“How in the world did I get here?!?”
In the middle of a making a costume, do you ever stop and question how you got into this hot mess? “Why am I sewing this project today??”
Costuming isn’t just a “thing.” We are “involved.” As in a close relationship. As in, we show love and kindness and fear and hate and frustration and passion and dedication to the creative enterprise.
If you consider yourself “insane” when it comes to your historical sewing projects, I’ve got 5 ideas that I think help answer this for the sewing (and stress) we put ourselves through. To understand that what you’re doing matters.
1. To Escape Reality and Play “Dress Up”
Who hasn’t wished for that impossible, but thoroughly delightful, adventure of jumping into a movie scene or book page to become part of the story?
Would you be the heroine or hero? How about the best friend? Or even the villain?
Honestly, why else do we toil for days and weeks to find a *pattern, *fabrics and trims, *practice familiar techniques and learn new ones and basically make ourselves crazy with completing a historical ensemble?
You sit down to view the latest Jane Austen adaptation and find yourself in love with a particular gown that you just have to have for yourself. Who cares if there is no other reason than to make something lovely to wear around the house? (Invite your friends over to view your latest vacation video over a scrumptious tea for a delightful afternoon!)
Few opportunities present themselves in our current society to vanish for a moment from our 21st Century lives and relive a part of history.
You could be a Crusader in the 12th Century or Rosie the Riveter in 1944 or anything in between.
Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday of Halloween, the excitement of becoming someone else and dreaming of another time period for a few hours is tempting and satisfying.
2. For a Social Event
This may be the strongest motivator in creating clothing from the past.
The Victorian Ball is coming up, and you don’t want to be the only one in modern clothes.
The Halloween party is an 18th Century masked ball.
New Year’s Eve is calling for your appearance in a 1920s jazz dress.
You’ve been invited to the local Civil War Blue/Gray Cotillion – period clothing required.
Making a historical ensemble to attend social events with friends is a most rewarding part of this hobby. Embrace those whimsical costume parties and build your historical sewing techniques while having fun.
And if you can’t find a big event near you – create one! Get a couple friends together to picnic at the park or tour local gardens or museum (be sure to check their dress rules first!). Host a dinner with period recipes and appropriate attire.
3. For a Reenacting Event
For those with a love of historic information and a passion to share that knowledge with the current generation, you thrive at living history events. Getting a chance to pass on what our ancestors lived through is a means to learn from the past to eliminate future mistakes.
What better way than to combine your love of history with your love of period clothing! And you have a perfect excuse to wear your historical clothes more often. 😉
Whether an American Civil War weekend or visiting Colonial Williamsburg, each event will have its own guidelines for accuracy and historical dress. Be sure to check before getting knee deep into a new time period or project.
You may specialize in trying to get your period wardrobe as close as can be for the era you’re re-creating – fabulous!
But remember: you are a modern person and sew-er; you can only get so close to duplicating the picture. You can’t be totally 100% accurate. Although, I say challenge yourself to it if that’s your passion!
4. To Re-create a Family Heirloom or Historical Piece
Your grandparents’ 50th anniversary is next winter. You are planning the celebration – right down to the same cake and punch served.
Now you have to find a way to re-create your grandmother’s wedding gown. Perhaps you have only a photograph to rely on. Maybe you have the gown but the dear woman is not quite as skinny anymore.
You might take this as a challenge to expand your sewing skills. Delve into the research of why the gown has lace only on the cuffs and neckline. Or why there was no lace at all on it.
Why does a bodice found in an old trunk at the estate sale resemble 19th Century styles but has fabric that recalls the 18th Century? Why does that skirt have non-matching plaids for the lining?
If you can get your hands on a provenance (accurate historic ownership facts regarding an item) then use that in your research. Once collected, you’re good to go to use your new information and copy the piece.
5. For Personal Achievement
If you are new to sewing historical fashion you may simply seek the challenge of completing a project to stretch your abilities. For the sheer enjoyment of the process. To expand your knowledge.
You may be looking for a new hobby to fill some free time. (I’m currently picking up knitting.)
Everyone has their own personal interests of where they like to spend their time whether that is sewing, music, sports, art, travel, or whatever. Perhaps historical sewing is an area that achieves personal fulfillment for you.
Maybe someone has inspired you to win an award at an event. Take that challenge! 🙂
Whatever reason pushes you to sew up clothing styles from the past take pride in your work! When that deadline is approaching and you’re stressed out to complete the costume on time come back to these special influences about why you are sewing a particular project.
Believe that making historical clothing sets you apart into a unique hobby.