When I first decided to attend the Baltimore Book Festival, I also decided to dress Victorian, the era my series The Luminated Threads is set. I already knew it’d be fun because I put together a steampunk costume for a RWA conference a few years ago.
But that was fantasy and easy–I could collect up and wear anything I liked, which I did and won second place in our fantasy chapter’s annual contest. Putting together a Victorian look involves more preparation than going to your local retailer or party supply store, and this time I wanted to be a bit more correct…but not completely correct. I only had the funds to dedicate to what people would see, not the underthings. If you want an entirely correct version of dressing Victorian, please see Victoriana Magazine’s How to Dress 1860s.
Also, I wanted to dress like a character from my 1868 series, but not the heroine. Annmar enters the story wearing a mourning outfit, and one more formal because she works with business clients, drawing advertisements for their steam machines. Because I’m more of a jeans and t-shirt wearer, I chose to dress like the owner of the farm Annmar goes to work for, Mistress Constance Gere:
A woman strode along an avenue created by rows of fruit trees. She was tall, her lean figure dressed in the style Mrs. Rennet wore, a ruffled blouse topped by a suit vest styled for a lady. But unlike Mrs. Rennet, this lady had on a split skirt, the kind worn by women who rode horseback. She would most certainly be holding a sword when she rode—
I’d seen this split skirt online in Historical Emporium. I’ve trolled their site along with other research sites, and they seem the most reasonable and easily accessible, unless you go to a con or DIY. Also because of finances and figuring out what I want to do in the future, I decided to reuse my vest-style corset. The black Brush Twill Riding Pants would work perfectly. Unfortunately, even though I carefully took measurements, the size was too big, so a replacement is on the way. They seemed sturdy and not too long, which was a concern because I am only 5′ 4″.
The blouse was a simple decision: The Victorian Ladies Blouse in white.
The collar is the correct stand up one, the sleeves are nice and full. I like the fabric and the fit.
Boots…my old ones looked and felt great, but the sole cracked after only a half-dozen wearings. I ordered the Victorian Ankle Boot, tried them on–they fit fine–and my husband said, “What are you thinking? You’re going to sprain your ankle. Again.” Uh, right. I do have a issue with weak ankles and lengthy sprain recovery. And getting around any festival or conference is no walk in the park.
But they’re so cute. sigh.
With a week to go, I was running out of time. I scoured the internet for likely substitutes with Victorian low heel boot and found Payless had something that would do, and in stock locally! I ran over and voila:
Now I have a decision to make. The black boots will likely go unnoticed under the black riding pants. However, Mistress Gere is a farm owner and likely to be wearing rougher work boots, the kind Annmar sees the other farmworkers wearing:
“May I borrow a pair of those boots in the back hall?”
“The Wellies?” Mary Clare frowned. “They’d be huge on you. Try my work boots.” In a thrice, she had them off.
Annmar laced the leather boots and stood. These fit better than the ones last night. And walking— “Much less sloppy,” she told a grinning Mary Clare. Her sore feet and the rough ground slipped from Annmar’s mind a few steps into the orchard.
I also envision Mistress Gere needing to carry a few items out to the fields, which would be much easier if she wore a belt and hung things from it…clearly I have more work to do this weekend!