Sewing Background

Note: The following post relates to the project requirements for my Foundations in Creativity class. 
Originally posted to the creativity blog on November 21, 2015.

As mentioned previously, sewing a garment takes planning. It is not something that can be put together in one day, at least not for a full-time working mom who’s in graduate school, while trying to fit in the occasional fitness so I don’t die from a fatal blood clot from sitting for 16 hours a day.

While I’m working on the garment, I thought I would write about the background of this project because there is always history explaining the evolution of approach along with a process for those who make their own style, literally.

For me, it started with the film Dangerous Liaisons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dangerous_Liaisons), in which I saw and fell in love with the Robe à la Française (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack-back_gown). As it is quite impossible to acquire such a garment from the local department store, the only option at that time was to learn how to sew, find a pattern, and make the dress myself. My mom was my first resource since she knew how to sew and had a machine and after a few years, and some very odd projects, I was finally making wearable clothing for myself.

By this time, I was in college during which I took a historic costuming course. One of my classmates was involved with Civil War re-enactment and supplied a catalog of historic patterns to introduce me to sewing historic clothing.  My first project was a reproduction day dress from 1860. I don’t have a photo of the dress, which has long since been repurposed for other projects but here is a very similar dress at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/womans-day-dress-112136). It wasn’t only the dress but also the appropriate undergarments and corsetry. I also trained my waist to an efficient 22 inches to replicate a period-appropriate silhouette. This initial garment was the foundation I needed to approach other historic garments and provided the understanding of what goes into not only what people wore but how they wore it.

I was still without a pattern, which I needed despite the five years of sewing experience I had at that time. Historic patterns are interesting in that they are not original. Seamstresses pre-dating 1800 would have been trained in how to drape and sew a garment without patterns to work from. There is material evidence of garments being taken apart and reassembled into newer styles. Fashion moved much slower and the changes in profile and construction took years instead of weeks to be realized. This gave those who made clothing more time to work with the pieces of fabric that went into a garment and most women who sewed could figure out how a garment went together without needing pattern pieces.

This photo shows what it looks like when I cut fabric for a garment. I like to make sure everything is quite organized as this helps the garment go together smoothly. It’s just not dignified to run around yelling, “where is my sleeeeve!?!?”

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