Recreating History: A short analysis on the modern historical seamstress

What is a Historical Seamstress?

I wasn’t particularly looking to become someone who recreates costumes, dresses or even re-enacting. I was really into cosplay and was frustrated that I couldn’t make the awesome costumes I was watching everyone else start to make. I had my own style in mind so I went with it. I got into steampunk and that really started me down the right rabbit hole.

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One of my first projects, a Victorian Piolonaise Jacket

I wanted to learn how to sew but I thought it was going to be really hard. In reality, it’s not that hard, watching a youtube video on the specific task you are stumped on usually clears up alot. Research is what took me into the world of historical recreation of dressmaking. Steampunk is heavily influenced by the Victorian Era so I started there.

I began diving deeper and deeper into this world and before I knew it I was recreating everything from a Regency dress to a medieval kirtle. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was freedom for me because I could take a bedsheet or even something out of my closet and alter it, make it my own. I realized that I didn’t have to buy a 50 dollar shirt to make myself feel better.

Where is the information?

I found out during my journey that because of the internet, all the right material to make pretty much whatever you want to wear is out there. I followed videos and blog tutorials on how to make my medieval kirtle and used materials that I had in my fabric stash. I created something that wasn’t perfect but was something that I enjoyed making.

The process of learning about how the kirtle was drafted and what role it served in history allowed me to come to a better understanding about how people actually lived back then. I have an English degree so I am fascinated by the history of literature but this study awakened a whole new appreciation of what it all was about during that time.

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I drew a lot of inspiration from fantasy than from history on this one.

There are many popular youtubers that are very good at documenting their process in making their own historical costumes. From Sewstine to Morgan Donner, Rachel Maksey to Bernadette Banner. There is a whole genre of youtubers that inspire and help me grow in learning how to make better clothing. And because they enjoy what they do, I get to vicariously live through them when I am forced away from my own sewing projects.

How is being a historical seamstress practical?

I like to think that being someone who participates in the study and recreation of historical clothing production, I have contributed a lot to my own peace of mind and personal satisfaction. As I learn more, the growing need to share my experiences and projects have come to fruition in this blog and my website.

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I finished my 17th century pair of stays during quarantine

In the scope of a worldly impact, I would like to think that there are others out there that seek this information as much as I do. As I get over my own inexperience of writing tutorials and gain more of an understanding in how to share my projects with others, I feel like the conversation can finally get started with teaching and interacting with a whole new generation of people looking to learn this information.

When is it a good time to start?

Right now! I recently shared my experiences of creating a whole cosplay in another country where I didn’t have access to my sewing machine or a place to really make what I really enjoyed making. I have learned that there’s never going to be a good time so you might as well start.

I tried to go for sewing lessons but I just learned from that, that it’s better to just buy a pattern you like and then roll with that. You don’t need all the knowledge at the beginning, just the willingness to make mistakes and learn as you go. To problem solve as you encounter the hiccups. I have put projects on hold because I realized that I just didn’t have the right resources at the time to finish it but I come back to those projects and they are better for it.

Who can be a historical seamstress?

Yes seamstress is indicative of a woman sewing a garment but tailors are just as knowledgeable. In the past they were more prominent but that was based on old archetypes. Anyone can make clothing and anyone can learn about how people dressed themselves in the past.

I do not think that historical costumes need to be made completely in the methods and with the same materials as what was used during that time period. I have used synthetic materials in my medieval kirtle and plastic boning in my Regency dress. I have used the bag lining method in my Victorian Era overskirt. It do these things because I aim towards learning about the piece before getting caught up in the accuracy of every little detail.

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The finished product should not only be about something you enjoy wearing but also something that taught you a valuable lesson. Like my most recent project and lining a very thin, silky material to make it drape correctly.

Just Be

Lastly I want to part with a simple nod to the fact that anyone who embarks on creating their own clothing chooses to do so because they care about what they wear. I have become tired and disenchanted by the fast fashion, high priced rags we tug back and forth in clothing stores.

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Yes I put hooks and eyes on my stomacher instead of just pinning it with pins

I choose to make my own clothing because I want to feel good in what I wear. I want something that is tailored to my body specifically and something that I can alter when my body does change. I recently gained weight and then shed it quickly, the biggest thing it taught me is that our modern clothing is not made for this natural flux in body type. It leads to so much anxiety and depression that can mostly be solved by taking back control over what we put on our bodies.

May be an image of Annabell Uhrich

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