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.

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Into the Past with Denise Jaden (Never Enough) + Giveaway Entry

Today I welcome Denise Jaden, author of Never Enough who is here to talk about her favorite books and other things at ages 5, 11, 15 and 19.  I love these types of posts and I hope you do too, so enjoy!

Books and Other Favorite Things From the Past

I wasn’t much of a reader as a young person, so I’m expanding this blog post to include a variety of my favorite things from the past. I think it gives a much fuller view of who I was growing up.

Age 5 – At age five, I don’t think I was reading at all yet. I tried a bit of ballet this year, but didn’t do particularly well at it. I was a scrawny little thing, regularly picked on by my older brother. I liked Barbie’s and riding bikes with the neighborhood kids. I have one book that I read to my son when he was younger and my mom says it was one of my favorites, though I don’t remember it. It’s called The Dog Book by Jan Pfloog.

Age 11 – By age eleven, I was really into dancing with my Polynesian dance troupe. I was involved with competing and our group acted as a real team. I loved working together, aiming for excellence, and it kept me focused as a pre-teen. As far as books go, I wasn’t much of a reader, but I did delve into a bit of Nancy Drew and Judy Blume during this time. I especially loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Age 15 – By age fifteen, I was smitten by soap operas. I rushed home from school each day to rewind my VCR and promptly watch my episode of General Hospital. I was one hundred percent in love with Jack Wagner (Frisco).  I would even leave the beach at two o’clock while on vacation because I wouldn’t miss an episode.

As for reading, this was my rebellious phase. Because teachers and parents were telling me how important reading was, I did everything I could to avoid it. I remember watching The Outsiders movie so I could avoid reading the book (which I’ve read and loved since).

Age 19 – This is around the age I started college. I was forced to read a certain amount of literature for school, but surprisingly still remember a few things I read back then. I wouldn’t call them favorites by any means, but the memorable ones included works by author Robertson Davies (I’ve always loved his name) and Geoffrey Chaucer. I was in the theatre program at university, so most of my reading at this age was either plays to perform (I was in Of Mice and Men, playing Curly’s Wife) and non-fiction writing about the stage.

I was in my late twenties before I discovered a love for reading, and people are always surprised when they hear that. I hope my lack of early love for books will serve as inspiration for other late starters, because now I truly can’t stop!

Thank you Denise for the great guest post.  It's interesting to find people that came to reading later in life. I feel you at age 15, I hated everything they made me read, I think I lived on Cliff Notes.  That was my period where I was turned off to reading, but I picked it back up in college when I had more freedom and I haven't stopped since.  And I agree, I hope this encourages people that are starting to read later to keep it up.  Reading is wonderful no matter what your age!

See this post on Denise Jaden's blog for the wonderful prizes she is giving away during the blog tour.  If you comment on posts during the blog tour, you get an entry into the giveaway, so make sure to leave a comment for Denise here on this post for your entry on this stop!  There are some great prizes up for grabs!

Check out the Trailer for Never Enough: