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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Cline Barton

Fashions to Die for? Fashion is No Mystery in My Cozy Books!

Just about everywhere you look, whether it’s online, in a magazine, or on the television, you can’t get away from an article or blurb on fashion–who wore what when. This is especially true for anyone deemed royal, celebrity, or actress. In most cozy mysteries I’ve read or viewed, fashion tends to either not be described at all, or takes a very back seat (with the exception of Miss Phryne Fisher, who dresses divinely, and Her Royal Spyness, Lady Georgiana, who always makes sure to try and dress for the occasion).

My main character Gemma Lancaster Phillips is rather obsessed with the fashions she wears as she roams the halls and grounds of Cherrywood Hall. Gemma has a slight boot obsession, and loves evening gowns, dinner dresses, British country attire, and anything with fringe or faux fur.  Her ma-ma, Jillian, is an actress and loves expensive, ‘gotta be noticed’ outfits as well—one never knows when the paparazzi will pop up! I try and describe the outfits these women wear in detail, so that the readers can imagine the outfits of the characters as they dress for the glamorous events held at Cherrywood Hall and the surrounding locations. Think of it as a fabulous mental fashion show 🙂

Gemma, being an American in this faux almost royal land, feels a particular obligation to dress appropriately out of respect for her new aristocratic surroundings and royal soirees. Cherrywood Hall is pretty much the opposite of her world in Malibu, and decidedly more formal. It’s rather a good thing Gemma is an heiress, she has access to designer and couture fashions most of us can only dream of. The men in the stories get their fashions described as well, although there is only so much one can say about a tuxedo–no offense. Personally, I don’t think any man can wear a scarf  or cravat with more finesse  than a British or European man 🙂

One of the fashion storylines in my books is the finding of the Lancaster ancestral garments in ‘the closet’ rooms of Cherrywood Hall. The garments range from the 1800s to present, and in my writer’s mind, are imagined creations of Chanel, Paul Poiret, and Jeanne Lanvin, to name a few of my personal favorites. They’re styled and represent the fashion trends such as art deco, flappers, and heavens—even menswear for women!

Gemma finds many of the dresses worn by her famous Aunt Pippa, and wears some of them to many of the events at Cherrywood, especially the ones in blue, Aunt Pippa’s favorite color. I must say that in my books I consciously omitted (thanks again Gwyneth Paltrow) calling out any specific designer’s creation as I describe my inspired outfits, primarily due to not wanting to be contacted by any said designer’s attorneys–an unfortunate but very real aspect of our time…sorry fashion!

I’m particularly interested in describing the costume fashions to be designed and worn in the fictional Castlewood Manor television series. The details of the design process used for a television series is extensive, involving huge amounts of research into not only the designs worn for the period, but also the fabrics, beading, furs, hats, shoes and every imaginable accessory. In my research, I found that today’s costumes must not only be period appropriate and authentic, but must also have design innovations to accommodate any wiring or mechanisms needed for production, and allow for quick change if needed by the actors (Velcro, the duct tape of the fashion industry?)

I understand from a few sources that the costumes of television shows were not cleaned after a wearing, instead removable underarm pads were used for each wear, then removed for the next shot or scene–not sure how I feel about that! I think in my stories we will clean the costumes 🙂 I’m pretty sure the costume designers of Castlewood Manor are dying to get into the Lancaster ‘closets’ to supplement their designs and get inspired. I’m sure Aunt Pippa will keep her ghostly eyes on what goes on there—I can’t guarantee that Velcro won’t fly in certain instances, especially if she sees the underarm pads!

I’ve had to learn some new rules and protocols for how one would dress for dinners and functions at fictional Cherrywood Hall. I’ve used the decorum for formal dress quite frequently in my books. I think having these mental fashion breaks allows the characters to have some time to think through the dastardly events of the day, as they dress and prep for cocktails and dinner. It seems much more civilized to talk about crime, sabotage and cozy murder in an evening dress, don’t you think? Fashion rules…

I know that clothes don’t make the woman—but for my cozy stories they will continue to be detailed. I’ll keep reading and watching my favorite royal fashion/attire blogs, fashion magazines and fashion designer shows for inspiration, and to try and keep up to date on the latest trends of the royals (how can you not love the style of Kate and Meghan and Zara–almost royal?), celebs and actresses. Do you have any suggested fashion sites for me to review? I’d love to hear from you. Fashion is one part of my writer’s research that I find quite enjoyable—and I won’t be keeping my character’s fashions under wraps!

Crowns and Kisses,


P.S. Today’s featured picture has two of my favorite pairs of gloves that I think would fit in well at Cherrywood Hall, don’t you think? I love the faux fur and gem bling. Fashion Gemma would approve 🙂 #Gemmasfaves

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