Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A ‘Biased’ View of 1930s Fashions by Afton Locke

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to welcome guest author Afton Locke! She's written a fun post on 1930's fashion. Enjoy!

Rose, Exposed - A ‘Biased’ View of 1930s Fashions

Thank you for hosting me today. I’m excited to discuss 1930s fashions and my recent release, Rose, Exposed, a multicultural historical erotic romance set in the 1930s.

This post is part of the official Rose, Exposed Blog Tour (3/26 - 4/09).         

The grand prize for the tour is vintage-style rose earrings for pierced ears (U.S. shipping address only).
To be eligible, COMMENT on this post. Comment should include the historical time period and geographical setting (when and where) you’d most like to see in a romance.

The tour winner will be announced at http://www.aftonlocke.com/RoseExposedTour.html on April 11th.

A ‘Biased’ View of 1930s Fashions

When I wrote Rose, Exposed, clothing was a big part of my research. I don’t pay a lot of attention to clothes in the first draft. I’m too busy getting down the plot, dialog, and love story. My characters are so eager to get the clothes off they don’t want to be slowed down. During the polishing stage, however, I consider a lot of factors when dressing my characters -- time period, setting, climate, socioeconomic status, personality, plot, and color symbolism.

For my current release, I dressed my hero in simple work clothes because he does physical labor for a living. I emphasized his earthiness with tan homespun and green fabrics. My heroine is in a higher social class but her parents are strict and old-fashioned. Accordingly, I dressed her in nicer fabrics with conservative styles. Because her name is Rose, I made the first dress she appears in a rose print.

Undergarments and hosiery go hand-in-hand with clothing because some can’t be worn without the other. The fact that Rose hates stockings and rarely wears them added to her character. Underwear was a struggle for her too. She went from wearing old-fashioned bloomers to sometimes none at all, enhancing the theme of having her secret exposed.

When I research clothing, I consult a reference book on my bookshelf, which has fashion illustrations for various time periods for men and women. I also use Google’s Images feature a lot. Finding just the right look gives me ideas and helps me visualize what I want. I look at several old sewing patterns and vintage clothes on eBay.

Of all the garments in this book, I had the most fun with evening gowns. While women’s fashions in the 1920s and 1940s tended to form straight lines, dresses and skirts in the 1930s flared from and draped around the body, created beautiful feminine curves. When a woman spins around, the dress cascades around her in a beautiful swirl. The secret to this is cutting fabric on the bias. If I weren’t a life-long seamstress, that research fact might have sounded Greek to me, so I’ll illustrate it for everyone.

Fabric is woven, so it has both vertical and horizontal grains (warp and weft) at right angles to each other. In clothing, the vertical grain goes straight down your body, from collar or waistband to hem. Go to your closet and select a shirt. Try grabbing a piece of the fabric and another piece a couple of inches below it. No give, right? It’s as strong as steel. Try it horizontally and you get the same thing. Now try it with diagonal points and the fabric magically stretches. This is the bias.

Today, sewing patterns with ruffles specify cutting the piece on the bias. The stretch makes the fabric more elastic, allowing a narrow hem to be formed along the curved edge of the ruffle. Even then, sewing a perfect ruffle hem is tedious.

In the 1930s, especially, entire skirts or dresses were cut on the bias. Pattern pieces are printed with lines on them that you match to the grain of the fabric. For a straight skirt, picture the line going straight from top to bottom. For bias skirts, put that line on a 45 degree angle. The following illustration shows a pattern piece on a piece of fabric for each. Solid arrows represent the grain line, and the dashed line is the center line of the garment. The crosshatch shows the weave of the fabric.

Fabrics suited for these fluid evening gowns, as shown in the illustration below from left to right, include: chiffon, crepe-de-chine, silk, and satin.

To read more about the bias cut and 1930s fashions, see:

Rose, Exposed

Publisher:  Ellora's Cave Publishing
Release Date:  27 March 2013
eBook ISBN #:  978-14199-45205
Stay tuned for reviews and more: http://www.aftonlocke.com/Rose.html

(I love creating trailers for all my books!)

When Leroy Johnson gets promoted at the new oyster plant on Pearl Point, all he cares about is working hard. When he meets the flirtatious artist Rose Wainwright, however, nothing matters except getting her to the altar and into bed. Healing from a recent loss, he’s not about to let her go too.

Because Rose’s strict, social-climbing father doesn’t approve of dark-skinned Leroy, they court in secret anyplace they can find. Although Leroy’s raw passion can convince her to do almost anything, why can’t he understand she needs freedom, not marriage?
Her father wants her to be white, but Leroy wants her to be black. Playing both sides of the fence leaves this young biracial beauty exposed in more ways than one.

Excerpt (modified)
Rose, Exposed - Copyright © AFTON LOCKE, 2013 - All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

“You’re so…dark,” she exclaimed. Instead of the disdain he expected, he heard fascination.

Come on, lady. Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a colored man before.

“Yes, I’m dark,” he agreed as he politely removed her hand, “which is why it’s not a good idea for us to sit alone together in this car. Someone might come along and jump to the wrong conclusion.”

A conclusion that could get him beat up or worse with the Klan close by on Oyster Island.

But before he could stop her, she clasped both sides of his face and pressed her sweet mouth to his. Aw, hell. A man only had so much self-control, and she’d just shattered his. Unable to stop himself, he plundered her delicate mouth. Her lips reminded him of rose petals, and he sucked the sweetness out of them as if he were a bee. The more he tasted, the more he wanted.

She opened, giving him access to her even sweeter tongue. Taking a big breath, he pulled away from her.

“We can’t do this. You’re white.”

She looked down at her upturned palms. “Then I really do look white?”

Leroy frowned. “Aren’t you?”

For the first time, her smile disappeared, making him shiver in his wet clothes. “The truth is, I don’t know what I am. I suppose that’s why I took this foolish drive.”

She must be biracial then, he realized, and not forbidden after all. The thought made him want to dance on the hood of the car. She still looked white, though. If he didn’t have the time to court a girl his own color, he sure didn’t have any for a complicated one like this.

“Kiss me again,” she demanded.

Without waiting for him to answer, she locked her hot, damp mouth on his again and tugged hard on his shoulders. Before he knew it, he was on top of her on the front seat. He wished her dress weren’t so thin when long, slender legs shifted restlessly under his. Dizzy with the scent of rain and her, he froze.

At that moment, nothing mattered except having her. He didn’t care if the entire Klan showed up, knocked on the window and caught him making love to her. It had been too damn long since he’d had a woman. He needed to stop this while he still could.

“Do you know what you’re asking for?” Lust had turned his voice into a husky croak.

She laughed and touched his face again. “I don’t know. What am I asking for?”

This girl was crazier than he’d first thought. What if someone less honorable than himself had stopped instead? She could’ve been raped.

“A whole lot of trouble.” He sat up. “Look, this is not the time or the place. Now let’s get you home.”

The sooner he could be rid of her—before she derailed him from his job, family, and everything else that mattered—the better.

WIPs Coming Soon

Rose, Exposed is the sequel to Plucking the Pearl, an interracial historical erotic romance.

I have two more books planned for the Oyster Harbor series. Next up for romance are Sadie and Henry.

In addition to interracial/multicultural historicals, I also plan to keep writing erotic contemporaries.
Can an older woman find love with a hot male stripper? My current WIP, Two Hours to Entice, will answer that question.

Where readers can find me

I will be attending EC’s RomantiCon Oct 10-13, 2013 in Canton, Ohio - http://ecromanticon.com/:
Don’t miss the book signing on Oct 13th.
I’m also hosting a Fabulous Fusion workshop with Koko Brown and Eve Vaughn to celebrate interracial erotic romance for EC’s Fusion line.

Newsletter - The Love Chronicle: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thelovechronicle/


Unknown said...

Great post. I never really considered the meaning of the different cuts of cloth and style. Was there a reason for its change at this time? The only sewing I do is counted cross stitch so as much as I live vintage style...would never have been able to make it.

Afton Locke said...

:-) Who knows why fashions change, Loni. I think they change for the sake of change. (I'm glad I kept my spike heels!) Dresses were very boyish in the 1920s and I think it swung the other way to compensate.

Laura said...

Fascinating post! I knew certain patterns were cut on the bias, and had been given an explanation I didn't understand - but you made it much more understandable! Thanks, Afton.

Afton Locke said...

Thanks, Laura! Glad I could help you visualize it.

bn100 said...

That was fascinating.
1800s Brazil

bn100candg at hotmail dot com