On my regular monthly blog for the Novelistas UK, I was asked the following question:
"Do you use real locations? Which locations have inspired you? (I think you may have done this before!)
Ditto the Regency clothes - do you make them up, or are they actual clothes?"
OK, well, first of all, if you’ve read any of my books, you will know that I don’t, as a rule, put in a lot of detail about this sort of thing. This is because I think it can detract from the story, and the action going forward if you keep breaking off to spend whole paragraphs describing a room, or an outfit. I tend to use broad brushstrokes to suggest the era, or the scene, or even the clothes, and rely on the reader to fill in the gaps with their own imagination. So that I can concentrate on the emotional inner life of my character, and the action going forward.
This particularly true of clothing. I have to know what a Regency lady would wear, so that love scenes can play out convincingly as the hero removes her garments one by one. I need to know what type of corset she might wear, how her stockings were held up, and whether or not she wore drawers. Not only will this place her firmly within the historical era, but it will also say something about her social status, and her personality, too. Silk stockings, rather than cotton, for example, or a gown that laces up at the back, rather than the front will tell the informed reader (and most readers of Regency are very knowledgeable about the customs of the age) a lot about my heroine without me having to take another couple of sentences explaining whether she is upper or lower class, wealthy or poor.
In the opening section of “The Debutante’s Daring Proposal”, the heroine is conscious of her frayed gloves and her muddy boots when the hero strides onto the page looking all expensive and elegant, to emphasise the differences in their social and financial status.
As on all other topics of Regency life, I have a few favourite books that I frequently consult to give me inspiration, or to help me describe an outfit convincingly.
So, I do study pictures of what Regency ladies wore, and I’ve spent a day wearing a reconstruction of the type of gown a Regency lady would have worn, so that I know how she would feel in it.
So that I can leave out the descriptions of gowns with a fair amount of confidence!
If you'd like to ask Annie anything about her writing, or her research, you can contact her on the Novelista Blog, where she answers reader's questions on the 1st Friday each month.