I’ve been writing historical romances for about eight years now. Research has been a big part of my writing, both through reading books and internet posts and websites. But one source I knew about but didn’t use is pretty much right under my nose: Colonial Williamsburg.
I did a pictorial post about Christmas in Williamsburg, but there is so much more there that I can use in my House of Pleasure series, which is set in 1761. Of course, my books are set in England, but at that time most of the fashions and almost all ways of life are extremely similar.
I was reminded of this just this week because my youngest daughter is working at Colonial Williamsburg this summer as an Orientation Interpreter. She’s in costume every day and has to speak, move and dress in period. She had two weeks of orientation during which she learned all about the period, how to stand, how to speak, what her station in life would have been (she’s middling status, which would be working class), and what items she could realistically have and remain in period. They include a pottery cup, a pocket watch, sunglasses (think small, round John Lennon-type classes), a book, a fan, knitting or embroidery, and a pennywhistle. She keeps all these articles in a large woven basket.
Historical romance author Loretta Chase, whose books I love, very often goes to Colonial Williamsburg. Below is a short video shot in the milliner’s shop there she had posted on her blog.
This summer I plan to take several trips to Colonial Williamsburg to take pictures and absorb the look of the period. I’m working on edits for the third book of the House of Pleasure series, Only a Mistress Will Do, again set in the same period, and I think it will help me with my descriptions especially of the clothing. I really love this period because in both England and America it was a much wilder time.