Adventures in 1910’s Fashion

I have always been into vintage fashion, and could spend forever pouring over images of women of every decade on Pinterest. I collect books on fashion and vintage magazines, I really geek out.

Of course I had a lot of fun dressing Luna Mulkerrins, the great female magician of 1912, as she is the star of my novel “Blythe of the Gates.” Fun as it was, I sometimes I felt really bad for what I made her wear!

The novel begins in 1911. The Edwardian look was going out–no more bustles and killer corsets and s-shaped bodies, no more Gibson Girl hair and fox furs. BUT it was not yet the free-wheeling twenties, either. The first thing Luna wears in an opening scene from the book is a hideous contrivance called a hobble skirt.

hobble skirt

It features a band wound tightly beneath the knees so that the woman had to walk in tiny, constricted strides. Thank God this appeared to have been a short term trend.

These were often worn with boots with ten to twenty buttons that had to be opened and closed!

Things got a little easier not long after. Many drapey, empire waist dresses, featuring chiffon and beading and feathers and all kinds of pretty things, think Downton Abbey and Titanic. Luna, like many women of her time, was a seamstress and made her stage costumes along these lines, and got to use her imagination to create very lovely things. (Though she was only a magician’s assistant in the beginning, and the dress was her only form of expression–that would change soon, though!)

1910 summer dress

One thing Edwardian that did not go away was huge hats with lots of crazy trimmings. I loved writing about the hats!

1910 hat

So many shapes, so many trims.

1910 hat 2

When Luna started making more money from her shows, she dressed a little more haute couture.  Paul Poiret may have dressed her. Maybe in one of his lamp shade tunics over harem trousers:

lapshade dress 2

But I felt bad again when I had to dress Luna in a “bathing costume.” That was a time period where they were still pretty infantile and ridiculous looking. Sailor dresses with bloomers! Poor girl.

1910 bathing suits

She couldn’t quite get hold of the new styled ones that were coming into vogue, the close fitting belted sheaths you see more in the twenties. She felt pretty stupid wearing the sailor dress which was just falling out of style for good. Things got better for her soon, though…

Anyway. I should write a sequel that takes place after the Great War to see what she wears next!

The Inimitable Aimee Crocker

So,  my new novel “Blythe of the Gates” is out now, and it is different than anything I have ever written. It being my first historical fiction piece, it is also the first time I’ve written anything that features cameos by real, actual, historical people.

It is strange and different to form a character from my my imagination based upon the traits given by historical record to form a living, breathing creature with real immediacy. I am thinking of Aimee Crocker, who makes an appearance in Blythe. A somewhat brief appearance compared to other characters, but she makes an IMPACT, and I’ve really come to love her.


Aimee was a railroad heiress born in 1864 who went on to become a mystic, an intrepid traveler of the “Far East,” lover of boa constrictors, tattoos and pearls. In her life she became prisoner of a Chinese warlord, romanced a Hawaiian king and was gifted an island, and had a “sensual experience” with her snake. Perhaps she was best known as  an entertainer’s entertainer, who gave the most extravagant parties in Europe, San Francisco and Bohemian New York. She was famous for a Robinson Crusoe-themed party held in the Paris treetops, a circus-themed party themed party in New York where she arrived on the back of an elephant, and much, much more. She basically used her money to shock and horrify the gentry of her age, and it was fabulous!


I hope only that I did her justice making her into a book character, using these facts plus trying to feel my way into her and the way her presence would be felt to those around her. It was a challenge! Of course, she had already written her own book, an autobiography called, “And I’d Do It Again.” I think it is still in print!


Do yourself a favor and read up on the life and times of Aimee Crocker, you will not regret it!

Bohemia Madness

I have a new novel coming out around the corner called “Blythe of the Gates,” set in 1911 Manhattan. It is my first piece of historical fiction, and I got really really into the time period, it is so rich! The Bohemian counterculture really seemed to preface the one of the 60’s in many ways.

Take figures like Emilie Floge. She was the inspiration behind many of the nearly psychedelic paintings of Gustav Klimt. Probably best known for “The Kiss,” 1907:


Those dresses were inspired by Floge’s fashion designs. She was a turn-of-the-century designer who mostly did mainstream stuff, but was ahead of her time and made free-flowing, vibrant, modernistic dresses that were ahead of their time. Here is a painting Klimt did of her:


She evidently had a sister who was married to Klimt’s brother. The brother died, and Klimt became close to the Floge sisters, especially Emilie.




They look so ahead of their time, it is insane. No one knows if they were lovers or just friends, but they mutually enriched each other’s careers.



And she continues to be of influence today! So the early 1900’s was more than hobble skirts and picture hats. It was a vivid and fertile time in ways I myself never realized.

I’m dying to write more historical fiction and wander down these stray pathways of discovery…

Black Cats

This is our cat Vince Noir (named after the Mighty Boosh character.) He’s about the most chill guy ever, and we got him last spring to replace our previous black cat, Nomi, who dies of kidney failure. I never seem to feel right unless I have a black cat. I know others who are the same way. It made me reflect on the nature of black cats, and how depending on the culture, it usually embodies either wickedness and evil, or prosperity and good fortune. Some say a black cat is an embodies reborn soul. In ancient Persia, a black cat is your higher self born into animal form to accompany you on your earthly journey. I think it was mostly Puritan culture that gave these guys a bad rap. Anyway, I think this guy has a wonderful mystique about him, whether he really is a shape shifting jinn or not.


On “bad” writing

When I was in my early twenties I worked in a bookstore. When I got bored I would sit behind the counter and read the catalogues that publishers would send us. This was how I first became aware of the work of Leo Guild. I ordered his 1976 novel “Street of Ho’s” based on the title alone. I don’t remember the whole plot summary except that it was a murder mystery about hookers.

street of hos

When it arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. It was a dime store pulp novel with a lurid cover. And the writing style was unlike any I had ever read before. All at once it was weird, gross, but also child-like in its directness. A sample sentence being: “Sheila made him a ham sandwich and they made love while they ate.”

I don’t have my copy anymore. At some point I wrapped it up and gave it to someone as a gag gift, my little brother I think. But recently I thought of it and started to search around for a new copy. It is out of print now and I can’t find a copy for sale anywhere. But I DID end up learning about Leo Guild!

I had assumed that he himself was a pimp or some other denizen of the street, but evidently he when he wrote the book he was a sixty-something white guy, a Hollywood hack who had written books about Hedy Lamarr, Bob Hope, Liberace, and Fatty Arbuckle. From there he made his way to writing blaxploitation books because it was a trend of the day.

Anyway, this article is fascinating reading. And if you are ever in a used bookstore and come across this book or any of his other titles, such as The Black Shrink, Senator’s Whore, How to Make a Dirty Movie, or The Werewolf vs. Vampire Woman, grab them up!