooden boardwalk.

Most of all, the clink of their spurs. Oh man! I love that music.

I began thinking about spurs and here are some facts that you might find interesting.

* The earliest spurs found go back to Julius Caesar and his Roman soldiers. Who knew?

* The type of metal used in those early spurs once indicated rank. Gold or gilded spurs were reserved for knights or royalty. Hence the expression, “earn your spurs.”

* The part of the spur that makes noise is the rowel that spins when the cowboy walks. The rowel is also the part he uses to make the horse do what he wants.

* The ornate Spanish influence is still evident today.

* Spurs from the second to about the fifteenth century were buried with their owners which is why few remain today.

* Any knight who failed to remove his spurs inside a church had them confiscated and had to pay a fine to get them back.

* The U.S. Cavalry uniform required boots and spurs and they were also worn during the Civil War. These were made of brass, slightly curved, with a small rowel, black straps, and a brass buckle.

* Today, artisan spurs are big business and depending on what they’re decorated with can be quite expensive. I recently saw a pair online selling for $925. Can you imagine?

* Sometimes cowboys attach jinglebobs to their spurs for even more noise.

I have a new book coming April 30 – SAVING THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE – #2 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides series. Jack Bowdre has been arrested and on his way to jail in a stagecoach the marshal flags down. The only other passenger is Lenora Kane who’s on her way to marry a man sight unseen. When the coach wrecks, Jack finds himself handcuffed to Lenora and they’re running for their lives, afoot, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and five days to safety. This has danger, suspense, humor, and romance and available for preorder.

AMAZON  |  B&N  |  iTUNES

Leave a comment mentioning some detail about a cowboy that really adds to what you love about him. Maybe it’s a bead of sweat trickling down his neck or the way he tips his hat to the ladies. Something small that gives you that tingle. You know the one. I’m giving away a western movie called Forsaken starring Kiefer and Donald Sutherland. It’s really good. I’m also giving a $10 Amazon gift card to another winner. Drawing will be Saturday.

 

 

Going, going, GONE!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I think you should know that the classic candy that has been a constant since 1847, is about to go the way of phone booths.   Yes, that’s right.  The company that makes Necco Wafers has announced that, unless it finds a buyer, it will close its doors forever in May.

Do you know what that means?  Future generations will never know what drywall tastes like. 

Originally called hub wafers, the coin-shaped candies were carried by soldiers during the Civil War and World War II.  Since the candy traveled well and never melted or spoiled, soldiers and yes, even cowboys, could carry them with confidence.

These candies traveled as far as the North Pole, and that’s not all. Admiral Byrd took two tons of the things with him to the Antarctica.  Even more impressive; Necco Wafers was the first candy to multi-task.  They served as wafers during communion and were tossed in baskets for payment at toll booths.

Sad to say, Necco isn’t the only old company at risk. In recent years, we’ve seen the demise of the Sears Wish book and five and dime stores. Who knows what will be next? 

I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but I shudder to think that Baker’s chocolate—a friend to cooks since 1780—might someday be declared unfit for human consumption.  Don’t laugh. It happened to wheat, eggs and red meat. Who’s to say the same thing won’t happen to chocolate?

Never mind that cowboys and civil war soldiers enjoyed morning cups of Baker’s hot chocolate with no known problems.  Cast-iron stomachs of the past have no place in today’s world. 

It’s not just food and drink that’s in danger. The next company that could bite the dust could very well be Remington, established in 1818. It’s hard to believe that the company that produced the “rifle that won the west” might one day close its doors. But firearms aren’t all that popular these days.  Nor for that matter are typewriters. So who knows? 

And what about Brooks Brothers, another formidable company founded in 1818? The company made the first ready-to-wear suits in 1849.  Those flocking to California that year for the gold rush couldn’t wait for tailors to outfit them. For that reason, forty-niners depended on Brooks Brothers for their clothing needs. So did Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower and J.F. Kennedy.

Anything made of paper is about to become obsolete, including maps, shopping bags and checks.  Here in California, the war on drinking straws is heating up.  If that’s not enough, many of the nation’s newspapers have vanished in recent years. That means that old standbys like The New York Times (founded in 1851 as the New York Daily Times) could one day shut down their presses forever. 

I also worry about Merriam-Webster, founded in 1831. If it goes the way of encyclopedia salesmen, I will have to share the blame. I can’t remember the last time I actually looked something up in an honest-to-goodness, print dictionary, can you? 

Nothing is safe in today’s fast-paced world as proven by Kodak. Who would have thought that a company that we all knew and loved would close its dark-room doors forever and stop making cameras?

Founded in 1889, Kodak was the absolute leader in photography. It’s still in business making mobile devices, but its past glory is gone. Phone cameras have taken its place, but it’s not the same. An iPhone second just doesn’t have the same ring as a Kodak moment.

So, what old-time product do you or would you miss? What were you glad to see go?

 

Amazon

Wedding Dresses in the Mid to Late 1800s

Hello everyone!  I hope you’re having a great Wednesday!

I was just asked by a dear friend to make her wedding dress, so I have wedding dresses on the brain. I’m making a classic white wedding dress, but white dresses have only been classic since the 1840s, when Queen Victoria wore a white court dress to marry Prince Albert. After the royal wedding, white became “the” bridal color for elite weddings on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, on the western frontier, practicality prevailed. Frontier brides-to-be did not have extensive wardrobes. It was not uncommon for a bride to be married in her best calico dress. Another option was to borrow a “good” dress from a family member. The borrowed dress was often well worn, but a step up from everyday calico.

If fabric was available and the bride was lucky enough to be able to sew a new dress for her wedding, she would have used that dress for multiple occasions throughout her life. She probably would have lent the dress to friends and relatives, and passed it  down to the next generation. The dress, for practical reasons, would not have been white.  Can you imagine trying to keep a white dress in suitable shape to wear on multiple occasions in a frontier environment? Many wedding dresses were brown, gray or black, but red and blue and gold were also popular colors.

Wedding dress 1863. Image courtesy of Idaho State Historical Society. Catalog # 1971.119.3/1-3

The dress on the left below is from the 1860s. I couldn’t find a date for the dress on the right, but it’s obviously late 1800s.

The dresses shown below were made for wealthier brides.  The red dress is from 1881. The gold dress is from 1884 and made of silk and cotton. The brown dress is from 1879, as is the rust dress next to it.

                         

After looking at these beautiful dresses, I kind of wish colored wedding dresses would come back into style. They’re so pretty and somehow seem more unique.

 

Do you like colored wedding dresses, or are you a fan of the now classic white dress?

A BAD BOY WITH A GOOD HEART 

Widow Skye Larkin will do anything to save her ranch, even if it means accepting help from bad-boy bull rider Tyler Hayward. But he and his penchant for partying are to blame for her late husband’s financial indiscretions, which got her into this mess. She might be attracted to the dark, dangerous cowboy, but putting her trust in another rodeo man is unthinkable. 

Ty knows he shouldn’t be surprised that Skye isn’t convinced he’s changed. He wants to prove that beneath the bravado, and no matter what happened on the circuit, he’s one of the good guys. Offering her a business partnership is just the first step. What will she do when he offers her his heart?

Amazon   Barnes & Noble   Kobo   iTunes

Website     Facebook

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
Photo Credit: FreeVerse Photography via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: FreeVerse Photography 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?