[LMB] OT: Why, oh why do woman mystery story writers seem to be obsessed with clothes???

Pat Mathews mathews55 at msn.com
Mon Dec 2 22:37:33 GMT 2019

Corrina - I follow the Corinna Chapman mysteries set in Australia. Corinna is a baker, strong as an ox but heavy-set, and at the beginning, mousey and feeling ill-dressed, plus-sized fashions being somewhat lacking in Melbourne in the '00s.  It's amusing and interesting to spot the small victories as her friends think otherwise.

Book 1 - she is going to a Goth club. Neighbor Mistress Dread, who runs the dungeon there (don't ask!) laments that she's not big enough for the gown that would be perfect for her ... a lovely Renaissance number with an external corset that emphasized her spectacular (in a low neckline) assets. Makes her feel powerful; later she goes back and has one made for herself.

Another vignette - she's having a business dinner at a fine restaurant with her abhorred ex, and another neighbor, Meroe, the local witch (Sybil's Cave, incense, candles, etc... resident black cat which attracts a lot of business) rummages through her wardrobe and sets her up in black trousers, a gauze kurta her mother sent her that she never took out of the package, and a length of fabric she'd intended for something else. And so on. Oh, and recommends a chamomile rinse for her mouse-brown hair.

Last book but two, at an arts and crafts fair, a teenaged neighbor who is am aspiring actress and total fashionista (think Tiffany in the comic strip Luann) puts her in a boho outfit of long fluffy short and petticoat, peasant blouse, and belt. Yeah - some fashions demand curves and some figures demand long skirts and spectacular blouses. But you see how this shows both her coming out of her abusive-marriage shell, and how much her neighbors care for her - and their collective sum of knowledge - add up. Extremely telling!
From: lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk <lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk> on behalf of Corrina Lawson <corrinaannelawson at gmail.com>
Sent: Monday, December 2, 2019 3:02 PM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold. <lois-bujold at lists.herald.co.uk>
Subject: Re: [LMB] OT: Why, oh why do woman mystery story writers seem to be obsessed with clothes???

Coming from the viewpoint of someone who writes a seamstress as a
protagonist in a steampunk story (The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, A
Hanging at Lotus Hall), and from someone who didn't pay that much attention
to clothing because, well, I'm good in t-shirts, jeans, and sweatshirts, it
was eye-opening to do so much research into clothing. Not just the clothes
themselves but the history of it, how it was used as a political weapon
against women, and how women took some of it back to weaponize.

Bra-burning was apocryphal, but the pushback against restrictive bras and
girdles was not. Women wearing miniskirts were often making a political
statement, as were men in leisure suits and Nehru jackets--out with the
old, in with the new, in the latter case, though the new didn't last too
long. One comes to the conclusion that men's suits haven't changed much
over the last 100 years because they're still seen as a power move, whereas
women have had to pushback/assimilate more elements as their role has
changed in the U.S., particularly.

You can learn so much about a society when studying what people wear--and
with micro-societies as well. That's one of the elements of the excellent
"Pose" television show.

That said, of course, you can go overboard describing things as a writer.
While my character can tick off the exact list of clothes people are
wearing, for the sake of pacing, often she notes the quality of the fabric,
the cut, and the stitching.

And I have gained a newfound and profound respect for designers who work on
films and television shows.

Who's enjoyed following this whole conversation.
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