|Regency era walking dress|
Anna Durbin grew up reading sagas of gallant heroes and spirited heroines and began crafting her own elaborate stories in her imagination at a young age. It was only natural that she would one day write them down. She also enjoys weaving the symbolism of the tarot deck into her storylines. Her first novel, King of Swords, was a 2012 Golden Heart® finalist. Learn more about Anna and her books at her website.
It’s March 1816. You’re Lady Cassandra Gardner, and you’re attending a house party in the Lake District. You’ve just had a heated discussion over breakfast with the gentleman who broke your heart years ago. Essentially, he won the argument, so you decide to go for a walk to clear your head. What do you wear?
First of all, a lady couldn’t go anywhere without the basics—her undergarments. Since you’re already up and about, you’re already wearing your shift, stays, and petticoat (in that order). A shift was a short-sleeved or sleeveless white garment worn beneath everything else. It most closely resembled what we think of today as a slip. Over the shift, you’ve fastened your stays. Regency stays were similar to Victorian corsets, only more comfortable and with less boning. They were designed more to lift and augment the bosom than to cinch and shape the waist. Next came your petticoat, which was a full length sleeveless garment made of linen, flannel, or cotton that frequently featured a decorative hem of lace or ruffles. This hem was designed to show beneath the outer gown. Note that you wore no drawers because drawers were considered racy at the time.
You trade the silk stockings you wore to breakfast for a pair of warm woolen ones, since it’s likely to be chilly outside. Garters that were tied, hooked, or buckled either above or below the knee hold your stockings in place.
You wore your morning dress down to breakfast, but since you’re going out, you must change into a walking gown. Regency ladies had dresses for every occasion, including dresses purposefully made for walking out of doors. These dresses were made to be seen, so they were fancier than a basic morning dress. Fabrics chosen for walking gowns varied from muslin to velvet, depending on the season. White was a favorite color, though other colors were often displayed in fashion plates of the day.
Your walking dress emulates the high-waisted neoclassical style so popular in the Regency Era with a closely fitted bodice ending just below the bust and a skirt that hangs straight down the body. The Regency silhouette was simpler than the fashion silhouettes of the earlier Georgian or the later Victorian periods. Whereas Georgian and Victorian fashions called for all sorts of embellishments to be worn beneath the outer dress to enhance the silhouette, such as paniers, bustles, and crinolines, Regency ladies wore just a basic shift and petticoat beneath their dresses.
Now that you’re dressed for walking, you’re ready to step into your half boots for outdoors. Regency Era boots were often made of nankeen or kid leather, and sometimes, even denim. Unfortunately for women of the day, their shoes—including their boots—were not very sturdy. Half boots were an improvement over dress slippers for outdoor wear, but they were still not very resilient.
Before going outside on a chilly March day, you put on your pelisse, or your coat. You then slip on your kid gloves and don a bonnet to protect your delicate ivory complexion from the ruthless rays of the sun. You grab your reticule in case you need your handkerchief, hussif (sewing kit), or box of comfits while you’re out. And let’s not forget about your Tarot cards! As Lady Cassandra, you never go anywhere without your Tarot cards.
Ready to face the elements now, you head outdoors for an isolated country lane to forget about the disastrous conversation you had at breakfast. The last person you want to run into is that pesky gentleman with whom you argued earlier, but he is the first one you meet. Naturally. You can’t say how you feel about the situation, but at least you look marvelous.
King of Swords
A fiercely independent spinster who desperately needs assistance . . .
Lady Cassandra Gardner will inherit fifty thousand pounds when she turns thirty, and just in time. She has a special purpose for her money, one no man could understand. But when her brother the duke tries to cheat her out of her fortune, she has no choice but to accept the help of the man who shattered her heart years ago.
A gallant nobleman who can’t resist rescuing a damsel in distress . . .
Lord William Poniard is looking for a wife, but the last woman he should consider marrying is his archenemy’s sister, the woman who hates him with a vengeance. Yet, when she is compromised by a silly nitwit, he sees an opportunity not only to rescue the lady by marrying her but also to exact revenge on the duke for his past betrayal.
Will she accept his offer of help and at what cost?
Sparks fly between them when their attraction to one another ignites into a passion neither saw coming. Will one night of rapture unite them or drive them apart? Can she forget past wounds and let him into her heart? And can he convince her that she is the only woman he wants?