In Which Our Heroine Reflects on Historical Fashion

A 1880s bustle dress. Please click the image for more shots of this dress and others in the 1880s section.

I have a confession to make.

Bustle skirts determined the setting of my story.

I love the Victorian period for fashion and even though my Western Steampunk takes place in Denver, Colorado, the year corresponds with the British Victorian Period and many fashions traveled to America. Once I realized this meant my story was taking place during the 1880s, I checked out the other details I had at my disposal about those years in Denver. Luckily most of the events that occurred at this time really worked for my story – Huzzah!

Bustle skirts are sort of fabulous, but I sometimes wonder how one didn’t knock things around. Although I found pictures of walking dresses without such things, I figure I can get in at least one of two bustle jokes if I’m really lucky.

One of the other things I looked up was embroidery of the time period. A lot of bolder female characters in books reject pastimes like embroidery. I have a lot of tomboy tendencies myself, but I actually really like embroidery so I thought it would be fun to rebel against the stereotype and let the heroine master one “feminine art” that she was insanely proud of because I like quirks. Why shouldn’t a heroine be tough, capable and wickedly creative with a needle and thread? By golly, this is Steampunk and one can do it all

This embroidery could be found on clothing (OMG, so detailed and pretty!) or household items like linens, table clothes, handkerchiefs and so forth. In fact, I am so in love with this 1880s White Cotton Polonaise with Black Embroidery dress, it isn’t even funny. If you think some of that is gorgeous, take Google for a spin and check out the beadwork. Drool…

3 thoughts on “In Which Our Heroine Reflects on Historical Fashion

  1. You should check out the book Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston. It has some incredible photographs of embroidery on dresses from this period (and the structure of the gowns is pretty amazing too).

  2. Ohhh! I love those kinds of books. The pride of my book collection is a copy of Janet Arnold’s book on Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe.

  3. merryblake says:

    Her skill with a thread and needle could well come in handy with all the shenanigans that will take place. Not just physically, but embroidery would take a lot of time and thought. I have no idea what your heroine will get up to, but maybe she’ll use the skills she’s acquired to think about things more conceptually? Please feel free to disregard my thoughts all together.

    And I like that she has a feminine hobby. Who says women have to be completely girly or completely boyish in their likes and dislikes? Besides, we all have our guilty pleasures. Not that needlework is anything to be embarrassed about. My guilty pleasure is definitely embarrassing though.

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