Friday, August 4, 2017

#4: Favorite Era

Oh, gosh....

I have a confession. In my more recent years, I've found myself severely torn in exactly what inspires me. A lot of people are inspired by other people's sewing, and they do sort of spin-off costumes of that costume. Some people just sew whatever they like, for whatever reason that may be. Some people fall in love with a certain era because of nostalgic feeling (I'm looking at you, Jane Austen-ites!) associated with it, usually because of TV dramas.

This type of response is an emotional connection that is completely subconscious. You never hear anyone say, "Yeah, I based this costume on this movie that I hated!"

Is it weird that I don't actually have that connection? I have only based one costume off of a movie costume, and it ended up evolving a bit. That was around 3 years ago. Ever since then, when I see a movie with amazing first response is to....actually do nothing with that information. Rather than go home and make that dress. Cool costumes, in my world, are rather a moot point to my inspiration.

I'm not the most emotional or sentimental of all people. I connect with the world on an intellectual level (what, can I say, I'm a Type 4!), and my sense of inspiration comes from a research aspect, rather than aesthetic. In that respect, I don't even have a clue what I like! This has been a recent revelation in my costuming. I used to pick out dresses to create based on a rather random sense of something I liked. Looking back, I can't see any rhyme or reason to why I chose certain designs. Now I pick out designs that take the most research.
Little House on the Prairie has NOTORIOUSLY bad costumes. Yet it still inspires and reminds me to this day of why reenacting is an interest of mine.

Lately, my favorite era is whichever era perplexes me. "Why did this occur? What spurred this particular design? What was the original maker going for, and why? What was going on in the world around them?"
Famous Neoclassical painting of Madame Recamier, 1800

I've come to the conclusion that the Civil War era (my main focus for my entire costuming career), as a fashion decade, is much too simple as an idea. It's boring. In the 1830's, skirts started getting bigger....(10 years later)....and bigger....(10 years later)....and bigger....(10 years later)....until they needed wired skirts to get them any bigger. The hoop skirts were a build up of  30 years of fashion, and the originality had kind of fizzled out, actually. They should have jumped straight from big petticoat era to bustles, because they were prolonging an era that had far exceeded it's welcome. They had kind of exhausted all possibilities at that point.
Obviously a touch generic, but the general idea of the dresses leading up to the 1860's is correct; it looks like a balloon slowly inflating!

As my sense of research matured, I heard words like Neoclassicism and Historicism and started pondering what they meant. They are my newest obsessions, but not neccesarily because I like the look of them, or because they make me think of something else. I've made two Regency dresses since then; I don't particularly like them, and I found them rather boring as far as sewing goes. But the research and the wondering were what kept me excited about them as a project.
Neoclassical lines are still used today!

My favorite era? 1795-1800. Because intellectual reasons. Who knows what's next? I don't feel a need to pin just one down.

How do you connect with your costumes? What is it about a costume that inspires you to create it?


  1. I have a lot of aesthetic reasons, myself, even though costumes on the screen aren't my only or main inspiration by any means. But on another level, I do understand exactly what you're saying. I find 1860s boring for the exact same reasons (although it's also aesthetic), and 1795-1800 exciting for the same reasons, although I also just love that era aesthetically. My aesthetic reasons are inexplicable; as I've just explained in my "origin story" post, I was inspired to try and make similar styles before I even fully knew they were late 1790s styles...
    But I love historical costumes from a construction point, and I think this is my point of divergence from a lot of people who like roughly the same era I do; I do like Jane Austen, but there isn't much connection between my liking for Jane Austen and my love of the clothes. In fact, most of the productions have boring costumes from me, because they don't excite me from a construction point of view; I see too easily how things come together in them. Thus, I like the 2005 Pride & Prejudice costumes more, even though the 1995 version is undoubtedly better overall...

    1. boring FOR me... heh
      Also, my aesthetic reasons have, aside from construction and silhouette, a lot to do with colour, I think.