Monday, August 28, 2017

Historical Costumes: Walking in a Character's Clothes


One of the best ways to bring an historical novel to life is through detailed research. Nowadays there are many channels for research – primary sources are more available online than they’ve ever been, and often free to access with a click of a button. Those with a larger budget can travel and immerse themselves in surviving castles, or examine the artefacts of life in museums and art galleries. But there is another way, and that is to recreate the experiences of another time for yourself. While books and documents can give you insight into events and what people thought of them, and places can give you a sense of scale and atmosphere, research through recreation can give you unexpected insights into why people might have behaved in certain ways, and a detailed understanding of the rhythms of lives that were very different to our own.

Creating costumes and then wearing them offers an incredibly rich source of information. When you understand how much fabric goes into making a Tudor dress and how much ornamentation is needed, you gain a better understanding of the wealth required to dress that way. When you lace yourself up into a corset, you begin to see how women’s lives were restrained (literally), how they had to walk and sit and why they might have taken to their beds from time to time for the sheer relief! Wearing the elaborate headdress of the Chinese court makes you realise how necessary it is to keep very still. And if you ever take on the project of trying to handsew one of these garments, apart from learning new curse words, you gain some insight into the lives of those whose lives were functional rather than ornamental.

In writing my own historical fantasy, Harlequin’s Riddle, which is set in a second world Italian Renaissance, I was able to draw on my experience of researching, making and wearing two different outfits from the time, as well as on memories of the many feasts I’ve attended where I have been surrounded by such beautiful dresses. This allowed me not only to write vivid descriptions of the beauty of these dresses, but also to show small details such as tying the sleeves on and what it feels like to wear something that is made from heavier material than most things we wear today. Attending a medieval feast in our day and age really does transport you to another time, and open the door to a different world. Once this sort of experience is in your sense bank, you can write about it more easily to create that world for your readers.

I’m really excited to be bringing along a range of outfits from different time periods to the HNSA conference so that those who come to the workshop can see for themselves how they are constructed, how heavy they are and maybe even what it’s like to wear them. 

Recreating Historical Costumes Workshop

What is it like to wear a Tudor outfit or dance in a Renaissance dress? How heavy is an ancient Chinese hanfu and how much fabric goes into its creation? These questions and more will be answered by Rachel Nightingale in this workshop, where you will have a chance to get up close and personal with a range of outfits made by historical re-enactors based on research and portraits. You will have the chance to look at a number of costuming books that deconstruct historical costumes, and perhaps even to try on a historical outfit.

Rachel Nightingale will be conducting her Recreating Historical Costumes workshop on Sunday 10 September at the 2017 HNSA Melbourne Conference. The cost is only $20 for the session once a full weekend or day ticket has been bought. Purchasing a workshop tickets entitles you to entry into a $100 Dymocks Gift  Card giveaway.

In addition to Rachel's session, there is a suite of skills based workshops with top rate tuition including Authorpreneurship, Social Media, Pitching, Self Publishing, Writing Romance for the International Market, Children and Young Adult Fiction, Trove, Scrivener, Family History and Historical Mystery. And for those who enjoy costumes, we also have Leif the Viking providing a session on armour! Learn more at our website.


The Gazini Players are proud to present
For your Edification and Enjoyment
Tales of great Joy, and of great Woe

Ten years ago, Mina’s beloved older brother disappeared with a troupe of Travelling Players, and was never heard from again.
On the eve of Mina’s own departure with a troupe, her father tells her she has a special gift for Storytelling, a gift he silenced years before because he was afraid of her ability to call visions into being with her stories.
Mina soon discovers that the Travelling Players draw their powers from a mysterious place called Tarya, where dreams are transformed into reality.  While trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, she discovers a dark cost to the Players’ onstage antics. Torn between saving her brother or exposing the truth about the Players, could her gifts as a storyteller offer a way to solve Harlequin’s riddle?

Rachel Nightingale has been writing since the age of 8 (early works are safely hidden away). She holds a Masters degree and PhD in Creative Writing. Winning the Mercury Short Story competition (junior section) at the age of 16 fueled her desire to share her stories with the world. Subsequent short stories have been shortlisted in a number of competitions and a play, No Sequel, won the People's Choice Award and First Prize at the Eltham Little Theatre's 10 Minute Play competition. Another, Crime Fiction, was performed at Short and Sweet Manila and Sydney.
Rachel’s second passion after writing is the theatre, and she has been performing in shows and working backstage for a rather long time. She co-wrote and performed in the 2013-2015 version of the hugely popular Murder on the Puffing Billy Express, a 1920s murder mystery set on the iconic Dandenong Ranges train. The inspiration for the Tarya trilogy, which begins with Harlequin's Riddle, began when she read a quote by Broadway actor Alan Cumming about that in-between moment just before you step onstage, and began to wonder might be found in that place between worlds.

Harlequin's Riddle is available via Odyssey  Books.

HNSA 2017 Conference

The HNSA 2017 Melbourne Conference is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University. This celebration of the historical fiction genre will showcase over 60 speakers discussing inspiration, writing craft, research, publishing pathways and personal histories in our weekend programme. Among the many acclaimed historical novelists participating are Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Deborah Challinor, Libby Hathorn, Lucy Treloar, Sophie Masson, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott and Arnold Zable. The HNSA’s speakers’ list is available on the HNSA website.

In addition to the two stream weekend programme, there will be ten craft based super sessions and two research masterclasses.You won’t want to miss our interactive sessions on armour and historical costumes either! Purchase a ticket and you will be entered in the draw to win a $100 Dymocks Gift Card.


Our First Pages Pitch Contest offers an opportunity for submissions to be read aloud to a panel of publishers. And we are delighted to announce the introduction of our inaugural HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize!




Let’s make a noise about historical fiction!

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