Pedro Mendes on 1930s Mens Fashion

From Flux magazine online

The following is a guest post by men’s style expert Pedro Mendes.

The 1930s are widely considered the apex of modern men’s style. After the restrictive and drab dress of the Victorians and Edwardians, but before the grey uniformity of post-WW2, the 1930s saw men’s fashion express itself like never before, and perhaps, like never since. Despite the Great Depression, this was not a time of deprivation in clothing – like the rationing to come in the 40s that almost killed three-piece and cemented flat-front pants. Instead, the biggest change from the 1920s was a sobering of colours and patterns. The wild abandon of the Gatsby era was toned down, with a return to more sober greys, blues and subtle patterns. That’s not to say that there wasn’t colour in the 1930s, it just wasn’t the rainbow of the previous decade.

The other great development that was born in 1930s London was the “drape” suit. Meant to enhance and exaggerate the male form, more fabric was used in the torso and the jacket was shaped to nip in at the waist while tapering in the sleeve. Pants continued to be wide, but again tapered at the ankle. It all was meant to broaden the shoulders and lengthen the legs, making men look more muscular and manly. Perhaps this was an emotional reaction to the Depression – all the unemployment had undermined men’s self-worth and their roles in society. But more likely it was simply an evolution in taste as English tailoring began to be influenced by Italians – who used more fabric, less structure, and a severe V shape in their tailoring.

Over in the United States, young men started challenging the norm by wearing blazers and sport jackets in town, mixing athletic wear with suits and ties. Button-down collars with ties and tweeds, Fair Isle sweaters and the more relaxed “sack suit.” As society became more casual, and young people, especially in university and college started to have more influence on fashion, odd jackets became more acceptable. Some of this look was itself influenced by England’s Prince of Wales on his journeys across the pond. Unlike his father, the Price was a much more casual and relaxed dresser and a huge influence on British style.

All of the above, however, relates mostly to the upper and moneyed classes. The regular person on the street kept wearing what they had been wearing for years, unlike today when clothes are regularly thrown away and replaced every year or two. Perhaps you could afford to have a suit made at a local tailor and so you could follow the trends of the day, which at the time were reinforced by Hollywood movies. One way the average person was able to afford more clothing than before the Depression was the widespread popularity and availability of off-the-rack. But whereas today you can find some off-the-rack of exceptional quality, the first mass produced suits, when seen with a keen eye, were miles away from custom work.

Pedro Mendes in Leon Drexler homburg-style hat.

Pedro Mendes is an expert in men’s style and the editor of The Hogtown Rake, which you should check out and follow immediately!

Follow the Hogtown Rake on Tumblr, on Instagram, and on twitter.

Review from CanLit for Little Canadians

CanLit for Little Canadians!

This review of Thrice Burned over at the CanLit for Little Canadians blog is so glowing and lovely, I’d like to just transcribe it word-for-word (but I won’t!).

Here is a sample:

Reading A Portia Adams Adventure, whether it be Jewel of the Thames or Thrice Burned, is like revisiting the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle often chose to recount several of Sherlock Holmes’ cases in a single tome, Angela Misri follows suit, extending the authentic and complementary nature of the series to those of the famous detective.  Thrice Burned is like having new Sherlock Holmes mysteries to read, only now starring an inquisitive and astute young woman (without the Asperger’s Syndrome tendencies) and in a London of the 1930s.  And it works so, so well.  Elementary, wouldn’t you say?

And you can read the full review (and enter to win a copy of Thrice Burned) on the CanLit for Little Canadians blog.

One Fictitious Moment: Writing Historical Fiction

It’s been a while but the latest instalment of One Fictitious Moment is on YouTube.

I love to lose myself in a good historical fiction novel (must be why I’ve read every Phillipa Gregory book!) but writing one is even better.

Any excuse to watch Downton Abbey and re-read Gone with the Wind, Of Mice and Men and many others — right? Getting in the mindset of my 1930s detective requires immersion in the media of the time, and a lot of research into what was happening in Europe and the rest of the world.

Hope you enjoy the video friends!

On Writing: the Chapter Synopses strategy

What you need is a strategy!

One of the things I’ve been using lately to hone my story for book 4 of this Portia Adams series is the concept of Chapter Synopses (in other words a synopsis for each chapter in the book).

This is not my idea of course, many people have talked about its usage including my agent and many others but I wanted to share it in case it could help you in your writing process.

Basically you write a short paragraph synopsis of each chapter in your book (proposed or completely written, I find this works at both stages). Try and focus on the action in the chapter (what actually happened) rather than details. Don’t worry so much about the length of each paragraph — some will be longer, some shorter. Also don’t worry about the number of chapters you have set out on the page.

Now if you step back and look at it as a whole you should see a few things:

1. Synopses that are really short and may indicate that this is not a new chapter at all and should just be absorbed into another chapter.

2. By the same logic, synopses that are too long may indicate you are trying to cram too much story into one chapter and it should be divided into two.

3. I don’t know if this is specific to detective fiction, but I also find this kind of layout shows me if I’m laying out the clues in the right order and if my climax and denouement sit in the right places.

4. You can do this for parallel story arcs, line up the chapter synopses next to each other to make sure they are progressing the way you want them to.

5. This is a trick I learned from doing this a few times, but what I find is that if there is no action in a chapter, it may be a chapter or a scene that can be dropped. If it’s just dialogue and the story doesn’t progress in the chapter, let it go, or at least put it aside and see if the story is stronger without it.


Chad R. Allen has a different goal in mind for his post on chapter synopsis but also has some good points about what works and what doesn’t.

Writer’s Digest also has some tips and tricks on synopses you can look at.

Daily Prompt: Dictionary, Shmictionary (it’s time to ‘fess up)

Two daily posts in a row? Wow, that’s a whole new thing here on the Portia Adams Blog!

“Time to confess: tell us about a time when you used a word whose meaning you didn’t actually know (or were very wrong about, in retrospect).”


This is a sad story: I wrote a lovely book in 2012, it went on to get published and then a few of my readers

1) noticed there were errors in the published book, and
2) gave me bad reviews as a result.

Actually, I should put in here that at least three of these lovely fans identified the errors in their reviews and gave me four-star reviews DESPITE that, so a special thank-you to them!

Regardless, I am here to admit that YES I have used words incorrectly in my novels. One of my kinder detractors was clever enough to include in her review this gif image from The Princess Bride so I’m stealing it for emphasis.

THIS is an armoire
THIS is an armoire

One of the mistakes in Jewel of the Thames (if you haven’t caught it) was that I used the word ‘reticule’ incorrectly. For some reason in my head it meant an armoire – the kind with glass doors where you might store chachkas or medicines (see right image).

Yeah, I have no idea why that was what I thought it was, but it got all the way past my fabulous editor and into the book.

Suffice to say we have since corrected it in the newest print run AND the digital copies of Jewel, but it continues to haunt me and cause some upsetting reviews.

All I can say (fans and not-so-fans) is that I’m sorry; mistakes happen and this was one of mine.

I have found errors in books I have read and never really thought too hard about it, nor have I posted about the errors in my reviews. I guess as a fellow-human I can understand how mistakes can happen, and usually the mistakes don’t stop me from enjoying the book.

How about you guys? Do you get distracted by errors and review the books poorly as a result?

One Fictitious Moment: Writing a Series

Writing in a series is very different than writing a stand-alone novel. A stand-alone has its own benefits and issues – like that you have a limited time to tell an entire story and getting people to fall in love with your characters over a mere 80k words.

But when you’re writing a series there are definitely things to keep in mind – check out my latest One Fictitious Moment above to find out more!

Sergeant Michaels

Brendan Coyle
After watching the BBC’s North & South for the first time, I know who I’d pick to play Sergeant Michaels if he was cast today. Brendan Coyle. He is also on Downton Abbey, and he is just riveting on screen.


One Fictitious Moment: Creating Tension

Creating and maintaining tension is a skill that is taught for all kinds of writing – from journalism to detective fiction to wedding speeches. You as the author are tasked with keeping the attention of your reader between long but necessary paragraphs of backstory and dialogue that can span pages and scenes. I’ve read a lot of tips on varying your pace and ‘upping the ante’ at regular intervals, but here are some of my favourite ways to keep heartbeats rising through the story.