I recently had the opportunity to visit London with my good friend and critique partner. We were only in England for a day when we realized as much as we share a love of history, we had very different interests when on vacation.
Sheryl was snapping photos of buildings in Kensington where our hotel was – on the bus and as we walked to the Portabello Road market. I was only interested in a couple of things – clothing and jewelry. The market was like walking into a treasure trove filled with antique jewelry and vintage clothing. As the days went on Sheryl told me, “You’re on a fashion tour of Europe!”
She was right, and a visit to the Fashion Museum in Bath was a highlight of the trip for me. First of all, it’s Bath — and we’ve all read books about the aristocracy staying in their beautiful homes here and carrying on in the most outrageous ways. We felt like time travelers in this village filled with beautiful white stone buildings.
The Bath Fashion Museum held a collection of clothing from the time of Charles I to the present. Of course, the Victorian era was my main interest, because my books are set in that time period.
The day after visiting Bath, we toured the Victoria and Albert Museum. The museum is fabulous, housed in a huge building and the dress collection covers four centuries of European fashionable dress, from the beginning of the 18th century to the latest creations of the 21st century.
After seeing all these gorgeous clothes, I regretted that my poor heroine in my newest release, Promise Me, rarely gets to wear such fine things. As a widow, she’s expected to adhere to a strict dress code.
Here’s an excerpt when she explains to the hero why she dresses in black.
Amanda batted at him playfully, and the ugly black shawl fell to the floor. She grimaced when she retrieved it.
“I’m so tired of black. I swear this year will be the longest of my life. Widow’s weeds are so depressing, it’s no wonder women wearing them don’t want to go out unless they have to.”
She wrapped the shawl around her shoulders and picked up her gloves.
“Why don’t you just dispense with them? After all, you’ve admitted you’re not exactly in mourning for good ol’ Arthur. Why not exchange them for some bright colors and get on with your life?” He stepped over several petticoats piled in front of the door.
Amanda made a disparaging sound and shook her finger at him. “As if that wouldn’t make people talk. Women are expected to follow strict rules of mourning. There are very specific wardrobe requirements. Black, to gray, to blue, to colors.”
Sam opened the door and followed her into the hall, offering her his arm gallantly.
“Well, you don’t always have to do what other people want you to. Isn’t it time you learned to defy the expectations of society and do what you want? Don’t wait for someone else’s approval, Amanda, because you might have to wait for a very long time.