12 months and Counting Down…

It has been a busy year to date, so now I have time to stop, breathe deeply and begin making plans for the next 12 months.

In July I’ll be attending the Romantic Novelists Association’s Conference. I’m especially looking forward to a couple of the sessions- they’re ideal for a historical romance writer. As well as seeing a couple of my favourite authors.

During the next six months I’ll be working hard to complete my debut novel, with the aim to have it ready for launch by the end of June 2019- that’s my target date.

I’ll be updating on my progress during the next 6 months…


Charity Shop Book Gems…

My latest charity shop book find was a hardback version of the History of Underclothes*

The hardback copy…

Now it’s not the original version from 1951, but a 1981 edition with revisions.

I also have this paperback version of it that’s smaller, but I prefer the hardback for the clearness of the illustrations – it may just be the font size and amount of ink used when the book was printed.

(I bought the paperback version in the gift-shop at The Blandford Fashion Museum many years ago during a family summer holiday.)

I always find the material at the back of this book interesting and helpful.

There’s a comprehensive Source of the Illustrations, chapter by chapter.

The Bibliography gives both the primary and secondary sources.

What the materials

I particularly like the Glossary of Materials.

Muslin had different types – something I didn’t appreciate, and couldn’t describe the differences without a little information.

The book covers underclothes from  the Medieval period up to 1940-1950.

There’s even a Appendix of Clothes Rationing for May 1942, giving the number of coupons needed for various items of underclothes, both male and female.

If you disregard C.W Cunnington’s earlier books with his apparent theories on women, fashion and sexuality, those books written with his wife Phillis are a good starting point for historical fashion.

When I began writing, it was their books on English Women’s Clothing in the 18th Century and the 19th century version that were both the first costume reference books I studied.

Don’t ignore those books that Phillis wrote after her husband’s death (1961); they provide interesting and useful information too on the clothes ordinary people wore…

Phillis Cunnington: born 1887 and died 1974.


* The History of Underclothes by C. Willett & Phillis Cunnington, with revisions by A. D. and Valerie Mansfield. Faber and Faber, 1981.

Sympathising with a Character…

While I’ve been absent and unable to make progress due to work on the wiring and plumbing in my home, I’ve been storing the disruption and emotions to share with the hero of my work in progress, Hugh.

Hugh has a platoon of workmen updating his manor, but trouble-free is not the plan.

He could find alternate lodgings but having been absent for so long it wouldn’t be desirable in the circumstances he faces.

The time away from the manuscript has also allowed me to develop the options for the gaps left in the first draft- that must be resolved in the second.

Also the antagonists have revealed their motives and produced a few surprises.

Progress will be made this year…

Story building blocks…


Merry Christmas…

The months have gone by and I’ve not been able to do as much as I’d wanted. The disruptions will be ongoing for a few months yet while (essential) major work starts on my home in the New Year.

However you celebrate this time of year (or don’t) I wish you a safe and peaceful time…



A Few Views from the Fashion Museum in Bath…


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I have had a few busy months, but I did manage a much-needed long weekend break in Bath last month, with the main intention of visiting the Fashion Museum.

You’ll find a couple of posts over on Carol’s blog about the visits to the Bath Postal Museum and the Museum of Bath Architecture.

Both these small museums don’t get the visitor numbers that the better known locations do, but are well worth taking a little time out to see them if you’re in Bath.

The Fashion Museum is currently exhibiting the History of Fashion in 100 Objects (until 1st January 2019), along with the recently opened Lace in Fashion.

This was two hours of bliss. Selecting my favourites to show you has been difficult, but I’ve chosen time periods I’m interested in for my novels current and future…

And shoes do feature in my image selection.

As lighting is low and items are behind glass to control the temperature to protect the fabrics from deteriorating, I have needed to add light to my images, and you may notice the occasional reflection. I wanted to limit how much adjustment I needed to make, but the ones reflecting the red chairs will take some work. I really didn’t think it was polite to move them just for one photo, so you won’t be seeing that one!

My absolute favourite dress was this striped silk Robe à l’anglaise from the 1770’s.

Striped silk Robe à l’anglaise from 1770’s

Actually I have to admit to favouring the dresses of the 1770’s. They must have looked amazing when they were first worn; the wearer making their way around a ballroom with the candlelight reflecting off mirrors and windows bringing the colour to life.

The early costumes displayed a more practical element, less glamour than those late 18th century gowns. They also show how styles could change over a decade, with open and closed robe dresses revealing, then concealing a warm petticoat.



Open Robe of the 1730’s and the Closed Robe of the 1740’s

There was an interesting quilted petticoat from the 1740’s on display with an open robe. The information card suggested it could be Scottish, and perhaps an indicator of sympathy to the Jacobite cause. The stitched thistle design is not immediately obvious until you look closer…

Quilted petticoat from the 1740’s with thistle design

You can just see the dress this petticoat was displayed with to the right in the above group photo…


High heels from the   1780’s

Flat shoes from the 1810’s

There were a few shoes within the costume areas, but further on a couple of display cabinets held a variety of shoes and boots.





There were a few delightful items of menswear included, waistcoats, jackets, suits, and an early pair of trousers from the 1820’s.

Man’s Printed Cotton Banyan from the 1750’s











Accessories were not forgotten. There was a display of Bone, Coral, Ivory and Turtle items, that ranged from fans to hair combs and other pieces. It was highlighting the less pleasant aspect of trade in species from around the world during the 18th and 19th century.

Today these species are protected, but in the 1800’s there was a big trade in these new materials, and the resources were probably looked on as unlimited, though a few hundred years later we’re aware of how much damage this led to…

So that’s just a few items. The exhibition is worth visiting, as whatever decade or century you’re interested in, you’ll find something to admire and be fascinated by.

When you finish the fashion display downstairs in the Assembly Rooms, you can go back upstairs and view the settings those beautiful dresses and suits could have graced in past times…

Carol will be putting a few images from the exhibition on her next blog post too. So do take the time to visit.


It’s Shoes…


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Having finally got the house back to normal, and the horrible winter illnesses have faded away, I’ve had time to think about updating the blog, so I decided to revisit some of the exhibitions I got to visit last year, and there’s a few photos from 2015 included…

The one element we share with the men and women of the past is that shoes and boots say something about us; we’re conformists, or complete exhibitionists, or perhaps somewhere in-between types.

Shoes may be practical or decorative, and at various times across the century practicality or decoration has been predominant.

Small Black Leather Overshoes 1795-1800

Small Black Leather Overshoes 1795-1800 (1)

Whenever there’s an exhibition display of costume, shoes are the useful accessory but get overshadowed by a beautiful dress. Being able to concentrate just on the shoes themselves allows you to see not only the skill of the shoe-designer/maker, but the detail in the material used: leather, brocade, silk, or embroidered textiles.

The Shoe exhibition that Fairfax House in York ran last year, had a number of items on loan from other UK museums (Northampton, and Hereford among them). There was even a black boot belonging to Lord Wellington that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place nowadays.

Sadly no photos could be taken at Fairfax House, so I’ve searched through my own images from other museums and exhibitions I’ve been to, where photos are allowed under set conditions.

(That’s when a good digital camera is invaluable; images can be zoomed in on, and if needed light applied once you’ve downloaded them to your computer.)

I’d happily wear the early 18th century Louis heels if a shoe designer made them for shoes in my foot size, but without the pointy toes!

Women's Brocade Silk Shoes 1730-50

Women’s Brocade Silk Shoes 1730-50 (2)

Brocade Silk Women's Shoes 1730-50

Brocade Silk Women’s Shoes 1730-50 (3)

Heels were worn by both men and women; also decorative buckles to fasten shoes. They could be simple or elaborate, big of small, the must have fashion item of the 1700’s.

You can see some beautiful examples courtesy of candicehearn.com over at Regency World.

18th Century Shoe Buckles

18th Century Shoe Buckles (4)

It wasn’t until I saw the shoes on display at the Fairfax House exhibition that it became obvious how the shape of the toe and design of women’s shoes had changed in a century.

Women's Bargello Embroidery (Wool on Canvas) Shoes 1720-30

Women’s Bargello Embroidery (Wool on Canvas) Shoes 1720-30 (5)

Shoes were neither left or right, so the young women of the 18th and early 19th century probably experienced the pinched toes, and a not perfect fit that many young women nowadays tolerate, but like their earlier counterparts put up with it until they can get home…

So from the pointed toes and lower heels of the 1790’s, women’s shoes became flatter and the pointy toe became rounder and then flat and square. With the materials becoming softer – silks and satin’s, and with the lower cut the need to be tied on, and suitable for dancing in the ballroom.

Mid to late 18th Century Women's Shoes. Paste Buckles.

Mid to late 18th Century Women’s Shoes. Paste Buckles. (6)

Women's Brown Kid Leather Shoes with 1 inch heels 1795-1800

Women’s Brown Kid Leather Shoes with 1 inch heels 1795-1800 (7)

Outside these softer shoes would be unsuitable for walking in, so boots became popular. There are delightful creamy kid leather ankle boots  (circa 1810) in the Alfred Gillett Trust Collection (in The Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset).

Fawn Leather Ankle Boots 1811-1830

Fawn Leather Ankle Boots 1811-1830 (8)

You can follow the ever-changing fashion in shoes via online availability, or depending where you live, by museum visits.

Black Satin Slippers 1830-40

Black Satin Slippers 1830-40 (9)

The Bata Shoe Museum is in Toronto, Canada. But you can see a few shoe examples in All About Shoes.

If the UK, there’s The Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset.

Northampton Museum is digitizing their shoe collection and you can see some of the images on Flickr. Click on the image you’re interested in, and the details are displayed.

On future visits to costume exhibitions I’ll definitely pay more attention to any footwear in the display…

Images 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9 from Shaping The Body, Castle Museum, York.

Images 3, 4, 6 from Pickford House Museum, Derby, Derbyshire.

Highlights from My Summer Break…


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My blog has sadly been neglected over the summer months, so the time has come to correct that situation.

In June I enjoyed a long weekend away in York, which enabled me to visit two exhibitions while I was there: the Castle Museum, and Fairfax House.

‘Shaping the Body’ at the Castle Museum is an ongoing exhibition, one among many other wonderful exhibits. The route around the Museum starts with a display of a late 18th century Georgian Room that included a large doll’s house in the corner.


The Georgian Room with Doll’s House


Trying on Panniers…


Eventually you reach the upper gallery where the costumes are displayed, and while it isn’t extensive there is a good selection of costumes and accessories for each time period.

There’s even a small selection of costumes that you could try on-you need to be slim to fit the dress with the space for panniers, even with Velcro fastenings I could not have gotten the dress up my arms, but I was still able to try on the panniers that went with it.

They were probably much more comfortable than the real thing, as these were a thick foam inside a fabric covering. Nevertheless they still gave the impression of the width that would be created once the dress was in place.

I particularly liked how the exhibition curators had brought context to the exhibits with interesting information.

The pair of brown stays on display (from 1760-80) also noted the UK equivalent size now- size 8. That seems quite thin, but women were smaller and shorter than they are now.

Creating shape

Creating shape

Spread across the displays were shoes from each time period (more about those in my next post).

The Dangers of Fashion were on display too. One cabinet held a beautiful green dress, but the dye was deadly as it contained arsenic. You can find out more about this aspect of fashion from this post.

But it was the large glass Chemist’s bottle that once held Belladonna that drew my attention. The contents were used as drops to enlarge the pupils, but with prolonged use it would cause blurred vision and even blindness.

Chemist's Bottle

Chemist’s Bottle

(As this bottle was low down in the cabinet I crouched down to take the photo, but when I went to get back up, my back bag and gravity tipped me backwards onto the stone slabs. Thank you to the lady who came to offer me help in getting up. Next time I’m in this situation I will kneel instead.)

Leaving the gallery the centuries on show passed by until the sixties arrived, and for anyone over 50 years old, there were lots of recognisable items, toys, posters, music, adverts and information on television shows.

A good place to visit whether young or old, and whatever era you’re interested in…