Tuesday 29 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 29: Ensemble - The 1802-ish navy blue sleeveless dress and red sleeveless bodice

On August 13th, me & my sister went to Slavkov u Brna, aka Austerlitz, for a series of short talks about Empire fashions held in the chateau there (we overslept, and missed church and the first talk :P - but it was some sort of general introduction so I don't think I missed too much, although it probably would have been interesting for my sister.) So I finally met my namesake and Justyna, who had two of the talks - well, I'd actually met Justyna before, at my first Jane Austen ball in Brno, but that was before I knew who she was. :D Her talk, on outerwear and sportswear, was one I was most looking forward to - and it did provide exactly the sort of complete overview I had been missing.

I also wore my Directoire/Empire clothes (calling things based on a 1797 fashion plate and an 1802 portrait "Regency" is too much of a stretch, although I'm keeping it in the tags for simplicity's sake). And we used the historical backdrop of the baroque Slavkov chateau and the impressive classicist church just underneath it for a sort of photoshoot.

The church was built in 1786-89, so it's perfect for my preferred era.

Conclusion: Slavkov is awesome photoshoot backdrop, close to Brno, easy to reach, with family in a village nearby so it can be paired with a visit. It's awesome photoshoot backdrop if you can manage the photoshoot without visitors to the chateau getting in the way, that is...

Taking the photos in the entrance hall may not have been the best of ideas, but that bench was too good to pass up.

The dress is a sleeveless drop-front, which was a mistake. After I made it - which is the usual order of things, isn't it? - I realised all the depictions of sleeveless dresses I'm aware of are drawstring. Also, while drop-front dresses are definitely easier to get into on your own than back-closing ones (I even avoid back zippers, after all!), it's still a bit more bother than a drawstring would probably be.

And I need to rework the arrangement of the chain-loops in the back so that my ties do sit where I want them to sit.

(It's less obvious in this photo than some of those we took at the church, but: the ties currently cut across my pleating in the back because I don't yet have some strategic loops in the raised bodice back.)

Still, dressing for this occasion was less of a bother than usual, because I wore my transitional wrap bra / jumps rather than my (back-lacing, hah) stays.

Also, it's a lot easier now that I was inspired by the Dreamstress' post on bodkins and got myself some large blunt needles to help with my laces and ties.

We took some of the photos in the ladies' restrooms. Because:

The dress is lightweight cotton sateen, this one I bought years ago in the beginnings of this blog. It's more matte than shiny, although it does have a slight sheen to it just thanks to the weave.

Apparently, back then I wanted to overdye it and use it as lining. I'm very glad I changed my mind.

I hereby formally request admission to the Regency Ladies' Wedgie Society.

(You can see here what I meant about the ties not sitting where I want them to.)

For my hairstyle, I did a French braid held up with a haircomb, inspired by this tutorial - without any of the bells and whistles, though, because I knew I'd wear the fichu en marmotte on top of it anyway.

I even managed a curtsey; but that was the last photo before I broke out laughing and could not seriously pose anymore.

I originally made the skirt too narrow (most of the dress was made in a big hurry before an event, and it was my first take on "Regency", made without a pattern of course because that's apparently how I roll). Later, I added narrowly trapezoidal side panels, and therefore also moved more fullness to the back part. That took care of it. It's still on the narrow side, but I think these photos prove it's got a good shape on me.

The church is a super-nice backdrop.

That was wind billowing my skirt, and blowing my headscarf to the front so I had to hold it.

Monday 21 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 21: UFOs

That is, for those unfamiliar with this online sewing jargon, UnFinished Objects.

I have a lot of those. Some aren't here with me.

Some are. So here's a selection of my unfinished object, to take a stock of the making before it's done, fingers crossed.

Or not. The purplish "modern" spencer never got finished.

It's all the fault of my enthusiastic unresearched patternmaking; I'm now too bothered by the fact I put the deep-inset armscye in the front as well as the back.

Not good for the period, and bothering me in this modern-constructed garment as well.

It's a pretty good fit, though (although it could no longer fit with a button overlap), so it's a bit of a mock-up. A starting point.

* * *

In further bathroom photo adventures: Mock-up Nr. 2 of the Utrecht wrap stays.

Way better than mock-up Nr. 1, which I'm soooo not going to show you, because it didn't fit at all. That was how I found out that only one bust gusset for a DD cup was a bad idea. That volume needs to be distributed more evenly, without all the strain being focused on one point. And it plays havoc on grainlines, so I ended up with a lot of wrinkling and buckling etc.

It's still not completely good. I'm thinking of slanting the inside gussets, or moving them closer to centre front, because there's still some odd wrinkling happening there that I think could be taken care of with a change of grainlines. And I think I need to play with the slant / attachment of the side-front and straps, too, because there's fabric excess there.

Also wondering now if I should try cutting the front on the bias, like in the Bernhardt diagrams. Namely, the diagram C - the basic shape is very similar to it, after all. Maybe that would take care of the problems I'm having, too; so I might start with that.

* * *

Also in the realm of underwear, conical stays teetering somewhere on the edge between late 1780s/1790s, and a folk costume bodice (Central Bohemia, specifically).

I am more and more drawn to earlier transitional styles, so I sort of set out to experiment with it from inside out, cheating by machine of the inside layers. Considering how long it took me to finish my Regency stays, by the time I'm finished with these, I might even really be ready to move into the era!

The fabric I'm covering it with is probably more late 17th than late 18th century, I'm afraid. Let's pretend it's a re-use.

* * *

Also in-progress: a shortgown.

I didn't get beyond sewing two rectangular pieces together to create the skirt portion, and pleating the cetre back. Which, in retrospect, was probably a wrong order of things?

It's a quilting cotton that's not-entirely-correct-but-good-enough.

I've found an extant original that's a good example of what I have in mind, so I have something more solid to go on now. Although now I look more closely at it, I realise the skirt is cut together with the bodice. So it won't be entirely the same anyway. :P

* * *

This cutting layout is actually something I'm already wearing. I think the skirt in question needs to have its pocket openings taped, though, something I forgot to do...

Note: that's not flowered fabric, that's flowered tissue paper. Something was wrapped in it once, I think. Now it's become a pattern. A 1915 pattern (although adapted for my modern uses, with the introduction of side seams.)

* * *

Also in the works: another pair of Moravian-Wallachian socks, this time actually in wool.

(That's an old photo. I'm further ahead now.)

* * *

There are more things in progress. Too many. And more ideas of what to make. Still, I think it's overall a lot better than this time last year, with things I have actually finished (though not yet posted about), with a lot of the ideas with much more concrete outlines, and with some concrete ideas for some fabrics that had been lingering in the stash for years.

Sunday 20 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 10: Not in a Million Years - Changes to plans, and plans still underway

There's definitely costuming / dress-related things I'd class under that heading.

Very high heels, for example. My cutting-off mark is somewhere around 8 cm, which is what my tallest heels are, and I can only walk in those because the shoes have ankle straps.

They are a tad too small for me, but the open heel makes it okay. They also have leather soles, and were only 100 CZK in a thrift shop. Totally worth it for vintage-worthy shoes (possibly really vintage, definitely pre-1989)  for an occasional outing. I've last worn them with my Regency dress, actually... it was raining, and it was, in that case, rather nice not having to worry about dragging my long skirt in puddles.

Also not happening: actually buying crocs shoes. I've worn them, as house-footwear at a friend's place; but it's not something I would do of my own accord. And now with very good reason, too.

I have skin problems. I've had some sort of atopic ecsema on my hands since I was about ten. It disappeared after my stay in the USA in 2007 (probably due to longer-term exposure to sea air); since then, it occasionally reappeared, but it was quite manageable.

Not the sort of thing you can gaze upon from your front porch in the Czech Republic.

And then, last year, in my new job, it came back with a vengeance. I had skin problems, bad problems, elsewhere on my body, too.

It's part of the reason I dropped off the face of the blogosphere.

It got eventually tamed down with a combination of medical help and with switching positions in the company. I first worked with large amounts of dyed and not-yet-washed wool, which I think was the main problem. I now still deal with wool, including the super-awesome employer's discount on faulty pieces (*insert a costumer's squeel*), but it's now without the probably too harsh chemicals, so, yay, my hands are okay.

Wool twill in a sort of greyish-greenish robin-egg colour. That 1797 fashion plate is definitely happening sooner rather than later.

But sometime after the fact, this year, I realised - thanks to a discussion thread in a costuming group on Facebook, no less - that part of last year's problem was also heat rash. Part of the problem, I suspect, was the fact I am unaware of the term "heat rash" even existing in Czech - so I had lived all my life without knowing that was a thing.

And it definitely is a thing. I do have some form of atopic ecsema, there's no denying it; but I'm now convinced my problems last year got so bad because my atopic ecsema (and probably those dye chemicals, and the fact it also turned out I had iron deficiency) got combined with heat rashes. I did suspect sweat was a contributing factor, but because of my other problems, it got overlooked. It was a whole big combination of factors, a hundred times nothing killing the donkey, as the Czech saying goes - with regards to the heat rashes, a combination of changes in themselves not too significant, like a super-hot summer spent comuting in a city with plastic and pleather seats in buses (I could get away with walking a lot before this job), and safety-regulation shoes that were artificial fibre and padded. (That's no longer a requirement in my new position, either - I now just need closed heels and toes, so, phew.) Turns out a lot of the problems can be managed just with zinc cream. (And a lot of other precautions, and other medication when it really does get worse; but on an everyday basis, zinc cream and vaseline are a huge relief after the succession of not-entirely-successful treatments over the years.)

So. The lesson I've taken from this super-unpleasant experience is: plastic and artificial fibre sitting close to my body - not in a million years.

I now put a shawl over the seats in the bus if I'm wearing too short a skirt. And pick train carriages with wool seat covers if I can...

It is bad news for the Regency/early 1820s dress plans I had harboured for this probably polyester sari I bought years and years ago:

Layers of natural fibre underneath or no, the bodice would be close to my body and would not breathe at all; that's very bad news in my world now.

But it is, I think, good news for the Scroop Fantail, because a pleated skirt with judicious use of cotton underneath should be mostly okay. ;-)

The question is... modern, or historical length?

I cut off the borders for general use as trim; maybe a Regency dress can still happen with that.

And the ground fabric could still be used as pretty bag lining or something like that...

Really, all in all, it's actually a good thing I was forced to drop the original plan, because I found out that over the years, the colour has become too dull to wear in a large expanse next to my face.

By which I mean, over the years my colouring has changed to such an extent that I can get away with, even require, much bolder colour combinations:


In the photo, I wear: the fichu en marmotte, my chemise, the transitional warp-jumps bra-thingy (answer to question whether I can wear the dress over it: yes, but I have to take care to fit the wrap-jumps tightly), a sleeveless dress I never got around to blogging about, a sleeveless bodice I never got around to blogging about, white cotton over-the-knee socks that are my stand-in for historical stockings for the moment, and these shoes. I think there should actually be a shirt or something rather than just the chemise but, as I wrote earlier this month, I haven't figured out that part properly yet.

Also, I completely forgot that, for this photoshoot opportunity (I plan on posting more of the photos later, but by now I'm not promising anything), maybe I could wear some jewellery beyond the baptism-gift ring I wear all the time. Typical.

Thursday 10 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 10: Visual source

Are you familiar with the Web Gallery of Art?

It's my favourite source for art sources; it may not be the most comprehensive anymore, or the best in terms of quality of pictures, but it's good for searching. You can choose type of art ("Portrait"!), era, and school (i.e. geography), and that makes it great for discovering relevant things.

I may search for the art and artists elsewhere after that sometimes, but I would not have discovered a lot without it.

This 1802 portrait of Heinrike Dannecker by Christian Gottlieb Schick is probably my absolute favourite, and I've been trying my hand at recreating her clothes. This study suggests it may be partial artistic licence, but I did manage. :D (I haven't completely figured out her chemise / shirt yet, though, and my hair does not do that.)

This portrait of Wilhelmine Cotta is also from 1802, and absolutely fascinating - she has no waistline! The closest to a chemise I've seen a chemise dress get. I'm thinking it could be similar to this one, but without the tie... (I really like that one, and am thinking of turning the pattern into the old red dress idea I mentioned in my Origin Story post, with sleeves closer to this painting's length.)

Also, I love her shoes. Blue and white stripes are a thing I have a thing for.

Her hairstyle looks more friendly to my type of hair. Although I don't have Regency bangs...

This 1810 portrait by Donát János is Central European (he was Hungarian) AND is the quintessential Little White Regency(-ish) dress. If I ever make a LWRD, I'll take my cues from this one; it's so quintessentially LWRD I think it can cover a good stretch of time just by a change of accessories, hairstyles etc.

Not this hairstyle, though. That's not me.

#CoBloWriMo 9: BIG project

The idea was to write about the Wallachian costume, a sort of "what it involves" post, but... today was taken up by other things, and the big project ended up being this:

Hauling things from my old home. Things like a bale of lining fabric. All my skirt slips. A set of IKEA bedlinen with an 18th century print - turned fabric. That sort of things. One full backpack and three full bags if things, not counting my regular "handbag" bag here (also full).

Hard time deciding what would go and what would stay behind. Concrete ideas won over vague ones, and I took the fabrics on the right in this photo.

The IKEA print will become a dress. So will the green sari (finally, I hope). The nude-coloured used to also be a sari - the idea was also for a dress. It's polyester, though, and for that and other reasons, there has been a change of plans. But plans there are.
The little bit of black you can see on the very right is remnants of fabric from my Little Black Dress. After several years of very occasional wearings, alas, the sleeves started unraveling, so I was thinking of repairing / replacing them.

The exhausting expedition (ugh, I've never hauled so many things at once, and I never want to do it again) was crowned and rewarded with a concert of Druhá Tráva, whom I've wanted to see live for a while now and kept not managing to; so in a way, it was also a big project.
I have no photos of that, although I could have taken some, easily - I sat in the first row! It just felt... disrespectful, somehow. I was there for the music, not to take photos.
They're the sort of musicians who just sort of hang about on the stage, and produce incredible sounds while doing that. Who make it look easy, except clearly it's not...

... and reflecting on them again, I forgot the time, and now it's no longer "today". So off with this post! More tomorrow - I mean today...

Tuesday 8 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 8: Vocabulary - Moravian-Wallachian clothing items

It's time for some explanation of terms for things to come.

And things not to come, at least not any time soon. This post is also a bit of a stand-in for the Historical Sew Monthly August theme of "Ridiculous." I have the ridiculous thing - I'm just not going to make it now.

This was the first historical image of Moravian-Wallachian folk costumes I ever came across, in Langhammerová, Jiřina: Dějiny odívání - Lidové kroje z České Republiky, Lidové noviny, Prague 2001. Annotations are mine.

Some things are fairly obvious; šátek is šátek (kerchief) everywhere, one learned about the shirt called rukávce, the bodice / vest called kordulka, the apron aka fěrtoch, one even knows of the traditional leather shoes - krpce (though I only learned the socks worn into them are called kopytce later).

What left me puzzled was the woman's leg- and footwear. I thought the author was applying some artistic license there. It looked ridiculous.

Years later, I found out he did not use artistic license; when I came across the book Lidová oděvní kultura by Alena Jeřábková (Masarykova univerzita, Brno 2014). In there, I finally learned more about Wallachian folk costumes in history. And that the black things on her legs were a special kind of stockings, called ubírané punčochy.

They were made of dark wool (not just black), originally cloth, later knitted, and they were very, very long. And then gathered / scrunched up, and felted, like so.

It's part of the reason I'm not going to make them: I have nothing to gather and felt them on. (The other reason is: ridiculous. And not worn with the folk costume anymore nowadays, so it would be just a historical experiment I don't have time for right now.)

The shoes are also correct, if slightly distorted. They are called střívjata, which I believe is just a dialectism for the general Czech střevíce. They are made of wool broadcloth, with latchets that don't overlap and tie with ribbon (which is what those blue bits are in the picture) or cord, and an often long tongue that folds over the top of the shoe.

Like so:

These are from Valašské Klobouky; photo was snapped by me at an exhibition of Moravian folk costumes in the chateau in Strážnice.

These are from Luhačovické Zálesí - a region that lies between Wallachia and Slovácko, both geographically and style-wise - the folk costumes are very similar to some Wallachian regions, so I guess it's a bit difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The picture is from a visual guide to that exhibition in Strážnice.

Monday 7 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 7: Made for someone else - Making my sister's Wallachian shirt

The most recent "for someone else" project is my sister's Moravian-Wallachian shirt, which has already gotten some wear but actually awaits a re-do of the neckline gathers because they were done in a hurry before an event... Possibly also a re-do of the sleeves, because they are very long now. (It's a game of tug between what I think is correct and what she thinks will look good on her.)

So I'll just share some making-of now. That's okay; it's perfectly in keeping with my current wish to post more of the making-of.

It's mostly the collar; the rest was done in the evening without good photography light at a point in time when both my pairs of camera batteries were de-charged and I was taking photos with my phone... which isn't that good with lower light levels.

The embroidery is my sister's doing, though.

I'm very much indebted for the ideas of how to go about making one of these shirts to this Czech webpage. It actually covers the shirt - rukávce - of a very different folk costume, one from Uherský Ostroh and surroundings. In that area, folk costumes are much richer than they are in Wallachia. But the basic "skeleton" of the item is very similar, so I was very glad to have that starting point on how it goes together (since it's rather different yet from all the various historical items I've come across over the years).

Rather than have one big pattern piece for the body and tear into it and sew the sleeves into the tears like that tutorial does, though, I used separate front pieces and a back piece, because that seemed easier to make (though I now have my doubts), and to stack onto the fabric for cutting, Tetris-style, with all the smaller pieces and all the pieces for my own rukávce. It turned out it was a good thing we saved a lot of fabric this way, because it turned out I had calculated some of the pieces too small... my sister's shoulder pieces ended up being much bigger than originally drafted, in order to get the dropped-shoulder style she wanted.

Our fabric is lightweight cotton, crisp but with some drape; it's plainweave, but I think the warp and weft are slightly different thicknesses, so it has a slightly different structure than your regular plain weave does. It's really nice to work with, though, and has, I think, exactly the sort of hand this project needs; although originals would have more likely been linen, in the 19th century. (We bought the fabric in Kars on Cejl/Tkalcovská in Brno, back in March - I don't suppose they still have it...)

Despite the regional difference and the differences I introduced myself (I wasn't able to find out how exactly Wallachian ones would have been cut); it's still that basic style of the shirt from the tutorial: rectangular body; two squares or rectangles (I went with squares) for the shoulders - or four, if you want to strengthen that area, which I'm realising is another thing I forgot to do; two smaller squares for underarm gussets; two rectangles for sleeves; one small, long, narrow rectangle for the standing collar.

And because things like this are always better explained with pictures - something along these lines:

This is the most basic shape likely used in the Vsetín area, with variations being just in sleeve shapes. Width and length will differ, some gussets are rather longish triangles creating a more tapered sleeve, and some sleeves, rather than just being gathered towards the bottom, have a separate ruffle at the bottom. (They generally do have a ruffle, but it is often created - like my sister's will be - just by a drawstring running through the sleeve. I'm going to be different and, following my conclusions about a 1937 depiction, I'll only have the sleeve gathered into a narrow cuff, no ruffle.)

Some other areas (like Rožnov pod Radhoštěm) have a flat-lying gathered collar with a lacy / whitework edge, rather than this simple standing collar, like the one here.

I started out by constructing the collar. It's folded lengthwise, as I indicated above; one side is embroidered. Handling the fabric, I realised it needed strengthening, so I cut out another strip of fabric, this time in some old thin downproof ticking (it's softer and thinner than downproof ticking usually is, which made it a perfect lighweight, pliable interfacing for my lightweight fabric). The idea of using downproof ticking as interfacing is indebted to a member of the Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook group; I've forgotten whom. (I'm going to run with the idea and also use it - the normal kind - to non-accurately interface my sister's bodice, because we really want it to sit smoothly.)

I also folded the ticking in half, and sewed it inside the collar with a longer basting stitch along the folded edge, on the inside side.

Then I sewed the sides of the collar pattern piece, wrong sides out, and turned it and pressed it.

And then I measured it out in quarters and marked them with pins, in preparation for the gathered neckline.

On to the body. I sewed a shoulder piece between the back piece and a front piece, like this:

I only pressed the seam allowances towards the shoulder piece, not finishing them, because the idea was that another shoulder piece would be sewed on the inside towards the end... well, that didn't happen then in the hurry. :P

The shoulder piece is again embroidered, at the bottom edge.

Me & my sister spent a lot of time poring over scavenged images trying to figure out what the embroidery would be like near Vsetín, and then we ended up designing our own going just for the feel of it (and our own tastes); because historical sources I found were low on shirt embroidery patterns, and modern ones are often machine-made...

... but at least I figured out that the cross-stitch embroidery that's sometimes seen was a relatively new and "lazy" development; which was lucky because my sister (who's the cross-stitch embroiderer in the family) found out cross stitch on this fabric was too much of a bother.

And now we're at the end of what I can show you now: with the underarm gusset. Following the above-linked tutorial, I sewed the underarm gusset about 5 cm (not counting seam allowances) bellow the shoulder piece, between the front and back pieces, and flat-felling the seams and sewing up the side seam at the same time.

Rukávce are typically open in the front, closing with hooks and eyes or buttons at the collar and then crossed over and held just by the bodice worn outside. For my sister, though, I sewed up the front, too, leaving just a slit; inversely, she wanted to leave the neckline open. I took pictures of that front seam and slit, too, but they were too blurry. :P After that, I was in too much of a hurry to take photos. So, to be continued with my own shirt and the alterations I shall make for my sister, later...

Saturday 5 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 5: Origin story

I wish I could give you my full origin story with pictures; I can't at the moment, because all the relevant things are at my father's house and I won't go there until later! Pictures to be added at a later date.

It's a long story, because I'm trying to bring together many different strands. And I'm sure I'm still leaving a lot out.

* * *

The start is clear. It all started with a little book. It was small but thick and it was an overview of the history of (then) Czechoslovakia. And somewhere around the middle of that book, there was a visual overview of the history of clothes. I purposefully say clothes, because it included prehistoric people, the "proletariat" (a must for a book published before 1989), and folk costumes.

All these people were pictured standing next to one another as if in a crowd, or more likely in a line long waiting and hanging out, or something. Underneath on each page (the book was landscape-situated), there ran on a description that went something like "from left, pilgrim and a girl from the 14h century, a burger's daughter from the 15th century, etc." There were often such grups of people fromo around the same time lumped together.

Two things to note here:

Firstly, I learned to read at a very young age (I think I started reading when I was three) because I am the youngest of three and apparently as a child I always followed my sisters' lead. By the time I started school, I was already reading fluently. So I was looking at the pictures and reading the descriptions at a very impressionable young age, so of course I was imagining real people with personalities, not just depictions of historical fashions.

Secondly, I may have been able to read words fluently, but obviously other reading capabilities were still not quite caught up. I apparently did not yet understand the function of a colon. Also, "from left" is a single word in Czech that vaguely resembles some names, too. At the very beginning, I kept thinking that Odleva was a person in the line-up, and then the numbers never added up. Even after I caught up to its real meaning, I had to keep figuring out who was who in the line-up (and remember, from above, that these were people, not "diagrams") because of the odd way it was written.

All this added to my fascination with that overview. I must have spent hours and hours looking through it at that impressionable young age.

In retrospect, it was a bad, bad overview - not just because it was written so oddly, but because for example "burger's daughter from the 15th century" is clearly a rich Italian lady from the end of the century, which is very, very misleading in the context of the whole of the 15th century in the Czech lands.

And there are zero Directoire / Empire / Regency fashions. The closest I get is a woman in cca 1820s fashions (okay, that might technically be Regency), who's facing a group in cca 1840s fashions and even from the description rather appears to be part of it. Bad, bad overview.

I'm writing all this from memory. That should give you an idea of just how imprinted all that is.

It also serves to drive home the fact that even at the time, I was most interested in the clothes, because I can't remember anything else from that book.

* * *

My first meeting with Regency-ish fashions was around that same time through a thin booklet, somewhat newer of date (after 1989), that was apparently a promotional booklet of a bank, aimed at children, also depicting fashions from various eras. It was called Clothes Make the Man (which, in the Czech version of the saying, is actually "human"). These were done almost as caricatures of the said fashions. The "Empire" lady was wearing fashions that were definitely 1810s, all narrow but with poofy decoration (weird to a child's eye!), close-fitting bonnet and ridiculously tiny parasol. In white and purple. And she had a very snooty expression on her face.

Not a good introduction.

* * *

I loved costumes in fairy-tale films (of which the Czechs have many), but it did not entirely click that those had historical inspirations behind them. For a while, my love of historical clothes was mostly directed to ethnic clothes. Like a lot of Central European children, I was fascinated by Native Americans, thanks to the books of Karl May (I won't go there). Unlike a lot of them, me and my sisters had more to go on, thanks to the books of Alberto Vojtěch Frič (in terms of South America), the permanent exhibitions Náprstkovo muzeum in Prague (where I could go several times over the years because we lived near Prague and one grandma lives in Prague), and last but not least, a most excellent encyclopaedia by Mnislav Zelený, which was published by Albatros, the children's books publishing company, but written by an actual ethnographer with a lot of experience in the field and access to a lot of sources. It's heavily illustrated, so suitable for children, but it's also perfectly good as a source.

I mostly bring it up because it does feed into the way I got back to European historical fashions: through ancient and ethnic clothing. The second time (I think) we visited the museum, there was a temporary exhibition on Ancient Egypt.

* * *

My love of historical clothes was re-awakened and nurtured in art classes at the local art school (that's a phenomenon that might need explaining to international readers, but I won't go there here, either). I think I was about eleven or twelve. We were doing a project in which we were designing a poster for an imaginary exhibition of historical fashions. The teacher brought into class a number of books from the Czech series written by Ludmila Kybalová (which I've quoted on this blog before). And I was fascinated.

I chose to do a poster for an exhibition on Ancient Egypt in Náprstkovo muzeum. But it started there. I came home with stars in my eyes, talking about awesome books on historical fashions. At the nearest opportunity, I got myself the one on ancient cultures. Others followed. Before I got there, mom brought home an old-ish (1980s) book, which was a textbook for textile / designing high schools I believe and covered something of design but mostly did history of fashion. And that was the first time I saw Empire fashions depicted properly.

Considering my first new historical fashion love was ancient, I guess it's fitting my current beloved era draws a lot of inspiration from that.

* * *

And it must have been around that same time, maybe a little later, that I first saw Andrzej Wajda's Pan Tadeusz. My oldest sister convinced me and mum to go see it in the local cinema. (It was almost empty.) I was blown away. I borrowed the book from the library (on my mom's card, because it was in the adult section and the two were treated separately). I was a very avid reader. Normally it would take me about a week, max, to devour a book. It took me two months to chew my way through this 19th century novel-length poem. But I did. It was, I think, the first time I ever voluntarily read a book I could not read easily.

My love for Regency-ish fashions has nothing to do with Jane Austen. Well, at least not originally.

* * *

The realisation that I COULD DO THIS has nothing to do with all that. It came, originally, from Star Wars and Padawan's Guide. It was Padmé / Amidala's costumes, I think. They were fascinating and I wanted to know more. It was the moment where I found a fascination with the construction of clothes, the way things go together, preferably in fascinating unusual ways, as opposed to a wish to wear pretty pretty clothing. It's where I started - very early on - veering off the path of standard modern patterns.

I have never made a Star Wars costume. Through Padawan's Guide, I found Koshka-the Cat, and that was it. I had found the world of historical costuming. From there, I quickly found others.

It's a gross simplification, mind you. I was devuoring everything to do with sewing then, and it's about the same time I found Burda Style in its original Open Source conception, as well. (Although I'm fairly sure that was only after I had found Padawan's Guide. And after Craftster. Which is a part of my crafting history I've nearly forgotten about.)

Even then, I think it took me several more years to start sewing historical clothes. That's strangely different from my apparent default sewing approach which is to plunge headfirst into projects several rungs higher than my current experience (my favourite example to bring up is that I did not start with a pillowcase and the first pillowcase I ever made was a quilted patchwork one). It's less strange when I realise probably the first project I plunged headfirst into in my teens was a medieval(-ish-ish) dress for a party. I started seriously sewing in my late teens because I wanted historical costumes of my own.

* * *

My graduation ball (prom-ish) dress wasn't historical; but it was empire-line. I used an altered Burda magazine pattern, moving bust darts from the sides to the waistline. It was almost nude-coloured and had a light-coloured sheer overlay over a somewhat darker satin-y lining. My skills didn't live up to expectations, not too surprisingly, but I can still derive a sense of satisfaction from the fact I wasn't wearing a sleeveless tube corset-bodice monstrosity from a rental shop, and that the dress is still salvage-able if I ever get around to it.

And I derive a sense of retrospective validation of my tastes from the fact the original idea, discarded due to pattern and fabric constrictions, was for gathers all around the skirt. The original idea was also that the dress would be red. And it had a slight train. And would have been worn with a bigger shawl than the eventual dress was. It was, basically, a very late 1790s-early 1800s idea. Now I think of it, I think I should include the original idea, only slightly altered (with sleeves), among the things I want to make one day.

* * *

What bothers me now, in compiling my personal retrospective, is that I can't for the life of me remember how I found The Dreamstress. It was definitely before she moved to Wordpress (let alone before the site overhaul). The old comments are thus lost in the transfer, so I don't even know when I found her.

It's a bit like that story about the northern lights on November 17 1989: it can't be proven. Except it can be proven by my following her site to this day, so that's much better. ;-)

She's very important for my origin story because she was, I think, the first person I came across who exudes a love of learning about historical costumes for learning's sake; not that the others I had found before don't have it, but they don't write about it as much, what with structuring their sites around their projects...

It's less of the - even completely unintended - drive to create more and more costumes to wear to events one attends, of which I had almost none (events, I mean), and more of the drive to make costumes because it's FUN, and because one LEARNS from it.

(The Historical Sew Fortnightly gave me one of the final impulses to really do it.)

It suits me best, that approach.