Wednesday, August 11, 2010
It was Jan who encouraged me to put more fashion into my stories, and with Dangerous Neighbors I had not just the excuse but the desire. I wanted to know what Katherine and her twin sister would be wearing in a city unusually warm and swampy, even for 1876 Philadelphia. I wanted a picture, in my mind, of the little girl with the caged bird, Snow, whom Katherine follows into Operti's. Among the books and resources that enabled me to see the past was Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900, by Joan Severa. It was here, on page 361, that I discovered my little girl. Here, in part, is what Severa writes of her:
The woven cotton plaid of the dress is in smart, dark tones, possibly dull greens or indigo and red, and the enormously wide sash is probably a heavy red silk ribbon. The full coat-sleeve style and dropped shoulder of the seventies are here exemplified, with the piped deep bias cuff showing clearly with its button and buttonhole trim and white cuff facing. A rather large collar of coarse white lace, a girlish fashion, is centered by a rosette of the lace at the front, and a gold chain encircles the neck.A description that would do my friend Jan proud. And I like it when I can make Jan proud.
The child's face is well-framed by the contrived tiny ringleted bangs, the tiara comb holding the back hair into deep side puffs, and the glistening corkscrew ringlets of the back hair.