My 19th Century Sewing Projects
In the scheme of things, I am a neophyte when it comes to designing and sewing my Civil War era clothes. Each year my knowledge increases, my awareness of what is period correct and what is not is enhanced, and my tolerance for accepting for myself merely better than last year from museum qualify reproduction clothing sinks. But, I have my mentor – a husband with more than 30 years in the hobby who has hand sewn his own museum qualify reproductions for decades.
My quest for excellence has resulted in my manic purchasing of ever more appropriate fabrics with the intention to recreate a newer, better, more authentic Civil War era wardrobe each season.
I’ve learned to enjoy hand sewing, to create embellishments that take the ordinary to the extraordinary, to use greater care in fit and construction, to appreciate that fewer garments of higher quality will serve me better than more options of lesser quality.
While I’ve always had an appreciation of history, it wasn’t until I participated in events as a living historian that I developed an understanding of the role we living historians must have in educating the public and providing an accurate portrayal of those who came before. How can I represent myself as a mid 19th Century woman if I do not make an accurate representation of that woman?
From the outset I understood that it was necessary to use period correct patterns, natural fabrics, and appropriate silhouettes. But within a short time, I also came to appreciate that details matter. People can see the piping, the buttons used, and the patterns on the fabric, the accessories and often believe that the incorrect representations are authentic.
So part of my growth in the 19th Century is to improve my impression with each year, to strive towards greater authenticity, to work on my hairstyle, my hair coverings, the fit of my bodice, the smaller piping in the armscyes and neckline, the details such as tucks on the skirt, or a proper belt buckle.
As with anything, it is the journey that fascinates. This winter, my projects involve meticulous attention to details that were not quite critical to those of last year. I’ve studied more original images and fashion plates and original garments. I now have an appreciation of my ultimate goal. It may be unattainable since I am a 21st Century woman attempting to present a 19th Century woman. But I am pleased with my progress and feel confident what I am achieving a higher standard.
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