So – I established the practice of wearing late Victorian or Edwardian-style outfit when out doing a book event; everything from a WWI-era grey nurses’ dress with a white apron and kerchief, to a black taffeta bustle skirt and jacked with a blue ribbon sash hung with orders and jewels and a white widow’s bonnet (a la Queen Victoria). It’s an attention-getter in a room full of other authors and readers, and a wonderful social icebreaker/conversation starter: Hi, my name is Celia, I write historical fiction, so I like to dress the part!

I am also helping to raise my grandson, Wee Jamie – and fully intend, when he is just old enough to be a help – to draft him as my assistant, teaching him well the craft of direct sales. We have already carted him along to several market events this last fall, and he was angelically good, quiet and very charming to all – so I have every reason to expect that he will continue in that vein. He will be dressed appropriately, in proper Victorian/Edwardian small boy’s outfit, and I tease my daughter by insisting that I will fit out Wee Jamie in a dark velveteen Little Lord Fauntleroy suit – jacket, knickerbocker trousers, and shirt with a lace collar. We’ll skip the long, curly golden locks. His own hair is light brown and stick straight. I also tease her by telling her that it should be cut in a military high-and tight. (You know – that haircut where it looks like the guy has shaved his head entirely and parked a small furry rodent on top.)

In any case, the black velvet Buster Brown suit was all the rage for little boy’s best outfits in the wake of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s best-selling 1885 novel, subsequently turned into a popular stage play version, and to generations of movies and television series. She based her title character, Cedric Errol, on the charming personality of her younger son, Vivian – who as a small child,  was bold, amiable, socially at ease and given to making endearing remarks to all whom he met. The character Cedric proved to be just as endearing – a sympathetic, well-spoken, and egalitarian lad, who was inclined to use his considerable wealth and rank for innocently charitable purposes; the very beau ideal of the Victorian age. (His metaphorical descendants died in droves, on the Western Front.) He served as the model for the illustrations to the book when it was published – and proved to be as popular as the Harry Potter series, more than a century later. Vivian, as one might surmise, did have some trouble in living the embarrassment of this down, as he grew up … went to college, and married in his turn. He turned out to be a stout guardian of the wealth that his mother had earned through her own work as a writer. Fittingly, he died of a heart attack in his sixties in 1937, through over-exerting himself in the rescue of passengers on a foundered boat.

Well … maybe just a knickerbocker or a sailor suit. Something that doesn’t embarrass Wee Jamie in coming years.


  1. I think a knickerbocker suit would be adorable.

    I loved the 1980s TV movie adaptation of LLF – starring Alec Guinness as the grandfather, who I think did an excellent job. You may remember it. And yes, the first time I did the math and realized that young Ceddie was the perfect age to command soldiers in the trenches, I understood the meaning of what TV Tropes calls “Fridge Horror.”

  2. Yes – he would have been – and so would the boy characters in “The Secret Garden.”
    One of the things that I realized in reading about Frances Hodgson Burnett was how financially successful she was, not just with the children’s books like LLF – but with the theatrical versions, and her other novels as well. She was one of those famously successful and very independent Victorian women – quite against the trop of the Victorian lady being a meek and submissive wife, wholly dependent on a husband.

  3. This is unrelated, but I saw something yesterday that might give you a writing idea: I am currently visiting a friend in Hawaii (Big Island) and we saw the pa’u riders exhibit near Parker Ranch. Horses were introduced to Hawaii in 1803 and women rode – straddling the horse – as well as men. They wore a skirt/culotte type outfit made of lengths of cloth wrapped around the waist, secured with kukui nuts tucked into the waistband. Imagine a whole army of female cowboys on the Big Island… I instantly thought of you.

    The pa’u riders exist to this day and participate in parades on a regular basis, both on island and in the Rose Parade.

    • What fun! – amazingly enough, a lot of woman riders in the 19th century rode astride, so I am not surprised. It was safer, in a lot of ways.