#TBT: A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words – Using Illustrations in Historical Research

September 10, 2015

We’re taking a look at tools authors use when conducting historical research for a work in progress.  This week, we take a gander at –

Historical IllustrationsIllustrations

A picture is, after all, worth a thousand words, right?

Back in the day, people wore a heck of a lot more clothing than they do now.  I’m lucky when I can be bothered to put on a clean pair of yoga pants (uniform of choice for writers everywhere).  So when writing about historical periods and getting the clothing right can be daunting.

Personally, I find Regency era clothing to be a piece of cake.  You have the simple empire waist gowns and gloves, and the girl is good to go to the ball.

But in the next two series that I’ve started working on, we leave those simple empire waist gowns behind for the increasingly intricate fashions of the second half of the 19th century.  The period of 1850 until about 1898 saw a dramatic explosion in fashion, returning to some of the more complex styles of the late 18th century and the opulence of the French court.  I wrote an entire term paper on women’s clothing during the Gilded Age in college, and there was so much material to work with (pun intended), that I did not have space in the paper to touch on men’s clothing at all.

This leads me to illustrations.

You can read all about the fashions of a time period, but until you see it in action, you cannot articulately describe the waterfall of fabric involved in a bustle, the tatting of lace to a fan, and the rows upon rows of crinoline along the hems.  Clothing became heavier, more complex, and flashier as the Industrial Revolution rampaged its way across the world.  Utilize illustrations to show you just how complex.

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