Researching for Your Genre

Writing historical romance is not all about the romance in the story but also about getting the historical facts right. To this end it means researching. Just as well I love research. I’ve been known to put too much time on research. My excuse is that I have to know which king or queen was sitting on the throne (the royal throne not the loo) at the time.

What political were affair were operating at the time, if there were any wars taking place and with which country.

I like to know if it was a wet summer or a dry winter. How farmers and crops survived if the weather was against them and how did the farmers live if their crops failed.

What fashion was in vogue? Did the women wear pantaloons?  (Some didn’t in the Regency era.) What did it cost for a length of ribbon? What was the cost of an opera gown? How many dresses did one need? What was the difference between an in house morning dress and a promenade dress you would wear for a stroll in the park?

Here’s an example of what women wore during the Regency era.

The Layers of Women’s clothing:

1321928645242_8493648Undergarments: The first was the chemise, or shift, this was a thin garment with tight, short sleeves with a low neckline when worn under evening wear, it was made of white cotton and usually finished with a plain hem. The chemise was shorter than the dress. The chemise was meant to protect the outer clothes from perspiration more often than not they were washed more frequently than outer clothes.

The next layer was the corset or a pair of stays. If you were of a slight figure you could get away with not needing to wear a corset. The corset was made of steel or iron which was covered with padding.

Drawers were not often worn during this time it wasn’t until it was reported that Princess Charlotte wore drawers that it became popular and this use in the upper class of women.

Stocking were made of silk or knitted and held up by garters below the knee.

Outer Garments:

1810 v3 Ackermann's Fashion Plate 10 - Evening or FullThe petticoat is the first layer for the outer garment. (All though today the petticoat is classed as an undergarment during the Regency era it was considered as part of the outer layers.) This could have a scooped neck line and was sleeveless It was fitted at the back with hooks and eyes, buttons or tape. This garment was worn between the corset and outer layer of clothing.

Over the petticoat came the gown. This empire gown was very fashionable during this time. It was not unknown for women to have three to four changes of clothing during one day. The morning dress was worn inside the house were high necked and long sleeved. Generally these grown were devoid of any decorations.

Promenade or walking gowns were worn when one went for a stroll during the morning or afternoon. Over these a woman would wear a spencers of a (a short high waisted jacket) a long hooded cloak would be worn over this or one would wear a pelisses (a long coat). If a woman went riding she would of course wear a riding habit. Gloves and a bonnet were always worn when outdoors.

Evening gowns were often elaborately   decorated with lace, ribbons and netting. Young ladies were encouraged to wear pastel colours. These dresses had a low cut bodice and were short sleeved.

Slippers made of silk, velvet or leather were worn during both day and evening. Half kid boots were ankle length boots made of leather for outdoor or silk/stain for evening wear.

Food and Entertaining

Food was a large part of the Regency era. Sometimes it depended on whether the family had guest for supper. For a family meal it would be a simple of two three course meal. If there were guest it could be up to five or more dishes. Nothing was wasted; any leftovers would be use for lunch the next day or a simple family meal the following night by the family.

Illustration 52

September family meal could consist of:

First course:

Roast sucking-pig, tomato sauce and brain sauce: small boiled leg of mutton, caper sauce, turnips and carrots.

Second course:

Damson tart, boiled batter pudding

 A dinner for eight persons could consist of:

First Course:

Flemish Soup, Turbot, garnished with Fried Smelts, Red Mullet and Italian Sauce


Tendrons de Veau and Truffles, Lamb Cutlets and Sauce Piquante

Second Course:

Loin of Veal á la Béchamel, Roast Haunch of Venison, Braised Ham, Grouse Pie, Vegetables

Third Course:

Roast Hare, Plum Tart, Whipped Cream, Punch Jelly, Compôte od Damsons, Marrow Pudding

Desserts and Ices

The evening would end with entertainment from one of the ladies playing the pianoforte and at times singing.

All these things mattered even if you don’t use it in your story.

Research is a part of all genres of writing. What sort of information and where do you source the information from for your writing?


2 thoughts on “Researching for Your Genre

  1. Research is the bomb. I surf the net, read magazines on science and breaking technology and watch dvd’s like Cosmos, and The Universe. I love the little tit bits you find and can squirrel away even if you don’t use it in your current ms. Sometimes you come across the most fascinating facts. I hope to use a space elevator in one of my stories – ie its a lift that will transport people/cargo from the planet to a space station or possibly even a space ship. Possibly made by using nanotubes and laser technology and its something being looked at by our scientists now. Great post, Sandie!

  2. Mmm, brain sauce! I’m so glad I didn’t live in past eras – all those clothes!!!

    I love to research – too much sometimes. It’s a good tool for procrastination 🙂

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