The new novel I’m working on (Hollingworth) is set in an ancestral house in Connecticut where a crime that took place in the 1920s comes to light when something is found in a wall during a 2016 renovation. Researching historical details is a lot of fun. One of my characters is pregnant in 1911 and what is she wearing? I discover that Lane Bryant built her business not on clothes for women who were big, but women who were pregnant. (Her company should have been “Lena Bryant” but a bank officer writing a business loan wrote her name wrong on the form.)

In 1904, maternity wear included maternity corsets, and couldn’t be advertised because pregnancy was considered a “condition” not fit for public discussion. According to Wikipedia, Lane Bryant’s first ad ran in 1911 with the headline: “Maternity wardrobes that do not attract attention.” Inventory sold out the day after it appeared in The New York Herald. Upon request, the ad said, Lane Bryant would ship orders wrapped discreetly in brown paper with no identifying store name in the return address.

Today, in New York magazine, I see an ad for–what, a maternity sweater dress? We’ve come a long way, Baby. (Although, still not far enough, in areas besides maternity fashions.)

 

2017-10-08T12:06:51+00:00 September 8th, 2017|book research, Victoriana, Writing a Book|