Thursday, August 28, 2008

Regency Footwear

Continuing down the same path-- pun intended. Here is the last post on shoes, for now.

Still waiting for Cassandra to get in touch, so if I don't hear from her by the end of the weekend I think I will draw again.

These are buckles presented to Nelson in 1803. They have their own domed leather case.

Clearly shoes, of the dress variety, were a highly thought of item.

Since Nelson died in 1805 and had been at sea for much of that time, my guess is these buckles never graced a pair of his shoes.

These are English shoes and gloves from 1840, so still not much in the way of heels Melinda.

Shoe making, or cobbling, was a highly thought of trade in this time period, as can be seen from this mug. I must say I thought putting Victory and shoe-making in the same category a little pretentious, but who knows.

The next picture also shows that shoe-aholocism (umm not sure how to spell that) has been a problem for centuries. lol. These are snuff boxes from the 18th and nineteenth centuries, made in the shape of shoes. Aren't they sweet. If you find one in your travels, let me know. I would love to own one of these.

I was fascinated by this last picture, it is French. It shows a man making shoes and whistling to the little bird above his head. This is a political commentary. Apparently in France shoemakers were renowned for making up political rhymes. And of course some of them would have been part of the French Revolutionary movement and perhaps telling the bird the rhyme was not seditious, as telling the person standing in your shop. Look how ragged he is, despite his good business.

Hmm. I feel a story coming on.

Which makes me think it is a good time to stop. Next week we are back at the first of the month, so it will be time for some September fashions and later in the week, a look at nature and gardens.

In the meantime --Happy Rambles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Regency Footwear

Thanks to all who guessed in my contest. Well, none of you guessed correctly, but to be honest, I am not the slightest bit surprised. Most of you thought of crampons, for walking in ice and snow, which was also my first thought when I saw them.

The boots are, in fact, French. And they are chestnut crushers! If you did not see the picture in the earlier post, it the one below this.

I am sure you can see it quite easily now. lol

Clogs like these were used in 19th century France to remove the shells from acorns and chestnuts. The meat from the nuts could be ground into flour or used as pig feed. France, 1800's-1900's. The brine created in the process was also used in the leather curing process.

And the winner is: Cassandra. Please email me directly with your address and I will send off your prize.

The Bata Museum is currently featuring dancing shoes. As an ex dancer, and a mum whose girls danced their little tootsies off before they found the opposite sex, I was fascinated.

Before the nineteenth century, dancers dance in whatever shoes were fashionable at the time. This is a pair of mid 18th century shoes. They are quite lovely.

As you can see from this picture above, they did indeed dance in this kind of shoe.

Then came the classical era, the Regency, all flowing lines, strait skirts, and empire waists. With them came a soft slipper with low heels. And dancers loved them. By the way, during this period, all shoes were "straights". That is there were no left or rights, the wearer simply wore them in, until they fitted the foot. This is true of dance slippers today, as I am sure you know.

As you can see, this pair of ballet slippers, is is not much different to the shoes our Regency ladies wore in the street, but dancers loved them.

And so when they went out of fashion for everyday where, they remained (with adaptations) on the stage.

Here are some early examples. It is here that I must tell you that dancing "en pointe" did not come into being until 1832. And the first dancer en pointe was a man.

But the ladies did not leave it there for long.

The museum had a wonderful history of ballet shoes, their construction and various improvements over the years, but they are all post Regency, and therefore not really relevant.

I do have one more set of pictures and stories about shoes, so until next time, Happy Rambles (and keep your feet dry).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

These Boots are Made for Walking

I didn't tell you I was a shoaholic, did I? Can't ever buy only one pair of shoes. Well my writer friend Mary Sullivan took me out for a special treat and I wanted to share it with you.

I know, I promised more money information, but thought we might take a little side trip. Which is exactly what I did last week when I visited the Bata Shoe Museum here in Toronto.

And no, this boot was not actually made for walking. Any guesses? I wish you could see just how big this sucker is. Anyway, it is called a "postillion's boot" from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. They were made to be worn by a coachman over his regular boots, which accounts for the sheer size of the thing, and they were made of hardened leather to protect him from low hanging branches, or in cases of accidents, from breaking his legs when hit bit the dust. A sort of airbag device for the legs. If you look closely you can see the rowel (spurs) at the back.

Some of them, the display said, had a metal cup set in the toe where the coachman could place hot embers to keep his toes warm on winter nights. Central heating anyone?

I should mention that the museum is very kind about allowing pictures, provided one does not use a flash. I tried really hard to comply, but sometimes my camera had a mind of its own and some of the pictures are a bit on the dark side.

This was the first case we looked at, and I was simply charmed out of my flip flops. These were cinderella shoes from around the world. It seems that each culture has its own version of the Cinderella story and they all involve a prince and a slipper. Who knew Cinders got about that much. In this display case there were Korean and Egyptian slippers.

Throughout the ages, porcelain or glass slippers have been considered an appropriate wedding memento. Could have some connection with the modern tradition of tying an old boot to the honeymoon car. lol

These were French, but as you can see they are of the ornament variety, and one pair is of course glass. So pretty. A bit hard to see, since they are clear, but I thought them quite lovely.


Now what the devil are these for?

Well I'm not going to tell you. You are going to have to guess. And if you guess right, I will send you a set of Jane Austen Correspondence Cards that I bought at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath for just such an occasion. However, if no one guesses right, I will draw from those who comment. Similarly if I have more than one correct guess, I will draw from those. I will post the correct answer on Monday along with the name of the winner. Don't be shy. You have to comment, or guess to have a chance at winning.

I can see I am getting close to the limit of my attention span -- I really don't like blogs that go on and on, but since I am a shoeaholic it is very hard for me to stop.

Just one more. What shall I pick?

If you guessed these were Napoleon's socks, you'd be right!

They were worn by him on St Helena. All right, so they aren't shoes. But think of the famous tootsies that once wriggled inside them. Or that stomped around the headland, staring out into all that nothing and wondering if he would ever go home again.

That is it. We will have more shoes on Monday and probably Thursday too. Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Regency Money ~ How Rich is that?

Apparently Mr. Darcy had ten thousand pounds a year. And that was very rich indeed to afford to run a pad like the one pictured above.

It is always hard to do exact money conversions, because the importance of things changed. But Mr. Darcy's income was fabulous when one considers that a gentleman with a family of five could live reasonably well and keep a maid on Two Hundred and Fifty pounds a year. But part of that was because labor was a relatively cheap commodity.

A maid at £16 would be considerably cheaper than keeping a pair of horses costing £65-17s. The maid would be considered a necessity.

An income of a thousand pounds would allow for five servants, a cook, a housemaid, a nursery-maid, a coachman and a footman, whose combined wages are £87 a year.

So an income of the size of Mr. Darcy's is huge. But so is that pile he has to maintain.

An artisan would expect an income of about one hundred pounds a year, no servants, rented property and a reasonable standard of clothing and food.

In normal times a loaf of bread could be purchased for a penny, while one and a half pence could buy you a meal at an Irish ordinary. If you wanted something rather more filling you could try a three penny ordinary, where a meal of meat and broth and beer was available for the advertised price. A quart of beer could be purchased for a penny, and a cup of coffee for the same price. Gin ordered by the quarter and half pint, would set you back a penny and two pence respectively.

A surgeon might expect to make two hundred and seventeen pounds a year, a barrister or solicitor doubled that and a teacher a quarter of that amount.

We know that the Prince Regent paid 900 guineas for Mrs. Robinson's carriage. Enough money for a family of five to live on in very good style for a year.

The Regency was also a time of rising prices for the poor and the start of the industrial revolution that for a time would leave the poor even worse off than before.

That is it for me today. This merely skims the surface of what is a fascinating topic. Until next time Happy Rambles.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Money continued

Before we start, I wanted to mention that tomorrow (Friday) I will be sending out my summer newsletter. So if you want to receive a copy, sign up right away. You will find the link in the side bar.

When I looked back, I realized I had got as far as thruppence in my accounting. Hardly anywhere at all, you might say.

Some of the siliver coins used during the Regency:

Sixpence = six pennies
shillings = 12 pennies make a shilling
half crown = two shillings and six pence - pictured here
crown = five shillings

There were also dollars issued during this period worth five shillings. These were struck from captured Spanish American dollars, and even some French ecus and United States dollars. They were counter-marked and issued as an emergency currency. And so the word dollar meaning five shillings entered English slang in 1804 even though crowns disappeared as a unit of currency.

There were guineas and half guineas, worth Twenty one shillings and ten shillings and six pence respectively. These were coins made in gold as you can see. This picture is of a George III guinea.

- In some fancy shops items were still priced in guineas not so very long ago. You would think the price was in pounds and then when you checked it is a shilling per pound more. Very sneaky. But posh. Oh, and there were no actual guineas to be had at that time.

Then there were the sovereigns and half sovereigns.

In 1816, the basis of English money changed from the value of silver to the value of gold. We adopted the Gold Standard. The Guinea was withdrawn and the basic monetary unit became the pound, which was represented by the Sovereign coin worth twenty shillings and the half sovereign worth ten shillings. Finally.

Sovereigns alas are also no more, first replaced with the pound and the ten bob not (ten shillings) and then we did away with shilling altogether. Sovereigns have been occasionally minted for special occasions. And they are still valued as jewelry, as bangles or pendants and my husband has a half-sovereign set in a signet ring.

Okay, so that is the basics, though there could be much more. Now we can get to the interesting stuff, like how much did things cost and slang terms for sums of money in the Regency.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - August.

It hardly seems possible that August is almost half over and the summer is two thirds gone. Free books. Enter the fabulous contest offered by the Toronto Romance Writers for a chance to win novels by some famous and not so famous (ahem me for example) authors.

And what might we find if we looked out of the window in Regency England in August.

Well according to our Naturists Diary: The mountain ash, or rowan tree, now displays its bunches of red berries amid its elegant and light foliage

Interestingly enough, the wood of this tree was used to make bows in middle ages.

In the more recent past it was used for tool handles, mallet heads, bowls and platters.

Of especial interest to me, the berries are edible and used to make rowan jelly which is eaten with game I have no trouble imagining it being used this way during the Regency. So I must add it to my information on Food. Always collecting.

About the 11th of August, today please notice, the puffin migrates. I had to include that. Imagine picking one day of the year to migrate and they are such cute birds too. Not that one would have seen too much of them, even during the Regency. Their habitat is very specific.

Also making its appearance in August is: The common flax, with its pretty pale blue flowers.

Whenever something says common, one always finds something exotic. Like the common loon. Of course it doesn't mean common as in "vulgar" but common as in most frequently found. Still, I had to look up this one.

And of course it is not so common after all, a source of linseed oil and one of the earliest sources of fiber for linen, it is in fact hugely important.

That is all from me today, back to writing my next novel. Don't forget to enter the contest.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Regency Fashion for August

First you may have noticed that I changed the picture of my book. Well I just learned before Nationals that my cover had changed. Happily, I love the new one just as much as the old one.

This first image is from 1806 taken from the Ladies Monthly Magazine

Morning Dress.

Round Dress of Pink Muslin, trimmed down the Front with Lace Footing; Cloak of worked Leno, lined with Straw-coloured Sarsnet, and trimmed with White Lace; Head fashionably drest with the Cantab Hat.

Full Dress.

A close Dress of White Sarsnet, bordered with painted Flowers, and Train of Pale Green Crape; Gold Broach; Head-Dress consisting of deep White Veil thrown carelessly over, and falling down the Back, Gold Comb, and Buff Gloves.

Interesting to see that for the pink morning gown that the cloak is much more like a shawl. I do love the color of this dress and the lace footing down the front. Not sure why it is called footing, but it really is elegant. I would not mind making calls in such a pretty gown.

The second gown, for evening is also lovely. I think the painted flowers appeal to me. I do not like the buff gloves, however. They look odd. And how about that veil. How long would it take the maid to get that carelessly thrown over look?

The next outfit is from La Belle Assemblee, 1810. A Walking Gown.

Promenade Walking Dress.

A plain cambric round morning dress, made high in the neck, with short train, let in round the bottom with two rows of worked trimming. A pelisse of green sarsnet, made to fit the shape, trimmed round with a narrow fancy trimming, cut with two scollops on the left side, on the right with one; fastened on the neck with a gold brooch, and confined round the waist with a girdle of the same, with gold clasp. A Lavinia unbleached chip hat, tied down with a broad white sarsnet ribband; a small white satin cap is worn underneath, with an artificial rose in front. The hair dressed in full curls. A plaid parasol; with York tan gloves; green silk sandals.

The gown is very plain and if it were not for that green trim it would seem almost dull, and yet somehow that is its charm. And one would not want too much going on on the dress given the pelisse, which takes up most of the description. Interesting that the scollops are different on each side. Lots of information here for a writer, I must say.

Well that is it for me for August, much as I would like to do more. If I sound rather quiet to day, I am. I have lost my voice completely. Good thing I can still type.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Writer Returns

Okay, so a bit dramatic, but as I mentioned I was off at the Romance Writers of America Conference in San Francisco last week. Here is my book signing picture as proof. And yes, I am wearing a Regency gown, made by me, which I later wore to the Beaumonde soiree.

After travelling all day Sunday and somehow picking up a flue bug on the plane, I am only just now getting my head in order. So, apologizing profusely, I missed my Monday post. And today all I am going to do is tell you a bit about the conference. Tomorrow, I promise August fashions and then back to normal programing.

While in San Fransisco, I attended the Beaumonde conference and learned lots and lots, which of course I can't wait to share with you all, after we have finished our money segment. And one little bit about my trip to Wales this year. As a taste, here is a period saddle.

The Beaumonde sesssions covered a huge variety of information from weapons to saddles to riding to costumes. I could only attend a very few, but I took in the areas I felt I needed most.

The booksigning at Literacy was awesome. My first with RWA. I met with my agent, my editor, and my publisher. The authors had a wonderful dinner with Sourcebooks, editor and publisher and publicists. I was also part of a panel with my sisters from the American Title 2 contest. We talked about making a splash before you are published and we had a good number of attendees and very positive feed back. We are hoping to give the workshop again, either at conferences or or line. So that was very exciting.

We were also able to do a little bit of sightseeing, and in particular a trip to Napa Valley, Muir Woods and Sausalito. Here is a glimpse of husband and daughter outside a winery, with a wonderful view behind.

Now there are books to write and proposals to send in, so until next time, Happy Rambles.