Hi everybody! I’m Heather McCollum, author of Scottish romances. I’m excited to be here on Fresh Fiction to celebrate the release of my new novel, THE WICKED VISCOUNT, which takes place in 17th c London.
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to wear the huge ensembles of silk and embroidery that the ladies in the English court used to don? My current Scottish historical romance series, The Campbells, takes place in 1684 and 1685. In THE WICKED VISCOUNT, the heroine, a feisty Scottish lass, must venture to the royal court in London. For the first time in her life, she wears the rich garments of the elite to fit in at Whitehall Palace. I wanted to experience what my heroine was feeling in the strictures of the costume, so I commissioned the talented Victoria Vane to create an ensemble for me. Even though my heroine grows up during the time when these dresses were worn, she is poor and has never worn the full costumes before.
After two weeks of looking at fabrics with Victoria, we finally decided on a gorgeous magenta and lavender combination of silks. Imported from India, the fabrics are rich and beautifully embroidered with elaborate patterns, which was very authentic to the time period. After decades of dour dress under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, the court under Charles II had swung the other way with bright colors, jewels, and large headdresses.
Victoria didn’t have a pattern for the costume, so she studied a one-page descriptive picture and created one! So talented. My mother and I drove to Victoria’s studio in South Carolina for a final fitting. I spent two hours in the costume, and here is what I experienced.
Stays are called stays because they keep everything in place. Women in the 17th century did not wear bras (or underwear), just a smock or shift, which is like a long (or short) nightgown. The stays are laced in the front or back and go over the smock. Depending on the person pulling the ties, the stays can be pleasantly supportive or like a boa constrictor intent on pressing all your organs together inside.
I wore my stays for two hours and had lines from the boning etched into my skin when I removed the garment. It certainly gave me a nice display of cleavage and something of a waistline! So, it was totally worth not being able to bend at the waist or do much of anything except look lovely. However, I don’t think I could wear them every day unless I’d been trained to do so from the cradle.
The petticoat, which is a skirt, came next and tied at the waist over the stays and a crinoline that was actually from my wedding twenty-four years ago (I knew I’d need that thing again!). Then I was helped into the outer dress, or mantua, which was very fashionable at the time. A mantua is a dress that opens in front to show a coordinating stomacher and the petticoat.
Victoria bustled up the long train so that it didn’t extend too far, creating beautiful swoops of fabric. I wore pompadour shoes and white stockings.
The final part of the costume is the headpiece, a fontage. It is a stiff, white, lacey addition to an updo of curls. It is said that the mistress of the French king lost her hat while riding horseback and tied her hair up with a bit of lace. The king said she looked enchanting, and so she began tying her hair up with lace, and the court mimicked the look. The lace became larger and higher, and ta da, you have the fontage!
The costume is beautiful but heavy, and the fontage towers over my head. I felt rather like a fortress in the whole ensemble. If a man were to place his hand on my waist to dance, I would not have felt it through the layers and stays. Getting into it, definitely required at least one attendant, and it would take quite an effort by the hero to get it off of me. I can definitely see the skirts being thrown upward in a frenzy of passion (which may or may not be in THE WICKED VISCOUNT! <wink, wink>).
Thanks so much for stopping into Fresh Fiction today! Have a lovely, all-gazes-turn-to-you-when-entering-the-ball kind of day.
The Campbells Book 3
1685, Scottish Highlands
Cat Campbell knows all about Nathaniel Worthington, fifth Viscount of Lincolnshire. The determined Englishman is never far from Finlarig Castle, where his sisters train women to do more than read and write. And thanks to the fiery kiss they shared nearly a year ago he is never far from her thoughts. No one ever trained her how to forget an irresistible man.
Nathaniel knows he should keep his distance from the fierce Scottish lass, but when an urgent letter from Queen Catherine calls Cat to London, he can’t resist volunteering to escort her. The tension between the two has simmered for months, but the long journey in close quarters creates a raging wildfire that could burn them both.
Secrets of their past and the treachery lurking at court put both their future together and their very lives at risk.
Romance Historical [Entangled, On Sale: May 24, 2019, e-Book, ISBN: 9781099966637 / ]
About Heather McCollum
Heather McCollum is an award-winning, historical romance writer. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood of 2009 Golden Heart finalists.
The ancient magic and lush beauty of Great Britain entrances Ms. McCollum’s heart and imagination every time she visits. The country’s history and landscape have been a backdrop for her writing ever since her first journey across the pond.
When she is not creating vibrant characters & magical adventures on the page, she is roaring her own battle cry in the war against ovarian cancer. Ms. McCollum recently slayed the cancer beast and resides with her very own Highland hero, rescued golden retriever & 3 kids in the wilds of suburbia on the mid-Atlantic coast.