May / 26

The Edwardian Era: The Last Era of Excess

By / Jessica Leake / 3

 

Picture taken from victorianpassage.com

Picture taken from victorianpassage.com

 

With Arcana due out in only 6 months (a blink of the eye in publishing time!), I thought it might be interesting to do a series of blog posts on the historical setting of the book–the Edwardian Era. It was a relatively short period of time; if you go by the years Edward VII was king, then it lasted from 1901-1910. A lot of the time, though, this era is expanded to include the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and the beginning of WWI in 1914.

It was an era of opulence and excess, ballrooms and country parties–at least for the aristocracy. The common labourers wouldn’t be enjoying such things until well after the war, although rapid industrialization created an environment of more social mobility. It’s the historical setting for Titanic, Downton Abbey, and even Lady and the Tramp. It was one of the most beautiful and fascinating eras in modern history, and Arcana is set right in the middle, in 1905.

Coronation Portrait by Luke Fildes

Coronation Portrait by Luke Fildes

The fashionable, leisurely elite were personified by King Edward, the playboy king who had a large appetite–both for women and for decadent, 10-course meals. Apparently, he wasn’t too into politics during the long reign of his mother, preferring to travel and basically party at every opportunity. This, of course, did not endear him to the much more serious Queen Victoria. The king was well-liked throughout Europe, and was known as the Uncle of Europe, since he was related to almost every European monarch.

There were also some serious modern advances during this time, most of them already in existence but becoming even more popular: trains, cars, electricity (nearly every house in London had electricity by this point, only the ancient country manors might be a little slower to get on board), the tube in London, even the world’s first airplane (the Wright Brothers), advances in photography. I found this amazing blog post on Buzzfeed of photos taken by a photographer of London street style from 1905-1908.

Some of my favorites:

 

Rocking one of the giant hats so popular at that time

Rocking one of the giant hats so popular at that time

So fashionable with a long skirt and tailored blouse (and giant hat).

So fashionable with a long skirt and tailored blouse (and giant hat).

 

 

 

 

Her expression just kills me

Her expression just kills me

 

See more of these fascinating street photos here.

But even with these modern advances, the aristocracy still retained its antiquated views, which is what I found so fascinating. Women still had virtually no say in their lives; the eldest daughter couldn’t even inherit, as Lady Mary discovers in Downton Abbey. There was really only one option available to women in the upper classes: get married, and marry well. So what, then, would such an environment be like for a young lady with a rebellious personality and powerful abilities she must keep hidden? These are the challenges my main character faces in Arcana.

Aside from the technological advances at the time, I also had to research the fashion of the era, what it was like to debut at Court before King Edward, leisurely pursuits, riding, food, popular music and dances, and just the general zeitgeist of the era.

So with this brief overview of the era, what would you like to know more about? (Comments are at very bottom of page)

Comment (3)
  • Tressa @ Tressa’s Wishful Endings / June 4, 2014, 2:37 pm  

    I love looking at historical fashions. I just think it’s so interesting to see how some looks are classic, even today, and how different some styles were. I love the long skirt you show here. I think that’s a very classic and gorgeous style. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jessica / June 5, 2014, 7:44 am  

      Tressa, I completely agree! So many aspects of the Edwardian Era fashions are still in use today–especially for the men. Pretty sure they still wear suits and tuxedos :). And the long skirt–always a classic.

  • lastest fashion trends / June 24, 2014, 12:04 pm  

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