Are you a slave to fashion?

July 28, 2009


In historical fiction, a writer must research clothing. But what if there aren’t any photos of your novel’s time period? Or what if all the photos are black and white? You can study portraits, of course, or descriptions of clothing by historians. But one type of resource I found helpful was the fashion plate.

Popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, the fashion plate was a lithographed or steel-engraved print illustrating fashionable styles and published alone and in periodicals. And, much like photo spreads in today’s fashion magazines, they depicted styles that were to be the new trend in clothing.

It’s easy, however, to become confused in your research. For example, in the article, “Antique Costume & Fashion Plates: Early Costume Plates History, Part 1 – 1494 to Early 1800s,” Pauline Weston Thomas of explains,

1868 Peterson's Magazine

1868 Peterson's Magazine

“There is a difference between a fashion plate and a costume plate. Costume plates show costume as it was worn in the past, especially everyday past fashions. Fashion plates promote and publicize possible future fashions.” So it pays to be careful in your research.

The time period of my novel is the 1890s and there are plenty of black and white photographs available, but I enjoy studying fashion plates. I wonder whether women in the past would peruse magazines as I do today and think, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that.”

“Fashion plate” has also come to mean a person who wears the latest fashion, yet I don’t hear the term used much anymore. If you’re interested in taking a look at fashion plates, which are considered works of art in themselves, there are a number of good websites devoted to historical clothing. One of the more extensive is the one I quoted from above:

1868 Peterson's Magazine

1868 Peterson's Magazine


General Maxims for Health

July 24, 2009

America Frugal Housewife

Rise early. Eat simple food. Take plenty of exercise. Never fear a little fatigue. Let not children be dressed in tight clothes; it is necessary their limbs and muscles should have full play, if you wish for either health or beauty.

…presented to you from The American Frugal Housewife – Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy, by Mrs. Child…

Winner of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure

July 23, 2009

This month’s winner of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure is Gale!  Please e-mail us at damselsinregress [at] gmail [dot] com.

Stay tune for next month’s author interview with Joni Sensil.

The Greatest Generation

July 20, 2009

Grandpa and Me On July 9, my beloved grandfather, Arthur Maiert, passed away, three weeks after his 90th birthday.  He had the role of “doting grandfather” down pat, not just with me, but with my brother, our cousins, their kids, and even our spouses.  Only me, though, his only granddaughter, did he call his “angel.”  He sang me silly songs from the 1930s like “Mairzy Doats” and “I Love You Truly,” always terribly off-key but heart-felt.  He watched Turner Classic Movies at our house (his cable service didn’t carry it) and taught me all I know about old films and the actors who starred in them.  Some of his favorites are some of my favorites—The Quiet Man, The African Queen, Holiday Inn.  And he told me what it was like back in Depression-era Detroit, living with German immigrant parents and four siblings, ducking under clotheslines strung about the house when it rained on laundry day, ordering a block of ice off a truck to keep food cool, playing games in the streets with neighborhood kids (most of whom also had immigrant parents or grandparents), watching Westerns and musicals at the movie theater and sometimes getting lucky enough to see cartoons or a stage show in the bargain.

Grandpa enlisted in the American Army in June of 1940, just after his 21st birthday.  Rumors of a peacetime draft were flying that summer (it was eventually enacted in September) and Grandpa was not one to sit around and be told what to do.  Plus, the Army was about the most secure job a young guy could have in those days—sure beat selling newspapers on the corner.  He served over five years, training first in California, then in San Antonio, then being shipped to England and eventually crossing into France, Belgium, and Germany.  He was always at the back of the lines, he said, never in the heat of combat, but he went willingly and served a long time as a member of what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation.”  My favorite of his many war stories was when a lady in an English pub yelled at him for singing.  “Don’t you know there’s a war?  How can you sing?”  “Of course I know there’s a war,” he said.  “That’s why I’m singing.”  He heard General Patton speak once and never forgot it, and saw then-A-list Hollywood stars who’d come to entertain the troops.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHow could I grow up with him so willing to tell me these stories and not become a history buff?  How could I leave history as a dull collection of facts such as “food was rationed during World War II” when he gave me concrete details like his mother demanding real beef instead of horsemeat from the butcher?  How could I hear Glenn Miller’s big band and not think of my grandpa dancing to it through a static-filled radio broadcast?

His history, like the history of all my family, is my history.  My history goes back to Germany and Poland, to farmers and minor aristocrats who eventually found their way to America and somehow produced me.  I don’t know all their stories, but the ones I do know, I treasure.  I can’t wait to tell them to my own children and grandchildren and give them the gift of embracing their past that he gave to me.

Rest in peace, Grandpa: June 19, 1919-July 9, 2009

Interview with Craig Venezia

July 16, 2009

Please welcome Craig Venezia author of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure: H.G. Doyle, The Greatest Detective of All Time (Book 1), a chapter book time travel novel, brings H.G. and his best friend Agatha back to 1718 in search of Blackbeard’s lost treasure!

1. Hello Craig. Welcome and thank you for taking the time to stop by Damsels in Regress to talk with us. I write time travel too, also part of a series, and I knew I had to come up with a strong character that readers would get attached to and want to follow after her first adventure ended. H.G. Doyle (love the name) is a great character and I want to follow him anywhere after reading book one! How did you get the idea for his character?

Thanks for having me, Jennifer. I’m glad you like H.G. He’s a great character to write about. The idea for him literally popped into my head. I knew I wanted to create a time-travel character but couldn’t quite come up with anything. Then one day a thought struck me. If I combined two of my favorite authors, H.G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, what type of person would I end up with? Why, someone who traveled through time and solved mysteries, of course. That was the birth of H.G. Doyle

2. What was your research process like for this novel? It’s not historical and not your typical time travel, but there were still a lot of interesting historical facts in the novel.

The research process was a lot of fun. I read many books on pirates – some fiction, some non-fiction; some for adults, some for kids. I also watched a bunch of old pirate movies. I highly recommend “The Crimson Pirate” with Burt Lancaster. It’s a great, light-hearted pirate adventure that was filmed in 1952. I took all that research and peppered it throughout the story. Keep in mind, the goal of any H.G. Doyle story is to make kids laugh, plain and simple. I didn’t want the story to be a boring history lesson. Instead, I made it a point to weave fact and fiction together so that, hopefully, kids learn a thing or two about history in between laughs.
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Contest: Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure

July 15, 2009

This month’s contest is for a copy of Craig Venezia’s audio book Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure.  I’ve talked a lot about audio books this week and we’ll talk a bit more about them tomorrow with Craig, so you guessed it this month’s contest has something to do with audios!

To enter into this month’s drawing, reply to this post listing three of your favorite audio books and why.  If you’ve never read (listened) to any audios then I want you to choose three of your favorite books you’d like to see in audio and how you’d like them read (referring back to the AUDIO post from last week: individual reader, individual reader with effects, full cast audio)!

Book Review – Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure

July 13, 2009

Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure: H.G. Doyle, The Greatest Detective of All Time (Book 1)
Craig Venezia
Adventure/Time Travel
Age 6+
1 Audio disc

Chapter Book Ages 6+

Chapter Book Ages 6+

Craig Venezia’s Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure brings H.G and his best friend Agatha back to 1718 in search of—you guessed it—Blackbeard’s lost treasure!

H.G. has a time machine! Only he’s not quite sure how to work it yet, which causes a few mishaps and a couple of unplanned stops in his quest to find Blackbeard’s lost treasure. But H.G., the greatest detective of all time, doesn’t let that get in his way. A fast thinker, he manages to get out of one scrape after another.

This story is filled with twist and turns you don’t see coming and that keep you on the edge of your seat. H.G. is a bright and funny character with little quirks that I promise will endear him to you before you’re even five minutes into the story. After all, what kid can’t relate to “being allowed to time travel, but only after his homework is done.” With a strong plot, strong character, and awesome sound effects I guarantee you’ll get pulled in and enjoy the ride.

Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, the first book in the H.G. Doyle series is unique in that it went straight to audio. I can understand why the publishers did this. The story is full of opportunities to use sound effects, from ocean waves and seagulls to wedding music to shovels digging to the splat of drool from a t-rex. The audios are used to get us to cringe, to laugh, to sigh and so much more. I look forward to H.G.’s next adventure!

My favorite line: “…flashing my, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m cute’ smile…” Brought back many childhood memories where I tried to be cute to get out of trouble!