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


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Thursday, November 14, 2013

All About the Clothes by Janet Mullany

Welcome back to History Undressed, my dear friend Janet Mullany! I love her work and I think you will find her post today to be rather entertaining. Enjoy!


by Janet Mullany

1790-1800 Men's Clothes
Victoria and Albert Museum Collection
Given by Messrs Harrods Ltd.
Thanks so much for having me visit, Eliza! It’s a pleasure to be here.

Ask any writer of historical fiction what drew them to their chosen genre, and sooner or later they’ll reveal the ugly truth: it’s the clothes. I can talk for hours about Georgian servants or the English abolition movement, but eventually I slow down and blurt out “And the tight pants.”

Yes, the tight pants, the shirts with the mancleavage reveal, the boots, and so on. All that starched white linen and other wonderful fabrics, wool, silks, satins, velvets, netting, knits. Women’s clothing of the Georgian-Regency period was comfortable, sparse—gown, petticoat, corset, shift—and the corsetry supported but did not restrict. It’s enough to make fetishists of us all. The stockings, however, are a bit of a disappointment—imagine a long tube sock that would slide down unless tied in place. The concept of sexy underwear did not exist. It was strictly practical, made to be washed over and over—no silks or satins, and no lace since for a long time war prevented the (legal) import of French lace. But women did not wear pantaloons or drawers until well into the nineteenth century and the garments remained crotchless until the twentieth. You didn’t need sexy underwear with the outer clothes revealing the lines of the body, male and
1775-1800 Drawers
Victoria and Albert Museum Collection
female, so blatantly.

Clothing sent other messages too, about your status in life, your income, and even, for a woman, your marital status. Unmarried and in your late twenties?—sorry, you missed the marital boat. You’d henceforth be destined to wear a spinster’s cap, as my heroine does at the beginning of A Certain Latitude.

What sort of historical clothing do you find sexy?

1800—Allan Pendale, lawyer and the youngest son of the Earl of Frensham, is bound by ship for the West Indies, to impart the news to his estranged father that his mother has died.  But he also has another mission—to find out the truth of his origins.

Miss Clarissa Onslowe is also on board, traveling to take up the role of governess to the daughter of the wealthy planter Mr. Lemarchand. There is nothing to keep her in England. An indiscretion five years before led to her reputation being ruined; her abolitionist family has disowned her and no gentleman would marry her now. But now she seeks redemption with her family by revealing the truth about the miserable lives of the slaves who work on the sugar plantations.

Clarissa’s previous encounter with love has left her aroused and restless, and Allan is a man for whom lust is a daily pastime; thrown together belowdecks during the long sea voyage, they embark on a sensual odyssey where no desire is left untested. But if they thought their exploration and ecstasy could not be bettered, then there are more pleasures to be taken and boundaries to be broken at their island destination—where “March” Lemarchand, sugar king and master of seduction, awaits them both…

A marvel of sex, smarts, and wit—Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield
Unabashedly wicked … titillating, witty, and very, very sexy—Colette Gale
A torrid, twisting tale of a trio bound together by love, lust and tropical latitudes. Scorching!—Maggie Robinson


Allen had thought Miss Onslowe had gone below, but she was on deck, lurking around the henhouse, doubtless tucking the wretched birds into bed for the night. She wore, as usual, the unbecoming spinster’s cap and a long cloak. He drew his own cloak around himself, seeking a dark corner, and wondered if she had some sort of assignation with the First Mate Johnson, who had gazed foolishly at her all through dinner.
She looked around cautiously and raised one hand to her head.
He burst from his hiding place, grabbed the cap from her head, and tossed it overboard.
 “Why did you do that?” she shrieked, much as she’d done when he’d knocked her to the deck first within minutes of meeting her.
“Because it’s damned ugly and—”
The ship gave a decided lurch. She bumped up against him, grasped his coat for balance and shouted, “I wanted to do that!”
He burst into laughter. Together they watched the white cap bob on the waves—yes, definitely waves, here—and then sink from sight.
“Damn you, Pendale.” She bent forward to unlace her boots, kicked them off, and reached under her skirts.
“What—” he watched transfixed as her garters—pink ribbons—fell to the deck and those same dingy gray woolen stockings slid down her ankles.
She hopped on one foot and tugged one stocking off, then the other, with a swish of skirts, and maybe—or did he imagine it?—a flash of white thigh.
Barefoot, she tossed her stockings overboard, where they bobbed for a brief moment before disappearing from sight.
“Well!” She laid her hand on his sleeve for balance, grinning broadly.
He’d never seen her—or any woman, come to that—smile with so much abandon, her whole face lit up. She must be drunk—that was it. She’d had quite a few glasses of punch.
“I hated those stockings. I have been praying for them to wear out. I’m glad to see them go. Now I shall be forced to wear my silk ones, like a lady.”
 “Miss Onslowe, do you imply you are not a lady?”
She ran her fingers through her loosened hair. “I do not wish to shock you, Pendale. You seem like a very respectable sort of gentleman.”

“Oh, please, Miss Onslowe, do shock me.” He grinned back. The atmosphere was becoming pleasantly erotic—a woman who, if not exactly pretty, was certainly interesting and had shown no shyness in stripping off her stockings, stood before him, her hips swaying with the motion of the ship.


Janet Mullany grew up in England and has worked as an archaeologist, performing arts administrator, classical music radio announcer, bookseller, and editor, and unexpectedly became a writer eleven years ago. Her first book, DEDICATION (2005, rewritten for LooseId, 2011), was the only traditional Signet Regency with two bondage scenes and she continued to break conventions with her comic Regency chicklit book THE RULES OF GENTILITY (2007, HarperCollins and 2008, Little Black Dress, UK). She’s written three more Regency chicklits, two alternate historical-paranormals about Jane Austen as a vampire (JANE AND THE DAMNED and JANE AUSTEN: BLOOD PERSUASION) and other Austenesque short fiction. She also pursues another existence as a writer of erotic contemporaries for Harlequin. She lives outside Washington, DC where she reads voraciously and teaches a cat manners. Find out more at http://www.janetmullany.com


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