A Memorable Delivery: My Victorian Gown

Some writers promise themselves something special when they receive that long-awaited first book contract. One of my agency mates, Billy Coffey, got a tattoo. While his tat is way cool, I’m a wimp when it comes to pain, so I didn’t go that route.

When I began writing, I dreamed of going to book signings wearing a Victorian gown. As soon as my agent called to say she’d sold my story, I contacted a talented seamstress I know. Patricia Ricci makes vintage clothing sold at Gold Discovery Park in Coloma, California (where James Marshall discovered that nugget that launched the Gold Rush back in January 1848) and in historic Virginia City, Nevada. She also does custom work, so I commissioned my gown.

Patricia Ricci with Keli

When I first met with Patricia, I only had a rough idea what I wanted. The heroine in my debut novel loves violets and wears a stunning purple gown in a pivotal scene, so that’s the color I chose.

While I wanted the gown to appear to be a real Victorian creation, I opted to use modern fabrics for ease of care and transport. The skirt and bodice are made of polyester satin, the darker accent trim of cotton velvet, and the petticoat and bustle of rayon taffeta, all fabrics that can be dry-cleaned and won’t show wrinkles the way the silk and cotton women wore in the 1800s would. I will wear a bustle, but I’m not willing to squeeze into a corset since I need to be able to move–and to breathe.

Patricia showed me some patterns, and we settled on the basic design. Having seen some of her work, I felt comfortable giving her creative license. As I expected, her ideas were great, and when I left the first day, she had a plan in place.

At each fitting, I grew more excited as the gown took shape. And then it was ready. My husband and daughter went with me for the delivery, and Gwynly snapped these photos. Patricia outdid herself. The dress is gorgeous, and I couldn’t be happier.

Our daughter, The Fashion Queen, is big on accessories, so I have mine: Victorian boots, a hat, gloves, a beaded reticule (handbag), and a fan–all replicas. When I attend the Awards Banquet at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in St. Louis two weeks from now, I’ll be the short gal wearing a beautiful purple dress and a big smile.

• • •

If you’d like to contact Patricia to discuss the possibility of having her make a garment for you, send her a message on Facebook. She’s the Patricia Ricci in Placerville, California. Just so you know, she will be busy again soon because my hubby is having a frock coat made so he looks the part of the handsome Victorian gentleman at my book release party and when he accompanies me to my book signings.

• • •

If you’re a not-yet-published writer, have you promised yourself something when you sell?

If you’re a published writer, did you treat yourself to something when you sold?

If you’re not a writer, do you plan a reward when you meet a goal?


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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40 Responses to A Memorable Delivery: My Victorian Gown

  1. bethkvogt says:

    Oh, Keli, your dress is beautiful.
    But the smile lighting your face? That is beyond stunning.
    I’ll be looking for you in your purple custom-made, dream-come-true gown at the ACFW banquet, with my camera in hand. Be ready to smile!!

    And, yes, I bought myself something frivolous when I found out I landed a contract for a novel. It’s a beautiful Brighton purse with multicolored hearts all over it. I thought it was appropriate for a novelist who wrote contemporary romances. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Beth, I think a purse would make a great “I got a contract!” treat. One of my weaknesses is Coach handbags. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a way to convince Gwynly that another Coach bag would help me promote my books. 🙂

  2. Oh, yes, are you wearing it to ACFW? It’s gorgeous. I feel like the kid whose grandparents went to Florida and all he got was the T-shirt. 😀 Well, hubby treated me and the family to a very nice dinner to celebrate. But hmm, I just signed another contract…perhaps a purchase is called for. LOL

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sandra, yes, the public debut of my Victorian gown will take place at the ACFW Awards Banquet. I’ll be squeezing me and my “enhanced” backside into a chair. 🙂

      Congrats on the new contract! I vote for you treating yourself to something special.

  3. Yes, the smile on your face says if all, Keli. The dress is wonderful! I get a kick realizing that the bustle gave a gal a little extra booty. Even back then everyone wanted to look like Jennifer Lopez.

    Your book signings will be memorable indeed!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Chris, your comment made me chuckle. I’ve been working to take off a bit of that troublesome “shortbread spread” on my front side before the conference, but who will notice my belly bulge when I’m sporting a JLo backside? LOL

  4. the writ and the wrote says:

    If I ever sell, I have no idea what my reward will be. Perhaps the satisfaction of knowing I could actually get published.

  5. It is beautiful! And you look great in the dress! I think that is so cool that you are doing it! Wish I was at the banquet to see it:)) I have not promised myself anything actually- just want to get there!

  6. Wendy says:

    Gorgeous (but the dress has nothing on your smile)! What a fantastic way to celebrate. Love this. You inspire me. Got your card. It lit me up.

    That shade of purple is one of my favorite colors!
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Wendy, I didn’t plan on a purple dress. My favorite color is blue, but, like you, I love this shade of purple, which is one of my heroine’s favorites, too.

  7. Lucille Zimmerman says:

    What a great idea. I love that you kept your promise to yourself.

  8. That is an awesome gown and a fitting gift for “my lady.” Love the color and the gal wearing it. Congrats to both of you for the inspiration. Funny, I never thought of it before quite like this. A wonderful time to reproduce in your writing and then in the dress. My “gift” to myself is something different. I plan to return to the bike path along Shore Parkway that runs seven-and-a half miles along the Brooklyn Narrows, skirts under the massive Narrows Bridge and faces NY harbor in one direction and the mouth of the Atlantic in the other. I have longed to ride it once more and recapture the happy hours I spent when my children were babies. I’m actually working out every day in the pool and plan to begin biking again to prepare for my “gift.” Thanks Keli, and again … you look great 🙂

  9. You look beautiful, Keli! This Victorian gown suits you perfectly. And the color is gorgeous. Wonderful idea – to reward yourself for accomplishing your writing goal! Congratulations to you!!

  10. Stunning keli! I’m excited to see you wearing your gown in two weeks!!!! And I have to give a plug for your hubby…wearing a frock coat for you!!! Amazing! What a guy! 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Lacie, my Gwynly is a history buff like me and is looking forward to wearing his Victorian finery. I’m looking forward to seeing him in it, too. My challenge will be attending signings with him at my side looking so dapper. I’ll have to behave like a proper Victorian lady and refrain from staring at my handsome hubby in a shocking display of admiration. 🙂

  11. A beautiful dress and what a fun reward. I love the bustle. No corset – a wise choice.

  12. Well, I bought myself some Godiva. *grin*
    Your dress is lovely. What a great idea! Love the pics and I can’t wait to see you in it. 🙂

  13. Erica Vetsch says:

    The dress is beautiful and you look radiant!

  14. Absolutely gorgeous dress, Keli. I love the color purple on you and you really do look quite natural wearing it. Past life? Have a wonderful time at the awards ceremony.

  15. candidkerry says:


    What a beautiful dress, and smile! You look stunning in that color. My favorite colors are blue and green, but that purple is gorgeous, too. Thank you for sharing the pics! Enjoy. 🙂

  16. I’m sure I’ll do some little “something” to celebrate when that time comes, Keli! 🙂

    Your gown is lovely and you are gorgeous in it! One question: Will it wrinkle you too much if I give you a hug?

  17. Casey says:

    SO pretty! I love the story behind your dress, Keli! I can just see the excitement on that first picture. Priceless. 😀

  18. Loree Huebner says:

    Love the gown! You look beautiful!

    I always saw myself signing all decked in a lovely period gown – with my handsome soldier hubby by my side.

  19. Gorgeous, Keli! I agree with the others…Your smile outshines the dress. 🙂

  20. It’s lovely- and your smile shows how happy you are when you wear it. For me the big sale/check traveling I want to go on vacation- even to the next state but somewhere.

  21. Oh Keli! Not to sound like a repeat of the others on here…..but your dress truly is GORGEOUS and YOU look RADIANT! 🙂 And I do love purple – – AND that color looks very nice on you. Cannot wait to see you in person in your lovely gown (I’ll have my camera ready too!). ~ That is so cute that your hubby is going to accompany you to book signings and be in costume too – – WOW! 🙂 And I had to smile at your bustle comment….sadly, some of us have a “natural bustle”! 😉 Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo p.s. Waving at my dear friend Sandra Orchard – – SO proud of her newest contract!! 🙂

  22. Sherrinda says:

    Keli!!!!!!! It’s gorgeous! And you just glow with joy while wearing it! I wish I could see you in person at the conference. Take lots of pictures, okay?

    I always said if I ever sold I was going to get laser hair removal for my face. Growing older is just not as fun as I thought it’d be, you know? 😉 But I like your treat much better! I may have to rethink my choice! lol

  23. Julie Nilson says:

    What a gorgeous dress! I love the color.

    I’ve never gotten a tattoo because I worry that I will change my mind too late. I can’t stick with a haircut for more than 6 months, and now I have to pick something that’s permanent? But I saw a website that featured literary tattoos–people had quotes or symbols from favorite books or poems inked. I thought that would be a great idea–when I finally get published (or at least get a contract?) I think I might get a tat that commemorates that in some way.

    Or maybe I’ll just get a rockin’ Coach bag. 🙂

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Julie, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Coach bag. I’m a huge fan of them. I’ve been carrying Coach bags since the late 80s, well before they became the height of fashion. In one area at least, I was ahead of my time. 🙂

  24. A memorable delivery, indeed. You look beautiful, Kelli.

  25. Love, love, LOVE the details on the edges of the sleeves!! I hope to see your dress in person someday too!! I know pictures never do justice for being there in person! I’m so excited for you!!

    I’ve also never seen a bustle exposed before! Very interesting. Looking at it, I realize that if I lived in the 1800’s, I wouldn’t need to wear one to be in fashion. *wink* *wink* 🙂

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