When I was writing Season of Mists, I scoured the internet for dress images of the era. As a visual writer, I find it difficult to describe a dress with the loving detail needed when you don’t see something physical manifested in front of you. Now finding “the right” dresses took forever. I wanted something around 1888, which made the search difficult since most of the dresses were dated either early 1880s to early 1900s. I took a leap of faith and started with a template and added to it in my mind.
In Season of Mists, Justine Holloway is a seventeen year old girl away at a french finishing school when she learns her parents both died in a fire. Suddenly, a girl from a middle class family, learning enough to snare a decent match, is now thrown into the world of wealth and mystery. Although in mourning, she attends her first ball. The fabric would be a deep silver with black ribbons, pearls and rossettes:
“It’s here, Justine,” Frances squealed. In her hand was a large cream box and behind her, Molly trailed, her expression less thrilled. Her godmother placed the package on the bed and motioned for Molly to open it.
“It just arrived. Let’s have a look.”
Molly removed the lid and Frances swooped in. She took the dress by the shoulder hem.
Out came a dark, steel gray gown with hand embroidered clear beading around a low neck line. The effect, as the couturier suggested, was stunning. Strands were draped across the bodice above a black lace and disappeared into a small cluster of silk rosettes with small pearls positioned above shoulder. Down the skirt’s front panel, the same beading blossomed in an array of glittering flowers and vines. The material was flat and smooth, meant to show off the painstaking detail. In the back, the dress’ train was draped in layers and accentuated with a garland of black silk flowers. Seeing the stages could never have prepared Justine for the sense of awe that struck her practically speechless.
“I have to say, that fashion house has a loyal patron in this household. Justine, this color will suit you so well.”
“Seeing it like this was almost worth being treated like a pin cushion.”
Frances laughed. “I have a feeling it was more than worth the pain. It would be far more striking in a blue or even cream.”
“What do you think, English?” Justine asked. Frances was right, it was worth the pain.
“It’s lovely, Miss.”
“You sound as a fish on market day. What troubles you?” Justine asked.
“Nothin’, Miss Justine.”
“English, have Mrs. Cripps send up tea. Be quick girl because you’ll need to do Miss Justine’s hair next for practice.”
The cut was perfect and made Justine feel quite grownup. Despite everyone’s insistence that she did not have to wear somber colors, she was pleased to see how well the black rosettes complemented the color.
That ball does not end well for our blushing heroine. Normally as young woman wouldn’t be out in society without being introduced into society, however, that was done in the Spring. In the meantime, debutantes had to wait patiently for her turn to be presented before the Queen before proposals could begin. Her next gown is for the opera where they see Aida with the mysterious Egyptian Ambassador. I was drawn to the back of this dress with all the decor down the sides. I added big puffed sleeves and more pearls. In my mind, I created what I would want to wear:
That night, Justine examined her reflection in the mirror of her boudoir, turning to look over her shoulder to see the lovely long train of her gown. The color was dark, since she still considered herself in half-mourning, a period in between black and vibrant color. Her gown was a deep blue silk embroidered with small silver beads that swirled from the bottom hem up to her bodice where a sash of the same hue encircled her waist, made petite by the tightly laced corset. On the bodice of the dress, silver beads adorned the modest neckline and elegant short puffed sleeves. Dangling down her shoulders was black lace and more shimmery beads. In the back, yards of material was tucked and folded into an accordion train decorated with fabric rosettes and ribbon. The fabric was heavy but stunning.
“I look…” Justine’s voice faltered and Molly knew just what her mistress felt. She herself could not think of a good enough description. Somehow seeing the couturier hold up the fabric against her skin and trying to imagine how the drawn design would look on her didn’t quite make the same sort of profound effect.
Then Justine smiled. “How many tucks does the bustle have?”
“I told you the seamstress knew what she was doin’,” Molly said proudly. She picked up the train and straightened it out for her mistress. “Never seen anythin’ with so many buttons.”
“It is far more elegant than anything I’ve ever worn. The dressmaker did a fabulous job.” Justine ran her hands down the bodice. “It’s a shame my mother cannot see me in it.”
The research for season of Mists was stretched to fit the story line but was so fun to write. Searching for dresses and fabrics was quite the task. I hope you enjoy seeing my inspiration as much as I did creating them in my mind.
Want to download a sample of Season of Mists? Click here to head over to Divertir Publishing and enjoy!
The year is 1888. Justine Holloway finds herself an orphan after her parents die in a horrific fire. She is sent to live with her godparents, Harold Mendenhall and his sister Frances. On the boat ride home, she meets Amun Farouk, a handsome Egyptian Ambassador who is also sailing to England to meet her godfather. What Justine does not realize as she dons the veil of mourning is that Harold runs a secret organization under the nose of polite society, much to the dismay of his genteel sister. The Council was created for the protection of humanity from the Varius, refugees from a parallel universe who shift their form while others channel the forces of magic. They seek refuge in Victorian London, hidden in the slums, easily forgotten until a human ends up incinerated or sucked dry. Drawn into the plot against her will, Justine finds herself the object of a vampire’s lurid obsession. According to ancient texts, vampires kill humans for fodder, their blood and the air they breathe inferior, but this killer has other intentions for her. Does Justine’s survival depend on Amun or will he kill her to save humanity?
Jen Corkill has an unholy fascination with Victorian literature, although contrary to popular belief, she doesn’t wear a corset. She does drink way too much coffee when she writes and enjoys watching the BBC. Another rerun of a Jane Austen remake? Game on! While you don’t need a reason to put the kettle on, nothing like tea and scones for dabbling in the Regency or Victorian eras.
Apart from her historically nerdy side, Jennifer also LOVES Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, and looking up into the night sky with her eldest daughter, wondering if there’s life on other planets.
Life is as it should be raising her kids in rural Nevada with her amazing, head banging husband.