Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dressing Up

I love dressing up.

I probably should have grown out of it sometime after the childhood dressing up box with the blue satin bridesmaid dress and fashioning a wimple out of an old tea towel. Or possibly after donning the flowing white robes and turban (properly should have been blue, but that's another story) of a Tuareg and walking two miles, barefoot, to a college party.

And it wasn't a fancy dress party, either.

But I never did grow out of it. In recent years, I've had some legitimate and glorious excuses for dressing up.

One time I took part in a Viking encampment on Lindisfarne, as the guest of a local re-enactment society (actually, that was a barefoot engagement, too - is there a theme here?) Sitting in the ruins of the priory on a sheepskin, sewing a pair of leather shoes, drinking from a stone cup, wearing an authentic linen shift and woollen dress, it was easy to leave 21st century Anna behind. Easy to think myself into another skin, to conjure stories.

Then last year I took part in the Cockermouth Georgian Fair.

I'm not much of an exhibitionist by nature. After one glance down at the wholly historically accurate amount of bosom on display, I had to swear to myself I wouldn't look down, or tug the dress up, again that day! When I first put the dress on, I though, "I can never go out like this!"

But actually it was easy. The weight of the dress, the constriction of the, um, underpinnings, the perfect fit of the bodice were constant reminders that I wasn't 21st century Anna again.

I was dressing up. I was someone else.

Both incidents reminded me that when we put characters together for a story, when we try to get inside their skin, sometimes it helps to put on what they're wearing OVER their skin, too.

But I really hope this doesn't mean I need to spend some time in the tight jeans and eye-watering colours of the heroine of my current book...


  1. What a great picture of Georgian Anna! I managed about six hours in a 18th century style bone corset and then had to get changed as I was feeling faint and couldn't eat or drink (them bones don't move when you're done up). Good for research though.

  2. Anna, how fabulous! I love dressing up too but alas haven't done any in ages except as a witch at halloween :-)


  3. I love dressing up too, Anna, and am green with envy at your lovely blue dress! Would also love to dress up as a Viking to see what that felt like - must join a re-enactment society I think :) We should really organise a masquerade ball though, would be great fun!

  4. It would, Christina!

    My smug ocnfession is that I made the dress- with the step-by-step help of a dress making genius, that is. It was originally a duvet cover and a few yards of outlet store curtain fabric. It was more dressing up that wholly accurate, but based on an authentic pattern.

    I wish I'd had a proper Georgian corset, Kate! As it was, I was wearing my own boned basque thingy from my wedding, done up tighter than it was supposed to be....

    I'd like to say you'd make a good witch, Liz, but that somehow sounds wrong! I just have a hunch you'd put together a good costume... :-)

  5. I totally agree that dressing up, spending a few hours as someone other than yourself, is inspirational. (And you know already, Anna, that that it EXACTLY the theme/plot of the novel I'm currently writing!)

    I think it's a great suggestion for creating characters, too.

    You were a gorgeous Viking and Georgian!

  6. I wish I did more dressing up. You look gorgeous in your dress up (not surprising as you are gorgeous in 21st Century Anna guise).

    Now if I could just find a time to wear my full on steel boned corset...

  7. Go Biddy!!!

    Yes, I know, Julie! I was thinking about you when I wrote it, and your Regency weekend post -

  8. It makes a huge difference. I was talking to some Regency re-enactors and they were saying how the construction of the clothes makes you move differently, and therefore makes you feel differently. It's easy to let your imagination take hold.

    And I reckon you should do the tight jeans and bright colours...

    Biddy, you must wear that corset! Wear it out to the pub. ;-)

  9. You'll have to come and lace me into it!