Monday, May 30, 2011

Guest Post + Giveaway: A Tale of a Portrait by Ashley J. Barnard

Hey everyone, today I have a special guest post by Ashley J. Barnard, who is the author of Shadow Fox and Fox Rising. Ashley is here today in order to promote her first historical fiction novel In Byron's Shadow, which is a Victorian Romance. At the end of this post you will have an opportunity to win a copy of In Byron's Shadow and this giveaway is open worldwide!

A Tale of a Portrait
by Ashley J. Barnard

Hi. My name is Ashley, and I have an unhealthy obsession with Lord Byron. Yeah, I know he’s been dead for almost 200 years, and it sounds a little creepy. But a girl should have a hobby, right?

Byron and I were introduced about ten years ago, when I was cast in a Tom Stoppard play called Arcadia. My character was a thirteen-year-old in love with the poet, and though I had heard of him, I didn’t really know him yet. There were enough tantalizing tidbits in the play to get me interested, and when I started doing a little research, I was done for. After all, the man was beautiful, a poet, and very, very wicked. What’s not to love?

Soon I was reading biographies and collections of his letters, just for “fun.” He temporarily derailed my fantasy-novel aspirations; I took about a five-year break from fantasy to write three novels that featured Byron. You would think they all would have been historical fiction, but only one of them was; the other two were science fiction and contemporary. And the historical-fiction novel came as a complete surprise: I only wanted to read more of his letters, and instead ended up writing a novel, more or less, about his portrait, and his daughter Ada.

Reading 19th-century letters may sound boring to some, but Byron’s were incredibly witty, eloquent and charming, with his acerbic commentaries on society. I especially enjoyed reading his letters to and from his wife Annabella, knowing that while they called each other cute names like “Duck,” they were secretly loathing each other, and Annabella was plotting his downfall almost from the beginning of their marriage. Anyway, a few years ago I was at the library in the biography section, looking for another volume of letters to read, when I spotted something new: The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter by Benjamin Woolley. I knew about Ada, of course, but only as Byron and Annabella’s only child. I didn’t know that she was important enough, in and of herself, to warrant her own thick biography. I read the introduction, and I was hooked. Forgetting about the collection of letters, I checked out Ada’s biography instead, and by the time I got home, I had the makings of a new novel.

The introduction of Bride of Science reads almost like a thriller. Ada Byron, on her twentieth birthday, is given a sealed casement. Present is Dr. King, the former manager of a lunatic asylum, to ensure that Ada, upon opening the casement, does not give way to violent hysterics. Ada knows what she’s about to open; she passed by it hundreds of times in her youth, but she’s never actually seen it. Her grandparents, at Annabella’s command, kept a thick velvet curtain drawn over it at all times, so that Ada might never catch a glimpse of her father’s face. Annabella fervently believed that if Ada even saw what Byron looked like, the poisonous blood of poetry that ran in her veins would be activated, and she would fall victim to lewdness, madness and debauchery, like her father.

The portrait in question is probably the most famous portrait of Byron in which he is featured in Albanian dress. It’s a stunning portrait done by Thomas Phillips in 1814, which has a turbaned, mustached Byron dressed in extravagant silks with a ceremonial sword. When Ada opened the casement, she was visibly unaffected, but a few years later she did report being at war with her feelings. Annabella had steered her toward math and science, but her father’s poetry awakened her passion. 

I devoured the biography, and discovered another interesting tidbit. When Ada was eighteen, she attempted to elope with her shorthand tutor. While Woolley maintained that the tutor’s identity is officially unknown, it is believed that he was William Turner, the brother of Edward Turner who was a chemistry professor at Cambridge. But because next to nothing is known about this man, he leaves much to the imagination. And that, coupled with the amazing story of the portrait, became the foundation for my novel, In Byron’s Shadow.

Nicholas Price is a young, aspiring poet obsessed with Lord Byron. He is heir to his father’s title and estate, and when he meets Ada Byron on his twenty-first birthday, he is determined to marry her, whatever the cost. But because her mother disapproves of his devotion to Byron, he disguises himself as a shorthand tutor named William Turner. And while we all know that their intended elopement doesn’t work out, this is where In Byron’s Shadow really begins, and the portrait of Byron plays an integral part.

During and after the writing of this novel, I fantasized about having that portrait on the cover. It truly is stunning, and because it is an important plot point, I knew it would be perfect. When the book was finished and ready to go, I went about finding the rights to the portrait.  It turns out the Government Art Collection in London owns the portrait, and they were kind enough to grant me a license for the image. Then my good friend, writer and graphic artist T.K. Toppin, whipped up a lovely design to integrate with it. I’m thrilled to have this as my cover, because as you read about this famous portrait, you’ll be able to see exactly what I’m talking about.

If you’re interested in Ada Byron, I highly encourage the biography by Benjamin Woolley. Ada truly does have a claim to fame entirely separate from being Byron’s daughter; she’s credited with being one of the first “computer programmers” because of her work with Charles Babbage and his Analytical Machine. And nothing passes the time like a good Byron biography; my favorite is Byron: Child of Passion, Fool of Fame by Benita Eisler.

Thanks for listening. I’m really happy to be here at Romantic Poets Anonymous, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

* * *
Ashley is the author of the award-winning Shadow Fox series (Champagne Books) and three published stage adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels (Dramatic Play Publishing). For ten years she and her husband James ran Actors’ Renaissance Theatre, a Shakespearean theater company with whom she acted in several productions. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with James and their eight-year-old daughter Alexandria. In Byron’s Shadow is her newest release, and is available on Visit her website at

Book Synopsis:

At the age of twenty-one, Nicholas Price has the world at his feet. He has just graduated from Oxford, he is heir to his father's title and fortune, and he is about to meet Ada Byron, the daughter of his idol Lord Byron. His life falls apart, however, when an attempted elopement with Ada ends in disaster, resulting in his disinheritance. Destitute, he takes up residency in his mother's country estate, which is on the brink of ruin.

Ten years later, now a cynical misanthrope, Nicholas receives a visit from Catherine O'Reilly. Catherine once assisted Nicholas in obtaining access to Ada, and as she has also been cast out by her father, she has come to Nicholas for shelter. Catherine has been raped and is pregnant, but refuses to name her rapist. Nicholas agrees to take her on as a maid, but focuses all of his attention on winning Ada back. It is his eccentric brother James who can see through the submissive servant to the fiery, passionate woman within.

When more encounters with Ada end badly, it is Catherine who opens Nicholas's eyes to see how far he has taken his obsession with Byron. It is also she who helps him nurture his poetry, and to see the blessings around him in spite of his financial ruin. Soon Nicholas cannot resist falling into a love triangle involving Catherine and James, all of them unaware that the secret Catherine is harboring is about to shatter the fragile world Nicholas has managed to forge.

 On to the Giveaway:

Ashley has graciously offered up a Kindle version or a Pdf. version of In Byron's Shadow. The lucky winner will be able to choose which of the two version they would like to receive. This giveaway is open Internationally and it ends June 13th. To sign up for this giveaway please follow the guidelines listed below.

Giveaway Guidelines: 
-Please leave a comment below stating what you enjoyed most about Ashley's guest post.
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entryfor being a new follower of this blog. 
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Interview with James Smith @ The Book Base

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being interviewed by James Smith @ the Book Base about being a book blogger and I thought I would share it with you so maybe you can get to know the girl behind the reviews a little better. Enjoy!

Book Blogger Q&A: All Things Historical Fiction

The thirteenth post in our Book Blogger Q&A series features Taylor from All Things Historical Fiction.
Here are my repsonses:
How long have you been a blogger?
I still consider myself new to the blogging scene since I’ve only been blogging since August of 2010, but I’ve been blogging hard ever since and I really enjoy it. I find blogging to be a very relaxing past time, which allows me to take my head out my textbooks and into something I’m really passionate about.

Approximately, how many books do you read every year?
Well right now I’m working on my bachelors degree in nursing and I consider myself a slow reader so I only average about 50 books a year. I would love to be one of those people who can read 150 to 200 books a year, but no matter how much time I have on my hands I don’t expect to ever be able to read that many.

What were your favourite books as a child?
When I was younger I was so obsessed with horses and horse racing and so my best friend and I were addicted to the Thoroughbred series. We couldn’t get enough of those books and to this day I still have all of the books. I believe there is a total of 76 books in the series. I was also addicted to the Harry Potter books and anxiously awaited the next book to hit the shelves!

What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m just finishing up Anne Easter Smith’s latest novel Queen by Right.

If you had to pick one, what’s the best book you’ve read in the last twelve months?
Oh wow! I don’t know if I could only pick one, but I will try to narrow it down to four. I really loved Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, and The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy.

Who are your three favourite authors?
Oh goodness. Another difficult question. I would have to say Jean Plaidy, Margaret George and Sara Gruen. I would buy any book written by these three authors so that’s how I know they are my favorite authors at the moment. This is always subject to change, because I’m constantly discovering new authors.

Which book has had the greatest impact on your life?
Philippa Gregory’s book The Other Boleyn Girl has probably impacted my life the most because it’s the book that I randomly picked up in the book store one day and it started my astronomical obsession with historical fiction. Ever since I read that book I’ve rarely picked up any other genre. Hence, the reason why my blog is solely focused on historical fiction.

Which book are you most eagerly anticipating?
Oh number one Margaret George’s Elizabeth I. It’s sitting on my night stand right now and is going to be my next endeavor. I’m also really excited to sink my teeth into the George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones series. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them and I really want to watch the new series on HBO.

If you had to invite some book characters round for dinner, who would you choose and why?
Since the majority of my reading is historical fiction the characters I would choose would be historical figures. I would really love to meet Queen Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. That would be a very interesting dinner to have three of the most influential women in history conversing together. I would love to pick their brains and ask them what it must have been like to have been in their shoes during their era.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?
My advice would really be to promote your blog any way you can. Be creative and always remember why you started blogging in the first place.

Which other book blogs do you recommend?
My favorite blog at the moment would be Passages To The Past by Amy. It’s one of the best historical fiction blogs out there and she’s always current with her reviews and she has some really great features on her blog.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Revew: Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith

Source: I received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Publication Date: May 10th, 2011

Back of the Book Synopsis: From the award-winning author of A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, and The King’s Grace comes another masterful historical novel—the story of Cecily of York, mother of two kings and the heroine of one of history’s greatest love stories.

Anne Easter Smith’s novels are beloved by readers for their ability “to grab you, sweep you along with the story, and make you fall in love with the characters.” * In Cecily Neville, duchess of York and ancestor of every English monarch to the present day, she has found her most engrossing character yet.

History remembers Cecily of York standing on the steps of the Market Cross at Ludlow, facing an attacking army while holding the hands of her two young sons. Queen by Right reveals how she came to step into her destiny, beginning with her marriage to Richard, duke of York, whom she meets when she is nine and he is thirteen. Raised together in her father’s household, they become a true love match and together face personal tragedies, pivotal events of history, and deadly political intrigue. All of England knows that Richard has a clear claim to the throne, and when King Henry VI becomes unfit to rule, Cecily must put aside her hopes and fears and help her husband decide what is right for their family and their country. Queen by Right marks Anne Easter Smith’s greatest achievement, a book that every fan of sweeping, exquisitely detailed historical fiction will devour.

My Review: While in the book store, Anne Easter Smith’s books would pop out at me as I would rummage the shelves at Barnes & Noble because her covers were so mesmerizing. So over the years I had collected all three of Smith’s books, but I regretfully never got around to reading them. After reading her latest novel “Queen by Right,” I really wish I had found time to squeeze them in somewhere in my hectic schedule! 

Anne’s latest novel, Queen by Right, depicts the life of Cecily Neville and the story is portrayed in her point of view where we see her transform from a spunky, carefree little girl who is immensely spoiled by her father; into a strong-willed and courageous woman. Cecily was one of the lucky ones because unlike most women of the decade, Cecily was able to marry her long time best friend and childhood companion, Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York. Their love for one another was a force to be reckoned with and together they could do the impossible. Their romance was tastefully portrayed and was very inspiring. As the plot thickens, you can tell many were jealous of their unique passion for one another. 

Throughout the story, there were some very powerful scenes. Probably my two favorite scenes would be the meeting between Cecily and Joan of Arc while Joan was imprisoned for being a witch and the scene where Henry VI’s army plunders her castle and village and Cecily walks for miles dressed in her best gown and jewels, holding her two youngest boys hands, all the while holding head high earning her the nickname, Proud Cis.

My opinion: Smith’s story has caused me to fall madly in love with Cecily Neville, the Duchess of York. She really earned her name Proud Cis in my opinion. I admired her love and devotion to her husband, Richard and his cause all the while protecting her children from the tragic events, which took place during this era including the War of the Roses

I really loved how Smith miraculously incorporated Joan of Arc into the storyline as well. As mentioned in my interview with Anne, there is no documentation stating that Cecily actually met with Joan of Arc; however, there’s no documentation stating that they didn’t. 

Queen by Right is masterfully written and drawn out! I highly recommend this to ALL HF readers out there! 

If you would like the chance to win a copy of Anne Easter Smith’s latest novel, “Queen by Right,” make sure you click on this link so you can sign up for the random drawing, which ends June 6th! Also, you can read my very interesting interview with Anne herself!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Interview + Giveaway: Anne Easter Smith

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours is celebrating the new release of Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith whom I had the great pleasure of interviewing. Queen By Right is Smith's fourth novel, which tells a fascinating story of an equally fascinating woman: Cecily Neville, the Duchess of York.Today I am sharing my interview with Anne & I will also be giving away a copy of her latest novel Queen By Right, and on Friday the 27th I will be posting my review.

So please help me in giving a warm welcome to Mrs. Anne Easter Smith, the author of A Rose For the Crown, The Daughter of York, and The King's Grace along with her recent endeavor Queen By Right!

Q.        What inspired you to tell the story of Cecily Neville, the Duchess of York?
A.         I needed a fourth book to fulfill the second part of my second contract with Simon & Schuster and as it seemed I was telling the York-family story during the Wars of the Roses through my three other books, I felt compelled to begin at the beginning of that story with the matriarch of the family, Cecily Neville, duchess of York. Besides, Cecily had "spoken" to me during the writing of "Daughter of York" and I thought then she would make for a compelling read. She a wonderfully strong medieval woman who was right there with all the trials and tribulations of her husband, Richard, with whom, history appears to think, she had an unusual love match.

Q.        What type of research did you conduct for the writing of Queen by Right?
A.         As well as the usual book research I do, studying the contemporary chroniclers and using the internet, I like to walk all the paths my characters would have walked, which meant in Cecily’s case going to Richard of York’s main residences, like Ludlow, to Anglesey in Wales where the couple set sail for Ireland, to Dublin Castle, to Rouen in Normandy and of course talking to historians at those locations and delving into their archives (with previous appointments, of course!). I spent a whole day reading the transcripts of Joan of Arc’s trial, because Cecily and Richard were in Rouen at the time of her trial and burning. I am never NOT researching, even when writing--there are always questions that pop up about the life and culture and costumes that need to be right before I am happy with my day’s writing.

Q.        How much of Queen by Right is based on historical fact and do you ever find it hard to stay true to those facts while also trying to entertain your readers?
A.         That’s always a fine line, Taylor. Of course we don’t know what people thought and said back then, but I try to stay true to whatever we do know about a person. I don’t have people in the wrong place at the wrong time--and that takes a lot of researching--but if we DON”T know they weren’t in a place I put them, then that’s where a novelist can use his or her imagination. I don’t know if Cecily Neville and Joan of Arc met when they were both in the same building in Rouen at the same time, but we also don’t know that they didn’t! I am pretty up front in my Author’s Note about what dramatic liberties I take. What astonishes me is how often truth is stranger than fiction when we study history and a novelist doesn’t have to do anything but tell the truth!

Q.        Who is your favorite historical figure…man or woman and why?
A.         It has to be King Richard III, who occupied my leisure reading for thirty years before I decided to tell his story in “A Rose for the Crown.” He was only king for two years, but there has almost been more written about this king -- good and bad -- than any other English monarch (barring those pesky Tudors, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, of course!)

Q.        Who are your writing influences and how have they influenced your writing?
A.         Love Charles Dickens and Jane Austen from the classics and Edward Rutherfurd, Anya Seton and Sharon Kay Penman in my own historical fiction genre. I wanted my book to be as good as Anya Seton’s “Katherine” -- it was a tough task I set myself! 

Q.        Have you always wanted to be a writer of historical fiction or was it something you just fell in to?
A.         Actually, Taylor, yes I did fall into by accident. I never had aspirations to be a writer--became an executive secretary after leaving high school and eventually landed in the US at 24 with a girlfriend on a lark for two years. Forty-two years later, I am still here! I have had so many different kinds of jobs, I can’t go into them, but I finally got landed one in Plattsburgh NY at the daily newspaper writing features and went on to become the features/arts editor for ten years there. And so I learned to write. Then my oldest friend from home suggested I write a book about my aforementioned obsession, Richard III, and so I tentatively began “A Rose for the Crown” in 1997. In 2004, after finding an agent in New York, Simon & Schuster acquired it and gave me a two-book deal, which meant I had to write “Daughter of York” immediately. It was a bit daunting for someone who had no idea she was a “writer.”

Q.        How do you feel your writing has developed since your novel, A Rose for the Crown?
A.         I’ve learned so much about writing since those days of thumping out pages and pages in my spare time. My editor at Simon & Schuster helped me structure a story better and I learned what my readers like and don’t like. It’s funny really--the first book I wrote for myself and the others I wrote for my readers and my editor. It makes me smile that many of the letters I get indicate A Rose for the Crown is their favorite. I am hoping they will really like “Queen By Right,” as I think it is my best writing yet.

A.         Where do you do most of your best writing?
Q.        At my office outside my home. I just can’t focus when I have the dishes waiting or ironing to do. It’s no good, my homemaker hat just won’t come off unless I’m at my computer in another building!

Q.        What can your fans expect from you next?
A.         The story of Edward IV’s last and favorite mistress, Jane Shore. And that’s all I’m saying!

Thank you for letting me share on your blog, Taylor! I hope your readers will take a chance on “Queen By Right.” 

Thanks so much Anne for taking the time out to be her today!

 And now on to the Giveaway!
Anne's giving away a copy of her brand new novel for one lucky U.S. fan. Want it? Just follow the guidelines listed below by 11:59pm on Monday, June 6th. Winner will be selected at random and must have a U.S mailing address.

Giveaway Guidelines: 

-Please leave a comment below stating what you enjoyed most about the interview.
-You must be a Follower of this blog through the GFC follower in order to be entered into this giveaway.
-Please leave your name and email address in order for me to contact you if you are the winner. If an email is not listed then unfortunately you will not be entered.
+1 extra entry for being a new follower of this blog.
+1 extra entry each time you post this giveaway on twitter, facebook and/or on your blog somewhere. To count please leave a link in the comment section.

 Queen By Right is on a blog tour! View the schedule featuring more interviews, reviews, and giveaways from Historical Fiction Virtual Tours.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: The Divine Sacrifice by Tony Hays

Source: I received a copy in exchange for a fair & honest review
Release Date: April 2010

Book Synopsis: "Malgwyn Ap Cuneglas is a trusted counselor to King Arthur, right-hand lieutenant to the warrior chief. Right hand, that is, until a Saxon cut off his sword arm and left him to die on the battlefield. Arthur chose to go to extraordinary lengths to keep the man alive as he valued Malgwyn as much for his brains as his sword arm. Malgwyn hated Arthur for this dubious gift but has come to grudgingly acknowledge that he yet may have some purpose in life." "That purpose is put to a test when Arthur and Malgwyn travel to Glastonbury Abbey to investigate reports of rebellion. The abbot, while cordial, is guarded. They chalk up his demeanor to the sudden arrival of Saint Patrick, a legend in the Church, who has come to the abbey on a mission of his own, to root out the heresy of Pelagius. 

All hell breaks loose when an aged monk is found cruelly murdered in his cell, and Malgwyn is charged by Arthur to not only discover the culprit but to determine if the monk's death fits in with the disturbing rumors of disgruntled lords banding together to overtake Arthur's throne." Malgwyn discovers a maze of half-truths and lies that lead him to a conspiracy to topple the Church ... and his lord's kingdom.

My Review: After reading the first novel in this Arthurian mystery I could not wait to start the second novel in the series. I thought the adventures could only get better from here, sadly that wasn’t the case. 

The book had a very slow start and instead of the storyline taking place in the Castellum Artorius, which is the name of the location of Arthur’s castle, the storyline was centered around Yins-witrin the Christian community that is now known as Glastonbury. Yes, all the same characters were present in this second novel plus a few new characters; however, they all took a back seat this time to Malgwyn ap Cuneglass, Arthurs most trusted lieutenant. I would have liked to have seen more of Merlin, Arthur, and Guinevere in this novel. 

Like I mentioned before, the story got off to a very slow start, which almost made me give up and put the book down but I kept pushing through it. This is probably why it took me twice as long to finish as I normally would have taken to finish a 300 page novel. Once the plot finally took off my interest would be captured for a bit then it would tapper off and then it would take off again. This is what I like to call a “rollercoaster thriller”. It had its many ups and downs and then it takes you up to that very steep incline then you plunge to your “death.” That is exactly how I would describe Tony’s second novel. Unlike, the first novel in this series “The Killing Way,” I didn’t think the twists and turns were nearly as good as the first novel. I was really disappointed. I was expecting this big twist in the very end; although, there was one but it wasn't as mind blowing as I was anticipating. 

Overall, this was just okay in my opinion. It wasn’t an utter failure for a second novel in a series but there was a lot of room for improvement. If you read the first novel in the series “The Killing Way” and loved it as much as I did then I would only recommend reading this one in order to get you to the final novel in the series “The Beloved Dead” because I heard it was just as good as “The Killing Way.” If you don’t plan on continuing the series then I would not recommend reading this one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Giveaway Winner Announcement!

Hey everyone who signed up for the To Serve A King Giveaway thanks so much for signing up for this giveaway. One lucky winner has been chosen by in order to be completely fair. Please help me congratulate the lucky winner!

and the winner is...

Lieder Madchen

An email has just been sent out in order to get your address.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fashion Throughout History (12th - 19th) Centuries

While reading Historical Fiction novels, I'm constantly trying to picture the gorgeous intricate gowns being described and I'm sure I'm not the only HF enthusiast trying to form a picture from the description given; therefore, I decided to put together this post in order to try and get a better idea how fashion has changed through history and also to help me form a better picture in my mind while reading my books. Hope you enjoy this and I hope you learn something as well because I know I sure have!

12th Century Garb

The Twelfth Century was an era of cultural and technical innovation that has been called both the “High Middle Ages and the “Little Renaissance”. This era was also an age of innovation and elegance in civilian dress. One such example was a new, elegant back-laced gown that replaced the bliaut over the second half of the 12th century, and was made popular throughout the courts of England and France by such famed ladies as Queen Eleanor and her daughter, the renowned Marie de France. These new, fitted gowns adopted a variety of both simple and dramatic sleeve shapes, and although they fell out of fashion in the 13th century, were forerunners to the fitted dresses that would reappear in the 14th. These beautiful designs are from the later decades of the 12th century and were worn for comfort. The long, fitted dress has narrow sleeves that flare out into dramatic, streaming cuffs that almost reach to the ground. Worn with a double-wrapped belt, these gowns were the height of “High Medieval” fashion! These gowns were typically made from wool since it was the primary fabric worn for all classes. Also, women typically wore a wimple around their head, which is depicted in the picture above.

13th Century
As you can see the gown was a little looser around
the midsection. Notice the barbette on her head.
There really wasn't much change from womens' gowns from the 12th to the 13th century except women wore hose and leather shoes, while their long dresses were loosely-fitted and had a narrow belt and tight sleeves. Over the dress was worn the cyclas or sleeveless surcoat. Women also continued to cover their hair. The 13th century headdress was notable for the barbette, a chin band to which were attached various types of hats. The “woman’s coif” that resembled a pillbox hat was the most popular headdress from the 12th to the 13th century. Both barbette and coif were reduced to narrow strips of cloth by the end of the 13th century, while the hair was often confined into crespine or crespinette, a thick hairnet or snood. Women’s headdresses in the 12th and the 13th centuries also featured wimple and veil which were mostly worn by older women.

14thCentury Dress

In the 14th century clothing moved away from simple variants of the tunic towards sleek, elegant lines that emphasized the human form. The basic woman's gown of this era is elegant simplicity, naturally following the contours of the body, with a wide neckline - the height of 1300s daring! The classic elements of the historical design: fitted sleeves extending down unto the hand, full skirts, and a wide, rounded neckline. The skirts run long with a small train  trailing along the ground - or they were hemmed to your desired length. In the 14th century, this gown can be worn alone, over an underdress or chemise or beneath a sideless surcoat or houpelande. 

Since ladies are rarely depicted from behind in illuminations, the exact closure method for these gowns is unknown. We have chosen to use a simple, back-lacing method that was common in both earlier and later centuries. A range of fit is given for each size because the lacings and placket in the back start at the top and extend to below the hip, providing flexibility within each size as well a near perfect fit to each individual within that size range. The placket is designed so that, no matter how tight or how loose the dress is laced, you are always completely covered.

15th Century
Women's fashions of the 15th century consisted of a long gown, usually with sleeves, worn over a kirtle or undergown, with a linen chemise or smock worn next to the skin. The long-waisted silhouette of the previous period was replaced by a high-waisted style with fullness over the belly, often confined by a belt. The wide, shallow scooped neckline was replaced by a V-neck, often cut low enough to reveal the decorated front of the kirtle beneath.
Various styles of overgowns were worn. The cotehardie fitted smoothly from the shoulders to the hips and then flared by means of inserted triangular gores. It featured sleeves tight to the elbow with hanging streamers or tippets. The tight fit was achieved with lacing or buttons. This style faded rapidly from fashion in favor of the houppelande, a full robe with a high collar and wide sleeves that had become fashionable around 1380 and remained so to mid-century. The later houppelande had sleeves that were snug at the wrist, making a full "bag" sleeve. The bag sleeve was sometimes slashed in the front to allow the lower arm to reach through.
Around 1450, the gown of northern Europe developed a low V-neck that showed a glimpse of the square-necked kirtle. The neckline could be filled in with a sheer linen partlet. Wide turn-backs like revers displayed a contrasting lining, frequently of fur or black velvet, and the sleeves might be cuffed to match. Sleeves were very long, covering half of the hand, and often highly decorated with embroidery. Fine sleeves were often transferred from one dress to another.

16th Century (Tudor Dress)
Catherine Parr
English or French fashion of 1545: the trumpet-sleeved
"French" or "Tudor gown", worn over a farthingale
and false undersleeves with a matching
forepart. The turned-back cuffs are lined with fur
Elizabeth Tudor at age 13 wears a rose-colored
gown over a forepart and undersleeves of cloth
of silver with patterns in looped pile.
Her French hood matches her gown, 1546.
European fashion in the earlier decades of the 16th century was dominated by the great rivalry between Henry VIII of England (ruled 1509–1547) and Francis I of France who was governor of France at the time] (ruled 1515–1547) to host the most glittering renaissance court, culminating in the festivities around the Field of Cloth of Gold (1520).
Women's fashions of the earlier 16th century consisted of a long gown, usually with sleeves, worn over a kirtle or undergown, with a linen chemise or smock worn next to the skin.The high-waisted gown of the late medieval period evolved in several directions in different parts of Europe. In the German states and Bohemia, gowns remained short-waisted, tight-laced but without corsets. The open-fronted gown laced over the kirtle or a stomacher or plackard. Sleeves were puffed and slashed, or elaborately cuffed.
In France, England, and Flanders, the high waistline gradually descended to the natural waist in front (following Spanish fashion) and then to a V-shaped point. Cuffs grew larger and were elaborately trimmed.Hoop skirts or farthingales had appeared in Spain at the very end of the 15th century, and spread to England and France over the next few decades. Corsets (called a pair of bodies) also appeared during this period.
A variety of hats, caps, hoods, hair nets, and other headresses were worn, with strong regional variations.Shoes were flat, with broad square toes.

17th Century (Elizabethan Dress)

As some of you may already know, Queen Elizabeth I inspired much of the fashion during this century known has the Golden Age and the dress was called the Elizabethan style. In the early years of the new century, fashionable bodices had high necklines or extremely low, rounded necklines, and short wings at the shoulders. Separate closed cartwheel ruffs were sometimes worn, with the standing collar, supported by a small wire frame or Supportase used for more casual wear and becoming more common later. Long sleeves were worn with deep cuffs to match the ruff. The cartwheel ruff disappeared in fashionable England by 1613.

By the mid-1620s, styles were relaxing. Ruffs were discarded in favor of wired collars which were called rebatosin continental Europe and, later, wide, flat collars. By the 1630s and 1640s, collars were accompanied by kerchiefs similar to the linen kerchiefs worn by middle-class women in the previous century; often the collar and kerchief were trimmed with matching lace.

Bodices were long-waisted at the beginning of the century, but waistlines rose steadily to the mid-1630s before beginning to drop again. In the second decade of the 17th century, short tabs developed attached to the bottom of the bodice covering the bum-roll which supported the skirts. These tabs grew longer during the 1620s and were worn with a stomacher which filled the gap between the two front edges of the bodice. By 1640 the long tabs had almost disappeared and a longer, smoother figure became fashionable: The waist returned to normal height at the back and sides with a low point at the front.
The long, tight sleeves of the early 1600s grew shorter, fuller, and looser. A common style of 1620s and 1630s was the virago sleeve, a full, slashed sleeve gathered into two puffs by a ribbon or other trim above the elbow. In France and England, lightweight bright or pastel-coloured satins replaced dark, heavy fabrics. As in other periods, painters tended to avoid the difficulty of painting striped fabrics; it is clear
from inventories that these were common. Short strings of pearls were fashionable.

18th Century Gowns

French silk sack-back gown with closed bodice
and panniers, trimmed with padded
bands of blue satin, chenille blonde lace,
flowers of gathered ribbon, feathers
and raffia tassels, 1775–1780
Hoops & Stays

Women's clothing styles retained an emphasis toward a conical shape of the torso while the shape of the skirts changed throughout the period. The hoop-skirts of the 1740s were left behind, but wide panniers (holding the skirts out at the side) came into style several times, and the aesthetic of a narrow inverted cone, achieved with boned stays, above full skirts remained.
1759 portrait of Madame de Pompadour shows her petticoat trimmed with flounces to match her gown. She wears a small lace ruff around her neck.

The usual fashion of the years 1750–1780 was a low-necked gown (usually called in French a robe), worn over a petticoat. Most gowns had skirts that opened in front to show the petticoat worn beneath. If the bodice of the gown was open in front, the opening was filled in with a decorative stomacher, pinned to the gown over the laces or to the corset beneath.

Tight elbow-length sleeves were trimmed with frills or ruffles, and separate under-ruffles called engageantes of lace or fine linen were tacked to the smock or chemise sleeves. The neckline was trimmed with a fabric or lace ruffle, or a neckerchief called a fichu could be tucked into the low neckline.The robe à la française or sack-back gown featured back pleats hanging loosely from the neckline. A fitted bodice held the front of the gown closely to the figure. Toward the 1770s, an informal alternative to the gown was a costume of a jacket and petticoat, based on working class fashion but executed in finer fabrics with a tighter fit.

19th Century (Victorian)
Silk Court Dress - 19th Century - England
(from Victoria and Albert Museum)
Day Dress
(Victoria & Albert Museum)

In the 1840s and 1850s, women's gowns developed narrow and sloping shoulders, low and pointed waists, and bell-shaped skirts. Corsets, a knee-length chemise, and layers of flounced petticoats were worn under the gowns. By the 1850s the amount of petticoats was reduced and the crinoline was worn the size of the skirts expanded. Day dresses had a solid bodice and evening gowns had a very low neckline and were worn off the shoulder with sheer shawls and opera-length gloves.
Queen Victoria's Dress (1860's)

In the 1860s, the skirts became flatter at the front and projected out more behind the woman. Day dresses had wide pagoda sleeves and high necklines with lace or tatted collars. Evening dresses had low necklines and short sleeves, and were worn with short gloves or fingerless lace or crocheted mitts.
Victoria's Dress (1870's)

In the 1870s, uncorseted tea gowns were for informal entertaining at home and steadily grew in popularity. Bustles were used to replace the crinoline to hold the skirts up behind the woman, even for "seaside dresses".

In the 1880s, riding habits had a matching jacket and skirt (without a bustle), a high-collared shirt or chemisette, and a top hat with a veil. Hunting costumes had draped ankle-length skirts worn with boots or gaiters. Clothing worn when out walking had a long jacket and skirt, worn with the bustle, and a small hat or bonnet. Travelers wore long coats like dusters.

In the 1890s, women's fashion became simpler and less extravagant; both bustles and crinoline fell out of use and dresses were not as tight as before. Corsets were still used but became slightly longer, giving women a slight S-curve silhouette. Skirts took on a trumpet shape, fitting closely over the hip with a wasp-waist cut and flaring just above the knee. High necks and puffed sleeves became popular.
Day Dress (1836 - 40)
(Victoria & Albert Museum)
 So those are the dresses through the ages. It's so hard to choose my favorite century but I would have to say my favorite is the Elizabethan gowns. I don't know what it is but I have always been in such awe over all things Elizabethan and the Elizabethan collars! They are to die for! My second favorite century dress is probably a tie between Tudor (16th Century) dress and 18th Century dress. I love what I call "Marie Antoinette" gowns. They are so intricate, but I would never want to try to walk through a doorway with those hoops and stays! Can you imagine? 

So I am very interested as to what your favorite century dress is and why. I know it's soo hard to choose so you can list several if you'd like. Hope you enjoyed this post!