Literary Links

March/April 2003


Good News and Announcements

Victorian Research Guide--We're now on CD-Rom!  You can purchase the 252-page research guide, Researching the British Historical--The Victorian Era, in a new format--CD-Rom.  Compact and convenient, order the file type you prefer: MS Word or .pdf, for only $7.95.  The original print version is still available also.  For more information, click here.

Contest for Historical Writers--The Hearts Through History chapter of RWA is once again holding its contest--Romance Through The Ages.  Exclusively for historical writers, this contest has categories divided by eras.  The top prize in each category will receive a critique.  The Legend is a special award that will be given for the most memorable hero.  For more information, see the Hearts Through History web site.

Chicago-North Fire & Ice Contest--Chicago-North RWA is sponsoring their 5th annual Fire & Ice Contest.  Enter your first chapter in one of three categories--Single Title Contemporary, Series Contemporary, or Historical.  Top prize in each category is $50.  Acquiring editors will read finalist entries.  For more information, visit the Chicago-North web site.

The Golden Network Golden Pen Contest--The Golden Network Chapter of RWA is sponsoring its 6th annual Contest--The Golden Pen.  Enter the first 25 pages of your manuscript.  Winners in each category will receive a gold pen engraved with their manuscript title, and a $25 cash prize.  Acquiring editors will judge the finalists. For more information, Contact Contest Coordinator, Pam Baker, by e-mail at: 

New Authors added to our growing family--Be sure and visit these author's pages.  We recently designed pages for Laura Moore, Contemporary author.  Check out her newest release, Night Swimming, here.  Also, Shirley Chance Yarbro just published an historical novel, Braddock, which used one of our articles (British Gentlemen in the Old West) as a basis for her research.  Check out Shirley's site here.


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.

Author Links


Laura Moore

Shirley Chance Yarbro





Various Titles by Laura Moore

Various Titles by Shirley Chance Yarbro




The Annals of London: A Year-by-Year Record of a Thousand Years of History by John Richardson

Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh

Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright

Textiles for Early Victorian Clothing 1850-1880 by Susan W. Greene

Villages of England by Roger Hunt and Richard Turpin

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

A Writer's Workbook by Caroline Sharp

Featured Title

Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper's Bazar: 1867-1898 edited by Stella Blum

The Video Library

Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters


Researching the Romance


The Annals of London: A Year-by-Year Record of a Thousand Years of History by John Richardson

Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh

Simply Scones by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright

Textiles for Early Victorian Clothing 1850-1880 by Susan W. Greene

Villages of England by Roger Hunt and Richard Turpin

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

A Writer's Workbook by Caroline Sharp



Writers' Resources Online


British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate 1638-1660

The Digital Literature Institute

English History

Fordham University Library's History Research Guide

Museum of Costume

Victoria Art Gallery




Feature Article 


by Michelle Jean Hoppe

In a world where jeans and t-shirts are everyday fare, it is difficult to imagine the intricacies of dressing the Victorian woman.  Many factors figured into the voluminous layers, among them modesty, cleanliness and practicality.  

At the beginning of the Victorian era, all clothing was hand-made.  Because of this, dresses were expensive, and only the wealthy could afford a large wardrobe.  The less fortunate wore cast-offs, clothing from second-hand shops, or sewed their own.  After the invention of the sewing machine in 1851, the industry began to change.  Not only was clothing less expensive to produce, it was mass-produced, and by the end of the century, ready-made dresses were available to the general public at department stores.  The wealthy, however, continued to buy their dresses custom-made, the ultimate shopping spree a trip to Paris for a Charles Worth creation.  

A Victorian woman did not simply throw on a gown over her slip and panties, though.  There were many layers to achieve the picture of fashion perfection.  We'll start at the beginning.

These steps varied little over the nineteenth century after the invention of the crinoline in 1856.  The shape of the crinoline changed, eventually becoming a mere bustle at the back of the dress, and the corset transformed into varying shapes, but the basic undergarments remained similar over the decades.

The First Layer--The Basics:  Stockings reached just above the knee.  Stockings were usually black for daytime wear and white or colored for evening. They were held up by garters.  By the end of the century, the garters were attached to the corset.  Cotton drawers went over the stockings.  Drawers were constructed as two overlapping flaps (one for each leg), leaving a seamless crotch for a lady's toilette.  A sleeveless knee-length chemise completed the basic undergarments.

The Second Layer--Form and Function: A corset, strengthened with steel or whalebone, pulled in a woman's waist and supported her bustline.  It fastened at the front, but long ties in the back could adjust the tightness.  Woman pulled them as tight as possible to achieve a tiny waist, sometimes as much as four inches smaller than their natural shape.  By the end of the century, corsets had built-in bust enhancers and fell well below the waist to shape the hips also.  The Crinoline was a flexible cage of steel which supported the skirt.  It collapsed for ease of sitting and storing, but held the skirt into a perfect bell shape.  This lightweight contraption replaced the five or six petticoats a woman had to wear previously to achieve the same effect, and at its height, was 18 feet in circumference at the hem.

The Third Layer--Practicality: A Camisole went over the corset.  It served as a shield between the dress and the woman's skin, protecting her expensive garment from perspiration and oils.  A simple petticoat covered the crinoline to protect the skirt from the steel hoops, and to help the gown lay smooth over the form.  A fancier, embroidered petticoat was layered over the first one, the design more intricate when the skirt hem bunched up to reveal the petticoat.  

The Fourth Layer--The Dress: Finally came the gown.  A proper woman wore a high neck and long sleeves during the day.  By dinner time, the neckline dipped, and for elaborate balls, dresses were worn off the shoulder with a mere strap for a sleeve, and necklines plunged to reveal more than just a glimpse of skin.  To save on cost, skirts and bodices for day wear were often interchangeable.  A woman could create a new look without having to buy a new dress.  

The Fifth Layer--Accessories: A Victorian woman was never without gloves and bonnet.  Styles varied over the years, but she never left the house without either item.  Women often wore caps and gloves indoors as well.  Half-boots with thicker soles completed a day or walking outfit, while thin-soled kid slippers accompanied the ball gown.  Few examples of slippers are around today because the soles were paper-thin, and often danced through by the end of a busy evening.  When venturing outdoors, a woman would wear either a shawl or cape, and she carried a parasol to protect her skin from the sun.  Finally, a reticule, or small handbag, completed the outfit.  A lady would carry her perfume, handkerchief or fan in her reticule.

Because dresses were so expensive, a woman did what she could to protect them.  Decorative undersleeves could be slipped under the dress sleeve to just above the elbow to protect hems.  Fancier gowns which didn't allow for a camisole, had shields sewn into the bodice to protect the material from perspiration stains.  Ruffles were sewn into the hems of outdoor dresses.  Even with the hem of the dress in front, they fell about 1/8th of an inch below the hem in back.  The ruffle picked up the worst of the mud and dirt from the street, and could be replaced much easier than the expensive skirt.  

Gowns and dresses were well cared for, and because of the special preservation women used for their sentimental garments, many gowns from the Victorian era are around today in museums and antique shops, as well as private collections.

Copyright 2003, M. Hoppe

Sources: Costume and Eyewitness Book by L. Rowland-Warne, Alfred A. Knopf, 1992

The History of Underclothes by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington, Dover Publications, 1992.

Also see the Researching the Romance page of Literary Liaisons for more suggestions.

Editor's Note

It seems hard to believe spring is just around the corner.  Perhaps it's the six inches of snow still melting, or the recent sub-zero temperatures.  Regardless, the calendar says March, which means spring--rebirth and new life.  And this year, more than most, I feel that re-birth.  Life has taken me in a direction I wouldn't have expected, but I am embracing it with gusto.  We have a growing family of authors on our web site, and our list of references is continually expanding.  I am thrilled to announce that our Research Guide is now available on a convenient CD-Rom format.  I am forever looking and forever learning.  I pass that knowledge on to you, the writer.  Embrace it.  And relish in the new-found knowledge that is being given you.  You won't regret it.  Good luck!

--Michelle Hoppe

President, Literary Liaisons, Ltd.

Q&A Column

Q:  Can you tell me where to find an ecru colored wedding dress for a second marriage? Victorian Style, Size 12, high neckline, long flared skirt and jacket.
Any information will be appreciated as I'm in a wheel chair and is difficult to go to stores.. Thank You

--Shannon C.

A:   Shannon--If you're looking for a Victorian-era reproduction gown, here are a few sites to help in your search. Most of these companies will custom-make a gown to your specifications, so you can get exactly what you are looking for.

Finally, here is a site dealing with reproduction clothing--some actual vintage dresses, others reproductions.

Happy shopping! And congratulations on your upcoming wedding.

Michelle Hoppe
President, Literary Liaisons

Historical Calendar of Events



Max Beerbohm--English essayist

Bertrand Russell--English philosopher

Leon Blum--French statesman

Calvin Coolidge--U.S. President

Sergei Diaghilev--Russian ballet impresario




Theophile Gautier--French author




The Ballot Act was introduced in Britain which allowed for voting by secret ballot.

Ulysses S. Grant was re-elected President of the United States.

The U.S. General Amnesty Act pardoned most ex-Confederates.

The Three-Emperors League was established in Berlin, forming an alliance between Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary.

The Carlists were defeated in a Civil War in Spain and Don Carlos escaped to France.

T.F. Burgers elected President of Transvaal Republic.

The Jesuits were expelled from Germany as part of the Kulturkampf against Catholics launched May 14 by Chancellor Bismarck.  

Susan B. Anthony and other women’s rights advocates were arrested at Rochester, New York for trying to vote in the November 5 election.  

Spiritualist Victoria Claflin Woodhull announced her candidacy for the U.S. presidency. 

Congress passed a law guaranteeing equal pay for equal work in U.S. federal employment.

The “Comstock Law” enacted by Congress November 1 made it a criminal offense to import, mail, or transport in interstate commerce “any article of medicine for the prevention of conception or for causing abortion.” 

In an effort to curb excessive drunkenness, Parliament passed a Licensing Act that set strict limits on the number and kinds of places where alcoholic beverages may be sold and the hours such places may be open. 

A strict Adulteration of Food, Drink and Drugs Act amended Britain’s pure food laws of 1860, making sale of adulterated drugs punishable and making it an offense to sell a mixture containing ingredients added to increase weight or bulk without advising the consumer.

The viceroy of India, Richard Southwell Bourke, was murdered February 8 by a Muslim fanatic  while visiting a penal colony in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

The Spanish pretender, Don Carlos, entered Navarre in May but was routed and forced to take refuge in the Pyrenees.

Sweden’s Karl XV died September 18 after a 13-year reign. His brother assumed the throne as Oskar II.  

Japan instituted universal military service. 

Japan’s new Meiji government issued a decree  requiring compulsory education.  

Chiricahua Apache in Arizona Territory gave up their resistance to the whites on the promise of a reservation separate from that of the Mescalero Apache.

The New York State Forest Commission halted sales of forest lands to commercial interests.

Yellowstone National Park was created by a March 1 act of Congress setting aside a 2-million-acre tract of wilderness in Wyoming Territory.

A Geneva court of arbitration held Britain responsible for Civil War depredations by the Alabama and other Confederate cruisers in a September 14 ruling that awarded the U.S. government $15.5 million in damages.

Congress enacted the first U.S. consumer protection law, making it a federal offense to use the mails for fraudulent purposes.

Congress abolished the federal income tax imposed during the Civil War.


The Arts

"Battle of the Centaurs" by Bocklin

"The Artist's Mother" by James A. McNeill Whistler

"Le Foyer de la Danse" by Adgar Degas


Erewhon, or Over the Range by Samuel Butler

Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

The Fiend's Delight by Ambrose Bierce


"Family Strife in Hapsburg" by Franz Grillpaizer

"The Woman of Arles" by Alphonse Daudet


Bizet wrote incidental music to Daudet's "L'Arlesienne"


"La Fille de Mme. Angot" by Alexandre Lecocq

"Djamileh" by Georges Bizet premiered May 22 at the Opera-Comique in Paris



Daily Life


The first international soccer game was held, with England facing Scotland.

The first U.S. ski club was founded at Berlin, New Hampshire.

C.P. Scott became editor of the "Manchester Guardian."

Vanderbilt University founded at Nashville, Tennessee, with a grant from Commodore Vanderbilt.

The University of Oregon founded at Eugene.

The University of Toledo founded in Ohio.

Strasbourg University founded in Alsatia.

Bloomingdale’s opened in New York’s Great East Side Store at 938 Third Avenue by merchant Lyman G. Bloomingdale and his brothers Joseph and Gustave.

Montgomery Ward Co.  founded by Chicago mail-order pioneer Aaron Montgomery Ward.

Simpson’s opened in Toronto’s Yonge Street by Scots-Canadian merchant Robert Simpson.

British sugar consumption reached 47 pounds per capita, up from 12 pounds per year in 1780.

Pillsbury’s Best XXXX Flour introduced by C.A. Pillsbury Co. at Minneapolis.

The Café de la Paix opened  in the Grand Hotel, Paris, on the Boulevard des Capucines with carved pillars and landscaped ceilings.

The Brasserie Lipp restaurant opened on the Boulevard Saint-Germain-de-Pres under the management of an Alsatian.

Japan permitted Buddhist priests to take wives and eat meat.

Sarah Bernhardt began a 10-year career with the Comédie-Française at Paris. 

Italian actress Eleanora Duse began a 27-year career at the age of 13 by appearing as Juliet in the Shakespeare tragedy.

Mennonite farmers in the Crimea sent four young men on a scouting expedition to America after learning that Czar Aleksandr II planned to cancel their rights granted by Catherine the Great in 1783.

The brigantine Mary Celeste cleared New York harbor in mid-November for Genoa with 10 men aboard.   The ship was discovered December 4 sailing on a starboard tack with cargo and stores intact but without a soul aboard, a “ghost” ship whose mystery will never be solved.

A Gunpowder Trade Association organized by E. I. du Pont de Nemours controlled prices of blasting and hunting powder in a market glutted with war surplus powder.

A fire began November 9 in Boston with an explosion in a four-story warehouse stocked with hoop skirts at the corner of Summer and Kingston Streets.  It  would cause $75 million in damage, burning 776 buildings and consuming 65 acres bounded by Milk and Washington Streets and Atlantic Avenue before burning itself out November 11.

The Jesse James gang robbed its first passenger train in June after hearing that the Rock Island’s eastbound train from Council Bluffs, Iowa, would be carrying $75,000 in gold.

The New York Sun began an expose of the Crédit Mobilier formed in 1867 by Union Pacific directors.

The Boston Daily Globe begins publication March 4 with an eight-page edition that is twice the size of any of the city’s other 10 dailies. Most Boston papers sell for 4¢ a copy.

The Toronto Mail began publication March 30.

The Chicago Board of Trade moved into a building of its own at LaSalle and Washington. 




Billroth made the first resection of the esophagus.

Thomas Edison perfected the "duplex" telegraph.

The Brooklyn Bridge opened.

The building of the St. Gotthard Tunnel began.

American engineer George Westinghouse perfected an automatic railroad air brake.

Thomaston, Maine inventor John F. Blondell patented a doughnut cutter.

Louis Pasteur published a classic paper on fermentation showing that it is caused by microorganisms.

A cuneiform tablet was deciphered by British Museum assistant George Smith, and bears the Gilgamesh legend of 3,000 B.C. with an Assyrian account of a great flood that conforms closely with the biblical account.

English gunsmith John Farquharson patented the Farquharson Rifle, a single-shot rifle with a falling-block action.

William Tell Coleman and Francis Marion Smith discover borax ore deposits near Columbus, Nevada, beginning a world monopoly in the material used to tan leather and make glass, porcelain, enamel, and soap.  

Commercial production of celluloid bega, which would become a substitute for ivory, horn, amber, tortoise-shell, and the like for use in billiard balls, piano keys, men’s collars, buttons, dental plates, combs, and other items. 

B.F. Goodrich founded at Akron, Ohio, by rubber maker Benjamin Franklin Goodrich.  His first product was firehose to replace leather hose that cracks when frozen.

Pirelli and Co, rubber manufacturer, had its beginnings at Milan with Italian entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Pirelli.

German Egyptologist Georg Moritz Ebers discovered The Ebers papyrus at Thebes. It is the oldest known compendium of ancient Egyptian medical writings. It contained a formula for a tampon medicated to prevent conception. 

U.S. inventor Luther Childs Crowell patented a machine to make flat-bottomed paper bags.

Porcelain rollers were installed in a new flour mill built at Glasgow, Scotland.

Motion picture pioneer Eadweard Muybridge, took a sequence of photographs showing a horse running to prove photographically that all four feet of a running horse are off the ground at the same time at some point in the animal’s stride.

Japan got her first railway.  The 18-mile line between Tokyo and Yokohama, which opened October 14, was built by English engineers.

Irish-American engineer William Robinson patented a system of automatic electric signaling for railroads that will be the basis for all modern automatic railroad block signaling systems.

The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company was organized with 188 miles of track that would grow to 1,800 miles.  

Boston radiated out from its City Hall to a distance of 2.5 miles, half a mile farther than in 1850, as a consequence of horsecar transportation.

German botanist Ferdinand Julius Cohn published the first major work on bacteriology.    

Blackjack licorice-flavored chewing gum was introduced by Staten Island, N.Y., photographer Thomas Adams, Jr. It is the first chewing gum to be made from chicle and the first to be sold in stick form.

John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust refined 10,000 barrels of kerosene per day, the largest operation of its kind in the world.

Armour & Co. installed the world’s largest chill room in a new plant at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards.  The room employed a new method that used natural ice to maintain operations year round.  

The Chicago & Rock Island won a government contract for all mail west of Chicago by beating the Chicago and North Western in a race between Chicago and Council Bluffs.  Their engine covered the distance in 27 hours. 

A bumper U.S. corn crop led to the start of a stock feeder cattle industry in the Midwest.  

Massachusetts horticulturist Luther Burbank developed the Burbank potato, an improved variety that will provide Burbank with funds for developing other new varieties.  

Romanesque architecture was introduced to America by Louisiana-born architect Henry Hobson Richardson.

Olana on the Hudson River just south of Hudson, N.Y., was completed for painter Frederic E. Church, who commissioned architect Calvert Vaux of Central Park fame to draw up an Islamicized version of a plan made by Beaux Arts architect Richard Morris Hunt in 1867.

Western Electric was founded April 2 to sell telegraph equipment and pursue experiments on an electric telephone.

An Australian telegraph line opened November 23 to connect Adelaide with Port Darwin.



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