Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Guest Blog: If you lived during the Regency era, who would you be by Elyse Mady (+ Giveaway)

If you lived during the Regency era, who would you be?

If I lived during the Regency era, I’d like to think I’d own a dress shop.  Or a millinery shop.  Something where I got to play with gorgeous fabrics and trims all day long.

When I’m not writing, I sew.  A lot.  I like to embroider and I love historical clothing.  Just go look at my Pinterest boards if you don’t believe me J) Now I know the conditions were abysmal for apprentices in dressmaking and millinery shops, so I don’t want anyone to think I’m glossing that over.  This is more a ‘you can have any job in the world and it’s guaranteed to be fabulous’ speculation here.   And since everyone who knows me knows that if I was required to rely on my filing skills to get a job, I’d quickly starve and end up in the streets, I think I’ll stick with something I actually know something about.

Historically, there weren’t a lot of jobs open to women who wanted (or needed) to support themselves without a man.  Service was one option but the pay was crummy and the hours really long.   For the more genteel, you had the option of being a governess or a companion.  Having a shop was another option and there were lots and lots of women involved in trade, for sure, but they were often brought up in the trade or ran it with a spouse before they ran it alone.  Dressmaking was one of the few branches where women really dominated and could make a handsome profit.

Hester Aspinall, the heroine in my novel THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR, helps her brother in his tailor’s shop.  When he is arrested, she tries to continue the business but is driven out by an angry mob.  Robert Aspinall is of course based on a real person, who was a tailor by trade prior to his being caught up in the raid on the White Swan, and given my interest in historical sewing, I think that was one of the reasons I was drawn to him in the first place, as I was plotting my story.  The greengrocer from Essex or the out-of-work servants weren’t quite as appealing.

Here are some random fun facts about sewing and dressmaking in the 18th and early 19th century.
·         There were no paper patterns as we know them today.  Those didn’t make an appearance until the 1850s and 1860s.  Clothes were generally draped directly on the body (hence all those trips to the dressmakers that we Regency writers love so!).

·         A skilled seamstress could make a basic daygown in one day, working for approximately 8-10 hours. That would include the cutting, basting, fitting and construction.   An elaborate dress, especially if it featured custom embroidery, could take upwards of six weeks to three months.

·         All needlework was not the same.  There were specialists for all branches of clothing production:  stay makers, coat makers, leather workers, tailors (who made riding habits for men and women), dressmakers, embroiderers, goldwork embroiderers, white work embroiderers, glovemakers, menders and more.

·         Most clothes were not made at home, despite what you were taught in grade school.  Draping a gown takes a high degree of skill which is why professionals did it. What most women sewed for their families was known as ‘plain sewing’: household linens (sheets, pillowcases, blankets), and underclothes like men’s shirts, petticoats, baby clothes.  And if you couldn’t sew (or didn’t have the money for custom garments), there was a booming business in second hand clothing.

·         There were no tape measures.  Really.  There were rulers and yard sticks but no cloth tapes.  So how did a dressmaker know how big to make that gown?  Well, they used lengths of paper tape, and simply marked the tape with a pencil as they needed it.  Width of Shoulder. Length to Waist.  Diameter of Upper Arm.  It didn’t matter what the number was, just its relationship to the clientele’s overall figure. Cool, huh?

Author Giveaway:
I’d like to say ‘thanks’ for having me visit today.  If you could have held one job in the past, what would it have been and why?  I’ll give one lucky commenter a signed ecopy of my latest novel, THE WHITE SWAN AFFAIR in their choice of format!

Elyse Mady is the author of historical romances “The White Swan Affair” and “The Debutante’s Dilemma”, with Carina Press and two contemporary romances.  Upcoming books include the Regency novella “The Debutante’s Desire”.  She blogs at www.elysemady.com.  You can also find her on Twitter at @elysemady, Facebook and Goodreads.

In addition to her writing commitments, Elyse also teaches film and literature at a local college. With her excellent writerly imagination, she one day dreams of topping the NY Times Bestseller’s List and reclaiming her pre-kid body without the bother of either sit-ups or the denunciation of ice-cream.

About The White Swan Affair - Goodreads, Amazon, B&N
London, 1810

After the tragic death of her beloved, Hester Aspinall vowed never to be ruled by her passions again. Still, she is drawn to her landlord, handsome adventurer Thomas Ramsay–but she doesn’t fool herself that a man of his station would look twice at a poor tailor’s sister.

With the sea for a mistress, Thomas has no intention of entering into matrimony. And yet, he can’t get the plain-spoken and desirable Hester out of his mind, even though she’s never tried to secure his attentions as other women do.

Everything changes the night Hester’s brother is arrested during a raid on a gay brothel, the infamous White Swan. With no one else to turn to, and terrified Robert will hang for his crime, Hester accepts Thomas’s offer to bear the cost of the defense. A true gentleman, Thomas expects nothing in return–but Hester is no longer able to deny her own desires…

She may offer her body eagerly, but can she protect her heart?

Tour Giveaway (separate from the author comment giveaway)
Win a digital copy of any of Elyse Mady's books, just simply use the Rafflecopter form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Lori Thomas said...

Thx 4 the chance!!!

Elyse Mady said...

Good luck, Lori!

bn100 said...

Very nice post.

Linda said...

I'd like to have been an apothecary making medicines from herbs.

Jasmine Kyle said...

I would love to extend a hand to you and your friends to join my Jane Austen Contest! We have wonderful prizes and it begins today here are the blogs participating! Hope to see you there!

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love comments on the blog and do take the time to read them.