Archives

Chatsworth: A Grand House, To Be Sure, But Would You Wish to Live There?

Charming Chatsworth

Since reading Amanda Foreman’s Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, which includes much of the infamous duchess’s letters and journal entries, I’ve been fascinated by the Devonshire family. The only thing missing among the highly dramatic history of this noble, highly-esteemed family—possibly the wealthiest in England in the Georgian era—is a happy ending. The Devonshires of this period are prime examples of failed British aristocratic marriage and family values. With a seemingly endless source of income and the highest social status, why were these people so desperately unhappy?

It also begs the question that if we all truly believe that money and possessions not only do not make us happy but tend to bring along with them worries and responsibilities to weigh us down, then why do so many of us never seem to have enough? How much is enough? A comfortable life with enough income to cover the bills sounds reasonable. But does that mean stately homes, expensive cars, and a yacht to sail around the world? If you have that, would you be satisfied, or would you yearn for even more? If the billionaires of this world were truly happy, then why do they keep going after more and more? What do you do with a billion dollars anyway, especially with tax loopholes that the ordinary citizen does not enjoy? In the end, do you get a solid gold casket or something? Do you get special privileges in heaven?

Enough preaching. I wanted to write about my Chatsworth experiences this week. Yes, there are lessons to be learned. Unfortunately, most people aren’t inclined to learn from the past, and thus we keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire

Pronounced George-ayna, by the way. Georgiana was the oldest daughter of the First Earl Spencer and his wife, also Georgiana. The Earl and his wife were childhood sweethearts. If you visit Spencer House on St. James Place in London (see my Pinterest board here), you will be told about their great love and shown all sorts of decorative features that proclaim their love match. It truly warms the heart of a romance addict. Except that…it doesn’t ring true when you realize they subjected their beloved seventeen-year-old daughter to a loveless marriage that brought her much unhappiness. What went wrong?

Well, perhaps it wasn’t entirely their fault. Young Georgiana probably thought it was a dream come true to marry the richest man in England who also happened to be a duke (the 5th Duke of Devonshire). It must have been a shock, though, to discover that her husband had no intention of being faithful, that even at the time of their marriage, his mistress gave birth to an illegitimate daughter who was eventually brought into the Devonshire family to be raised after her mother died. Georgiana herself found it difficult to conceive and suffered miscarriages before producing three children, two daughters, and finally a son, sixteen years after her marriage.

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire

Georgiana enjoyed her life as a leading lady of fashion and politics in the ton. A friend of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, they copied each other’s fashions, including excessively tall hairstyles and large hats. Georgiana was also a leader of the Whig movement, hosting popular salons at Devonshire House in London for all the prominent Whigs of the time. (See a blog post here about her political exploits.) But with all this, she wasn’t happy. She spent lavishly, and gambled excessively (see post about her gambling exploits here), to the point where even the coffers of the richest man in England were seriously threatened. Her mother, the Countess Spencer—who also gambled beyond her means, particularly after her beloved husband died—warned her to be honest with her husband and to be more prudent in her gambling. Didn’t happen. The duke only found out the truth about her debts after her death. I guess they didn’t have Gamblers Anonymous in those days, or they’d know an addict isn’t able to manage his addiction prudently without giving it up entirely.

Georgiana seemed to have everything, and yet, she didn’t. Desperate for a close friend, when she met Lady Elizabeth Foster, who was separated from her husband and sons and seemingly destitute, Georgiana insisted she reside with them, and so began the ménage à trois. Lady Foster bore Georgiana’s husband two illegitimate children, who were brought up in the Devonshire home with their half-siblings, and Georgiana didn’t seem to mind. She and Bess were the best of friends, although many, including Lady Spencer, believed Bess to be a con-artist of the worst kind.

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and later Prime Minister

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and later Prime Minister

After the birth of her son, who later became the 6th Duke, Georgiana felt free to have love affairs of her own. She fell in love with Charles Grey, later to become an earl and a prime minister, and bore him a daughter, who was raised by the child’s paternal grandparents. Her husband was enraged and exiled Georgiana to France for three years, during which time she worried that her son would never know her. (Okay, the duke was a man of his time and perhaps not so terrible as he seems today, but punishing his wife for something he’d been doing for all their marriage just does not give a good impression of his character. Maybe it’s just me?)

Georgiana died in 1806 at 48 of a liver abscess (an eerie coincidence since I had this same affliction last fall, but am completely healed, thank heavens), and three years later, Lady Foster married the duke and became the second duchess, whereupon she admitted the paternity of her two illegitimate children and demanded that the duke provide for them as handsomely (or more so) as his legitimate children. (No, I don’t like her. Can you tell?)

Elizabeth Cavendish, second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

Elizabeth Cavendish, second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

The 6th Duke

Georgiana’s son was sixteen when his mother died and twenty-one when his father died and he inherited. He was active in Whig politics, but his special interest was landscaping and architecture. He had a north wing added to the house and an extensive renovation of the gardens. He spent lavishly to improve the property, which at that time included about 83,000 acres. William never married, having courted Georgiana’s sister’s daughter, Lady Caroline Ponsonby (yes, the one who went nutso over Lord Byron) and lost her to William Lamb, who undoubtedly regretted his marriage in retrospect. Perhaps His Grace realized his good fortunate in escaping a miserable marriage and couldn’t bring himself to risk it again. Certainly the marriages in his own family must have given him quite a few qualms!

The Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms

The Devonshire Arms

Described as “a picturesque country pub at the heart of village life, offering the charm and character of an historic inn with a contemporary twist,” the Devonshire Arms offers comfortable rooms, superb food, and a quaint, medieval building that won’t fail to inspire any dedicated history lovers who book rooms here. Check out my Pinterest board here. And the village of Beeley is equally charming.

Chatsworth

Chatsworth is such a beautiful place, filled with such priceless art and furnishings (see Pinterest board here), that one can’t quite understand how so many of its inhabitants, possessed of great wealth and just about anything they wished, were so obviously unhappy. I thought about this a great deal as I took my time touring the rooms and listening to the audioguide, and even as I walked among the rolling hills and sheep from my lodgings to the house. So much beauty and wealth, and yet, I am not envious. At this point in my life, I don’t aspire to such heavy responsibilities, no matter the grandeur and glamorous lifestyle. It is enough for me to have the privilege of seeing it and experiencing it this one time.

Lovely ceilings throughout the house

Lovely ceilings throughout the house

Sketches Room (my favorite)

Sketches Room (my favorite)

Countess Spencer, Georgiana's mother

Countess Spencer, Georgiana’s mother

Dining Room

Dining Room

Devonshire family portraits

Devonshire family portraits

Wellington Bedroom

Wellington Bedroom

On With the New: Wall sculpture of DNA maps of current Devonshire family

On With the New: Wall sculpture of DNA maps of current Devonshire family

What do you think? Would you like to live the life of a wealthy celebrity? I’m curious to know if others feel as I do that “enough is enough”, and that happiness is not found in great wealth and possessions.

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell

The epitome of a Regency dandy was a young man by the name of George Brummell. George did not grow up in the lap of luxury—his grandfather was rumored to be a personal servant—but his father was secretary to Lord North, and he was sent to Eton at the age of twelve in 1790, where he became very popular. Because of his attention to fashion and grooming, it wasn’t long before he became a great friend of the Prince Regent, who, in 1794, gave him a commission in his own regiment, the 10th Hussars. Brummell, nicknamed “Buck” by his intimates, spent most of his time on military leave, until he inherited 30,000 pounds and resigned, setting up his own household in 1798 at No. 4 Chesterfield Street.

BEAUBRUMMELL copy

Brummell decreed that cut and fit in a gentleman’s clothing were more important than elaborate fabrics. His insistence on cleanliness had the effect of pulling English gentlemen out of the stables and into the baths, and then poured into closely-fitting, well-cut clothing, including snow-white neckcloths tied into elaborate knots, smoothly shaved faces, and hair that required three hairdressers—one for the front, one for the sides and one for the back.

“The Beau” was known for his audacious wit and his condescending comments centering on the bad taste of others, men and women alike. A set-down from him could ruin a young person’s reputation and send them running from London in shame. Brummell and his dandies made it unfashionable to show emotion or any concern for the consequences of their actions. Although he had no social standing of his own, he had even the highest-ranked gentlemen admiring and copying his dress and behavior. Along with Lord Alvanley, Henry Pierpont and Henry Mildmay, he was part of the “Dandy Club” of Watier’s.

Unfortunately, Brummell’s extravagance, gambling and sharp tongue also led to his downfall. In 1813 at a party, the Prince Regent snubbed Brummell and Mildmay, staring them in the face while refusing to speak to them. Brummell quipped to Alvanley, “Who is your fat friend?” and that was the beginning of the end for Brummell.

In 1816 he fled to Calais where he lived in poverty until his death of syphilis in 1840.

londonrem

#4 chesterfield st.

No. 4 Chesterfield Street

Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.

The Regency Gentleman series

The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

The Fashionable Gentleman

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell 

Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London

Captain Who?

Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency

The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses

Riding to the Hounds

The Regency Gentleman’s Passion for the Turf

The Fashionable Gentleman

complete

Regency gentlemen had a serious obsession with fashion, especially after Beau Brummell arrived on the London scene. More about him next week.

During the Regency, knee breeches gave rise to trousers, although it was a good long time before trousers were accepted at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. By 1816, after Brummell’s flight to the continent, trousers became all the rage, with breeches reserved for very formal occasions (except for older gentlemen who did not adapt well to change).

Pantaloons and trousers were made of light colors, such as buff or yellow, and clung tightly to the body. Pantaloons had side slits with buttons to keep them tight, and straps under the instep to keep them in place.

shirts

A gentleman’s shirt tended to be long, shapeless, and white. Over the shirt would go the waistcoat (white for evening wear, colorful and eye-catching for day wear). An elaborately-tied cravat would spill over the shirt and waistcoat. Over that would be a dress coat with tails—cut in a straight line from the waist down), or a morning coat or riding coat, which also sported tails, but was cut away in front. Following Waterloo, a frock coat with a military design became popular for informal occasions. Over all of this would be a great coat, worn all year round, often with capes of various lengths along the top.

cravat

greatcoat

greatcoat

morning coat or riding coat

morning coat or riding coat

Black boots were the daytime shoes of choice for a Regency gentleman, particularly Hessians, which were knee boots that sported a tassle in front. Hessians were worn over the trousers, but at the end of the Regency, Wellington boots, which were worn under breeches, which were tied at the foot, became popular. For evening wear, black pumps—perhaps made of the new patent leather—and silk stockings were worn. Hoby was the bootmaker of choice.

Regency gentlemen wore top hats of various shapes and sizes, and hats made of beaver were quite popular. Lock’s was the hatter of choice for the exclusive Regency gentleman. Gloves, jewelry (cravat pins, rings, and fobs), snuff boxes, quizzing glasses, and scents were also important to a gentleman’s toilette. Thanks to Beau Brummell’s fastidious cleanliness, bathing also become de rigueur in the Regency.

Beau Brummell

Beau Brummell

Just as Regency ladies required a personal maid or abigail to assist them with dressing and care for their wardrobe, gentlemen required the services of a valet.

For further information:

Kristen Koster

Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.

The Regency Gentleman series

The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

The Fashionable Gentleman

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell 

Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London

Captain Who?

Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency

The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses

Riding to the Hounds

The Regency Gentleman’s Passion for the Turf

Regency Rites: The Well-Dressed Regency Lady

gowns

By the early nineteenth century, imitation of the classical was the rage in Europe, in architecture as well as fashion. Ladies’ gowns became simpler, with low necklines and ribbons tied beneath the bust, usually white due to a mistaken belief that the white marble statues being excavated in Greece were the original color. (They weren’t; the original brightly-colored paint had worn off.) Napoleon preferred ladies in white, and even though Britain and France were at war during this time, French fashions were all the rage.

Thin fabrics were de rigueur, muslin being the most popular, followed by silks and satins. As the new century progressed into the Regency and beyond, ladies’ gowns became more ornate, with another gown worn over the classical one, either a shorter length or with the front panels open to reveal the under-dress. Trims became more and more ornate, with ribbons, bows, and furbelows everywhere; collars of Elizabethan lace took the stage. By 1815, colored and grander fabrics were back.

Wardrobe

A fashionable lady had an extensive dress wardrobe, including:

  • carriage dresses

  • court dresses

  • dinner dresses

  • evening dresses

  • full evening dresses

  • garden dresses

  • morning dresses (also called “undress”)

  • opera dresses

  • promenade dresses

  • riding dresses

  • theater dresses

  • walking dresses

 Even in the dead of winter, many ladies would rather shiver in their flimsy gowns than be so unfashionable as to wear a heavy wrap. However, they did have shawls—Kashmir shawls had the advantage of being both light and warm—and various types of coats and jackets. A pelisse was an elegant overdress with long sleeves that buttoned down the front. A mantle was a rectangular fabric gathered at the neck. A spencer was simply a short jacket that reached the waist of the gown. Cloaks were often lined and/or trimmed with fur.

spencer
Lizzie wears a spencer over her dress.
pelisse
A pelisse à la militaire
mantle_reticule
The lady wears a mantle and carries a reticule.

For the most part, shoes in this period were “straights,” meaning there was no left or right shoe. Pumps made of embellished kid called slippers were very popular. Ladies had half-boots for walking, and stout boots for cold weather might be fur-lined. White silk hose tied at the knee (or later, the thigh) were often decorated with flowers or bowknots.

short corset common in the Regency
short corset common in the Regency

Under-drawers were not widely worn until after the Regency, around 1820. Short corsets with shaped cups for the breasts were common, although longer corsets were available to assist those with problem figures. A petticoat called a chemise was worn under the gown.

Hats & Accessories

Smaller, simpler bonnets gradually became more ornate, constructed with straw, velvet, satin, and crepe, trimmed with ribbons, ostrich plumes, and fabrics. Decorated caps (undress bonnets) of lace or satin were worn indoors and outdoors in informal settings. Turbans of various styles were popular for full-dress occasions.

turbans
Various styles of turbans popular in the Regency

A fashionable lady had ribbons, jewels, combs, plumes, and hairpieces to dress up her hair for elegant evenings. Gone was the “big hair” of the previous century that towered so high that once a lady’s hair caught fire from the chandelier (Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). Classical hairstyles to match the classical gowns were “in”, and short, cropped hair, à la Titus, was popular through 1810.

fans

Fans made of ivory with silk, gauze, or lace were another important accessory for every occasion. Every young lady learned the “language of the fan” in order to convey social messages without having to be rude. There were different fans for different occasions, and some were jeweled and hand-painted.

As for jewelry, simple gold crosses expanded to jeweled necklaces, bracelets, tiaras, and even elaborate clasps on shawls and wraps. Silk parasols, often decorated with fringe, were required during outdoor activities in order to prevent the development of freckles. A reticule, or ridicule, was a small bag often made with fabric from a gown used for carrying coins and items formerly carried in pockets.

parasol

A Lady’s Maid

A lady’s maid or abigail was necessary for such things as caring for clothing, preparing baths, dressing (gowns usually fastened in the back), and doing hair. She also accompanied her mistress while shopping and walking; young, unmarried ladies were not allowed out without chaperones, at least not while in the city.

Shopping!!!

One of my favorite scenes in Regency stories is when the ladies go shopping. After having my own Regency gown and pelisse made for me this year (by my own very talented mother), I wasn’t all that keen on the frequent fittings. And not being able to get in and out of my gown without assistance. But I LOVE feeling like a princess when I wear it!

Of course, having a gown made this way is a great deal more complicated—and expensive—than buying one in a department store. But then, the dress you end up with is uniquely yours by the time you add the trim and embellishments—you’re not likely to ever see anyone else wearing it.

Would you ever consider having a period gown made up like this? Where would you wear it?

Click here to see photos of my Regency outfit.

 The Regency Companion, Sharon Laudermilk and Theresa L. Hamlin, Garland Publishing, Inc., 1989, pp. 30-48.

The Regency Rites series

Regency Rites: The Well-Dressed Regency Lady 

Regency Rites: Presentation at Court

Regency Rites: Almack’s Assembly Rooms 

Regency Rites: The London Season

The Dress: Episode #3

In Kansas City at the Romantic Times Convention!

We did it!

The dress and coat are both done, no thanks to me since I got sick the last couple of days and couldn’t even help with the handwork. The best I could do was show up for fittings, pose for pictures, and eventually, pack up the car for the 1200-mile trip from the Florida retirement community to Kansas City. I still feel a bit like the wicked stepsister, taking off for the ball while leaving Cinderella at home to prepare two houses (mine and hers) for the summer while we head back to Ohio. I seriously owe you, Mom!

gown427-4My mom’s a genius! Not only did she do a fantastic job on both garments, but she sewed on hanger loops and outfitted me with a needle and thread in case something goes wrong. She really deserves to be here at RT on Wednesday night when I wear it to the Ellora’s Cave disco party (not going to do any disco dancing, however) and the 30th Anniversary Ball on Thursday. I’ve promised photos, and they’ll be posted here as well.

Observations on the entire process

  • This is not a project for an amateur. I could never have done this myself, and I do have some sewing experience. The fitted bodice required a LOT of pattern alterations, since we couldn’t use any sort of stretchy fabric and still remain anywhere close to authentic.
  • The gown my sister had made had two separate drawstrings in the bodice to make it more fitted, since she was not available for fittings. That turned out well, but I’m not sure that would have worked well with the pattern we used.
  • We had to fudge on the back closings, since we could not get the eyehole punch to work through two layers of fabric and interfacing. In the end, we used hooks and eyes and snaps, and yes, I do need a lady’s maid to help me into it. (Any volunteers?)

How much did I spend on this project?

  • As to that, I’m not sure I really want to know. The most costly trip to Jo-Ann’s was $143, and that was mostly for the fabric and lining (for both the gown and the coat). The price for the trim and lace was another $100 or so (and totally worth it, I think you will agree), and there were several other trips to Jo-Ann’s in various towns for things like interfacing and other sewing notions. A few things (like the eyehole punch) got returned too, so I can’t tell you the final cost. But I would guess it was at least $350, and that does NOT include the hours and hours my mother put into it. But that’s not all! I also invested a considerable sum in accessories, including:
  • Regency slippers with “diamond” clips, plus clockwork stockings, from American Duchess
  • ringlet hairpiece
  • three different tiaras (couldn’t make up my mind)
  • long white gloves
  • brooch to wear with the coat
  • special “undies” (not authentic, but who’s going to know?)

gown_detailBut it’s not about the money.

It’s never been about the money.

It started with my friend Ellen’s idea for promoting Susana Ellis the author at conferences like this one (although I suspect that I will not be the only one in costume here.) But it became so much more than that. I never could have guessed how much my mother and I bonded during this process—from the first days of discussing the project to the difficult decisions about fabric choice (would you believe we originally intended the blue satin to be the gown and the cream pintuck taffeta to be the coat?) and many setbacks (like when the sleeve had to be redone and then we had to abandon the project for a few days to head north for a funeral) and wondering if it was possible to finish both garments in time for the conference.

Surprisingly, even my father became invested in this project. During the times when he seemed to have some health setbacks himself and Mom started worrying about having to head north earlier than planned and not being able to finish the coat, he told her to quit worrying about him and just finish it! He wanted to see the final product as much as we did, and thus, he started working harder at his physical therapy exercises (he has Parkinson’s).

Today’s the day!

I’m writing this on Wednesday, so by the time this goes live, the first event (the Ellora’s Cave disco party) will be over and hopefully I will have some photos to post. I’m planning to wear the gown for a Club RT appearance at 3:30, and then comes the stage walk with the Ellora’s Cave caveman. Oh yeah!

Click here for the video of the walk across the stage!

coat427-3On Thursday I’ll be wearing it for the Expo from 4-6 and then the RT ball in the evening. On Friday morning I have another appearance at Club RT. By then I’m sure it’ll be ready for the dry cleaner’s and the next opportunity, probably the RWA Conference in Atlanta.

If you are going to be at any of these events, please come up and chat with me and check out the gown in person. I’m looking forward to making lots of reader-author friends while I’m here, and I do hope you will be one of them! Warning: don’t be surprised if I ask you to be “lady’s maid” for me! Regency ball gowns were generally worn by well-off young ladies with abigails to assist them in dressing, and unfortunately, my first choice in lady’s maids—my sister Gloria—had to stay home with her cat. Where is a hunky Ellora’s Cave caveman when you need one?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: Mom is NOT interested in taking this up as a profession or a hobby. Being retired in itself is a very time-consuming activity. Once is enough…and I’m the lucky one!

The Dress: Episode #1

The Dress: Episode #2

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Lady Pendleton, Damian Ashby’s eccentric aunt (see the epilogue to Treasuring Theresa on Susana’s web site), is visiting Susana from the early 19th century. She’s intrigued by life in 21st century Toledo, Ohio, and, of course, Susana is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick her brain about life in Regency England. It certainly gives her a great deal to write about in Susana’s Parlour!

Susana (To the Reader): Today we are shopping for the fabric for the Regency ball gown I mentioned in the first post about Lady P’s visit. We postponed the trip for a couple of weeks because we thought there was going to be a big sale at JoAnn’s at the end of the month. Actually, we discovered the sale was already over! But Lady P was far too wired for shopping to tolerate another delay, so we forged ahead to the fabrics. As you might imagine, Lady P was overwhelmed by the selection!

Lady P: Here I thought Ellington’s Emporium well-stocked with the latest textiles! They have nothing on this-this Joanne’s…is that the name of the linen-draper? Or perhaps his wife’s?

Susana: Joanne’s, yes. It’s a national chain—that is, there are many stores of the same name around the country for those who enjoy sewing and handcrafts.

Lady P: So there isn’t any person named Joanne, then?

Susana: I don’t really know. No one here, at any rate.

Lady P: Young people! Too self-absorbed to ask obvious questions! Goodness! Are those tiny diamonds woven somehow into the cloth?

Susana: Oh no, just something sparkly. Sparkly is the fashion these days.

Lady P: Yes, I see. Everything here is glittering like treasure. Goodness, I’d love a gown made up of this aubergine material. Little sparkling flowers all over it! What about you? I daresay this would become you as well.

Susana: Uh, no. Purple is definitely not my color. And besides, I’m looking for a fabric similar to what was used in 1813 England. Sparkly fabric would be a dead giveaway.

Lady P: What a pity. These are so beautiful. I have half a mind to have a whole new wardrobe made up to take back with me to my own time. Why, I would be a sensation! The talk of the town! And dear Theresa could use some new additions to her wardrobe after her latest lying-in. She’s expecting her third, you know. Amelia came first, and then little Charles Robert, the heir. Named after her father, you know.

Susana: How lovely! I’d love to meet Theresa someday. But…no, you can’t take back anything from this time period when you return to the 19th century.

Lady P: Poppycock! Of course I can!

Susana: Anyone who watches science fiction knows that you can’t meddle with history. It has to follow its natural course. Otherwise, the future might evolve differently and people like me might not even exist.

Lady P: Well, of course that would be a shame, but then, if you didn’t exist, you wouldn’t even know it, would you?

Susana: Hmm… no, I suppose not.

LadyP2Lady P: Perhaps the new future would be a better one than it would have been. Have you considered that?

Susana: Well, uh, not really.

Lady P: Even so, Susana, I hardly think that taking back a trunk of new gowns with—what do you call them–—sparkly fabric?—would upset the future world all that much.

Susana: Well, perhaps not, but how would you explain having such unusual gowns in the 19th century? If you tell the truth, who will believe you? At best, they will confine you to Bedlam. At worst, they might burn you at the stake as a witch.

Lady P: Nonsense! Witches are no longer burned at the stake in England, Susana.

Susana: Nonetheless…

Lady P: I shall have to think on it. Now… if you must have the sort of fabric from my time, let’s look at the silks and muslins and see what we can come up with. I still think you would look well in orange or yellow…

fabric2smSusana (to the Reader): They told me finding the appropriate fabric for a reproduction gown would be difficult, and they were right! Sparklies aside, they just don’t make fabrics the way they used to. After several false starts, we finally settled on the cream taffeta pintuck for the gown and the blue satin for the coat. And we’re making a chemise as well. The gown is supposed to be lined, as is the coat, and I’m wondering how comfortable it will be to wear five layers of fabric in a crowded exhibit hall at the convention. Can we get away with not lining the gown and hoping that the chemise keeps it from being too revealing? Decisions, decisions!

In the meantime, I’ve been showing Lady P some episodes of Star Trek that feature the Prime Directive. As much as I enjoy having her here, I am not keen on disrupting the past and thus inadvertently starting World War III. But it’s an uphill battle. She seems to grasp certain concepts quite quickly, but those she finds inconvenient she persists in misunderstanding. Like a few other people I know.

As always, please comment if you have any specific questions you’d like Susana to pose to Lady P while she is here.

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

Susana (to the Reader): I first met Lady Pendleton when I was writing Treasuring Theresa: The Epilogue, where Theresa—now Lady Granville—accompanies her husband to London to take up their social duties. Theresa did not have a successful Season seven years before when she first came out, and she was definitely not looking forward to this one. Her own Great-Aunt Tabitha was elderly and not in health, so Damian’s Aunt Agatha—his mother’s younger sister—came to the rescue. She accompanied Theresa on her rounds to the modiste’s and the linen-draper’s and the other shops in order to acquire a wardrobe suitable for a countess. While Lady Pendleton’s sense of fashion may be a bit on the outrageous side, she did give Theresa much to think about when she suggested that it was her own immaturity that was to blame for her unsuccessful Season.

Lady Pendleton: Well, really, Miss Ellis. Do you consider that a proper introduction? You say my fashion sense is outrageous, when what you are wearing—well, in my day a young lady would never have been seen wearing trousers, let alone skin-tight hose like Henry VIII used to wear—or so I’m told. I’m not quite that old, you know.

Susana: I do apologize, my lady. Please call me Susana. I was simply referring to your… uh… unusual color choices and spectacular headwear. You were rather… ahead of your time, I believe.

Lady P: How would you know? You were not born yet. I lived it!

Susana: Well, I’ve read quite a lot of Regency romance novels, you see, and—

Lady P: Romance novels, indeed! I used to find them in my daughter’s room and took them for myself. (Completely unsuitable for a young girl, doncha know?) Have you read A Sicilian Romance? The Mysteries of Udolpho? No? Mrs. Radcliffe had much more of a sense of the dramatic than your… what was her name… Nora Roberts? Where are the castles? The dark, mysterious barons? The exotic locales? Not to mention innocent young girls. In my day—

Susana: But surely Georgette Heyer’s Regencies—

Lady P: Pshaw. Her stories never had any drama. Although I did rather like that Frederica character a great deal. Had spunk, that girl. Reminds me of my niece-by-marriage, Theresa. And myself, of course, when I was younger. We make our own style, you know, while the others merely follow it.

Susana: I see. Well, if that’s the case, perhaps you could help me in a little sewing project I’m planning. A Regency gown with a matching pelisse. I’ve purchased the pattern already.

Lady P: The pattern? Oh, I see. Rather a plain style, but I suppose with the right material—and some ruffles and bows—we can remedy that quite easily. Do you sew, my dear?regencypattern

Susana: Well, I have a sewing machine, but I’m a better cook than seamstress.

Lady P: A machine? For sewing? Preposterous! In my day, all young ladies could sew a fine seam, although I own that I never made my own gown. Mostly handkerchiefs and doll’s clothing until I got older and worked my own chair covers. But…you say you can cook? I don’t suppose you have some tea and biscuits handy, have you? I’m sharp-set and parched after traveling two centuries through time! Quite exhausting, really.

Susana: Well, I have some chai tea and a package of Oreos…

Lady P: I suppose that will have to do. Although I have to say I have never heard of chai tea, and…what else did you mention?

Susana: Oreos. A sort of cookie…I mean biscuit. Chocolate with vanilla in the center.

Lady P: Chocolate? In a biscuit? Singular. Well, get on with it, girl, and afterward, we shall head for the linen-draper’s to look over his selection of material for your gown. I think bright orange might do well for you…

To be continued

Next installment: Lady Pendleton and Susana search for appropriate fabrics at Joanne’s in Toledo, Ohio. While you’re waiting, take a look at Susana’s “Regency Fabrics” board on Pinterest.

The Lady P Series

Episode #1: Susana’s Adventures With Lady P: The Introduction

 

Episode #2: Lady P Talks About… Pride and Prejudice?

Episode #3: Lady P and the Duchess Who Lost a Billion Dollars

Episode #4: Lady P and the Face On the $100 Bill

Episode #5: In Which Lady P Discovers Sparkly Fabrics and Ponders Violating the Prime Directive

Episode #6: Lady P Dishes the Dirt on the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #7: The Political Exploits of Lady P and the Duchess of Devonshire

Episode #8: Lady P and the Prince Regent’s Illicit Marriage

Episode #9: In Which Lady P Depletes the Cooking Sherry During Her Discussion of Caroline of Brunswick

Episode #10: Lord Byron: Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

Episode #11: In Which Lady P Talks About Hannah More and the Rights of Women

Episode #12: Lady P’s Revelations Regarding George III and His Peculiar Progeny

Episode #13: Lady P Discusses the Luddite Uprising, the Assassination of Spencer Perceval, and the General Unfairness of Life

 

Episode #14: In Which Leticia, Lady Beauchamp, Pops In For an Interview On Her Personal Acquaintance With Princess Charlotte of Wales

Episode #15: Lady P On Assignment in 1814 Kent

Lady P Quizzes Jane Livingston, the Hero’s Sister From “A Twelfth Night Tale”