Writing Challenge Days 16 and 17: Favourite outfits

Haha! I’m not a follower of fashion and tend to wear clothes for comfort such as jeans and top so instead of showing you my favourite outfit (Day16) and my character’s (Day 17) I’m combining them.

Egged on (albeit genteely) by fellow authors going to the 2019 Eboracum Roman Festival, I decided to try to put together the kind of uniform worn by Carina and Aurelia during their service in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces in my Roma Nova novels. Others were wearing Roman dress of the period of their books so for me it was 20th/21st century Roma Nova.

I refer often enough to the PGSF ‘beige-and-black’ indoor uniform – barrack dress in British terms or service dress for US friends – in all nine books, so I thought I’d better put up or shut up.

Where to start? 
My own ‘stored-in-a box-somewhere-in-the-basement-ready-for-the-apocalypse-recall’ uniform was completely wrong – NATO olive green, so that was a no-no, even if I could still get into it (which I couldn’t). On to the Internet. The previous US navy service dress looked promising, but was very difficult to get  the right sizing and one supplier wanted $57 shipping for trousers and shirt with 28 day delivery. Er, no.

Laurence Mousseron and her shop, Surplus Militaire Armurie et Cotellerie, Thouars

Laurence Mousseron and her shop, Surplus Militaire Armurerie et Coutellerie, Thouars

So I went to the local military surplus shop which was more of a hunting supplies outlet. I wasn’t optimistic, but the owner, a charming woman called Laurence Mousseron was helpfulness personified. She didn’t have the shirt in, but she would get it, she said.

Two problems: D-Day anniversary approaching when demand from re-enactors was strong, and my own three-week deadline before Eboracum. Not optimistic again. But talking to Laurence, I discovered that her emporium was well known outside the town, the region and even internationally. I had no idea it was such a well-known and respected supplier!  She came up trumps.

Basic uniform
The shirt and trousers are very slightly different shades of beige – I had no idea beige varied so much! But with a black belt separating them, it was scarcely noticeable. The BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) trousers had drawstrings at the bottom leg edges hem to form cuffs to go over para boots, but out came my needle and some beige thread to transform them into standard hems.

The black round neck T-shirt Not just any T-shirt; these are M&S T-shirts. 😉 A quick pop in to the store when I was in the UK for CrimeFest and the most helpful assistant I’ve ever met even dug me a second one out from the storeroom.

The black belt with quick release catch came from Laurence. I also bought a black ‘woolly pulley’ from her just in case York turned out to be cold. This is not unknown; I was a student based in Leeds for four years and I knew very well that Yorkshire could be ‘parky’. But in May 2019, the weather was glorious!

Then I hit a real obstacle – the cap. Apart from Nazi SS ones (which would have given me the creeps to wear), I couldn’t find black anywhere; neither could Laurence. Time pressed. Back on the fabulous Internet and by accident I found a sewing pattern for a side cap on Pinterest. Burrowing in my material box, I hoicked out some black trouser material, and found  some spare plastic flyscreen netting for stiffener. (Don’t laugh!) I have a large-ish head (no impolite comments, please) so I expanded the pattern, cut out the pieces and sewed it. It was a demon with the double sides, but I got there. And yes, I did sew my name inside. Old habits, like old soldiers, die hard.

The insignia
I had tackled this first; if I couldn’t find a crowned eagle badge for the shirt pocket the whole project was stuffed.

I had been on the Internet, Etsy to be precise. There were loads of double headed crowned eagles, but few single ones. At last I tracked one down to Bulgaria for 4.50 euros! A central shield was missing, probably an enamel plaque, but that was fixable. Several layers of mixed gold nail polish later to cover the grey metal and the empty space had disappeared

The gold oak leaves on the shirt collar points  and on the hat  –  a PGSF major’s rank badges – came from an Etsy supplier in the US. The purple leather wrist band with the gold stud – a bit of military affectation. 😉

My very sincere thanks go to Laurence Mousseron – she went beyond standard customer service and smiled all the way through.

Oh, and did it work? I think so… But once back in a uniform, I had to try and pull my stomach in and square back my shoulders – not always completely successfullly – but it caused some discussion.

Have you ever dressed up in your favourite character from a book or film?

Alison with Laurence Mousseron in the Surplus Militaire Armurie et Cotellerie, Thouars

Alison with Laurence Mousseron in the Surplus Militaire Armurerie et Coutellerie, Thouars











Writing challenges so far:

Day 15: The many-hatted author
Day 14: Show your workplace
Day 13: A funny family story. Or not
Day 12: Early bird or night owl?
Day 11: Favourite writing snacks/chocolate porn
Day 10: Post an old picture of yourself
Day 9: Post 5 random facts about you
Day 8: What’s your writing process?
Day 7: Introduce your ‘author friend’
Day 6: How the writing all began
Day 5: What inspired the book I’m working on
Day 4: The setting for the new Roma Nova book
Day 3: Introducing the main characters Julia and Apulius
Day 2: Introduce your work in progress
Day 1: Starting with revealing information

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, is now out.

Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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