I love historical fiction. The drama, the intrigue and, ohâ€“ the fashion. I just assume all the period details regarding clothing are accurate. Or I did until my friend Liz shared it was her secret delight to troll the adult fiction section and find anachronistic apparel. Curious to know how Liz knows all that she does about fashion? Read her bio found in our first two collaborative blog posts for The Hub:
- Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers
- Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers, Part 2
- Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers, Part 3
Turns out a lot of books from specific dates and locations feature outfits as cover art that either haven’t been invented yet or were way out of fashion. I was eager to know if these same mistakes were being made in Young Adult historical fiction. After all, how was I to know? Here are some examples of books that got it right and those that got it wrong.
Hit: The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. This series takes place in Victorian London, 150 years before Clare’s popular Mortal Instuments series. The first book, Clockwork Angel, is a 2011 Teens’ Top Ten winner. The Victorian Era runs from 1837 to 1901 spanning the entire reign of Queen Victoria, and despite the inherent vagueness of generalizing fashion from one monarch’s rule, examples for men’s dress and women’s dress on these covers are very typical of the 19th century and are therefore good examples despite being in a magical fantasy setting.
“The design house Liberty & Company was known for its “artistic” dresses, with romantic and artisanal medieval effects, or faintly exotic and orientalizing motifs and silhouettes.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art) This evening ensemble by Charles Frederick Worth can only be viewed online. Be sure to read the entire description on the The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website which features exquisite details about the the textiles and other adornments used for this dress.
The Circle of the Rue Royale, 1868, artist James Tissot (French 1836-1902) MusÃ©e d’Orsay RF 2011 53.
The image is from Peterson’s Magazine, a popular ladies fashion magazine. Full volumes of Peterson’s Magazine can be read for free online from Google Books.
Miss: A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard has no exact date for its setting. While it’s clear the book is set in Paris, France, the year is more ambiguous. However, even saying the book is the 19th century is still not a broad enough time frame to encompass all the amalgamated fashions going on with this book cover. It is so wildly inaccurate it had to be included here. Each element of the outfit is accurate for the fashion of the time, but since each detail is from a different decade or century they could not appear concurrently in one look– even if the book is a fantasy. Start with the Bell-Shaped skirt which was the style in the 1850s -1860s. How then do you explain all the other myriad of other details?
Strapless dresses, like the one on the cover, started to make an appearance in the 1930s and gained popularity with 1950s bustline seen on the book cover and this silk and sequin dress by Christian Dior.
The Jeweled Belt is a turn of the century or later addition to eveningwear. The astrology themed accessory seen here is made of glass and rhinestones from the 1930s.
The Crochet mitts are in the 1840s style.
“The use of feathers as a decorative element, rather than as stuffing, is a relatively new idea in the 1870s; by the 1880s the whole bird becomes a prevalent feature.” (Bonnet)
Still want to know more about the history of fashion? There are many resources available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Audio, video and podcasts are available on topics like punk and wigs and fashion icons like Alexander McQueen.
-Laura C. Perenic, currently reading Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
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