Monday, February 22, 2016

Ilona Fridl Joins Me for Clothes Make the Character Monday!

Today is Monday and that means it's Clothes Make the Character Day! Ilona Fridl is here to talk about the clothes her character Cat is wearing in the 1880s. I'm just glad I can stick with my jeans and t-shirt. I definitely don't need a bustle! Take it away, Ilona:

Writing historical fiction, I've done a lot of research on styles of clothes in the decades I've written about. For That Monroe Girl, this has been the earliest time, so far. For a young lady like Cat Monroe who was brought up in the east, being up to date with the latest fashions was paramount.

When the 1880s started, the bustle of the 1870s was on its way out. The padding and stays that gave the skirt a draped look changed to a straight, less full style. Then, by 1883, the bustle came back into style with a vengeance. The back of the skirt became massive with what some detractors said, they could place a teacup and saucer on it.

Cat's day dresses probably didn't have the full bustle and her riding clothes wouldn't have one at all. Work dresses we would be familiar with as the prairie dress. Underneath would be a corset, corset cover, pantaloons, and at least two petticoats. Knitted stockings of some sort would be held up with garters above the knee. Then there were shoes/boots sometimes with buttons. A hat and gloves completed the outfit.

Here's an excerpt from the book when Cat wanted to alter an out-of-date ball gown:

After thanking Jake for the midday repast, Cat hurried up to her room. “Edna, could you find my ball gown?”

Edna looked up from her mending. “Whatever for?”

Cat picked up her magazines and searched for the fashion plates. “Jake invited me to a ball in two weeks, and I’ve got to find something suitable to wear.”

Rummaging through Cat’s trunk, Edna emerged with a pale yellow gown wrapped in tissue paper. Cat held it up by the shoulders and studied it critically. Edna glanced at one of the fashion plates and back at the dress. “The bodice is suitable, but it has very little bustle.”

Cat nodded. “And the skirt is straighter than the fashion now, with too much bric-a-brac on it. You know, we could take that all off and get more material to drape a bustle.”

Edna pointed at one of the gowns. “We could add some material on either side of the skirt to make it fuller, too.”

“Yes, yes! And I’m sure we can have it done in two weeks!” She held the dress to her shoulders and gazed in the mirror; then she whirled around the room. “I’ll accept Jake’s invitation tomorrow, and then I will go shopping for material.”

She found her sewing scissors and sat down to strip the lace, bows, and flowers off the skirt. Dancing with Jake entered her dreams that night. 


Cat Monroe arrives in Tombstone, Arizona searching for her father and brothers, who left Virginia for the West right after the Civil War. With the help of newspaper reporter Jake Spencer, she finds her family and a whole peck of trouble. She's falling for the newspaperman, but she discovers his family and hers are feuding over water rights. When her father finally accepts that she is his daughter, he wants to marry her off to a rich neighbor who has a dark past.

Author Bio:

Ilona Fridl was born in sunny California where she spent the first twenty years of her life. Dreaming up stories took up a lot of her time. She then followed her parents to Wisconsin where she met her husband, Mark. They started a locksmithing business, but there were still stories in her head. Finally, she started putting them on paper―actually, a computer. The rest is history. She has an adult daughter and a granddaughter.

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