Monday, December 29, 2014


You know what century you’re entering when the ladies wear bustles and/or hoops under their skirts: Gay Nineties; or have birds’ nests (1863) in their Pompadours (1721-1764), or crinolines under Poodle Skirts: Dick Clark’s Fifties Dance Party…

The same can be said for period furniture, except for the fact that we tend to keep our old, luscious, well-polished furniture long after fashions slip out of Vogue.

Fashion designers abounded in the art school I attended. I was one of three intense Interior Design furniture buffs , envying them. They had the great costume parties and balls to show off the new designs they based on various periods in Fashion’s history. In my opinion, that’s one reason we see a reemergence of period silhouettes in fashion today, but updated, space-aged and made practical for the masses.

We’re just coming off a resurgence of the 60’s and going into the late seventies, longer skirts, looser blouses, tighter sweaters or huge flowing sweaters to replace the sports coat’s broad shoulders and wider lapels of the “manly” periods 1944). If only our bodies fit the fashion as well as the fashion fits the models.

I find it interesting that despite the ridiculous heel height on today’s shoes, the pointy toes that debuted again (French courts) in the mid-fifties survived and stayed on, with the exception of the earth shoes that quickly came and went during the mid-seventies.

Famolare Platform Wavy Sole Shoes I had a pair similar to these back in the day

Observations aside, this is a blog about writers using fashion to lock the reader into the period of his or her book and help that reader visualize the characters in their Edwardian coats (1901-1910), tri-corn hats (1775), or even loin cloths.

Along with using period language, writers should watch what their character’s wear in period or historical fiction. Lately I’ve seen a few missing garments, not just to meet the bodice ripper’s requirements, but actually forgotten.

Diana Gabaldon is one author, who does fashion and furniture well. Every reference to her Jamie and Claire duo is perfectly researched and represented. If you wonder why her latest books are so long, “It’s the research, Readers!”

Art objects, machines, furniture, clothing and even popular colors, are good background references to orient readers in period fiction. Remember the green and yellow kitchens of the 70s, or the almond appliances in the 80s and 90s, or the black and stainless steel in today’s futuristic looking kitchens.

All these visual details contribute to the mood and times of your stories. Average readers absorb them; reviewers expect them!

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Veronica Helen Hart said...

Julie, You hit the nail on the head! I find myself drifting off when a book has anachronisms, suggesting poor research, or when details are missing so I can't get the feel of the locale or the sense of the character. This is an excellent reminder to all of us.

January Bain said...

I agree Julie, the importance of such detail cannot be overstated. It's part of the engine that drives a well written novel.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thank you for your comments, ladies.