Whether in a historical or fantasy setting, you might find yourself with characters wearing clothing similar to what was worn in the 18th century. This can be fraught with pitfalls, including:
dressing lower-class characters in impractical clothes only high-class people wore
giving false information on how something was put on
giving false information on the relative comfort of the garments
Forgetting garments! Knee-length breeches were worn with stockings and there are certain accessoires necessary for getting everything to stay in place!
Fortunately, YouTube has a number of informational videos to help you with just that!
For women’s clothing, you can find out what a working woman wore, and how a middle- or upper-class woman would get dressed. The same resource exists for men.
And more importantly, there is also this wonderful testimonial of a young woman who wore 18th-century clothing every day for several years to dispel any misinformation about stays, petticoats and how warm everything actually was.
USING THIS RESOURCE IN YOUR WRITING
Pay attention not only to the various garments, but also the material they were made in. In SpecFic settings, make sure you have some sort of equivalent to light/heavy materials. Don’t forget: linen is really great in hot weather, but it doesn’t grow everywhere! In the 18th-century, though, it was fairly widely distributed, whereas cotton was a fairly new material. Someone wearing homespun clothes wouldn’t be wearing cotton except in the Colonies, but middle-class people would have had ready access to it. We associate wool exclusively with winter garments, but very fine, light wool breathes well and doesn’t smell when you perspire.
Pay attention to the gestures associated with certain garments – these are great descriptors or dialogue beats! Someone with the cuffs from their shirt peeking out from their coat will “shoot” the cuffs or adjust them. A woman will spread her skirts before sitting down so they don’t pull, a man will flip his coattails back.
Definitely watch the testimonial! Stays are actually quite comfortable – not sweatshirt comfy, but I-don’t-realise-I’m-wearing-them comfortable. You can definitely breathe and work in them. At most, stays or corsets for ballgowns or court dress might be stiffer or laced up more tightly (though the wasp waist wasn’t as fashionable as in the later 19th century).
Don’t forget makeup and wigs! (I’ll have to look for nice resources on those).
ORBIS is a wonderful resource that is basically a travel agency/Google Maps for the Roman Empire. With it, you can visualise routes, calculate travel times and cost of travel from most of the great cities in the Roman Empire. Variables include season, means of travel (on foot, by horse, by sea…) and a choice of “fastest”, “cheapest” and “shortest”. If ever you wondered how to get from Carthago to Alexandria in Summer, this is the website for you!
HOW CAN I APPLY IT TO MY WRITING?
Anyone writing in a pre-industrialised society or with characters having to cover large distances on foot or on a sailing ship can use this tool to figure out travel times! Just pick two cities at about the distance you want them to travel, choose your mode of transportation and let the website calculate it for you.
The price is given in denarii, but… here are a few denarius to dollar converters:
Come one, come all! I have long been wondering how to contribute to the writing community. Everyone seems to have a writing blog. So I have started a resources archives instead! I’ve been gathering resources on everything from breakfast foods to cask measurements and thought other authors might enjoy as well!
This one’s for writers of historical novels or specific settings inspired by history. The New York Public Library has an amazing collection of old menus that will help your historical meal feel authentic. They’re in the process of transcribing them all to help users search for specific foods and improve accessibility – and you can help! There is even a map function to help situate the restaurant in New York City.
Little details often add to the immediacy of a scene, but there is nothing worse than anachronisms! For example, a video game recently featured a song several years before it was even written, which broke my poor historian heart. So having authentic menus to choose from can help you set the scene and ensure that your characters are not unwitting time-travellers.
For spec fic authors, it’s less about authenticity and more about flavour. Having meals that fit into the time period your fantasy setting is based upon (or that your sci-fi setting has decided to emulate) can add that little touch of enjoyment for your readers. Even if you change the names of the dishes, their naming conventions can provide inspiration for your on-station greasy spoon or steampunk afternoon tea.
The Magical Theory Professor is officially in Beta testing! But before I continue Part II of the Gramarye series I want to tweak some of my short stories.
Currently, I’m expanding “So You’ve Been Abducted by a Dragon – Now What?” I will then take the expanded story and split it into two, to give myself more options on the market (some publications don’t take stories over 5,000 words and my short stories tend to fall somewhere in the 8,000 to 10,000 range – often too long for short story pitches but too short for novellas. Sigh.)
After that I am going to try and make my story “Coat of Many Feathers” (in the “I (Don’t) Dream of Genie” universe) into something less creepy and more palatable. Right now it’s ugh.
Still working on synchronising the Magical Theory Professor so I can get it out to my beta readers – and finding all sorts of minor tweaks in the process. Which I can’t just leave because I might forget about them in another run-through. Sigh.
Also doing interesting things to my urban fantasy short story Prosperity, which I’m working on in a sort of double-harness. I have one “short” story version (at just under 10,000 words, it’s a bit of an iffy designation) and another I am expanding into a proper novella (currently at about 13,000 words). It’s an urban fantasy featuring an Egyptian sleight-of-hand magician and her trusty Genie.
Genie doesn’t look like this and neither does Salima – I just loved this cover. By Ziff-Davis Publishing / Harold W. McCauley on Wikimedia Commons
This is also the springboard for this year’s NaNoWriMo project. For those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s a friendly competition to write 50,000 words in 30 days, making November into National Novel Writing Month. I’ll be “cheating” this year by doing a series of short stories focused on Salima instead of a novel. Don’t know if I’ll make the 50,000 words (I have less make-up time this year if I don’t meet my daily goals on my daily commute than I did in previous years), but we’ll see!