Tag Archive | books

Original origins

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…

I had a unique sense of fashion starting at a young age. And an early (and still ongoing) obsession with hats… We were living in San Jose when this was taken – I often wonder what would have happened if I’d grown up as a California girl. This picture makes me a bit glad I didn’t!

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:

Cover of book: Patterns for Theatrical Costumes by Katherine Strand Holkeboer 1890s ballgown pattern

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!


1920s Instruction Manuals

It’s been a busy day but sadly not filled with much sewing… I had been greatly looking forward to a 1920s sewing workshop at the museum today and trying my hand at an alternate style of 1-hour-dress, but unfortunately the workshop participants didn’t show up so the class was brought to a very early end. I hope I can make it up to AM and we can find some other time to do more 1920s sewing soon!

Late this evening, I did make a small dent in one of my regency petticoats – it’s actually wearable now, but I am adding to it  by piecing a 4″ deep ruffle from 6 strips of 36″ wide muslin and managed to hand hem about half of it. I was thinking this would be part of my halloween costume this year but practicality won out and I finally just decided to go with a Medusa costume. Phew… glad that dithering is done!! With no immediate deadline, the hand-sewing was very relaxing while we were watching TV (yes, I was actually watching TV!) and should be easy to finish tomorrow. After that it just needs to be gathered and attached to the petticoat.

Anyway, that’s not today’s exciting news! A day or two ago I won a few auctions on ebay and now these lovelies are on their way to me:

book cover 01 book cover 02

A 1922 manual on underwear and lingerie and a 1923 manual on dressmaking! Both of these were produced by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts & Sciences, developed by Mary Brooks Picken (of the 1-hour dress system fame!) and although many of these manuals were printed as correspondence courses, very few have made their way into Google Books or the other online archive sites. So, needless to say, I’m pretty excited about their arrival. I do have plans to scan them and make them available but of course that all depends on the shape they are in and how much time I can find to do it!