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In my newly released novel, An Uncommon Woman, I found it fascinating to create a heroine who longs for pretty things but is denied them. In fact, the novel’s first line states, “Why could she not quit pondering that flounced petticoat?”

Tessa Swan craves feminine things that her austere life on the frontier doesn’t deliver. These fripperies only exist overmountain, in more civilized cities and towns. She’s only heard about them or read about them. During the 18th-century, fashion was very much a part of everyday life. Even newspaper notices posted for runaway slaves and indentures went into great detail about what they wore at the time they went missing.

I often try to find historic gowns like the one above to dress my heroines in in my novels. This celestial blue gown as the color was called back then, would have been Tessa Swan’s choice but well out of her rustic reach. This ensemble was an extravagance only a wealthy, genteel woman could afford, not a simple frontier lass simply trying to stay alive. But even a frontier lass can dream!

Looking at extant gowns in museum collections is truly inspiring for me as a writer. The gown shown above is a beautifully preserved, 18th-century {circa 1775} Watteau pleat/Sack back robe and matching petticoat of eau-de-Nil damask, the open robe with self fabric trimming to front opening, self fabric flounce to petticoat, together with a pair of matching self-fabric covered shoes with Louis heels, pointed toes and lachets. From Bonhams auction house.

As a history lover, I’d give almost anything to know more about the woman who wore the dress, the occasion, and perhaps most of all the seamstress who created such a work of art!

If you’d like to see more historic fashions, please join me at my Facebook Author Page!