Today we find ourselves concluding Day 5 of #CoBloWriMo and the prompt is Origin Story. Well, for better or worse, everyone was given a rather hefty dose of my beginnings in my Intro post earlier this week. Still haven’t had enough, you say? Well, here’s a tad more…
What feels like a long time ago, in a town not so far, I learned to sew. Hardly shocking, but my interest in sewing, and learning to sew, has always been driven in part by wanting to make historical costumes. Admittedly, I love just about all types of costume (maybe except the dripping in fake-gore kind) but I have always been drawn to historical clothing – Victorian bustles, Civil War era hoop skirts, Colonial powdered wigs, Titanic era hats, corsets of all types and as many different types of petticoats as you can cram in a steamer trunk.
I tried my hand at acting in grade school and middle school and the ‘dress like a character‘ assignments were always my favorite type of book reports. When I got to high school, the directors for the Drama Club shows weren’t particularly encouraging towards my acting ability or singing voice so I took the hint and figured out the next best way to wear the pretty clothing was to be part of the costume design team that was making it!
My dressmaking classes started at the same time I joined the Drama Club (Coincidence? I think not.) When I was done learning the basics, I quickly progressed to working on costumes for shows in my free time and making semi-formal and prom dresses during class time. Apparently shiny fabrics have also always held some allure! Musicals I worked on included Damn Yankees, Bells are Ringing, and an itty-bit of costuming for The King and I. There were also a number of non-musical dramas and comedies, but as I wasn’t a cast member and they were done on a high school budget in the early 1990s… I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one! I did have a passable alto voice (or at least enough to show up to class and get a passing grade) as a member of our newly created Show Choir. (This was way before the tv show Glee made that stuff cool.) Despite some really terrible (but fun-to-sew and typical of the time) costumes, I still love to sing and I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to unlearn Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid as a result of all those rehearsals.
It was also about this same time that I discovered the Newport Mansions after a day trip with some girl friends and started to imagine wearing historical costumes away from any curtained stage. And for resources, having a theatrical shop in the center of my hometown didn’t hurt either and I still have two of my high-school era purchases:
Katherine Strand Holkeboer’s book, Patterns for Theatrical Costumes, got lots of use over the past 25+ years although not quite as much in recent days. On the other hand, the Old World Enterprise’s 1890’s Ballgown pattern is still uncut in its envelope and I still believe someday it will be made up into the amazing dream gown I dreamed of as wistfully-romantic and costume-dreaming sixteen year old. Is two and half decades too long to wait? I think not… perhaps 2017 is the magic year!