Monday, June 11, 2012

On creating worlds

I'm not usually much into visuals. I don't need a lot of visual information to write, besides character templates.

That's all changed now with my foray into science fiction. I'm building worlds from scratch here and the can look however I want them to. I love fall color and rivers and streams and waterfalls and silent woods and mountains. A lot of those things just don't exist in Louisiana, mountains, waterfalls and fall color in particular.

The planet my characters are on hasn't been inhabited in about 1700 years. Its beauty is untouched and magnificent. I'm taking the opportunity presented me to create this world in the image of everything I find beautiful in nature.

Things like the mountains of West Virginia in the fall, like the picture above. I've never seen purple trees before, but this planet has them. You don't see things like this second picture in Louisiana either. It's a picture from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

I'm also in love with the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. To me it's one of the most beautiful things on the face of this earth. I started building this world around the lakes. This picture doesn't even begin to capture their beauty. It's a chain of lakes cascading down with more waterfalls than you can count and crystal clear water.

Creating planets and civilizations is one of the best parts about science fiction and fantasy.

I've created a Pinterest board for this series and I find myself referring it to quite a bit as I write. Especially now that my characters are on the planet and exploring it.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A lady's wardrobe in 1880

Today's question comes from Janelle Mowry.

What style of dress would a young lady living around Pennsylvania wear in 1880? I'm most particularly interested in what they wear UNDER their gown. And what a day dress would be like in comparison to what they'd wear in the evening. 

You've come to the right place, Janelle! Here we go. Backwards. First up, a typical evening gown, from the most popular designer of the late 19th century (and my personal favorite) Charles Frederick Worth. He set the tone for fashion throughout this decade, especially for middle to upper class ladies. And living in Pennsylvania, your heroine certainly knows who Worth is.

This is one of his more subdued styles, but the decade didn't get crazy until after 1885, so it's a good typical example of an evening gown.

Now for a day dress. Yes, it's purple. Can't help it! As always, clicking on either picture will make it bigger. This one is an excellent example of a typical day dress for a more well-to-do lady. It shows the silhouette, the draping that was all the rage. There's quite a bit of ruching on the skirt that's exceptionally well done. The lower the class the lady lived in, the less elaborate the trimming and draping.

1880 is part of the transition from what's known as the sheath dress to the second bustle era. Yes, there were two, and each had a distinctive shape. I prefer the 1870's bustle myself, it's less severe.

Pegging what the bustle looked like is a bit tricky. Sometimes it looks like one was there and sometimes it doesn't. Since I trust Worth implicitly to set the tone for this decade I'm using the evening dress above as my basis for this answer.

It would have looked something like this one. Under this are the lady's drawers (also called pantalettes) and a petticoat. Then over the bustle cage there's one or two more petticoats, depending on the weight of fabric her skirt is made of. Showing one's bones was the height of rudeness. That's what the metal wires are called. And yes, it is possible to sit in this thing without killing yourself. It was done without thinking by the ladies who wore them.

Janelle also mentioned this was her first time writing a character who would wear actual fashion, instead of prairie type clothes. So, here are a couple of my favorite fashion resources. The first is Fashion-Era. It is one of the best sites out there for a general overview of 19th century and early 20th century fashion. She covers the silhouettes as well as the transition to each and has lots of illustrations.

The Holy Grail of fashion research is the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. Their website is HUGE. I mean HUGE. There are probably hundreds of thousands of dresses in their archives, and even though they're not on display they are on the website. It takes a little while to get the hang of searching and I'm still figuring it out. But for Janelle I suggest starting with "Bustle, 1880". You'll get a good range of results including the late 1870's through the end of the 1880's.

Welcome to the world of real historical fashion, Janelle! Be careful. It's addictive.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More purple

It's been a little while since I did a purple dress. Heck, it's been a little while since I did a dress at all! Time flies and all that, it really does. Avengers, birthing a science fiction universe...

Believe it or not the purple didn't draw me to this dress. The print did. It reminded me of a drapery print I used several years ago to make an Empire dress. This fabric is silk and I was using cotton.

None of the pictures at the Met's website are big enough to show the details of the print, but it's very interesting. There's a medallion of some type included in it.

It's dated 1860, and I think that's about right. The skirt is very narrow though and was most likely worn without a hoop. According to the Met the woman who owned it would have been around 50 in 1860, so it makes sense. It wasn't unusual for older women to not fully adopt fashion changes.