Clothes make the woman

Author Shelley Bates writes historical, Amish, and steampunk romance. In each subgenre, characters wear very different types of clothing. Bates makes sure to walk a mile in her characters’ shoes (literally) before she writes their lives.


How does costume affect your writing?

The way that clothing and fabric affects me as a writer . . . I know that I have to feel how my characters are in their clothes, so that’s why I make my steampunk costumes. When I was trying to write a Regency novel, Regency romance, I made Regency gowns to see how they fit because they’re different. They’re built differently in the back to force you to sit up straight. And when you’re in Victorian clothing, of course you have the corset. So your back—there was a rule, a lady never let her back touch the back of the chair. Well, you can’t! Because your corset holds you upright.

So I need to be able to feel how my characters are in their clothes. Well, on the Amish fiction side, same rule applied. I went on eBay, there was Amish clothing being sold on eBay so I ordered some in my size and I put it on to see how it would feel. Of course, there’s no buttons, so I’m pulling the cape over it and pinning the cape shut, pinning the dress shut, pinning the apron closed, and then moving around in the clothes of my characters and seeing just what it’s like.

The Amish dress—maybe it was because I got the wrong size, I’m not sure—but it felt restrictive to me so I’m going to make my own. I’m going to take it apart and use it as a pattern and make my own dress in my proper size so that I can feel how my characters would feel […]

Well, also it’s another form of expression, like sometimes I’ll take my steampunk pieces and wear them to the coffee shop when I’m writing with my friends just for fun. Halloween is a riot!

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