The Larks are excited to welcome author, Stephanie Kate Strohm, to The Nest today. Andrea is a huge fan of Stephanie's work.
This is not the first time Stephanie Kate Strohm has spent some time at Reading Lark:
Today, Stephanie is taking our readers on a journey through the world of Civil War fashion to celebrate the release of Confederates Don't Wear Couture. Also, because Andrea loved the book so much, Reading Lark is offering a Stephanie Kate Strohm Prize Pack to our readers. The giveaway details are at the end of this post.
It all started with a dress. Specifically, a five flounced robe from the establishment of Messers. T. W. Evans & Co., on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. It was probably the name that caught my eye first – the Juliet. The lure of my dream role and the promise of hopeless romance were too much to resist. Beyond the name, of course, I was drawn to the aforementioned epic five flounces, the model’s impossibly tiny waist, and the three enormous bows adorning the bodice. Sadly, I won’t be making a trip to Chestnut Street anytime soon. This dress had last been sold in May of 1860.
I found the Juliet while sitting in my thesis carol in college, ostensibly writing a research paper on antebellum debutantes but primarily reading 19 fashion magazines. Something about the dress stuck with me. Maybe it was the name, or the bows, or those five fantastic flounces, but whatever it was, when Libby puts on her first Civil War reenactment dress in Chapter One of Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, it is, of course, the Juliet.
I write a contemporary series about a teenage girl who participates in historical reenactments, and while that doesn't involve as much research as writing historical fiction probably does, it’s important to me to strive for accuracy just as much as those reenactors do, by researching the details of the time period. Luckily for me, most of those details involve clothing. I’m definitely a fashion-y girl (with the overflowing closet to prove it), but my interest in historical fashions totally trumps my interest in modern ones. Because the 1860s is my favorite era of female fashion history, hands down, I couldn't wait to start researching Confederates Don’t Wear Couture.
I mean, just look at those gorgeous gowns! They’re so elaborate and expansive the women can barely stand next to each other! Mid-nineteenth century fashions are characterized primarily by their silhouette – the infinitesimally small waist ballooning out into an expansive circle of skirts. This silhouette is accomplished by the two most important tools of the undergarment trade: the corset and the hoopskirt.
In the antebellum era, “tightlacing” became popular – i.e. lacing a steel or whaleboned corset as tight as possible to have the smallest waist possible. While it certainly produced results on the tiny waist front, it came at a high cost. If you wear your corset long enough, it will actually rearrange your organs and dislodge your bowels!
Crinoline hoop skirts were certainly less uncomfortable, although a bit more cumbersome. Most cage crinolines were constructed of a series of metal hoops that held women’s skirts out in a balloon shape, erasing the need for many heavy petticoats. Even so, at the height of hoop madness, Southern belles worse as many as five petticoats on top of their hoopskirts! When it comes to 1860s fashion, bigger is most certainly better.
Luckily for me, I am able to do most of my research online, using primary sources. Godey's Lady’s Book, the fashion magazine for mid-nineteenth century Americans, has all been digitized. Every dress described in Confederates Don’t Wear Couture is taken directly from one of the beautiful color plates in Godey’s. (For example, that darling number with the birds on it, second from the left, is featured in Chapter 4.) One of the best things about doing research this way is that I’m looking at fashion in exactly the same way a woman from 150 years ago would have. Maybe she turned the page, saw that devastating cherry red belt, felt her heart flutter, and knew she had to have it. And even though it’s my characters who get to wear these dresses, not me, I feel like each buckle and bow brings me closer to the past.
About Stephanie Kate Strohm
Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink and the upcoming Confederates Don't Wear Couture. She grew up in Connecticut and attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where she was voted Winter Carnival Queen. Currently she lives in New York City with a huge shoe collection and a little white dog named Lorelei Lee.
About the Novel
Libby's best friend and fabulous fashion designer, Dev, hatches a plan to jet down South and hawk his period gowns to the wives and girlfriends of Civil War re-enactors. With a pang, Libby abandons her plan to visit her boyfriend, Garrett, in Boston and jumps at the chance to help run "Confederate Couture," and let her inner history nerd loose in a 19th century playground. But Libby and Dev aren't whistling Dixie for long. Between the constant travel from battle ground to dusty battle ground (with no Starbucks in sight, mind you), blistering heat, and a violent ghost set on romantic revenge, they quickly realize Alabama's no sweet home. And the boys. . . well, let's just say Libby's got the North and the South fighting for her attention. Confederates Don't Wear Couture is another hilarious, historical romp from Stephanie Kate Strohm!
We have ONE prize pack up for grabs containing a copy of Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink and a copy of Confederates Don't Wear Couture up for grabs. The winner will be able to choose print or eBook versions. The giveaway is open to residents of the US. In order to win you must:
* Be 13+ years old
* Fill out the Rafflecopter below
The giveaway runs from June 4-11. The winners will be contacted via email on June 12.