Dressing a 13th Century Historical Romance Heroine

You may not know this but I love fashion especially historical costume. I studied fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology so it is natural that I blend my two passions together: Writing and fashion.

In my medieval Highlander Romance, The Laird’s Right, my heroine Portia de Mowbray is an English woman who finds herself kidnapped by Laird Alec Cameron. Portia may be surrounded by Highlanders but she sticks to her English styled garments. The Laird's Right Cover A Medieval Scottish Romance

During the medieval times, the style is different from our modern day style but both function and fashion play an important part. After all, that is what clothing must do.

For Portia, she would be wearing numerous items both under and outer garments. First off, our tough Portia would have worn hose and garters with fancy buckles to hold them up (after all there was no elastic) and a chemise with long sleeves and a high neckline. The chemise would have been constructed of linen. And she would not be donning any underwear. No panties or bra for Portia.

Now Portia would slip her côte over her head. The côte was a wide garment. It was wide at the shoulder and narrowed at the wrist. It’s the image we all have the medieval princess that is plastered around us. The natural waist was usually belted. Portia would have worn two layers one made of a linen then a wool or silk one even a velvet one to show off her status.

She’s not finished getting dressed yet.

Of course, Portia isn’t walking away yet because she needs shoes. In the 1250s, her shoes would be a soft shoe with more of a pointed toe that could have been embroidered in a floral motif or scrolls. Anything that she thought was fashionable or like. Back then, there was no right or left foot shoe so it would look odd to our eyes. Also it would have been constructed of leather.

Now she would choose some accessories. A belt for her côte, one made of silver or gold even with jewels, depending on what she might afford. Portia could put on a brooch or a jeweled collar or pendant to add a little flash. She might have taken gloves and her drawstring purse and dirk that may have jewels on the hilt.

Now with Portia dressed, she must do something with her hair. Perhaps, she has better skills than me or her maid does better than Portia. Her long blonde hair would be parted in the center and plaited. She might have her braids twisted into a bun since she is a widow. Her head would be covered with a coif, wimple or barbette even a gold or silver chaplet to give her that romantic look.

So, Portia is ready to face the day but if it was a chilly one, she would have had a cloak, which would have been a long mantle trailing on the ground and fastened in the front with a brooch. That too would have reflected her status and her fashion choices. It would have been wool or velvet. It could have been trimmed in fur and even fur-lined.

Maciejowski_Bible_Woman
The most basic of what Portia may have looked it once dressed. Though, with more flair as she has a bit more coin.

 

To your modern eyes and sensibilities, would you don these garments? Sounds pretty comfortable to me.

 

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The Outrageous Wishes of This #MFRW Historical Romance Author

dandelion-nature-flora-white-51426.jpegIn case you do not know, I am a fan of Outlander both the novel series and the TV series. As a fan, I follow both Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan (on social media not in some stalker way). Well, Sam is an outdoorsy kind of man who climbs Munros (Munros are mountains in Scotland that are over 3,000 feet). The view from them is spectacular. One of my wishes is to climb or as they say, bag a Munro with Sam Heughan and raise money for charity. 

You see that wish isn’t crazy because of the company I want to have on the climb but the fact that I have fibromyalgia and arthritis. For me, walking from my bed to the kitchen in my NYC apartment is like a trek. I have to nap after I take a shower. I feel as if I have the flu every day of my life. So, climbing over 3, 000 feet is a test and a wish that seems an impossibility.  But oh, to see Scotland from that view…Heaven, Paradise…

pexels-photo-54300.jpegDo you watch late-night tv? I do. My favorite host is Conan O’Brien. I have loved that lanky, red-head since he hosted the Late Late Show. Conan has whole episodes where he travels to a country or region. A recent one was his trip to Israel and Palestine.  In one segment, he went to the Dead Sea and just floated in the milky blue waters. And I was so jealous. The water is so dense with salt that you cannot sink. People say the waters and salts are great for aching joints (that’s me) and for the skin (also me since I have skin). So, the next wish is to swim in the Dead Sea. 

Another love of mine is fashion. I love —haute couture—the skill, ultra lux fabric, and the designs…I think I need to fan myself. Naturally, that moment to don a creation has to be a high-fashion, Vogue-esqe fashion shoot.  I can see it, me posing with my hair perfectly styled, make-up flawless and diamonds and precious jewels shining under the lights and complimenting the most fabulous haute couture gown with a swooping train that cascades down the Grand staircase in the MET Museum.   Fashion Heaven.

After those three wishes come true, I’m flying to France and to Versailles. My mother had this porcelain doll dressed in 18th-century fashion, she had blonde hair and I just knew she was Marie Antoinette. I fell in love with Versailles (much like other people have) But I do not just wish to visit. I wish to stroll through Versailles by myself. As a child, I love to lay on the floor as an adult I still do. Imagine laying down on the floor in the Hall of Mirrors…or strolling through the rooms with the sounds of your footsteps and creaks and groans of the royal palace and no other noise. No one to distract you as you wander from room to room, up and down staircases or through the gardens with the sweet scents and soft air carrying the buzz of insects.

My last wish is a simple one and one of two that will come true one day. I wish to sit outside a home that overlooks the  North Sea on one of the Shetland Isles and look out to the horizon and become hypnotized by the surroundings.   Nothing more than that. 

Simple wishes I hope are fulfilled in my life. What about you? Do you have anything you wish to do? ♥

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Ready, Set, Dress

RWA Nationals starts next Tuesday and I’m prepared. I have business cards and most importantly, my outfits are planned out and just waiting to be donned. I’ll be posting my daily dress so check back for that. I’m only missing a pair of comfortable shoes. I have a few ideas but will have to wait for weekend to check out my choices.

As a writer, I generally spend my day in comfortable clothing, old t-shirts, shorts, pj bottoms, sweats basically college gear, which really helps with my body pains. Anyway, I’m ready to dress and waiting to go to my first Nationals. Too attend the workshops, meet Rachel Gibson, the author who inspired me to write romance, meet friends from Twitter and Facebook. I will be weak, tired, overwhelmed, excited, happy, inspired and I think two weeks will be needed to recover but that’s fine.

This is a chance, an opportunity to mingle with a large crowd of romance writer, editors and agents. And I plan to dress for it in my personal style. And I’m hoping that it jolts up my confidence, has me feeling comfortable, stylish, professional, and ready to take on the world.

When was your chance to get closer to your dreams? Do you remember what you wore? How it made you feel?