Tag Archives: historical

Costume School Final Year Project // 1. Inspiration

3 Apr

Hello dear readers,

Again, sorry it’s been a while! With all the best intentions in the world, life – or rather, school – got in the way of both my updating this blog and working on my Lady Mechanika project. Now that I’m in my final year of my costuming course, most of my sewing energy has to go into my final assignment, where we have to create a pair of historical garments for a man and a woman, from the underwear out. Part of our assessment includes keeping an art/progress/inspiration journal, and I thought I might transfer what I write in there to this blog, along with other pictures and information I find.


Our loose theme this year is ‘Historical Costume Inspired by Art’. That’s a huge topic! We can look at any era, anywhere in the world, from about 1400-1950. Believe me, too much choice is worse than too little in this case! It’s taken me a lot of thinking and over-thinking to narrow down my ideas. I had to create some constraints for myself.

•  I want to look at an era I have not previously explored. That rules out my favourite (Georgian), some Victorian, some Medieval.

•  I want to try some new techniques, ie. embroidery, a new historical method of construction, etc.

•  As we have to make corsets, I want to try a style of corset I have not made previously. Again, no Victorian, or 18th Century Stays.

•  I don’t really want to make another men’s suit jacket, as I have made a few over the past few years!

• Being on a very tight student budget, I am going to use mostly fabric I already have in my stash. If I have to buy, it’s gotta be cheap!


In the end, it was the high-budget production values of a trashy Hollywood film that pointed me in an interesting direction.


Extravagant ladies' costumes in 'The Three Musketeers' 2011

Manly Musketeers

I’m such a sucker for terrible swashbuckling movies. The 2011 version of ‘The Three Musketeers’ is pretty outrageous – I mean, airships?! – but as much as the American accents and cheesy action are good for a laugh, the costumes are gorgeous. So lovely, in fact, that I was rather inspired to go and have a closer look at fashions of the mid-17th Century.

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Following in another’s footsteps (or stitches!)

17 Dec

Or, when opening a pattern envelope is like stepping into a time machine.

Today I received a pattern in the mail that I had bought from the lovely  Midvale Cottage on Etsy. I’d been looking for a 1950’s princess coat pattern for ages and then this lovely specimen in my size turned up. Jackpot! It is Vogue 1588 from 1957. I thought that envelope was a little bulky when I got it, but look what came out when I opened it!

Clockwise from left:

1. Two instruction sheets, one for advanced sewers and one with ‘basic’ techniques such as bound buttonholes.

2. Advertisement for Vogue Pattern Book – “Vogue patterns and salted nuts are just alike! One calls for another…and another…and another…” Yes, I’m sure nuts and sewing are closely related.

3. “Attention! Cut, Mark, Sew!” Little instruction sheet on how to mark cut fabric correctly.

4. One receipt from The J.L Hudson Company, Detroit Michigan. The pattern cost $2.94 on March 4th, and the buyer was warned that ‘this recepit should be carefully preserved for the correction of errors and must accompany all goods for credit’. Well, that, or so that a seamstress in late 2009 can marvel at the remnants of another time.

One of my favourite parts of sewing from vintage patterns is the feeling of following in another sewer’s footsteps (or stitches!). Just like dressing in vintage clothes lets you imagine the ladies and gentlemen of decades ago, and what they were doing and dreaming when they wore those clothes, using a pattern that has been cut up and marked by someone else gives me a similar thrill. I’m not particular about using pre-loved patterns – as long as all the bits are there, I’ll give it a go! I have found pattern pieces tacked together with pins, notes written in pencil annotating instructions and little sketches of pattern adaptations. If the pattern is factory-folded, you might find advertisements or subscription sheets inside.

I love finding these scraps of the past and am grateful that they were preserved. Maybe one day, in 50 years or so, another sewer will make a new version of one of my favourite patterns?

As a side note, I was thinking of making a tutorial on how I covered the shoes I wore for the Christmas Ball. Would anyone be interested in this?

Bibliophile Crafter Review – “Jane Austen’s Sewing Box” by Jennifer Forest

1 Dec

When I’m not sewing or thinking about sewing, I work in a large bookstore in the middle of town. One of the perks of this job is that I get to see all the new crafty books that come in – and boy, are there a lot of them! So many beautiful glossy books, many of them published by crafters who started out writing blogs (like the adorable Applique Your Way from Kayte Jenny at thisisloveforever) or Australian crafty celebs like Pip Lincolne of Meet Me at Mike’s. So in this Book Review section I’m going to have a look at the crafty, stylish, inspirational books that pass through my dusty fingers as I shelve them, starting with Jennifer Forest’s new book, “Jane Austen’s Sewing Box”. I’m also going to have a go at making something from each book, starting with the ‘huswife’, a sewing kit for the Regency woman.

Anything Austen always sells really well, and this one ticks both boxes by attracting the Austenophiles with its beautiful historic prints, quotes and photos of immaculate Regency interiors, while enticing the crafty set with a series of Austen-inspired projects. Ever wanted to make your own huswife or reticule? At a loss to what these things even are? This book will tell you. Each project is accompanied by a historical briefing telling you how these crafts were practised in Jane Austen’s time, where and by whom. Being crafty was high on the list of a young lady’s desirable accomplishments, because skills like embroidery and neat handstitching were vital skills in running a household.

JASB has 18 projects, all of which are made with supplies that modern crafters have access to. That’s great! While I love sourcing obscure notions, this makes traditional skills much more accessible to people wanting to learn new skills who are intimidated by the strange tools required. The projects also range in difficulty from simply hemming a strip of linen to make a cravat, to fully fledged carpetwork and embroidery projects for a more experienced crafter. There are workbags, thread holders, muffs and tippetts, even a bonnet! I loved the historical background given for each item, telling us how important it was in the daily lives of Austen’s heroines and how duty and femininity were constructed through craft. You could easily read this book from a historical perspective alone.

However, despite being full of lavish Regency fashion prints, cameos of Austenian dandies and photos, there are relatively few pictures of the projects themselves. The author has included some lovely line drawings to help us make the items, but more photos of the finished objects would have been really helpful. The instructions given are very clear though, so maybe I just need a better imagination!

I had a go at making a ‘huswife’ from JASB, “a small fabric case with pockets to hold all those tools for sewing and needlework needed quickly and often…”. This was a quick and easy project, made with scraps. The nice thing is that you can adapt the pockets and ribbons to suit whatever tools you need to carry with you. Had I a spare straw hat lying around, I would definitely have made the bonnet! A sewing kit is not a rare project to find in a craft book, but a bonnet is something different. It is projects like that that make Jane Austen’s Sewing Box worth a look for historical crafters especially.