As Mr. Bennet himself put it so elegantly when his wife attempted to describe ball gowns to him in the BBC film version of Pride and Prejudice:
“No lace. No lace, Mrs. Bennet, I beg you!”
Chapter three of Pride and Prejudice expresses Mr. Bennet’s disdain for discussions of lace as well, but without the excellent line of dialogue.
I rarely have male critique partners, but when I do they generally balk at descriptions of clothes in historical segments, whereas female critique partners tend to beg for even more description.
For the early 19th century was a romantic era in fashion. The poetry of Lord Byron was on the lips of well-bred men and women. Empire-waisted gowns necessitated gentle, flowing skirts, with lots of movement. Arms and busts – generally not on display during the day – were de rigeur at balls.
I’ve been to numerous museums displaying these lovely gowns. I’ve also looked through hundreds and hundreds of drawings of gowns at the time, and I find most of them impossibly beautiful, although I might take issue of some of the popular colors at the time – like puce, which I have worked into the 19th century scenes of my manuscript Dark Blue Waves.
I also remain rather skeptical about the military look that was in vogue for a period of time – gold buttons and gold military braiding – and the exaggerated feathers and turbans that one could often see during the Regency period.
But other than a few fashion mis-steps, I love the gowns of the period, and believe the women looked so beautiful and elegant. It was an absolute pleasure to sift through the lithographs of stunning gowns of 1813, when parts of my story take place. Now, if only I could travel back in time, like the protagonist in my story, and have the opportunity to dress in these beautiful clothes myself, in the hopes that some handsome man “with ten-thousand a year” might ask me to dance.
And you readers? Do you have historical research involved in your stories? Do you enjoy getting lost in these historical details?
If you missed it, I wrote an earlier piece on researching 19th century riding habits.