Friday, July 20, 2012

History Catches up to Bras

L.G.C. Smith

With the recent announcement that 600 year-old bras were found in Lemberg Castle in the Austrian Tyrol (, historical romance writers of big-bosomed heroines may breathe easier. We may now confidently rig bra-like foundation garments for our ladies of the past, should they require them. For decades, writers have struggled to balance the received wisdom that bras were not used before the early twentieth century with the imagined discomfort of active heroines doing bouncy things like riding horses and running through the woods without adequate support.

Plenty of writers have adopted the rough and ready stance that dire need and female ingenuity must have come up with individually crafted solutions to the bra problem. There is the “chest bound in linen strips” solution, most commonly found in medieval romances and those where the heroine is disguised as a male. There is the “cut up an old corset” solution, usually employed by thrifty western women and the British horsey set. Wherever one finds romance heroines endowed with a C-cup or better, one finds creative writers desirous of keeping those heroines comfortable. Besides, it’s fun to peel off layers in seduction scenes.

The bigger issue here is how far we can claim to be historically accurate when there are so many things we don’t know about the past. Most of us who write historical fiction do so because we are fascinated by the past, and we want to make it come alive for readers—and ourselves while we’re writing. That may be the real reason we write historical fiction. As hard as we try to faithfully re-create a past time and place, however, we don’t know everything.

So we imagine. If we have a fair handle on the material and social culture of the times we write about, we can always assume people in the past were at least as smart as we are. They might not know what we know, but they know a lot we don’t. How many of us could plow a field if we had to? Hunt or gather dinner without killing ourselves in the process? Some could. People are resourceful now, and they were in the past.

 The German Shepherd Dog next door.

The next time I read a historical novel with a German Shepherd Dog in the 16th century, instead of getting up on my high horse about historical inaccuracy, and doesn’t that idiot know that German Shepherds weren’t developed until the late nineteenth century, I will consider that maybe someone in a little village in Belgium bred dogs looking remarkably like German Shepherds in 1736. If the writer calls them German Shepherds, I reserve the right to be annoyed, but otherwise, I will calm down and continue reading. After all, there are 600 year-old bras from an Austrian castle no one knew about for centuries.

L. G. C. Smith
A Secret Queen of Hidden Realms
She is a sorceress. A witch. Alone in the shadowed mountains she works forgotten magic to keep the land strong. Few remain who understand her sovereignty. Hers is a lonely life. One dark Samhain night she looks for one who might match her ability to bring harmony to the land and its people. If he will. His fate and the future of Britain lie in her hands.
An Enemy King
A young king of the Angles hears a fireside tale from his Welsh cousins. There is a witch who can grant him the power he yearns for most: To rule over all Britain. To gain it, he will have to prove himself worthy in unfamiliar ways. No sword or cunning will sway this witch. Can he learn the lessons she sets for him in time to earn his prize?
An Alliance to Assure the Future?
Not for hundreds of years has there has been a king with the potential to rule beside the Lady of the Isles. Strong and skillful, the young king tempts her when she tests his mettle. The Old Ways say that she can have him, or she can have his child. Which one will she choose?

Click here to buy Eve of All Hallows now.


  1. But now does anyone have a guess what the bras were called back then?
    And Enemy King sounds very intriguing.