We Are the Goon Squad …

… and we’re coming to town…

I’ve been thinking a lot about fashion over the last couple of days. Not modern fashion, however. Next weekend is DragonCon, and the kid considered his outfit. (He’s going as a Stargate army dude, with his dad’s old Air Guard shirt as the basis.) I don’t dress up for DragonCon; I actually try to wear as little as possible given that it’s Atlanta in August/September. I did give half a thought to dressing up as Linden Avery from the Thomas Covenant series — all I’d need to do is wear a red flannel shirt and some marked-up blue jeans, wear a ring around my neck, and carry a big walking stick.

But then I was invited to go sign books at an 1872 event in St. Louis next month, and they asked if I could show up in period dress.

What, me? Play dress-up? With a possible tax deduction!? Twist my arm.

I am not, in fact, going to be strictly period. I’m going to be a few years behind the times. I figure this is OK; I tend to run a few years behind the trends in my current life, who’s to say I wouldn’t have in the 1860s? I’ll be wearing a big ol’ crinoline (I can’t bring myself to do hoops) and maybe a bonnet; I’ll have a fan and a parasol.

But in reality, the early 1870s had moved past hoop skirts and flared jackets. In 1872, the Dolly Varden was all the rage.

Dolly Varden got her start in life as a Dickens character. Barnaby Rudge, set in the 1780s, was written by Dickens in 1839. For whatever reason,  century-old retro became chic after the war.  The Dolly Varden fashion was a really fussy look with a lot of layers and gathers and frills. This was generally accompanied by a foofy hat with a lot of flowers and ribbons.


While I realize people ran around like this in the 1870s, I don’t think I have it in me to sit outside for two days covered up in this much fabric. Imagine if it rains!

The Dolly Varden craze went beyond clothing, however. It inspired songs and the label got slapped on just about everything from trout to cigars. There was a Dolly Varden sewing machine. A Dolly Varden cocktail. There was also a Dolly Varden cake—this was originally just a multicolored layer cake, but evolved to be the one we see today with the fake Barbie doll on top of a giant billowing skirt.



About arwenbicknell

Editor by day, author by night.
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