History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

10 February 2014

Layering - the art of fashion and writing

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was hurrying to get ready (if there is a non-hurried way to get ready with a toddler I have yet to discover it). I had hair appointment to cover up the gray, errands to do, writing time to get in, and then my daughter Mélanie and I were meeting a friend for dinner. I  wanted to wear a new dress I'd just splurged on from a  post-holiday sale. But I wanted to be sure I didn't get hair dye on the dress, so i grabbed a black cardigan. I was surprised at how the black made the pattern of the knit dress pop and how the ruffles on the sweater softened the bolder lines of the dress. I was debating wearing heels, but because it was going to be a long day with a lot of walking, I put on a pair of tweed flats. I thought they might be too much, but the play of textures also put the dress into focus. I had liked the dress when I ordered it and tried it on, but I liked it even better with accessory details layered in.

Which, I realized later in the day writing in a café, was not unlike the moment in my WIP when I decided the young duchess who is the wife of the murder victim would also be the sister of the hero's best friend and the daughter of the hero's spymaster. Suddenly my plot had added layers of resonance and the complications for my hero packed an added emotional wallop. in both cases I started with a piece I liked--whether clothing or plot material--and then layered in details that made the piece pop and gave it extra dimension.

A change of shoes or earrings, the addition of subtraction of a scarf, can turn an outfit from office-appropriate to evening ready. Similarly, one can start with a basic plot premise--for instance a young woman compelled by circumstance to marry an older wealthy man--and depending on which "accessories" one layers into the plot, one can have anything from bedroom farce to family drama, from romance to mystery to coming of age story.

A good reminder, that it can be worth it to step back and consider the options for layering and where they can take one, whether in putting an outfit together or plotting a book.

Which brings me to the picture above. At a Merola Opera Program event this weekend ("Wagner Bowling") a crown and a Brunhilde hat gave my dress (the same one I had layered the weekend before) and Mélanie's party dress and coat a whole new sense of fun :-).

What are your favorite examples of layering, in fashion or in fiction?

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Blogger Isobel Carr said...

And this is why I love plotting lunches with you!

7:20 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Ditto! Plotting is the fun part, like accessorizing an outfit. I'm not sure there's a fashion equivalent for staring at a blank screen when one's trying to get words down..

3:03 PM  

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