Here I am, indulging in my weekly writing immersion. I’m afraid my own plan of writing for thirty minutes a day came to nothing: I just can’t get into the right frame of mind at the start of the working day, with so many things to attend to. So it’s back to the old pattern of thinking about Sam all week and then spending one day at the weekend in his company (whichever day the weather is worse, as we like a day out on the tandem as well).
And today I have a little tip for those of you writing historical fiction, particularly set in Europe (and perhaps America). When I am describing a new character, I like to be able to visualise them. And of course I need to make reference to what they are wearing – breeches or trousers, greatcoat or cutaway, bonnet or hat. If you do searches on, for instance, “London men fashion 1828”, the results are plentiful – but they are all “fashion plates”, showing the very height of fashion. It’s a bit like someone assuming that we in 2021 all dress like the models in recent issues of “Harper’s Bazaar” and “Vogue” magazines. It’s hard to find pictures of real people in everyday outfits. But what I do now is go to the website of the National Portrait Gallery and, in the search box, put the year I am looking for. The results will be paintings, sketches and sculptures “issued” in that year, and although many of them will show people dressed in their finest (or wearing togas), there will be many others that show people in much more workaday outfits. And it’s perfect for seeing hairstyles and whiskers. I am about to describe a fellow called George Young, who ran a horse bazaar in London in 1828, and there are no portraits specifically of him. Instead, my George will be a combination of a Methodist minister called John Stephens and the chemist John Hope – they look the right age, with a healthy lack of concern with fashion. Just make sure you click on the details of the sitter you’ve chosen, to guard against modelling your character on a well-known eccentric!