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Historical Romance Author

Say “Yes!” to the Dress

Say “Yes!” to the Dress

I’ve always envied the ladies of the 19th century for their wardrobes. Yes, I know the dresses were tight, hot and probably smelled like B.O., but they looked so pretty! I used to spin around in my Easter dresses with the cancans, but I knew that if I only had one of those old-fashioned dresses, it would stand out like that permanently, without making me dizzy! Even after I grew up, I longed for a dress like that. I’d watch period dramas and try to play it cool but inside I was whispering, “Some day I will have one of you. Some day you will be mine!”

So imagine my delight, when a very nice lady contacted me through this website and told me that she was the seamstress who created the lovely red dress on the “Caught in the Middle” cover.

Updated Cover

Having already used the dress for a cover shoot, she was ready to sell it and wanted to give me first chance at it. I confess I thought it over longer than I should’ve, but in the end, I decided that if I was ever going to buy a dress, this one was perfect.

True, I did have some misgivings. Before I got the dress, I was a little concerned about the quality. After all, this was made for a photo shoot. Maybe it was only basted together. Maybe the fabric wasn’t of the best quality. But when I got the dress I was astonished. Not only was the dress a great example of craftsmanship, but it also had many extras that I didn’t expect.

On the cover, you can’t really see the bodice that well, but it is reinforced with boning that keeps it snug when laced up tight and also keeps that longer panel flat over the skirt in the front.

Red Dress1

 And did you notice the neckline? Look closely at the cover and then at the mannequin. At first I thought that the seamstress had changed the lace on the neckline, but she was much more clever than that. 

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Instead she wove a strong thread through the collar that could be gathered up and tied, giving more coverage over the chest. Probably a good idea for this Christian romance cover. ;) The neckline also had a drawstring in the back, allowing the dress to be worn either off the shoulders or cinched up for a more modest look.

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I was also surprised by how short-waisted the bodice was, but it’s meant to end at a woman’s true waist, not just above her hips like we’re used to nowadays.

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And speaking of waists, I don’t really know how to describe the stays in the back. Rubik’s cube? IRS tax code? Theory of Relativity? There are just some things I can never untangle.

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Here’s what we did find out: From the waist up to where you see the strings’ ends, those tighten on the outside. From the neckline down to that same point, those tighten on the inside. If you’re picturing Mammy yanking on Scarlett’s stays – eh, no. There aren’t any eyelets which means these strings don’t slip. That’s great for keeping it tight, but tough for adjustments. And there was no way we were going to unlace it completely, even to get it on. Instead we loosened the laces as much as possible and then I did a combination tugging, jumping, and scootching move. When that failed I looked up Harry Houdini and learned how to dislocate my shoulder….not really, but it was almost necessary to get the waist portion over my shoulders. (I think I broke my collarbone.) Once in place, each junction had to be carefully tightened and for the top half they were tightened from the inside by my long-suffering mother, then tied on the inside. (Notice those strings are hidden inside the bodice? The bow you see is from the bottom laces.) It took my mother a full half hour to lace me into this dress and nearly as long to get me out of it.

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This experience taught me a few things I’d never learned in all the research I’ve done:

#1 – A character wearing a dress like this would not be involved in any sort of hurried clothing removal, no matter what romance books tell you.

#2 – It does make sense to have the strings meet at the smallest part of the waist, because it allows for maximum shaping.

#3 – Having a lady’s maid with warm hands would be essential.

1CITM

Either way, my mom and I were able to figure it all out for the “Caught in the Middle” book launch. I had a fabulous time in my dress and have probably never had better posture.

There was one mistake I made. I didn’t choose the right corset to wear with this dress. With the boning and laces in the bodice, it ended up being unnecessary and I went sans, but since I do have the corset (and if you’re curious) I’ll post about it next time.

Thanks for playing dress up with me!

P.S. Do you see one other difference between the cover and the dress? The seamstress added one change before she sent it to me. Do you think it looks better?

Have you ever dreamed of wearing clothes from another era or are you happy with our comfortable wardrobes today?

 

38 Comments

  1. How cool is that! Wow! What an amazing thing to have–and wear! :)

    • I enjoy having it and at the speaking engagements I’ve gone to, they always want me to bring it. Thankfully I don’t have to wear it every time.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I have always loved dresses from the 1700s and 1800s.

    • 90% of my Pinterest pins are these dresses. Nothing else is as pretty!

  3. LOVE this! Wish I wrote books with fancier clothes.

    • Make a quirky character who does Civil War re-enactments! (Can’t wait to read your book!)

  4. I really enjoyed your post, I too have loved those dresses. They are beautiful. I would loved to have worn one they make all women not matter your shape or size beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

    • Angela, I agree. I worried that I was too old to get such a fancy dress, and then I thought…old women wore these, too. They are flattering no matter what age or shape.

  5. Wow, too cool! I love looking at the dresses, but I wouldn’t be able to survive without my comfy yoga pants, so it’s probably a good thing that I was born in this century. :)

    • It would be a tough decision. I can say I love the dresses, but here I sit in my flip-flops, shorts and T-shirt. I’m afraid my clothing shows what I really think.

  6. I’d love one like this. Wonder where I could get the pattern.

  7. I love to read about how the books came about but especially about the dresses! This is so interesting and I enjoy it! I hope to read this book! The cover looks awesome!

    • Thanks, Teresa! I couldn’t believe I got a chance to own this dress. What a sweet opportunity.

      God bless!

  8. Hi Miss Regina! I love the dress! Though, I’m not sure I would want to go through all the apparent hassle to wear it. I think I would enjoy wearing a period dress at some point. I’ve always envied the models on book covers – getting to wear the pretty dresses and ensembles. :)
    I actually have “Caught in the Middle” waiting in my TBR pile (I’m planning to read it next). I adore the cover. Her expression, the dress, the boots . . . it’s awesome!
    Thanks for sharing with us!
    ~Sarah

    • I love the cover, too. They really did a great job on it. Wearing the dress wasn’t nearly as bad as getting it on and off. Maybe I could hide a zipper in it. ;)

      Have a great weekend!

  9. I think the clothes from the bygone generations were much more modest than today’s clothes, and also much more beautiful. Yes, I have often dreamed of wearing clothes from the long ago days. Maybe that is why I am partial to long skirts and dresses today! I am just glad I don’t have to use their laundry methods!

    • Me too! And I’m glad that when I do want to dress nice I can stay in the A/C so I don’t drench the clothes with sweat.

      (Love the name, BTW. Congratulations!)

  10. I enjoyed reading this post. I’ve always loved the 19th century and dress wear. What I can see here is that your dressmaker did a very nice job. I’m curious of who she is, could you please forward her web-site or her contact information to me. Much appreciated. Thank You.

    Jon Paul
    http://www.jonpaulstudios.com

    PS- I did check out the other link http://www.waistedefforts.com :)

    • Jon Paul,

      I’m a big fan of your work and I didn’t even know it. :) I contacted the seamstress to ask if she minded me giving her information, and I’ll let you know or she’ll contact you directly.

      Thanks for stopping by and blessings!

      • I thank you so much Regina for your response and your kind words regarding my work. I look forward to hearing from your seamstress. I am working on a project right now that takes place during the “La Belle Epoque Era”.

        Regards,

        Jon Paul
        http://www.artofjonpaul.com

  11. I have a HUGE 1800s obsession! I love the dresses they used to wear and am excited that near where I live there is a vintage shop I plan to visit over the summer with a friend. I love 1800s dresses’ modesty yet undeniable beauty. Oh, I also love the Amish. If you think about it, they kind of do live in the 1800s with their lifestyle and the way they dress. A barn burns down and you better believe it’ll be built up faster than you thought possible. Oh, and suspenders? Amish men have definitely got it down. :)

    • I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my obsession. And what is it with suspenders? They really are flattering the way they stretch over the chest. Why don’t men wear them anymore?

  12. Years ago, when I was in high school, I made an 1800’s dress for a drama class costuming project. I wore to to school frequently as a regular dress! I wonder what would happen if I just started dressing like that every day?

  13. I love these dresses!! Since the big flowy prairie skirts have come back in style, I’ve stocked up and wear them everywhere! They can be dressy, but they’re also comfortable for relaxing clothing. I’m not so sure how I’d feel about boning though!!

    • In the summer my clothing of choice is either a long flowy skirt/maxi dress or a shorter T-shirt dress. They are so comfortable and much better in the heat than shorts or pants. I agree about the tight bodice, though. No air flow.

  14. I would love to have dresses like that! I’m 99% sure i was born in the wrong century. lol!

    • Maybe in heaven we can dress from whatever era we’d like…and it’ll be comfortable.

  15. That is SO cool, Regina! Love the dress! And awesome that you could own it and wear it!

    • Thanks, Deb. I couldn’t believe she contacted me, but it’s been fun to have. And even when I don’t wear it, I’ve taken it as a display at some speaking and booksigning events.

      Blessings!

  16. Wow, Regina! Double wow! I seldom read blogs, but this is an outstanding story. In fact (hiding my head in shame), I don’t often read historicals. I will definitely read this one. Thanks for a fun experience. I think you should wear it at every book signing.

    • Thank you, Bonnie. I look forward to wearing it to the genre dinner at the ACFW conference, too. It’s so nice to already have some of my wardrobe planned. :)

  17. Love it! What a great opportunity!

  18. Loved reading this! I’ve always wanted a dress like that too! The closest I’ve ever gotten was my wedding dress.

    My main issue with those is how they would ever relieve themselves. And then Deeanne Gist explained it to me one time. LOL

  19. I love period dresses. :) I would wear dresses (preferably ones that allowed me to where modern undergarments) every day if I could. Yours is beautiful!

  20. What fun, Regina! Now all you need is an ostrich feather fan!

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