I've been doing historical sewing for awhile (seven years) and sometimes I wish that I would have had a mentor when I was just starting out. Of course, I had mom and Grandmom to teach me the basics of sewing, but neither of them had sewn a corset before! So, I've been my own trailblazer and that's taught me a lot.
Now, I shall endeavor to be a mentor of sorts to those of you who are just starting out on your journey of historical sewing.
I remember picking up a pattern and thinking
Where in the world do you find wool these days? Maybe Pa can pick some up when he goes into town for white sugar and chicken feed! Hope he'll bring me some hard candy this time!
That's what it felt like, anyway. Thusly, I had to forge my own path and figure things out for myself. Thankfully, we have a lovely new-fangled thing called INTERNET! And that is from where I am writing you this day.
This is the first of several articles in which I put out of some of my favorite resources for historical sewing. I'm not going to share links to sites where you gasp, "I can't spend $50/yard on fabric!!!" Hey! I'm on a tight budget, too. Occasionally, you buckle down and save up for the fabric that's going to make your garment perfect and it's totally worth it. But, I'm thinking of you ladies (and guys, I suppose), who just need a little nudge in the right direction. That's not to say that these resources aren't helpful to those seasoned seamstresses, but I have the beginners in mind today. Without further ado...
Jennie Chancey's patterns and articles have probably been the single most influential springboard into the hobby that has turned into a source of income (costume design) for me. Even simply reading the pattern notes on the title page of the instructions is a learning experience! Simplicity and McCall's patterns (though sometimes necessary) don't hold a candle to the caliber of design and versatility of Jennie's patterns. I started with her Regency Dress pattern after seeing Pride and Prejudice (2005) for the first time and the rest, as they say, is history.
This site is especially for those of you interested in the Victorian Era! Jennifer Rosbrugh's mission is to make historical sewing more accessible and she does a wonderful job. I'm subscribed to the emails and they're fantastic. I could spend hours scrolling through her site and learning. See? I just took a break from writing this post to read through about 5 articles; I am now a smarter person. Be a sponge. Go to historicalsewing.com.
(And I'm going to highlight THIS article. Because it has basically changed my sewing life.)
This is my personal advice to you. I have about a bazillion Spotify playlists (because I can't afford to buy all those yummy soundtracks). I like to listen to film soundtracks or classical music from the era I'm working in. For example, as I work on a 1912 picnic dress, I will listen to the Miss Potter soundtrack. And if I'm working in the Regency era, well, you know. And French music goes with literally any project (Hugo, anyone?) I would love it if you would follow me! My "Jane Austen and Friends" playlist has some great selections from Regency, Victorian and Edwardian films.
This might seem like, "duh, McKenna", but Pinterest is an amazing resource for costumers! Tutorials like THIS one (above) are amazingly useful and they're all over the place! And articles and images galore! For a quick peek, click HERE to go to my historical costuming board. Find and follow other historical costumers and see what they pin, too! It's very encouraging and inspiring.
R. Turner Wilcox
Any book by R. Turner Wilcox is a goldmine. If you're looking for straight up historical costuming commentary, here's your chance! The value of information contained in her books (which, to buy, most are not expensive at all) is, in fact invaluable. And the drawings are detailed and positively drool-worthy! Go to the library. Get yourself some knowledge! This one of the finest resources I ever have or ever will find.
That's it for now. Were these resources helpful? Do you have a favorite pattern company or tutorial that you use? A favorite costuming book? Let me know in the comments below. Or, if you have additional questions or just need some encouragement, please don't hesitate to drop me a line at missmckennaray[at]gmail[dot]com. Have a beautiful day, everyone!