Two Road Trips for Then Comes Winter (and one for the redhead)

Blog tours are de rigeur for book releases these days. “Flat Stanley” circular tours in three countries–not so common! But Then Comes Winter, the newest offering from Meryton Press, is an unusual book with an unusual team!

Holiday romance anthologies and Austen-inspired anthologies come and go, but this compilation isn’t your standard bundle of specific-era themed short stories or Pride and Prejudice variations. The variety is evident when the only Austen novel missing is Emma, and of the P&P stories, half are loose P&P-esque modern romances with original plot lines. Reviews are coming in with good things to say about every story in the book.

The launch events for this book have been fantastic. A week of quizzes and dozens of prizes just wrapped up, and now a particularly special event has begun for this book.

Author and blogger Natalie Richards suggested we mail a copy of the anthology around and have each author sign her story so in the end, we have a copy of the book signed by all authors and the anthology editor for a give-away. We each have an opportunity to put in a little extra gift for the prize winner before we pass it on.

The "Flat Stanley" book tour route for "Then Comes Winter," the Meryton Press holiday anthology for 2015.

The “Flat Stanley” book tour route for “Then Comes Winter,” the Meryton Press holiday anthology for 2015.

The book’s adventures start and end with our editor, Christina Boyd. The anthology will travel across Canada and into New England, with a virtual trip to Romania before it returns to the US South. It goes cross-country again to work its way up the Pacific coast. The idea was nicknamed “Flat Stanley” after the elementary school activity where children mail a paper doll that travels to family and friends, who photograph themselves with it. Meryton Press will share the progress of the book on A Then Comes Winter Road Trip.

Our “Flat Stanley” left NW Washington on November 25, 2015 and arrived in Victoria, BC, Canada on November 26.

A Victoria, BC postcard, a bookmark for "Alias Thomas Bennet" by Suzan Lauder, and an embroidered handkerchief in honour of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are tucked into "Then Comes Winter" at Suzan Lauder's "Delivery Boy" for the Flat Stanley Book Tour.

A Victoria, BC postcard, a bookmark for “Alias Thomas Bennet” by Suzan Lauder, and an embroidered handkerchief in honour of the “Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment” are tucked into “Then Comes Winter” at Suzan Lauder’s “Delivery Boy” for the “Flat Stanley” Book Tour.

"Then Comes Winter" stops at Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway on November 28, 2015 as part of the "Flat Stanley" book tour. Author Suzan Lauder, with the strait of Georgia in the background.

“Then Comes Winter” stops at Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway on November 28, 2015 as part of the “Flat Stanley” book tour. Author Suzan Lauder, with the Strait of Georgia in the background.

Victoria is the capital city of British Columbia, Canada, and is in a micro-climate at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island, which means its weather is significantly milder than the rest of Canada and much dryer than the nearby cities of Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA, or Portland, OR. The island is about the size of the US state of Maryland or 1/4 the size of England. Most of the population is in the southeastern quarter; the Capital Regional District is home to 360,000 people. About three million passengers per year travel to or from the island by ferry or air, including a float plane landing strip in the downtown inner harbour.

Author Suzan Lauder and "Then Comes Winter" anthology at the Terry Fox memorial statue in Victoria, BC, Canada on November 28, 2015 for the "Flat Stanley" book tour.

Author Suzan Lauder and “Then Comes Winter” anthology at the Terry Fox memorial statue in Victoria, BC, Canada on November 28, 2015 for the “Flat Stanley” book tour.

At Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway, we posed with the statue of Terry Fox, a Canadian hero who attempted to run across Canada in 1980 to raise awareness for cancer–and he had one leg. In those days, prosthetics were nowhere as advanced as they are today, so he had a painful, limping sort of gait. He ran into atrocious weather, drivers who ran his group off the road, blisters, shin splints, and language difficulties, but awareness for his Marathon of Hope ramped up as he continued to run. Unfortunately, he was hospitalized with a return of his cancer at about midway across the country and was unable to finish. He passed away just short of his 23rd birthday, after raising an unprecedented $1 for every Canadian, a total of $24M, and facilitating a huge increase in awareness of the need for funding cancer research. The annual Terry Fox Run is now the world’s largest single-day cancer fundraising event.

After its stop with Terry Fox, the book was mailed to Alberta, Canada and author Melanie Stanford of Becoming Fanny, one of the nods to Mansfield Park in the anthology. Watch our A Then Comes Winter Road Trip page and social media for her photos!

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While “Flat Stanley” is in the land of grain fields, dinosaurs, and oil wells, the authors are having yet another party–uh, road trip. Excellent daily activities are planned for the “Then Comes Winter” blog tour. Yeah, we don’t quit having fun for this book!

tcwhorizontalbannerFor my part, I’ve arranged to have a little fictional vignette on Janet Taylor’s More Agreeably Engaged: an interview with the “Delivery Boy,” Billy, from my short story in the anthology.

MAE blog graphic no words n darcy3You may recall that my first guest blog was an author interview with Janet just over two years ago, and she’s the artist who turned her modern, bearded son and toddler granddaughter into the Regency cover of Alias Thomas Bennet! (About half way down.) This visit to her blog on December 2, 2015 will also feature a draw for a copy of the anthology for those who comment on the interview.

Nineteen stops are featured on this blog tour, enough for an editor and 12 authors, plus a few reviews thrown in just for fun, and quite a few chances for give-aways!

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Speaking of prizes, we had a great time during my turn as quizmaster for the Then Comes Winter Launch party, and Lisa Angel won the prize I donated, consisting of nice, warm, Canadian flag mittens, a signed copy of Alias Thomas Bennet, and a signed Regency Reticule from the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment.

Then Comes Winter Launch Party giveaway Suzan Lauder1Kirk Companion won the choice of any Meryton Press book in a random draw for participants in my quiz. Congrats, all those who won prizes, and thanks to all those who participated in the activities all week. I sure had fun!

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I’m going on a little road trip of my own soon: another vacation to Mexico! I’ll still be posting Letter from Ramgate at AHA while I’m away, and I hope to join a local writer’s group, and maybe even make some progress on that new Regency comedy I have in my head!

Wish me “bon voyage!”

Better yet, enter the draw for the “Flat Stanley” book signed by all 13 of us, join in the comments on the blog tour, and comment below on this post! Thanks!

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January 11, 2016 Update: Keep following the progress of the Then Comes Winter Road Trip on the Meryton Press Blog! It’s has made its way to Bucharest, Romania and MP author Lory Lilian as of this date! Enter the draw for the whole package: the traveling book signed by editor Christina Boyd and all 12 authors plus all the cool gifts Christina and each author have added along the way. The draw is open until Valentine’s Day!

 

New Story Fun: A #Regency beach story excerpt and a book launch party!

Everyone loves to go to the beach for a few weeks in summer. Of course, they like it in winter, too, dependent upon where the beach is–somewhere warm, perhaps?

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Modern Ramsgate beach.

Those who are interested in Regency history and Jane Austen’s novels would believe it would be fun to spend time at Ramsgate.

What if Elizabeth Bennet had an opportunity to to just that? If she and her Aunt Gardiner are invited to join Mrs. Gardiner’s childhood friend at her home in Ramsgate for a few weeks in the midsummer of 1811?

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael's Bookshop.

Ramsgate harbour, early 19th century. Image courtesy Michael’s Bookshop.

You may recognize the time as just prior to the start of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and note that a significant event took place at Ramsgate at that time: the near-elopement of Georgiana Darcy and George Wickham, with the assistance of Georgiana’s companion, Mrs. Younge. It would be interesting if the two young women were introduced by Mrs. Gardiner’s friend Lady Edwina Baverstock, and they became fast friends. But what of Mr. Wickham and Mrs. Younge?

My interpretation of the summer romance that Austen never completely explained, and how Elizabeth Bennet’s presence at Ramsgate influences the events we know about in Pride and Prejudice, is available for your reading pleasure! Today, I’m sharing the opening scenes of Letter from Ramsgate!

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Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 - 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632 – 1675 ), A Lady Writing, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer

Excerpt from
LETTER FROM RAMSGATE
by redhead (Suzan Lauder) © 2013

April 1812
Hunsford, Kent

Elizabeth stared as Mr. Darcy stalked towards the door, his broad shoulders stiff and tense. Each step created a measured, hollow tattoo in contrast to the staccato beat of her heart, accentuating their disparate states and a divergence impossible to resolve.

He paused as his hand touched the doorknob, and then he turned back so slowly it might have been a dream. As his eyes set upon her, a host of emotions played across his face. Were disappointment and regret mingling with the resentment he expressed so eloquently moments before? Could she hope his feelings would budge, just a bit?

Her fingers clutched her gown in mimicry of the grip around her heart, clenched so tight in her chest it might never return to its natural state, and although it fought hard, the struggle for its sense of equilibrium was out of reach.

He gave her one more contemptuous glance before he quit the room, closing the door so decidedly behind him, the sound made her shudder. The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from actual weakness sat down and cried for half an hour. Her astonishment, as she reflected on what had passed, was increased by every review of it.

That Mr. Darcy thought her such a dishonourable person was beyond anything she ever imagined. The anger in his voice, the almost menacing countenance as he rounded on her and accused her of such actions—these were indelibly imprinted in her mind. How, after their mutual exclamations of love, had he contrived to misunderstand the situation so egregiously?

Her mind searched past memories. It was near unfathomable how many unfortunate obstacles had served to pave the way to this final quarrel! Regret was her companion now, but she must own those uncomfortable feelings—it had been her choice to express herself with such malice when she could easily have disclosed the confidences that would have vindicated her. But she would stand by her promise.

So this was her fate. To have Fitzwilliam Darcy somewhere in the world thinking ill of her was almost too much for her to bear, yet it was so.

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One Year Earlier
April 1811
Longbourn, Hertfordshire

“Your uncle has been prevented by business from accompanying me, and given that you and I enjoy one another’s company so well, he obliged me and suggested you would be as good a replacement for him as any body.” Mrs. Gardiner’s eyes sparkled as she said it.

If she and her parents agreed, Elizabeth would spend a significant part of the summer at the home of her aunt’s good friend in Ramsgate, and she had never been to the seaside. Her aunt became more and more animated as the details of the plan were described, and tickly sensations of excitement traversed her spine.

She accepted swiftly and with great appreciation. “The intimacy we share as niece and aunt, along with likeness of mind and spirit, will prove to make for great felicity!”

By this time, her aunt had a firm grasp upon her hands. “We shall have a fine time of it, Lizzy.”

Elizabeth shared her aunt’s pleasure. “We shall not be like other travellers and merely take in the promenades and sea air; no, we shall seek adventure, and our minds shall be so full upon our return that we will have plenty to relate without relying on our imaginations.”

Her aunt offered no objection to such a scheme, and a date was fixed for Elizabeth to journey to London and join her for the trip. There were three months in which to plan, and three months to suffer her mother’s ideas of preparations.

Finally, she waved away her family and set out for her adventure.

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I hope this snippet made you curious enough to join us to read about Elizabeth’s adventure! Letter from Ramsgate is currently posting in serial format at A Happy Assembly. Readers interact with the author by commenting on each chapter as it’s posted weekly on Wednesday afternoons. Currently, chapter 1-4 are up, so it’s easy to catch up with the others. Membership to AHA is required, but there are no ads at this free Jane Austen literary club web site. Your private information remains as private as you choose.

If now isn’t the best time for you to read, I plan to publish Letter from Ramsgate in 2016.

A_calm_by_James_Gillray smaller_______________

GREAT NEWS!:

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

French actor Gaspard Ulliel.

A short, modern romance I wrote last summer will be featured in Meryton Press’s soon-to-be-released holiday anthology, Then Comes Winter, edited by Christina Boyd. W00t! Christina also edited the successful Meryton Press summer anthology, Sun-Kissed: Effusions of Summer, which is available at booksellers’ now.

My short story in the winter anthology is called Delivery Boy; it’s about mistaken first impressions, admiration from afar, and a rather heavy mustache!

Join us for the Merry, Merry Book Launch party on November 16-20 on Facebook, with fun games and give-aways! We’ll follow that with a blog tour; dates and times will be announced at Meryton Press!

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A Lady in Summer Dress with sea bathing in backgroundThe prizewinners from the online portion of the Louisville JASNA give-aways for Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment are jenred and daria! Congratulations, and thanks for commenting on the blog! Each will get a copy of the upcoming youth-and-up-rated Then Comes Winter, with my signature on my short modern romance, Delivery Boy, and one of my original design cushion cover reticules (I plan to line the two unlined ones I made before sending them off to these two). Each reticule contains an embroidered handkerchief and paper cocktail parasol, and is signed by me!

“Party Central” in the #Regency: When was the Season?

"Longitude and Latitude of St. Petersburg" by George Cruikshank, May 1813. Caricature of Almack's patroness Countess Lieven waltzing at an assembly at Almack's. From Wikipedia Commons.

“Longitude and Latitude of St. Petersburg” by George Cruikshank, May 1813. Caricature of Almack’s patroness Countess Lieven waltzing at an assembly at Almack’s. From Wikipedia Commons.

Balls, routs, mornings that started at 11 and ended at 4, and a requirement to be seen—no, recognized—no, ADMIRED through every waking minute of it. Daunting but exciting at once for a young woman coming into society. (Note that “debutante” would not be used in this context until 1817.) The trouble for Regency writers is not in imagining the lovely scenes with beautiful gowns and handsome men; the magic of TV and movies helps with that. The trouble is, when exactly did the Regency Season begin and end? “Experts” cannot agree. I would argue that it wasn’t like a statutory holiday, rather a living thing that depended more upon those who made it what it was.

The part of the experts’ time lines that makes sense is that the Season coincided with the sitting of Parliament. Peers who took their seats in the House of Lords and gentlemen members of the House of Commons would head up to Town (London was always up, no matter what direction one was headed), and their families would follow. With a critical mass of the rich and famous in Town, it became party central. The action gained momentum as the months passed, until Parliament adjourned, and all and sundry relocated to country houses or resort towns. Of course, Parliament would break for Christmas, Easter, and sport (hunting) seasons.

With that knowledge as their basis, various sources state definitively that the London Season took place from January to June, February to June, January to April, January to May, March to June, and January or February to August 12, when the grouse hunting season began. They claim the “Little Season” took place from September-November, October-November, or that there is no evidence it existed, and it was invented by Georgette Heyer! I won’t embarrass any of them with references. But all set a specific set of dates for something that was likely more fluid.

So rather than just assume that Parliament took place between certain dates all the time, why didn’t anyone check Hansard? For those unfamiliar, Hansard is the record of Parliament. It comes from the name of Thomas Curson Hansard, one of the original publishers of the summaries of Parliamentary debates. We use the same word in Canadian Parliament.

The dates Parliament sat from 1810 to 1813, when most Austen-inspired fiction takes place are:

  • 1810: January 23 to June 21, with an Easter break from April 17-23.
    Members were called to discuss the King’s Illness on various dates from November 1, 1810 to January 8, 1811, however, it was not a regular session of Parliament. This is often referred to as the “Year of No Christmas.”
  • 1811: January 11 to July 24; break April 10-26. The “Regency bill” was passed on February 5, 1811.
  • 1812: January 7 to June 30; break March 29 to April 8. Prime Minister Perceval was assassinated on May 11, 1812.
  • 1812-3: November 24, 1812 to July 22, 1813; breaks from December 18 to February 3 and April 12 to May 12.

The sitting of Parliament appears varied during these few years, as seems reasonable. If any “Little Season” took place, it would be in 1810 and 1812. However, 1810 consisted of emergency meetings, and it was unlikely the duration could be planned. The date set for Parliament to reconvene in 1811 had probably been set at adjournment the previous session, so I don’t think many MPs (Members of Parliament) would have moved their families earlier than then. In 1812, we have November 24-December 18 as possible party time, but that’s a short time to develop any sort of a season.

The suggestion that the unofficial height of the Season occurred after Easter makes sense as well. Weather would be better for traipsing around in diaphanous gowns. The Almack’s patronesses began meeting on Mondays in March and handing out their very exclusive vouchers in April, with a dinner and ball held every second Wednesday. The boxes at the opera became more widely available, and it was unfashionable to attend the opera until that took place. In June, the annual Exhibition at the Royal Academy opens and the Royal Ascot takes place at this time, even to this day.

Ladies' Voucher for Almack's, 1817

Ladies’ Voucher for Almack’s, 1817

It also makes sense for the London Season to end as the weather warmed. The city was already full of odours of horse and human waste, coal smoke, and damp (mold) in the winter, but added to the heat of summer, it would be stifling. A “Summer Season” of balls took place in the resort towns such as Bath and Ramsgate. Bird hunting took place in the late summer, and fox hunting in the fall, so gentlemen would prefer to be in the country during those seasons.

Bath Winter Assemblies voucher 1811-12

Bath Winter Assemblies voucher 1811-12

The London Season was expensive: a gent could be relieved of his blunt by a daughter faster than by a thief from Seven Dials. One was required to maintain a carriage, horses, stables, and the full running of a second household; purchase unique fashionable costumes and accoutrements for all sorts of activities, as well as event tickets, including season tickets for balls; and entertain. Activities included dinner parties, balls, routs, fancy balls, breakfasts, card parties, concerts, court parties, shopping, theatre, opera, pantomime, soirees, and musicales. Sporting events like horse racing could empty one’s pockets, too. Traffic jams were common, and one could spend as much time in the carriage waiting in queue to be attended as dancing at the ball.

The events of the Season were essential for the aristocracy, landed gentry, and higher-ranked urban tradesmen and professionals to attend with their families. The number of potential matches on hand was unequalled at any other time, and allowed prioritization to achieve the best possible matches with their sons and daughters. But the reverse also took place, and the prestige offered by attendance at the right events affected choice of mate just as much. The denizens of the drawing rooms would scrutinize each other at length, and one’s social standing could be won or lost as quickly as a patroness put a name to a voucher.

It’s no wonder we’re fascinated with “Party Central,” as we imagine all the different scenarios of social interaction and intrigue that can be played out. Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

"Almacks: Tom and Bob Sporting Their Figures at a Fancy Dress Ball" by W. Heath, 1821

“Almacks: Tom and Bob Sporting Their Figures at a Fancy Dress Ball” by W. Heath, 1821

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Previously posted in the former online newsletter Peculiar Ramblings.

The Party Ends with a Splash! #ItsJaneYall

The road trip is over and my “day job” as adorer of two kitties has resumed. I am reminded in bossy purring meows that both deserve extra attention, and I’m rewarded with relentless purring that will extend until the wee hours tonight and over the next several days at least.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

Regency Lady has a Chili Dog: Author Suzan Lauder in Louisville, KY.

A final late night involved packing all the gear we brought to the 2015 JASNSA AGM in Louisville, KY. In spite of delays resulting in my husband and I scurrying through to beat the clock at every connection, a re-routed itinerary, and a novice security person confiscating Mr. Suze’s Regency walking stick, we got home after 15 hours of travel in a good mood.

This AGM has been an important goal for almost two years. The event differed from my expectations, and I’m glad I attended, but in some ways, it was an anticlimax. My mixed emotions are yet to become clear, but some conclusions can be shared with the readers of this blog, including my feelings at this point: Relief, regret, and pride.

Relief

Sunday will be the last of two months of a marathon of preparation with many 2am bedtimes, including hand sewing every night of the conference! I won’t miss the stress, exhaustion, and missing out on other things that characterized my life at the end of the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment!

My most substantial relief was measured by repeated expressions of admiration from other JASNA delegates on Friday and Saturday, followed by multiple entreaties to stop every 20 feet so a dozen flashes could go off while people photographed Mr. Suze and I as part of the Grand Promenade. It said the blog goal was successful.

I’m also relieved that people who were less welcoming kept their views to themselves when off Facebook! I’ve avoided mentioning this on the blog to keep things light, but nay-sayers created a huge area of trepidation for me coming up to, and during the conference. It’s difficult enough for anyone to try something new in a public forum, but my fear of failure worsened when I discovered my blog had been an open topic of ridicule in some costuming circles. The funny thing is, these people state hopes to encourage others starting out in costuming, yet their welcome is wanting. No, scratch that. I’m still awaiting the welcome.

old louisville kyRegret

It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to explore more of Louisville, a nice-sized, safe, comfortable, lively town full of welcoming, friendly people. Everywhere we turned, we met and spoke with helpful, smiling locals. Because Mr. Suze explored while I was in seminars all day, he vocalized this opinion strongly.

I looked at lace and ribbons in the shops of the Regency Emporium, as well as actual fashion plates from the Regency (including examples I’ve used here!) for a minimum of 6 separate visits—and I bought only four unrelated books!

I’m sure the shop staff recognized me. I was intimidated and flummoxed because, similar to my experience shopping at home, I could see how lovely these items would be on a costume, but waffled on which to buy and quantities. Did I want to use expensive silk net for sleeves on a polyester gown?

I hope I won’t be too disappointed to have wasted an opportunity to purchase embellishments better than any I’ve ever seen elsewhere!

Contrary to my expectations, I don’t mind too much that I couldn’t bring the planned jonquil gown, as my last-minute compromise with the translucent fuchsia overdress worked well.

I left the AGM uncertain about whether the blog had readers outside of my circle of friends. I’d hoped to have more Janeites approach me for the give-aways, but prizes I’d planned to hand out came home with me.

However, when authors Maria Grace and Linda Beutler both commented, “Is that the spencer from the blog? I love it!” and admired all the details, especially the little skirt detail in back, I was proud, even if the sewing quality is atrocious!

I wish I’d had more time to get to know more people. I did enjoy the company of fellow Meryton Press author Linda Beutler for some events and tourism, and it was sad to split up to go home again. Luckily, there’s AHA Chat and Facebook to remain close to those I met whom I already liked!

Pride

mr suze and suzan lauder at louisville jasna 2015 ball blurredMr. Suze’s costume was right up there with some of the best of the menswear. The cut of the tailcoat and shirt neckline set his apart from amateurish-looking versions, even if we were no more expert than the others! I’d found some brass buttons with a crown-type coat-of-arms on them at 3 packs of 3-4 buttons for 99 cents each at Fabricland that really set off the tailcoat. Louisville has a fantastic gag shop (Caulfield’s Novelty Inc.), where he spent too much on a set of grey sideburns to add a final flourish that got quite a few laughs.

Many ladies’ costumes had breathtaking details in fine silk and fancy lace, with pleated, ruffled, or impossibly swirled trim, soutache and buttons and tassels in just the right places, enormous hats with giant feathers and unique bands, and gowns with professional-looking cut and quality of construction. Though my costumes were simple in comparison, they did the trick well.

saturday day gown frontsaturday day gown backsaturday stockingsSaturday’s gown from morning through the author signings was the Swiss dotted dress, remade with a Regency-cut skirt, the lace shared over three rows, shorter puffed sleeves, and a real diamond back bodice, as I developed a Regency pattern fitted specifically for myself. The Pomona green spencer was worn all morning, since many others were doing the same, perhaps in response to light-hearted in-character comments by a couple of presenters as they joked about disapproval of married women who wore plain white! I would have added more ribbon to give this lovely gown colour, but time ran out!

My ball costume was “thrown together” in a few days. Little flourishes, like the painted designs on my opera-length gloves, the way my turban tied in a unique and cheeky way in one go and sported a bejeweled elephant pin and curled ostrich feather on top, and two new rows of lace on the bottom of my improvised gown helped my simple effort look like it belonged there.

I think our smiles made me and the Mr. appear better than many at the ball, as we had a great time among the multitude of amazing costumes.

The visible minority!

turban revisedAbout 20% of the people at the AGM sported Regency costumes the first few days, but I’d guess the proportion was at least 40% at the banquet and ball on Saturday night. Author and organizer Sharon Lathan looked so perfectly ordinary when I first met her that I didn’t realize the pretty blonde woman in glasses and jeans was her! She glowed in her silk ball gown, though!

I wore Regency for two of the four days I was present for activities around the AGM proper, which was 2.5 days long. Others who, like me, were at their first AGM and all smiles in their bold effort at a costume that fit in at the ball, included JAFF authors Linda Thompson and Melanie Schertz, whose service dog, Mr. Darcy, had all the ladies swooning in his cravat!

linda beutler and suzan lauderAmong those who wore something awesome that wasn’t Regency was author Linda Beutler. She shared a table with me for the author signings and banquet wearing a vintage 1920’s beaded gown with exquisite details and accessories. With a break from her normal life of gardens for living, her nails matched her deep maroon gown.

Some participants, like author Syrie James, changed for the ball by simply removing a shawl or fichu from the dress they wore that day. Author Maria Grace sat next to Linda and me for the signing event, and she and her Mr. changed from regular clothes into attractive and well-executed Regency costumes for the evening, then cut up the dance floor like pros!

Sue Forgue of the Regency Encyclopedia turns out to be a bit of a fashion plate. She donned a different gown during the day and evening on Saturday, the former with an amazing floral pattern straight out of the Regency that made me match my spencer in jealousy. Interestingly, the latter was a Pomona green silk! Sue enhanced both gowns with gorgeous matching jewels and reticules! I wish I’d thought of photos, and if I get one, I’ll add it to this post.

The Splash

Not a literal splash, but trip on the Ohio River on a 1914-built steam-engine paddlewheel boat, the Queen of Louisville, was a ticketed event last night to culminate our visit for the AGM.

I doubt that more than 5% were dressed in Regency costume! I think many are more comfortable without a corset, no matter how well it improves one’s posture! I wore a nice modern skirt and blouse for the boat trip. In the daytime, it had been a Jane Austen t-shirt from my local library’s fundraiser paired with Michael Kors skinny denim capris!

The weather was fine, as it had been for the whole trip—in the high 80s, when seasonal normal daytime temperatures are in the low 70s.

The Future for my Regency Costuming

One of Meryton Press’s editors and our unofficial social media marketing coach, Christina Boyd, suggested early on in the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment that the series would make a good book. She’s repeated the sentiment, and it’s tempting, though I’d have a great more due diligence on ensuring permissions for images, making it a big project when I’d like to get back to fiction.

“Encyclopedia Sue,” who adores JASNA as a learning experience, staunchly supports the positive examples that instigated the interest in the Regency and Austen for many (including the BBC/A&E miniseries) and spends a huge amount of time sharing resources to help writers and researchers improve their craft, suggested the blog as a seminar for a future JASNA AGM. Though I admit I had some interesting ideas for topics I’d enjoy presenting for this AGM (and didn’t explore them due to lack of time!), without Sue putting the seed in my mind, I’d have never thought of the TSRCE in a seminar format. I’m tempted!

back view mr suze and suzan lauder louisville jasna ball 2015 others blurredThough I know I’ll continue to make gowns and hats based on the wonderful examples I saw this year, for personal reasons, it’s unlikely I’ll have time to attend next year’s AGM in Washington, DC, but I hope to repeat this, with gowns made well ahead of time, for the Huntington Beach, CA AGM in 2017.

Locally, I’ll wear my costumes to JASNA events along with a dozen or so others who enjoy that aspect of study of Austen and Regency.

On July 8 and 9, 2016, the town of Port Alberni, BC, Canada (about 3 hours from me, on Vancouver Island) is hosting its first Jane Austen Festival, and claims an intention to break the world record for Regency costuming. I’ll be there, and I hope I can throw some of my extra gowns on some friends, including enticing a few from around the world to come visit me while they help Port Alberni with its goal. With vintage dresses and fabric, I have the basics for at least a dozen gowns, never mind that I yearn to tackle fabric and look a little like Sue did on Saturday!

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Future posts:

  • Side issues and tips related to attending an AGM.
  • Reprint of a Regency-related article I wrote for another web site.
  • A blurb and teaser for my latest novel-length story, Letter from Ramsgate, rated Teen, which will be posted in full at A Happy Assembly. Join us in the group read and story comments! AHA is a members-only web site dedicated to Austen-inspired fiction, research of Austen and Regency topics, and the resulting social interactions. It has over 9000 members worldwide, and 500 completed Austen-inspired stories. Membership is simply to ensure readers are over 18, and your personal information remains as personal as you choose.
  • I have other writing projects underway, and blurbs or excerpts will be shared here in the future!

Faking Regency Part One: A modern blazer morphs into a spencer.

This sounds pretty easy, right? Get an old blazer, cut and hem to under-bust length, and Bob’s Your Uncle. Well, not so easy. Unless, of course, you’re super-lucky and find exactly the right blazer.

Early 19th century spencer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Early 19th century spencer, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Embroidered muslin bodice or spencer, 1800-1810

Embroidered muslin bodice or spencer, 1800-1810

Rose pink striped cotton and silk spencer, early 19th C.

Rose pink striped cotton and silk spencer, early 19th C.

Early 19th Century, Spencer, early 19th century, French, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Early 19th Century, Spencer, early 19th century, French, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cream silk satin Spencer, c1818. Decorated in imitation of military uniforms. Worthing Museum.

Cream silk satin Spencer, c1818. Decorated in imitation of military uniforms. Worthing Museum.

If you hadn’t already figured it out, the Regency spencer is a little, long-sleeved jacket that’s just as long as the bodice of the empire waist gown. One bonus for shopping for a blazer to make into a Regency spencer is that almost any neckline will suit. Click on the thumbnails to see details, including neckline examples.

The difficulties include a requirement for long sleeves (as per usual in the Regency, longer than standard is better), a fitted bodice, fabrics that don’t look modern, colours that are more interesting than black, and a lack of embellishments such as studs, fake pockets on the chest, or jean jacket seams.

The textures and colours of many blazers in my thrift shop visits didn’t work. Black polyester rules, and next to that, corduroy and knits. Every time I saw one I’d consider, it was 3/4 sleeve, the wrong size, or had some detail that screamed the 90’s.

I looked at blouses, too, since some spencers are more blouse-like and some modern blouses are more blazer-like.

 

 

spencerspencer back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This unlined, fitted, pomona-green jacket will be my spencer. Pomona? I would have called this leaf-green, as it’s fairly bright. (Some of my shots were taken in the evening, and appear darker.) Then I read an article about Ackermann saying Pomona green was the same as apple green and I thought, this is a little darker than apple green, but I’ll check on Google images. Enough of the examples were the same as my blazer for me to confidently say it’s one of the more popular colours of the Regency!

The 3/4 sleeve, linen, shawl-collared blazer was $16.50 at Women in Need Thrift and Vintage. It has unique matching self-covered buttons.

Short sleeved spencer alongside unusual short coat.

Short sleeved spencer alongside unusual short coat.

Sleeve trim idea.

Sleeve trim idea.

The down side of my blazer is the 3/4-length sleeves. At the time I bought it, I didn’t realize that detail wasn’t popular during first 20 years of the 1800s. I looked in vain for examples of Regency spencers with 3/4 sleeves, and though there are a few short-sleeved spencers, I found nothing 3/4 sleeved.

Lucky for me, the flared cuff was long enough to drop to make a long sleeve. I kept looking for a long-sleeved blazer for a spencer. As mentioned before, I saw a blazer with lovely soutache designs, but balked because I worried about how to cut down the blazer at a good point for the soutache. When I decided I could rework the soutache if need be, I returned, but it had been sold. But today, I found a cute, gold silk blazer with a pretty collar, long sleeves, and mother of pearl buttons! The only sad part is a centre-back seam. More on that later.

(An aside: I’ve seen the perfect dress that just needs an empire waist height ribbon to fake Regency on two shopping trips since June, but both times, they were too small for back gathers for me, but would work with a smaller person!)

In most cases, your blazer should be cut to 2-1/2″ longer than the bottom of your bust line, turned under 1/2″, and hemmed 1″. This will stiffen the edge and ensure it fits over your gown bodice, but it won’t be too long. You can see I’ve marked my blazer to spencer length while wearing it. This frees up two buttons from the front for embellishment elsewhere.

If your blazer doesn’t close tightly at the bottom after it’s trimmed to length, there are several possibilities. If there are buttons in the upper portion (part you’re wearing), it’s better to fit the spencer than to ease in fullness. Add darts or gathers under the bust, or pleats or gathers in the mid-back; they’re era-appropriate. Don’t make it too tight, as it must fit over the gathers of your gown.

My blazer was already fitted with six darts in front and two very long back darts (in fact, the back darts were over-sewn longer and deeper than the originals). It was snug across the bustline, so I removed the back darts, washed it so the stitch holes relaxed closed again, and pressed out the remaining dart creases while it was still damp. A few gathers added by hand in the mid-back at the waistline help to fit my slimmer rib-cage under the bust.

If the bottom button is too far from the bottom of the spencer, you can put back a cut-off button and make a buttonhole at the band level, or add hooks and eyes. To fake Regency, buttons should have a Regency look: metal, shell, pearl, mother-of-pearl, fabric-covered, thread-covered (such as Dorset), or corded knot (such as Celtic or Chinese knot or frogs with knots) are best. Since metal buttons were expensive, use them only if your spencer has a rich look with elaborate trim. With corded buttons, your other trim would be best as corded, in fact, a military look to the spencer was popular! Self covered buttons were ubiquitous on mens’ wear, but less so for ladies’.

Spencer jacket, 1790-1815. Note no closure in front.

Spencer jacket, 1790-1815. Note no closure in front.

If there are no buttons, there’s nothing wrong with having a spencer that doesn’t fasten closed, unless you need it for warmth. An example of an open-front spencer can be seen on the left, and others existed in the Regency.

My blazer was unlined, so I chose to use the inside bottom facing from the original blazer on the outside, as a waist band. Bias tape was used to finish it on the inside where it’s not seen. Another option is to add a contrasting band (as on the pink striped blazer above). If you have good sewing skills and choose to add a waist band, it’s an opportunity to put contrasting piping all around it per a tutorial below.

Spencer jacket 1815 (back). This trim is an example of how we plan to fake a Regency diamond back! The real shoulder seam will never be noticed!

Spencer jacket 1815 (back). This trim is an example of how we plan to fake a Regency diamond back! The real shoulder seam will never be noticed!

Since the facing didn’t continue across the buttonhole panel in front of the original blazer, it didn’t go all the way around, so was short for the waist band. To make up for this, I used extra fabric from the cut away parts in front. If you use multiple pieces for the waist band, make sure your seams are at the blazer’s side seams, or at both bottoms of the diamond-back, so they’re less noticeable.

In addition, to fake Regency, some front cut-off material from my blazer made a little skirt-tail in the centre back, similar to the museum examples. See thumbnails below; click to enlarge. Extra self-covered buttons trim the ends of the waist band tabs in back.

Back detail of a spencer, 1813, American or European, Wool and silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Back detail of a spencer, 1813, American or European, Wool and silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To fake Regency, you need do none of the above. Focus on the one detail that’s not too hard to manage: the diamond back.

The look was on almost all women’s wear of the period, achieved by a shoulder seam that fell behind, rather than on top of the shoulder, and a pair of side-back seams that curved from the outside edge of the back gathers on gowns to partway up the back of the sleeve. The back of the sleeve fit farther into the back of the bodice than a modern sleeve, too. Click on the thumbnails for examples of the backs of spencers.

Silk spencer, 1810. Augusta Auctions.

Silk spencer, 1810. Augusta Auctions.

A faux-diamond-back can easily be achieved by numerous methods. You can fake the seams with a line of fabric paint or even fine-line permanent marker in a slightly darker colour, a line of top-stitching using hand back-stitching in embroidery thread, or machine top-stitching a double line.

Spencer, early 19th century, American or European, silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Spencer, early 19th century, American or European, silk. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Better yet,  Regency clothing often had trim over these seams to show off the shape, making them even easier to fake: cording, piping, soutache, braid, narrow ribbon, narrow bias tape, and other similar materials can be attached along the line where the seams would sit.

I got a great deal on a few dozen packages of bias binding tape in multiple colours at Value Village for $3.99, and I’m using a slightly darker green for all my trim, as I have four packages in two sizes. For most of the trim, I’ve just folded 3/4″ bias tape in on itself to the width of the pieces folded behind. This means it has some thickness at 1/4″ wide.

If you’re an experienced sewer, you can make piping or a piped band from purchased bias tape. Links to tutorials are at the end of this post.

When shopping for the blazer, the faux-diamond-back will look better if you buy one that doesn’t have a centre back seam. In fact, many that don’t have the centre back seam have a side panel with a seam similar to the lower curve of some Regency clothing backs, and I’d suggest using that curve, plus faking the shoulder seam that sits two or more inches behind the modern one.

pomona spencer pinning on fake regency diamond backIt’s best to make a pattern for your trim so it’s mirror image both sides. Light cardboard–mine was from a breakfast cereal box–works well. Set it so one side runs along the centre back of your shortened and hemmed blazer, and play with lines and curves in pencil until you see one you like. Mark it with marker and cut out to make a pattern to guide in placement of the trim on each side.

I pinned my trim in place, then put it on a model for a photo. On the model, the fake Regency shoulder seams looked better if dropped down more at the sleeve end, so check before you sew. Attach the trim after you make any adjustments to sleeves, described next.

1810

1810

1815-1820

1815-1820

Modern reproduction.

Modern reproduction.

1815 LACMA

1815 LACMA

1820-25, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1820-25, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1820, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Like gowns, spencers often had puffed sleeves or similar-looking embellishments over a straight sleeve, however, many had a plain sleeve (see some examples above), so faking Regency here is optional.

If you prefer a little over-sleeve, examples to the right range from clusters of petal-like fabric to fancy slashed and looped designs. These sleeve examples are on spencers, and more ideas from gowns can be found in the post, “Were Regency gowns worn on the Titanic?

You won’t have enough fabric to make the full sleeve variations, but a simple, small capped, tulip, or shirred cap sleeve, or a rolled tube at the top of the sleeve, can come from the fabric cut from the back of the blazer, or you can utilize sleeves made with coordinating fabric.

There’s a tutorial below for tulip sleeves. If desired, use the same trim you used to fake Regency with your diamond back to attach the new sleeve over the old one at the seam line, or turn under 1/4″ to 1/2″ and top-stitch close to the edge. If it’s possible to hide the ends, make the new sleeve fit an inch or two farther towards the middle of the back of your spencer, so you also have a fake Regency sleeve fit!

pomona spencer gathered cap sleeve mock upFor my fake short over-sleeve, I used the leftover fabric from the back panel. First, I experimented with some cheap fabric from a pair of torn pants to make the best of the small amount of fabric. A piped band (tutorials below) made from 2″ wide bias tape held the gathers, topped with one of the self-covered buttons from the old sleeve cuffs.

1818, Metropolitan Museum of Art

1818, Metropolitan Museum of Art

The simplest fake Regency sleeve topper, to the right, was another option I considered. I could have used the 3/4″ bias tape (sewn closed) and the three buttons from the 3/4 sleeves on each side. This can also be accomplished with ribbon, if the same ribbon is used for the fake Regency diamond back.

Self-covered button kits can be purchased at fabric stores for about $3 a package of 3-6, depending on size (full price, but I got one from Dressew for $0.99!), and they’re easy to make.

Alternatively, matching ribbon or fabric can be stretched over stiff plastic circles with a little glue, then the back fabric stitched in place. It should be slightly more than double the diameter so it closes fully behind the button and there’s something to sew it on with. Important note: the latter is fine for trim but not for actual working buttons.

The finished pomona green spencer, with cap sleeves over long sleeves, tied back with a piped band and button from the original blazer.

Front view of Suzan Lauder’s pomona green spencer, with cap sleeves over long sleeves, tied back with a piped band and button from the original blazer. Long sleeves are trimmed at the bottom with piped band also. An extra button was added to empire waist band, made from original blazer facing.

Back view of Suzan Lauder's pomona green spencer, with Fake Regency diamond back and pleated skirt-like ruffle.

Back view of Suzan Lauder’s pomona green spencer, with Fake Regency diamond back and pleated skirt-like ruffle. Buttons from the original 3/4 sleeve cuffs are used on the tabs at the back of the empire waist band.

This project wasn’t easy for me, though it may be for a more experienced sewer. I hadn’t sewn much for 30 years, except for the odd repair, straight-line window toppers and throw cushions, or slapping together a Hallowe’en costume that was meant to last a few hours. I became good friends with my stitch ripper over the last two weeks and learned a few things along the way.

No-sew iron-on tape would work for simpler modifications to make a spencer, but some of my problems came from construction and developing my own patterns, so they’d occur had I used no-sew tape, too. In addition, it sucks for curves, and you couldn’t have made piped band. Other trims (like in the thumbnails) are fine, and there’s nothing wrong with straight lines for your fake Regency diamond back.

Most of these ideas for faking Regency are applicable to gowns, pelisses, redingcotes, and any other bodiced clothing of the Regency period. Have fun shopping for trim on sale or in grab bags at thrift stores!

A blue quilted spencer, front. Late 18th early to 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A blue quilted spencer, front. Late 18th early to 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Spencer, late 18th to early 19th century, French, silk. Note the unusual detail below the centre back.

Spencer, late 18th to early 19th century, French, silk. Note the unusual detail below the centre back.

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Web sites with ideas and tutorials:

Inspiration: So Many Backs from Atelier Nostalgia Though these are gowns, you can see the line of the Regency diamond back you want to emulate, and variations on that design.

Sew Many Seams’ Tulip Sleeve Tutorial  Shows two types of tulip sleeves to make, using a plain sleeve pattern as a guide.

Slashed puffed sleeve from Firefly Path: The inside of the slash can be made from the spare fabric cut from the spencer, and the oversleeve from a complimentary fabric using a regular puffed sleeve pattern. Maybe use that extra cushion cover or dinner napkin! The slashes need not be filled in, either. You can loop trim material from the inside shoulder to outside through each slash. Similarly, a loop can be made from the cuff inside to outside. Very fake Regency!

Sew4Home’s excellent tutorial on how to make your own piping and bias tape.

For the advanced sewer, two choices for instructions for a piped band: Kleidung 1800‘s site is German, but brief descriptions of each step are in English under the photos. Tea in a Teacup has a different way to make the band, and it looks a bit different in the end.

For the ambitious spencer designer, two posts about making soutache designs: The Fashionable Past shows technique while trimming a Victorian coat, and a trick to make the loops easy by Threads.

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Next few posts: I’ve started on projects for Mr. Suze’s costume, and I have a “Grown-up Lady’s Lace Cap” to make as part of the give-away for my guest post on Roof Beam Reader’s blog as part of his Austen in August (#AusteninAugustRBR) reading challenge, and I’ll draft up the cap pattern to share.

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I WON A PRIZE!!! As part of the same reading challenge above, I won JAFF Author Lisa Pliscou‘s Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, which I’ve been coveting since it came out, for its cool illustrations. I’ve entered every contest I’ve seen about this book! HOORAY FOR ME!

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There are still spaces remaining for the Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting on October 9-11, 2015, my goal destination for the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment series. The conference theme is “Living in Jane Austen’s World,” and the workshops run the gamut (?? who says stuff like that?) from Regency medicine and home remedies, to evaluation of the wealth of Austen’s characters; the influence of India on Regency England; plants and gardens of the Regency (featuring Meryton Press’s Linda Beutler, an international clematis expert!); food, fashion, and social events of the period; and many others! Pre-conference activities start on October 7. Registration deadline is September 1, 2015, so don’t delay!

 

 

The trials of Regency correctness in fiction writing: My guest post on Austen in August

Words coined during Queen Victoria’s era, critical plot points that require our hero to travel to London from Derbyshire and back twice in the same week, a twist that depends on English Parliament sitting in the fall in the wrong year–these elements creep into our Regency fiction writing every so often, and the poor author must re-think the scene. All three have affected my latest novel! On top of it, there’s technology and medicine, titles and inheritance law, etiquette and fashion… all must be in order in an Austen-inspired Regency romance, or beware!

When literary historian and blogger Roof Beam Reader was looking for guest blogs for his annual Austen in August series, I suggested a tongue-in-cheek summary of the challenges with keeping true to the era, and the energetic viewpoints of Austen enthusiasts regarding historical accuracy in Jane Austen Fan Fiction on some story boards. It was a new topic to him, and he was keen, as no one had taken this direction on his blog yet.

Regency lady writing: did she have issues with anachronisms? --From Ackermann's Repository for Art, 1813.

Regency lady writing: did she have issues with anachronisms? –From Ackermann’s Repository for Art, 1813.

Click here to read my post on Regency correctness on Roof Beam Reader’s blog! #AusteninAugustRBR

If you’ve already signed up for the Austen in August reading challenge, you can enter the giveaway, too! I’ve donated a signed copy of my Regency romance with a mystery twist Alias Thomas Bennet, a choice of reticule from a set including the two I upcycled for the “Pretty Little Purses” post for the Thrift Shop Regency Costume Experiment, and a special “grown-up lady” lace cap to be made to order.