Tuesday, May 17, 2005

costume rant

I apologise to my handful of loyal visitors that I've not been around much lately. I started a new half-time job two weeks ago, in addition to the old half-time job, and that has sucked up most of my time and my brainspace.

But now I'm in ranting mode. The cover art on today's 'Pick' on the e-Harlequin site got my hackles raised. I have no idea about the quality or content of the book, and my rant in no way reflects any opinion on the book itself or its author*. But what's with the darn dress on the cover???

(If you can't see the picture, right click here)

Another example of cover art that bears no relationship to actual historical costume. And it's not even trying to be a Fabio cover, which I don't expect to have any relationship to any fashions seen outside a bordello. The book is apparently set in Montana, so I'm assuming sometime in the nineteenth century. The dress has some stylistic similarity to early Tudor styles (1500s) - except that there's no underskirts, undersleeves, and the fabric isn't anywhere near right, so the drape of the dress is more medieval. Unless our heroine had fallen under the influence of the Liberty set (unlikely, in Montana) then that dress simply could not have existed in a woman's wardrobe in Montana in the nineteenth century.

I don't read as widely as many of you, but I've noticed the tendency in a number of American-set historical romances to have costumes on the cover that just aren't right. And I'm not really picky, honest. Regencies tend to be a bit more accurate, and I'm happy to grant some artistic license. And the Fabio-style covers are supposed to be way over the top. But why can't cover artists of covers like this, which are (I presume) meant to convey a more realistic impression, actually portray something vaguely right, instead of this fantasy of women's fashion that never existed?

Some day I'll rave on about the portrayal of historic costume in novels, and all the totally wrong things that some romance writers fall in to - like their heroines never wearing corsets because they're 'uncomfortable', and silk chemises, and women wearing trousers.... but darn, I'm just too tired to rant any more tonight.

*If anyone's read the book and recommends it, let me know. It won't come out here in Australia for a couple of months, but if it's good I can probably get over cringing at the cover long enough to read it.


Anonymous said...

I read the book, it's ok, her book before this one is was better.

Bron said...

Thanks, Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

anytime, Bron did you get a chance
to look up the other books, I told you about? :-D

Kate R said...

I love it when you get all technical about clothes. It just makes me happy. HA, I think to myself, I can email this woman ANY TIME I FEEL LIKE IT and she'll maybe help me get things right in my historicals. Unless we're talking Manolo Bhlaniks or whatever they are.

It's kind of like that scene in the Woody Allen movie where he pulls cultural expert (whom I've forgotten but was a household name in the 70s.)to shut up a blathering guy while waiting for a movie.

I'm tagging you in my blog..

Bron said...

Janice, I haven't been to the loibrary lately so haven't hunted for the books, but i;ve got your recommendations noted.

LOL Kate, that's not technical! I could get really technical and rave on about weave structures and fibre twists and cutting diagrams and stitching and pleating techniques... but I won't. There, you can breathe a sigh of relief, now, that I won't bore you into oblivion. But I will post about costume myths sometime soon. Maybe tomorrow.

Cat Marsters said...

Yay, Bron - I'm glad someone else noticed. Looks like a medieval kirtle really, doesn't it? Maybe it's supposed to be her nightie. Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's not anything a Montana gal would ever have worn - nineteenth century or otherwise.