Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Tour: Guest Post--Author Christine Blevins and a {Give@way}!

Giveaway has ended.  Winners are:

A copy of the book, The Turning of Anne Merrick--Lucinda Fountain

Winner of  the 18th century stationery--Angela

Congrats! I will be notifying the winners by email.

 Delving Underneath 

“Sally wound the excess cording about her palm and issued a warning. “Brace yerself, now . . .” 

Anne dug her heels into the earthen floor of their small tent. Knees locked, muscles clenched, she tried hard to present a counterforce as Sally gave her stay strings a series of good hard tugs. “I surely miss having my bedpost to cling to.”

“There!” Deftly fastened in a reliable knot, Sally tucked the loose ends behind the leather-bound edge of the stays. She then tied an embroidered pouch around Anne’s waist, settling it to hang over her left hip. “See t’ filling yer pocket, and I’ll ready my needle.”

The women jockeyed for position in the narrow aisle between the two cots—Sally gathering her sewing things, and Anne rifling through the confusion for the necessaries to equip her pocket for the evening—a folding fan, a scent bottle, a clean handkerchief, and the token Jack had given her before the Redcoats came to invade and occupy New York. She never went anywhere without her token, and the General’s table would be no exception. 


18th century attire is intricate by any standard. Elegantly dressed women were supported by elaborate constructions of panniers, bumrolls and bustles all draped over with silk and taffeta “robes” or “mantuas” of varying styles. The attire of lower class women was no less elaborate in some respects – petticoats or simple dresses were protected by a variety of aprons and jackets. Add to that kerchiefs and fichus, mobcaps and bonnets… it was a complicated method of clothing oneself. But even more fascinating than the birdcage-like panniers, all the exotic flounces and furbelows are the items worn under it all – items basic to all women of the time.

When delving beneath, we need to understand a most fascinating fact – knickers, panties, underpants, pantaloons, drawers, bloomers – it doesn’t matter what you want to call them, they were NOT wearing them in the 18th century. Garments akin to our modern day underpants are a 19th century fashion innovation. Yes, young and old, rich or poor, our Founding Mothers were always “going commando”! It took me a while to wrap my mind around this concept – especially when I thought about what it must have been like to get dressed on a frigid morning and plow through kneedeep snow to fetch water from the creek or well. Or what it must have been like for an upper class woman out for a night on the town in NYC with the northeast wind and snow whipping up and under your skirts and petticoats… brrrrr! Shiver me timbers, indeed! Our 18th century sisters were definitely a hardy breed.

Casting the knickers aside :-) the basic undergarment for women of all shapes and stripes was the shift. Also called a chemise, this simple calf-length undergarment worn next to the skin was requisite attire. Depending on a woman’s status and economic means, a shift could be fashioned of homespun or fine Holland linen. The shift was quite serviceable plain, but often the parts that were visible to the eye such as the neckline or sleeve “cuffs” might be decorated with ruffles, lace or embroidery. The fineness of the weave and the brightness of the white color were more determinate of quality and status that any decoration. Being dressed in nothing but your shift was considered a state of “undress”. A woman in nothing but her shift was “naked”.
Stays are the next essential item, and are worn over the shift. This boned garment was not intended to create the hourglass figure desired by 19th century women, but instead created a conical shape and erect posture, flattening and pressing breasts upward and together into a position known as “rising moons.” By 18th century standards, exposing a good amount of bosom was very fashionable and feminine, and not at all as erotic as (gasp) showing a bare ankle or leg.
A woman’s stays were custom made to measure by a professional staymaker. Though the engineering was intricate, the stays themselves were usually quite plain. The term whale bone is often used in conjunction with stays, but it is actually baleen – a material derived from the bristle system whales used to filter food from the seawater they draw in – that give the stays their support. Parallel rows of very fine hand stitching formed narrow channels into which thin strips of baleen were inserted. Although the stays may appear very rigid, baleen is a very strong and higly flexible material. Stays appear to our modern sensibilities to be a very contricting garment, especially when one imagines being laced into a set while doing chores or working a farm, but the baleen boning has the ability soften from natural body heat, and the stays would mold and conform to a woman’s shape.

The third “every woman” item unseen to the eye, but yet oh so important was the pocket. Unlike men’s clothing of the time, pockets were never sewn onto or into women’s clothing during the 18th century. A separate pouch, a pocket was tied to the waist, worn over the hip, and accessed via a slit in the skirt of a dress or petticoat. Plain or colorfully embroidered, pockets contained a woman’s treasures and necessaries of life – keys to the locks harboring valuables like sugar and lace, a book, a handkerchief, a paper of pins, a fan, a bottle of scent, a tin of sugar comfits to freshen the breath, special keepsakes…
I expect two hundred years from now women of the future will be gawking in wonder at the tortuous underwire bras we wear, be amazed by the fact that Octavia Spencer wore three pairs of Spanx to the Oscars, and wonder what we could possibly be carrying about in the giant handbags we drag around. Things always change, but sometimes, not that much. (don’t even let me get started on shoes!)
 Giveaway: A copy of The Turning of Anne Merrick and 18th Century Stationery – just the sort of sundry Anne Merrick peddled to those bloodyback scoundrels in Burgoyne’s camp.  Supplied with a quill pen and wrapped for convenient stowing amidst your gear, these sheets and envelopes are perfect for scrieving all manner of secret messages – invisible ink not included.  There will be two winners.  Open internationally.  To enter, leave me a comment telling me who is your favorite historical figure from the time of the Revolution, America's pursuit of independence from the British Empire.  Giveaway ends on Tuesday, March 27 at 11:59pm CST.  Good luck!

Author Christine Blevins writes what she loves to read – historical adventure stories. The Turning of Anne Merrick is the second in a 3-book series set during the American Revolution, and the companion book to The Tory Widow. A native Chicagoan, Christine lives in Elmhurst, Illinois, along with her husband Brian, and The Dude, a very silly golden-doodle. She is at work finishing the third novel inspired by a lifelong fascination with the foundations of American history and the revolutionary spirit.

Visit Christine Blevins:  Website | Facebook
Christine Blevins on Twitter: @Author_CBlevins
Tour Event Twitter Hashtag: #TurningofAnneMerrickVirtualTour

Watch for my review of The Turning of Anne Merrick on Friday, March 16th.



Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

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  1. George Washington. Thanks for the giveaway. I would love to read this book. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

  2. Loved this post! And I've always been interested in the role of women throughout history, so for the period of the Revolution, I would have to say Molly Hays McCauley.
    Thanks for the Giveaway...this one has been on my wishlist for awhile!

  3. The 'delclaration of independance' statement that was adopted in 1776 was certainly a poinant moment within history and one thatthe historical figure of King George III brings to mind, as it contained a lot of colonial grievances against him.
    As a huge lover of historical fiction and literature i would love to be entered for such a fantastic giveaway (member of Goodreads & onthetudortrail historical blog).
    From: Miss. Lucinda Fountain
    Email: lfountain1@hotmail.co.uk
    Thank you so, so much!! xx

  4. George Washington is my favorite historical figure. I would love to win this book, I love Christine Blevins books! Thanks!


  5. The decleration of independance in 1776 was certainly a poinant moment within history and one that brings to the forefront King George III with the colonial grievances against him.
    As a lover of historical fiction and literature i would love to be entered for this amazing giveaway (member of Goodreads & onthetudortrail book blog) Thank you so, so much!! xx
    From: Miss. Lucinda Fountain
    Email: lfountain1@hotmail.co.uk

  6. John Adams


  7. fascinating info! loved all your research ~
    Laura Secord would be a fave....
    look fwd to friday's review of this book~

  8. One of my favorite people from the Revolution would have to be Abigail Adams. I think she was a very strong woman and a loving wife. Thank you for the chance to win.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  9. Favorite historical figure from the time of the Revolution: George III. At a remove of 200+ years, can we not garnish some sympathy for his mental and physical illnesses, incompetent staff, etc. and ponder his nearest amongst the candidates of today.

  10. I recently read Christine's book and I was quite pleased to see that she did not make the "bloomers mistake". I see this so often in fiction taking place before the 19th century -- most recently in a book taking place on Martha's Vineyard in the 17th century.

    Because I've already read all three of Christine's books, I would love to win the stationery set.

    My favorite historical figure during the RevWar on the British side was Lt.Colonel Banastre Tarleton, commander of the British Legion, because I have a weakness for charming bad boys. On the American side, my favorite is Deborah Sampson, one of the women who disguised herself as a man to successfully fight as a soldier during the war.

    Email: lord1912 at yahoo dot com

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