18th century

The Importance of Clothing

Do you have an interest in fashion? I know I do, and for me fashion is one of the best things about writing historical fiction. There have been so many amazing clothing styles throughout history, and clothes have always been important to show one’s status, wealth and so on. I love doing research on this topic, and I’ve got tons of Pinterest boards filled with old portraits, patterns, and images from museum collections.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with the 18th century, and the fashion plays a very large part in it. I adore the men’s fashion in particular, since it’s so fun and colorful compared to what men wear nowadays.

My pirate trilogy Wavesongs takes place during the beginning of the 18th century, which means I had the opportunity to go all in with the fashion of that era when I wrote the series. I’ve got lists describing in detail what each character wears—at the time, clothes were a luxury, so the average person didn’t have many items to choose from. The fabrics and colors used signalled the wearer’s position in society—or, for that matter, in a pirate crew.

Here are my ridiculously detailed lists of garments worn by the two main characters, Nick and Christopher:

Nick

Ashore (in Corona):

  • White linen shirt
  • White linen cravat
  • White linen stockings
  • Cream white silk waistcoat with light blue silk embroidery (floral pattern)
  • Light blue cotton breeches with fall front fastening
  • Light blue cotton cassock with white floral embroidery at the wrists and hem
  • Black leather shoes with steel buckles

Everyday attire:

  • White linen shirt
  • Grey wool stockings (after Corona: white linen stockings)
  • Clogs with wooden soles and well-worn brown leather, handmade by his father (these are too small for him and barely usable anymore—after Corona he wears his new black leather shoes instead of the clogs)
  • Dark brown wool breeches
  • Light brown wool waistcoat

Christopher

During attack/ashore:

  • White linen shirt with ruffles at the wrists
  • White linen drawers
  • White linen cravat, laced
  • White silk stockings
  • Red silk sash around his waist
  • Dark brown leather belt
  • Felt round hat, black, with a green feather
  • Dark grey silk breeches with fall front fastening
  • Light grey silk waistcoat, embroidered with a white floral pattern
  • Red velvet cassock, with gold embroidery at the wrists, collar, pockets and along the hem
  • Black leather jackboots (Hessians, over the knee)

Everyday attire:

  • White linen shirt
  • White linen drawers
  • White linen cravat
  • White linen stockings
  • Dark brown leather belt
  • Grey wool breeches with fall front fastening
  • Red damask waistcoat (floral pattern)
  • Black wool cassock with silver embroidery at the wrists, collar, pockets and along the hem
  • Black leather shoes with silver buckles

Which historical period do you think has the best fashion?

Soon

In less than a month November is here, and for me and many others that means NaNoWriMo is coming. I’m starting to get nervous – research is going slow, and I honestly don’t want to rush it or burden myself too much. I’m no Superwoman and I never will be – I need my sleep and I need to do other things apart from work every once in a while. I don’t want my writing to feel like a chore, but some parts of writing are more difficult to get through. I feel like I’ve bought too many research books at once, so just looking at the research shelf stresses me out…

But I’ve read about half of the first book now and I’ve learned so many things. Some parts of 18th century life are very hard to understand (like giving babies physical punishment ><) but there are so many things that are similar. I love imagining what people’s lives were really like back then. History is so fascinating!

Hardships (and roast beef)


Right now this book is what keeps me company in the evenings – “English Society In The 18th Century” by Roy Porter. Such an interesting read! I’m underlining everything, or pretty much everything. I’ve always loved history , and the 18th century has been my favourite era ever since I was six or so. It’s such an interesting mix of old and new, of things we recognise and things that are foreign to us. 

As always, what pains me the most about this century (and all centuries before the 20th) is how hard life must have been for people. The life expectancy was 37 years, Porter writes (in 1700, I think?), and a lot of children never lived past five years of age. He writes that parents of that time weren’t very affectionate with their children and that putting distance between themselves and their offspring might have been a way of protecting themselves from too much grief if the child died. That’s foreign to us today, in the rich part of the world, but it’s still harsh reality for parents in many poor countries. And it’s only been a hundred years or so in my own country, since people were starving and children dying here as well. 

There are so many stories to tell and so much I’d like to use in my story, but I can’t fit everything in there. And naturally, since I’m writing romantic fiction I can’t be historically correct about everything. No missing teeth or unwashed bodies here. 😉

So far, Porter has also mentioned roast beef about five times and written about how it was the favourite dish of the Brits and how the country squires feasted on roast beef and beer. I guess I need to mention someone somewhere wolfing down roast beef, to make things more authentic. My boys do need to eat every now and then, after all.