One of the big projects I'll be taking on for 2013 is building a historical wardrobe. My taking this on was actually a very thought out process. Growing up I was never very interested in history, but as I've gotten older I've found areas of history that I really enjoy following. Number one is music history. As my love for sewing has increased, it only follows that I'd start being interested in fashion history. I find this ironic that I have no interest in today's fashion, but a conversation in the progression of the mantua has me in geekery fits.
But I digress, here are some of the more solidified reasons for taking this on:
1) I enjoy a challenge. Until about a hundred years ago, give or take a few decades, garments were completely hand sewn. Even as late as the 1950s you still see a huge majority of garment making still being done by hand despite the availability of sewing machines. I've long wanted to improve my hand sewing skills, and this is a way to do so. The details and embellishments of historical fashion are far beyond anything we see today, and I want to learn that level of skill. It doesn't help that I want to learn couture sewing methods for my own everyday wardrobe, either. Surprisingly enough, couture sewing, and the historical sewing methods are remarkably similar...maybe that's not so surprising.
2) I'm a sucker for researching beautiful things...or just research in general. The research involved with something like this combines the best of many of my favorite worlds: art, literature, fabric, sewing, and many other resources for historical accuracy. Where else do you get to look at the paintings of the masters to determine the best way to drape a bustle or a sack back gown, or read through runaway servants reports just to know the details of petticoats or a knitted cap? Basically, any excuse to collect more books, do more reading, and take notes on critical facts and I'm hooked like a fish to bait. I just can't help myself.
3) Another thing I'm really looking forward to is building the outfits from the ground up. What I mean by that is, doing all of the proper undergarments to build up to the outer garments. It's amazing how much is involved underneath an outfit. It's certainly not like the clothing from our own era. And, it will be the perfect excuse to get a dress form, or modify one.
4) The clothes of the past truly are works of art in many ways, and this is just a further expression of creativity for me. I'm not drawn to today's fashion like I am to vintage fashion, and going into historical fashion is just a natural extension in my mind. I love the idea of mixing art with math with writing with drafting with...
5) I do want to be as historically accurate as possible and so in all I do I want to make sure I back it up with art, reading, and analysis so that there's always an educated decision behind whatever the garment is that I put together. I also want to use accurate fibers and construction methods.
Be warned, there will be many moments of geeking out over things like: seam finishing through the ages, or whether thread should match the garment's color, etc. I really just can't help myself. Then there's this other secret dream of mine where, as I learn more and more about this stuff, I start applying it to an everyday wardrobe...somehow, someway, but it would be so much fun to design and make clothes that are heavily influenced from all of these different eras, and maybe even use some of their elements.
....but we shall see. That's a ways away, and a lot can change until then.
So how will I be doing this and where will I be starting?
The Sew Historical Fortnightly is my biggest motivator in keeping this going. Something about having a deadline really keeps my productivity flowing.
Second, in the research I've done thus far, starting with the undergarments is the way to go. You build an outfit from the skin outward. I'll be applying this same philosophy to creating my own historic garments. The other thing my research revealed is that it's a lot easier to start with the lower class and work your way up. I'll be doing that as well.
All of them...eventually. Ha! I've decided to start with the 18th century. There wasn't exactly a very specific reason for this. As I was looking at pictures of garments from the different centuries, the 18th just kept calling my name. So I'm going with it. There are many other eras of fashion I want to delve into, but I needed to start somewhere.
For my more modern wear I love the 1920's to the 1950's with a smattering of the 60's and 70's in the mix. I love early 20th century, but some of that is hard to wear today. The Victorian/Edwardian/Regency eras are wonderful as well as the 18th. Even the Elizabethan/Rennaissance eras hold a special place in my heart.
I'd like to start from the ground up as much as possible by beginning with a lower class of clothing and moving my way up. I just completed my very first chemise, and you can read about it here.
A goal of mine is to make undergarments that will transfer over well into different classes. I want to make a wardrobe using my color palatte so that I don't have a bunch of pieces of clothes that don't match very well, but instead I can mix and match together. This involves some planning, but it's worth it as I'm trying to be cost effective.
A fun video on historical costuming can be viewed here.