This past weekend was our town’s annual Victorian Heritage Festival. It was windy, rainy and cold. But that’s not why I missed it. I missed it because, once again, I hadn’t finished my Victorian clothing. And, once again, that irritates me.
In addition, March is almost at an end and I’ve only completed one of the twelve HSM 2015 challenges. I didn’t make it past April last year and I want to see the finish line in December this year.
I decided it was time for a good course of forensic retrospection to determine the cause and change where I’m getting off course. Identifying the underlying issues wasn’t too tough. It boils down to six areas of consistent error:
- I love recreating period dress. I love a wide range of eras and styles. I want to try it all. And I want to do it now. Think Historic Costuming meets ADHD, then add sugar.
- I sew more slowly than I used to. On one hand I’m more cautious about doing things correctly. On the other hand, I’m just slower and can’t stand to rush. I used to get into production mode when I was sewing and could go for hours without stopping (15 hours is my personal best). But not any more.
- I like challenges and tend to sign on to whatever looks enticing – regardless of whether I have even the faintest idea of what’s involved or not. And I choose the project for each challenge randomly.
- Because of #2 and #3 I consistently and chronically underestimate how long it will take to get anything done. I used to whip out a skirt in an hour, easily. But it didn’t involve yards of fabric, flatlining, plackets, hidden pockets, and all sorts of ruffles and other hemline treatments. I tend to forget that.
- Events pop up throughout the year and I think “Ooh – I want to do that one, too.” So I stop what I’d started, start something new, can’t get it done in time and find myself with two unfinished projects, instead of one.
- The corollary to #5 is that since my historically-correct underwear collection is, shall we say, sparse, heading into a new style means sewing everything from the inside out. An Edwardian tea coming up? I can’t just make a dress. I need corset, princess slip and petticoats, stockings, gloves, shoes. The same goes for Regency, Romantic Era, all the Bustle Eras and on and on.
The problem is glaringly obvious: I don’t really have a plan with/for any of this.
So I let that thought percolate a while, after which I changed my perspective and the way I make decisions about my sewing. Instead of “What do I want to make?” I asked myself “What do I want to do in my period dress?” and “What do I need to do to make it happen?” Then things started falling into place.
First, I’m letting go of the 17th Century Challenge. It’s just too much and requires techniques I know nothing about – I can’t even correctly name all the pieces of clothing. That’s a clue. But I’ll follow what the rest of the folks are doing this year and learn from them so maybe I can hop back in next year.
Second, I’d like to complete three sets of period dress this year: Regency, 1855 and 1888. Here’s what involved with each –
Regency: a dress, cap, stockings, reticule and a spencer/cape/redingote. I’ll buy the stockings (silk). I have patterns and fabric for the rest.
1855: a dress, corded petticoat and a few regular petticoats, stockings, cap, bonnet, shoes, stockings and a mantle/pardessus/cloak. Have patterns and fabrics for everything but the bonnet. Will buy shoes and stockings (wool for winter). Should make a period-correct corset, but will cheat this year with the Victorian corset I already have and put a period-correct corset on next year’s list.
1888: a wintertime dress, two more petticoats, bonnet, boots, warm coat, muff. Have patterns. Have fabric for petticoats. Have antique Victorian coat buttons. Have lining for coat. Need fabric for dress, coat and muff. Will buy boots.
That’s a lot, but I have the HSM monthly challenges and I can revise them to do double duty: meet a challenge and finish my goals. Like this –
- Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.
- Project: 1855 petticoat.
- Title: A Pert and Pretty Petticoat
- Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.
- Project: A Civil War era houswife (hussif, husif).
- Title: The Blue Housewife
- Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.
- Project: An 1888 petticoat.
- Title: I Can See For Miles and Miles
- War & Peace: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear. Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.
- Project: 1855 corded petticoat.
- Title: The Ties That Bind
- Practicality: Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in. Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.
- Project: 1855 wrapper.
- Title: That’s a Wrap!
- Out of Your Comfort Zone: Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before.
- Project: 1855 mantle/pardesus from a period pattern.
- Title: Oops, I Did It Again.
- Accessorize: The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look. Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.
- Project: Knitted 1860’s sontag (“bosom buddy”).
- Title: Sing a Song for the Sontag
- Heirlooms & Heritage: Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.
- Project: Late Bustle Era petticoat with antique lace and trim.
- Title: Ruffles and Laces and Bows…Oh, My!
- Colour Challenge Brown: it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.
- Project: Hand-sewn 1855 bonnet.
- Title: Bippity, Boppity, Boo!
- Sewing Secrets: Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).
- Project: Hidden Traveller’s Pocket.
- Title: My Pockets are Empty, See?
- Silver Screen: Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.
- Project: Regency dress and cloak.
- Title: Hiding from Mr. Collins
- Re-Do: It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.
- Color Challenge Brown
- Project: 1888 dress.
- Title: Hot Chocolate!
This gives me most of what I need to end up with three complete wardrobes by the end of the year. I feel less mentally scattered and more focused on specific end points. I’ll be ready for this year’s upcoming winter events and won’t get caught short for next year’s Festival.
If all goes according to plan. *wink*