27 September 2010

Susanna Ives

Susanna Ives author of the brilliantly named Regency romance Rakes and Radishes is here to talk fashion. Rakes and Radishes is available from Carina Press. It's also been rated a Top Pick by The Season and Night Owl Romance wants to read more by Susanna.


First, thank you Jenny for letting visit me your blog.
Greetings from the states.

My book RAKES AND RADISHES is set in the Regency era of British history. The period was dominated by the symmetry of Greek Classicalism which was also reflected in women’s fashion of the day. To some degree, the fashionable Regency lady resembled a Greek marble column.

Period costume is not my passion. I have a basic understanding of the essential pieces of a Regency woman’s wardrobe. When writing the story, I used specific fashion plates and drawings to determine what my characters wore. The New York Public library has digitized a plethora of historical fashion plates. I have the plates broken out by years on Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher website (note: I’m Nancy’s web master)

So let’s begin with some basic information.

When a Regency woman got dressed, she started with a basic cotton or linen chemise which essentially is a long shirt that is gathered at the bodice. On top of the chemise, her servant, helper or mother would add a stay (corset). The Regency stays were less concerned with squeezing the waist but making the stomach flat and enhancing the breasts. There were long and short stays. English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington includes an account of how to put on the short stay. "A mother is advised that to apply it correctly her daughter should lie face down so that her mother, by applying a foot into the small of the back can obtain the requisite purchase to the laces.” Over the stay, a lady wore one or more petticoats. Regency women didn’t wear any form of panties, though some wore drawers.

Depending on her station, a lady could change clothes several times a day. A fashionable lady in the height of the Season began the day in morning dress and then perhaps changed to a walking dress for fashionable hour in Hyde Park. She would wear an elegant evening gown to dinner or going to the opera. And, of course, a ball gown if she were going dancing into the early hours of the morning.

Outerwear consisted of a pelisse which was a tailored version of a modern long coat, the spencer which was a fitted jacket, a cloak, or shawl. Outdoors, women always wore a bonnet and gloves.

When deciding what my characters should wear, I consulted La Belle Assemblee, the popular ladies journal of the day, and English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century.

Here is a fashion passage from RAKES AND RADISHES :

Lady Winslow invited Lady Kesseley and Henrietta to her box on the middle balcony. It was close enough to afford a nice view of the stage and an even better view of the audience. Lady Winslow was clad in a shimmering, orange silk gown with a matching ribbon twisted with gold beads in her hair. She had brought two gentlemen along. One wore a sloppy black cravat and had curls so wild they made Kesseley’s hair look tame. “He’s an artist,” Lady Winslow explained as if the poor man were afflicted with a disease. The princess had squeezed into a slim lavender gown that dramatically plunged in a deep V at the bodice, showing off her breasts. Her hair was piled high on her head and fell in little spirals around her face. Beside her sat a diminutive man who constantly pinched snuff from his gold box.
Below are some descriptions from La Belle Assemblee 1811 that are posted on Nancy Mayer Regency Researcher website. Enjoy!

Morning Carriage Dress

A bias corded muslin dress, a walking length, with long sleeves, made high in the neck, with collar; buttoned down the front of the waist with narrow lilac satin ribbon. Sash tied in a bow in front; a border of plain muslin, or lace, round the bottom. A square of lilac satin, with richly embroidered border in white silk, and tassels to correspond, is thrown over the shoulders in the form of a shawl, and is cut down the back to give it a more easy and graceful appearance about the figure. A simple white chip hat, tied round the crown in a bow in front of lilac satin ribbon. The hair in full curls, over the forehead. Pearl earrings. Gloves and shoes of pale lemon, or lilac coloured kid.

Evening Gown

A robe and petticoat of white satin with short sleeves, trimmed with green or yellow chenille, over which is worn a light green drapery of crape, fastened on the left shoulder with an amber or cornelian brooch, folded over the left side of the figure in front , nearly concealing the waist on that side. The hind part of the drapery is simply bound in at the bottom of the waist, confined underneath the drapery in front, entirely ornamented round with yellow chenille. With this dress is worn a Turkish turban of green crape, with trimming to correspond with plume on the right side. Shoes of green kid or silk.

Walking Dress

A pelisse of scarlet Merino cloth, buttoned down the front and up the arm with small gold buttons; the collar and cuffs of purple velvet; but during mourning, of black, striped with scarlet. An ermine tippet pointed in in the back, and muffs of the same. A bonnet of scarlet cloth, turned up with velvet and formed to come over the face the veil passed through the front and brought round the neck. Boots of scarlet cloth trimmed with velvet.

To learn more about me or RAKES AND RADISHES, please visit http://www.susannaives.com/


When Henrietta Watson learns that the man she loves plans to marry London's most beautiful and fashionable debutante, she plots to win him back. She'll give him some competition by transforming her boring bumpkin neighbor, the Earl of Kesseley, into a rakish gothic hero worthy of this Season's Diamond.

After years of unrequited love for Henrietta, Kesseley is resigned to go along with her plan and woo himself a willing bride. But once in London, everything changes. Kesseley—long more concerned with his land than his title—discovers that he's interested in sowing wild oats as well as radishes. And Henrietta realizes that gothic heroes don't make ideal husbands. Despite an explosive kiss that opens her eyes to the love that's been in front of her all along, Henrietta must face the possibility that Kesseley is no longer looking to marry at all...


  1. Hi Susanna! Thanks for a great post. I love the pics -- and they make me realise the tendency for magazine editors to want tall, thin female images isn't a late 20th century thing. It's been around for centuries. Just like body sculpting and spanx/corsets.

  2. Thanks y'all. If you really want to dig into the era, I can't recommend Nancy's website enough.

  3. Thanks, Susanna and Jenny, for this excellent post. Great information.

    Congratulations on the release of Rakes and Radishes (fantastic title, by the way) and the wonderful reviews. You must be delighted!

  4. It's a gorgeous post -- no credit to me -- life's easy when you have lovely guests (posters and commenters both!)

  5. Cathryn,

    Thank you! This was a fun post to write. I love finding the images. When I worked on Nancy's site, I spent hours digging through archives looking for images.

    Here are some pictures taken from around 1908 of old Regency gowns.


  6. What a great post. I've was lucky enough to do an online course with Nancy Mayer a few years ago. She provided a wealth of information.

    The seamstresses amaze me since everything was sewn by hand.

  7. Shelley,

    And the clothes were so complex...

    Nancy is an insanely generous person. You can ask her questions directly at

  8. I am tired looking at everything I'd have to do to get dressed, and i don't have a handy mama to put a foot to the small of my back. I am impressed as all get out at the research that goes into crafting this world. Nice job, Susanna!

  9. Why thank you Tina. Of course, research ain't for sissies: http://tinawhittle.blogspot.com/2010/09/how-to-create-drama-part-i.html

  10. Jenny and Susanna,
    Thanks so much for a great post,
    And best of luck with Rakes and Radishes- sounds wonderful!
    And I also love asking Nancy questions because she knows everything about the Regency era,and Susanna you've done a wonderful job on her site,

  11. Thanks Suzi...working with Nancy is great. She really does know almost everything about the Regency Era. She adds new information to the site about every month.

  12. It's night - night time here in Atlanta. I'll catch up with y'all in the morning.

  13. Great post! I had such an interesting visual with Mama pressing her foot into her daughter's back while hauling on those corset laces for all she was worth ...

    I'm enjoying your novel!

  14. Tia, truly a mother's work is never done!

  15. Must save and/or bookmark this somehow! Great info.

  16. I totally got my girly girl on when I read Susanna's book. It was a wonderful read and England bounced off the pages. I felt like I was there.

  17. Tia,

    Thanks! And happy release day for "Sevenfold Spell." It's a great read. Y'all need to hurry over to Carina Press and buy it!

  18. Liz,

    Gotta do the girly girl thing every once in awhile! Thanks for the kind words.

  19. Girly girl indulgences or moments (like when I eek at a spider) might make a great blog post. Hmm. Thanks, Liz!

    It's been lovely having Susanna visit. Fantastic to kick off the week with a discussion of fashion -- and I always trail so far behind fashion fads that a couple of centuries is nothing ;)

  20. Thanks Jenny. I had a great time. I'll see you in a few weeks over at Mojito Literary Society when we'll be discussing your next release!

  21. I'm looking forward to the visit, Susanna. It'll be perfect mojito weather here in Australia.


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