My current novel-in-progress is entitled GILT. It’s set during the 1870s in New York City. I’m definitely a country girl (actually a backwoods girl), but the first time I visited New York (I was seventeen.), I fell in love with that huge, gritty (grittier then than now), glorious, amazing metropolis. In subsequent visits, both on business and on vacation, I haven’t changed my mind. I LOVE NEW YORK!
As I continue to write and do research for GILT, I’m immersing myself in the New York of the 1800s, and I’m fascinated! My main character, China Deliverance Creed is a seamstress, or at least she was before she married into a very wealthy New York family. She is amazed and delighted with her new life, especially the elaborate clothing, hats, and shoes that are now hers simply for the asking. As I began to write those scenes, I was perplexed about how to imprint the very elegant, very complicated Victorian clothing on my brain. I want to write about it as if I’d worn it every day of my adult life.
Then the miracle! A small book catalog somehow found its way into my mailbox. Here’s what I found. Yep, a coloring book!
When I told my literary agent, Victoria Skurnick, about it, she commented, “Ah, the coloring book. The bane of my childhood – I have no artistic talent whatsoever and could not stay within the lines. But now I think of it as a historical tool, which makes me appreciate coloring books anew.” Like Victoria, I’ve never been a good colorer (if that’s a word), but when I color Victorian clothing, I imprint my brain. What a great way to learn!
The other treasure I found was this — a book filled to the brim with fabric swatches:
The tactile experience of touching these swatches makes Victorian fabric come alive for me. I am a weaver, so I have that advantage, but I don’t have experience with many of the natural fabrics worn in those days, especially the silk, which is much too delicate and way too expensive for me to use on my loom!
I love to wear silk and cotton. Not wool, which makes me break out in a rash. Recently I’ve fallen in love with bamboo socks! Do you have a favorite fabric to wear, or one you don’t like?