Riding habit 1864

Riding habit 1864

child on belter sofaIf you are a writer, you research. Once you get on the road to discovery, there is no end. Sometimes though, your research doesn’t always point in the right direction. It’s sort of like looking in the dictionary for a word you can’t spell, but have to know how to spell in order to find the one you are looking for. For fashions of the past, you must know something about the era you are researching. You need a date, culture, fabrics, patterns, decorative arts, architecture and more. Your descriptions give authenticity and place to your story.

The discovery of photography around 1839 amazed folks, you could see on paper people you know looking like themselves and not moving. Before that, painted portraits were the only choice that only the wealthy could afford. 320px-painted by Winterhalter_ElisabethDaguerreotype, ambrotypes, cartes de visite, tintypes and cabinet cards (all types of photographs) galleries popped up in the big cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. In a short time every city had at least one gallery. Picture taking grew so fast, before long rural areas had galleries. Now it was possible to pass on family photos for all classes. Women’s fashions of the Victorian era both pleasures and horrifies us. Painfully corseted wasp waists, dirt-collecting trains, billowing hoop skirts, absurd and cumbersome bustles—outrageous hats-one sartorial excess succeeded another.

Women’s fashion of the 1860s, basic silhouette fit closely through the bodice to the waist, then the skirt widens into a full round or dome-shape. Armhole seams are placed below the natural shoulder on the upper part of the arm. Fairly crisp fabrics with enough body to enhance the fullness of the skirt, even though it is supported by a hoop.

Bustle dress 1870s

Bustle dress c1870

Among the silks for better dresses, taffeta, plaid and striped patterns, and iridescent fabrics were popular. Day dresses were washable cotton or linen.

The bustle became more fashionable in the 1870s, but outfits for sports were devised by homemakers. Women had ridden horses for recreation as well as for transportation for a number of centuries. Women now participated in active sports, tennis, golf, roller skating, hiking, and even mountain climbing. Fashions changed to fit life styles.


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This era was the last of the cumbersome costumes and breathe defying corsets.

Public Domain images: 1850s to 1880s.
Dover Publications

Where do writers go to get their material? Do writers write from their imagination, or must they research everything? Writers, what’s your take on these questions?



Oops! Latest in clothes dryers right in the middle of Lisbon, with a beautiful backdrop facade of azulejos. The azulejo (tile) is the most typical and widely used form of decoration in Portugal since the middle ages.

Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal is one of the oldest cities in the world, according to Wikipedia.

The Rossio central square

We saved running around the city until our last day. Mistake. Who could have predicted that my stomach would bubble and gurgle? There are pills for that condition. I took a couple and by the time Lili picked us up, I was able to take the tour sitting down.

Lisbon trolley car

Lili and Gigi are  family, she is Gigi’s sister and she babysat my kids ions ago in New Jersey. She drove the city. Here’s what we saw.

Who remembers trolley cars? They were in Brooklyn, (I rode those), New York City, Philadelphia,  and other American cities. There they were, moving about on the rails, filled with people.

Amoreiras Shopping Center

A typical city with people shopping, talking, walking, lovers everywhere hand-in-hand, and the scents, the wonderful scents and aromas of a busy city, the sweet-sticky-scents of bakeries and cafes ricocheted in the air.

Lisbon has some of the largest shopping malls in Europe. Armazens do Chiado is the most central, Colombo is the largest, and Amoreiras is the oldest, updated to post-modern. They all house well-known international retailers such as Zara and fast food restaurants such as, yes, McDonald’s. They’re ideal for some shopping on a rainy day in the city. It broke my heart, we did not have time to shop. I made up for it in the airport. Well, sort of. The airport shops cannot replace shopping in Lisbon.

Castle of São Jorge

Lili took us to the top of the city where we could see the Castle of São Jorge, the highest point of the city. This place reminded me of a waterfront park in San Francisco, where you find the young people playing instruments, singing, resting, lovers and the interested.

Top of the city. Lili and Gail on the right.


On the morning of our departure, I took photos from our Marriott Hotel and got a foggy shot of the famous aquaduct. An obvious nod to the ancient Roman influence in Portugal, this massive 18th century aquaduct once delivered water to the entire city from the Mãe d’Água reservoir. Covering a span of some 18 km, about 11 miles, the aquaduct is no longer in use but still serves as an iconic feat of Portuguese engineering on display in the city.

According to the Tenth addition, AAA Europe Travel Book,In an early 19th century dispatch, the Duke of Wellington said “There is something very extraordinary in the nature of the people of the Peninsula, The most loyal and best-disposed . . .” It has not changed.

Donna Emilia (Gigi and Lili’s mother) We were her guests in Sao Martinho.

The heart of Portugal is the people. They are warm, friendly and accommodating. Here’s one of the best, the mother of our hosts.

Red sunshades of cafes in Ribeira Square, Porto

Do you like wine, do you like coffee? Those are serious beverages in Portugal. Next week, cafe’s of Portugal.

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