Fashion, and the Story it Tells by Kate Noble
Let’s talk fashion.
I have to admit something. I’m not really into fashion. (*dodges thrown chairs*) And as someone who as two stories out right now that feature fashion heavily (If I Fall and the e-novella The Dress of the Season) this is tantamount to swearing in church. Listen, I like a new pair of shoes as much as the next girl, but I couldn’t identify Manolo Blahniks on sight. And I may like watching what the stars wear to the Oscars, but I couldn’t tell you who designed all the prettiness. The truth is, fashion doesn’t have a big impact on my daily life.
But in my romance novelist life, fashion looms large. What my characters wear is very important – it’s informed by their station in life, and informs how they act in society. A man in a starched and shined naval uniform is approached differently than one wearing the same uniform but worn through at the elbows and cuffs. A proper young lady wearing a plain but appropriate costume acts very differently than a proper young lady wearing the height of fashion of the day. Fashion – in historical romance especially – takes center stage.
In If I Fall, Sarah Forrester recovers from the doublewhammy of heartbreak and social disgrace that stemmed from being dumped by a duke at her engagement ball, by transforming herself into the Golden Lady. She does this by developing her wit, her laugh, and very importantly, her wardrobe.
When I saw this silk and metallic embroidered Portuguese ensemble from 1825 at the LACMA Fashion through the Ages, I knew it was Sarah Forrester’s. I even wrote it –palm fronds and all – into a pivotal scene. For me, finding this dress helped me find the character. Any women who wore this dress would not be a shrinking violet. She would be the center of attention – the Golden Lady.
But what does a golden lady wear when she is not on display at a ball, but still needs to maintain that golden standard? Well, during the Regency and pre-Victorian Era, British India was highly informative of fashion. With the advent of new weaving styles and new dyes, it opened up a whole new world to ladies of the ton. And a curry or saffron colored Indian shawl, along with muslin dress with a bright yellow embroidered hem, would have fit the bill nicely.
Taking these two dresses together, I began to get a real sense of who Sarah Forrester was. A well-bred young lady who had branded herself in an effort to hide the pain of her past. From there I was able to build her character, and her story. And I hope you find Sarah – and If I Fall –as intriguing as I did.
And now it’s your turn – tell us, does fashion affect how you see characters when you read about them, or does it detract from the story? One lucky commenter will receive a copy of If I Fall!