COSTUME ON 3

ORIGINS

My Gran taught me to do needlework when I was about 5 and my Mum taught me to make my own clothes from about 8. I have always had an attitude when I've seen something, that I can learn that so over the years I have learnt some diverse needle and sewing skills, mostly self-taught. In my early 30s I got into reeenacting and began to make for other people. This is when I fell in love with making period clothing and by spending hours researching, studying original items I learnt a lot. I finally went and did a small class on Late Victorian dressmaking and here I met the woman who changed my life. She talked me into doing a College course and applying for costume jobs. This suddenly brought all these disjointed pieces of knowledge, skills and techniques together and for the first time everything made sense to me. I have now moved into costume as a full-time job and have had the fun of working on some big productions. I am still learning and there is still a lot I don't know but I am having the time of my life. I am now just working out how I can live long enough to complete my Wish list.

My friends and I loved the 3 Musketeers movies (the Richard Lester ones) and amused ourselves with backyard melees with fencing weapons. This led to Renaissance Faire, where we connected with a historical costumed community and the rest is, well, history.

(Walter Nelson)

 I rented a room from a charming older woman named Mrs. Peel when I was very young (17). There was always a sewing project in progress in the dining/sewing room. As we became friends I learned she sewed costumes for the Met 40 years before. I convinced her (it wasn't hard) to help me with a costume for a Renaissance Faire. After I moved to college, I revised the costume over the years with Mrs. Peel becoming the most beautiful and special costume I ever made.

(Sue Dexter)

I made an apron in a high school home economics class. Fast forward many many years to 2005 when my husband had an emergency heart surgery. Life had been full of family, our businesses, and our pets and horses. But the surgery was life changing. A friend talked to me about a shooting sport requiring period accurate clothing. My husband and I could share this new hobby together and my costume passion was born! Now I've sewn for several historical eras and continue to learn new techniques and make new friends and enjoy this creative outlet.

(Jeanette Murray)

My grandmother was a milliner and she taught me to sew. I have been working in the entertainment industry for 39 years, first as a seamstress in the theatre and more lately as a milliner for film and tv. I'm still finding more to learn!

(Carolyn Devins)

When I was little my mom would let me have her sewing scraps to make costumes for my Barbies. I have been sewing and making costumes since. I made my first real costume in the late 1980’s and started historical costuming around 1991.

(Toni Szymanski)

 In kindergarten there was a costume party and I wanted to be a southern belle. I made my own costume on an old sewing machine out of a pair of cotton curtains my grandmother gave me. I was 5 in 1968. And it was not my first dress I made. In the next five decades I have sewn thousands of items for church plays, pageants, ballets and Opera companies... my pure historical Aesthetics beginning to take shape in the 1990s when my original clothing collection began to become quite large. Historical reenacting followed, now on its third decade spans the mid 1700s through to 1945. It all started with a kindergarten party and the dress I made with a hooped petticoat out of wire coat hangers fifty years ago.

(Jeannie Rucker)

My Mom signed me up for a sewing class at a local yardage shop so I could learn how to read a pattern. Of course, I only wanted to make a renaissance faire outfit, in the mid-70's when there weren't patterns around for what I wanted. So I ended up making my own patterns for my stuff. But at least I did also learn how to read commercial patterns.

I'm a professional circus artist and started making my own costumes when I started performing a little over a decade ago. Historical costuming is brand new to me and I'm excited to get my feet wet! I'm so used to working with lycra and making bedazzled dance costumes, so this is going to be a fun experience doing something completely different that will help break me out of my comfort zone.

(Lauren Sullivan)

I'm a 36 year old french costume maker, i came to costume making after a long road. I wanted to be many things (from teacher to vet) but ended up learning fashion for some reasons that i can't really explain as i was never interested in fashion! Then i learnt pattern making, and i started working in Italy in a luxury/high fashion company as a account executive/customer adviser. It was amazing ut way to stressful to me and it wasn't my job, so i decided to turn back home and to never touch a piece of fabric or a sewing machine EVER...! Two years later, a photographer friend of mine asked me for help on some projects, and there i understood i wasn't meant for fashion, but for costume making. As the company i was working in at that time wwas closing, i took advantage of my unemployment to start creating costumes, meeting friends of friends who were cabaret dancer, school dance teacher etc, and had the immense luck to meet the chief costume maker of a theater/opera close to my place, and he was searching for a dresser for operas so aside of costume making, i also work on dressing artists, which is amazing because you can meet wonderful people, and have other point of views of the work and what you can bring to a character. Now my goal is to create "deeper" costumes, to bring some psychology, some meaning to my creations, and since i never studied costume making "per se", only fashion, i feel like i'm lacking so many knowledge, so i'm always eager to learn, read, try, experiment, understand and discover that whole universe!

(Alexa Christiany)

it started with my grandmother buying my first sewing machine for Christmas when I was in high school. From there, I developed a love of historical fashion through involvement with a medieval recreation society. One of the aspects of historical fashion I find interesting is how fashion and the society surrounding the wearer are intertwined. That may be why I like historical or period films so much. I get to see people interacting while wearing the fashions of the day.

(Bobbie Jo Nelson)

I learned to sew from my mother who taught me to quilt. I have always loved studying art history, but I have also love theatre. I found a way to costuming through those loves. I have been studying historical fashion as part of my love of theatre costuming. This love has become not only a hobby but also a career.

(Rebecca Huguet)

I, like many little girls, loved to dress up in my Mom's clothes. But it wasn't until one of my girlfriends and I began going to afternoon tea in 2001 and decided to dress up in "Victorian dress", that I became interested in more historically correct when I realized our dress was more Edwardian. I found some Yahoo Groups on the internet and my journey began learning more, and I began sewing. I've gone to Costume College every year since 2003, and dress in costume from 1770s-1918, my favorite being mid-1880s bustle era.

(Val LaBore)

Many years ago, when I was watching Gone With the Wind with my parents, I remember saying: “I wish we still dressed like that every day!” My mom informed me of how impractical that would be and how hard and unfair life was. I replied that I wished there was a way to dress like that in a more practical way and still enjoy modern life. But, I gave up that dream, thinking it was impossible. I began checking out costume books from the school library and I’d trace my favorites to hang on my wall. I’d put on the local classical music station, line up my porcelain dolls, wrap myself up in sheets and pretend I was at a ball. Some years later, I took Hone Ec. and fell in love with the sewing part of the class. I took more sewing specific classes and got my own sewing machine and materials. I set out to make myself a dress inspired by all the traces images I had. I had no idea what I was doing. But, I was armed with sewing supplies, skills, and my imagination. So, I bunched up some tulle and placed a clothe over it. I stitched it all together and attached it to a long straight dress. I put it on and pranced out to the living room so proud of my creation: “Look mom! I made one of those big butt dresses!” I enjoyed what few opportunities I had to dress up such as Old Fashioned Sunday at church. Many years later through my interest in anime, I discovered ball jointed dolls and through that, I discovered Lolita fashion. It was presented as a way to dress like your doll. But, through my research, I discovered it was a style inspired by the past. It looked like my dream come true! It was modernized historical fashion. I wore that style a lot after that. Through Lolita fashion, I discovered re-enactments, costuming groups and people who make and wear historical clothing. I jumped right in and learned a lot. Now, I have my vintage and my historical wardrobes and I mix and match them in my daily wear.

(Susie Woods)

I remember wanting to sew as far back as about the age of 4, when my mother showed me a running stitch so I could try to make a dress for a doll; things just grew from there. I took part in 4H for its sewing portion, which allowed me to tackle especially challenging projects as I had someone to guide and teach me. Bless my (volunteer) instructors for being open to teaching me how to do pad stitching and bound buttonholes. As for my interest in historical clothing, I honestly don't know how it began, but like the desire to sew, seems to have been pretty much a constant in my life. I don't know that I can truly place the blame on "Dark Shadows", but I did watch it as a kid, and I remember enjoying the storylines set in the past, the most. The first thing I ever "drafted" myself was a (very, VERY vaguely) historical dress that was inspired by the show. I was in about 5th grade at that point, so that desire had likely been percolating from about 1st grade, when the show began. Cut to a 25+ year career as a pattern maker for various women's apparel companies, and a New Year's resolution several years ago to finally draft and construct an historical outfit, from one of my books on the history of costume. That led to the realization that the whole approach to sewing was completely different, and I just seem to keep falling further down the rabbit hole....

(Tracy Grondin)

I grew up with my mother sewing much of my clothing (lots of smocking & sailor collars). I made some truly terrible stuffed animals & clothing, but never invested much effort into crafts. In college, I finally began to put names on the things I had always been obsessed with- bustle era, riding habit, etc. I 'borrowed' Nora Waugh's The Cut of Women's Clothes from the library for about 2 years, and made my first historical garment out of a thin blue cotton poly bed sheet and black buttons. Terrible, but a start. I was also entranced by a dimly lit vintage clothing store that took up half of the lobby of what had been an old grand hotel in the 19th century, back in the town's heyday. I wasted my money on mod 60s dresses but loved seeing the Edwardian boots on shelves and crumpled silk flowers. The rows of bound Godey's editions with burgundy leather spines and open steamer trunks full of peach satin 30s bed jackets.

I honestly don't know why I have such a deep craving for all things 19th century, particularly the 1880s, but the aesthetic and style elements of the era are so familiar and perfect to me. Historical fashion gives me life- cracks in the sidewalk look like 1876 bodice darts and pattern diagram pieces are my Tetris. I began to 'find my people' online in 2008, never realizing that others felt as I did. Historical costume is ingrained into every molecule of my life, I don't think I could ever be without it.

(Chantal Filson)

My grandparents were both in film and my grandfather owned an antique shop. Growing up around historical textiles and old films fuelled my interest.

(Caroline Devonport)

I remember daydreaming over old dresses for as long as I can remember. Whenever my parents visited a historic home or museum, I picked out Victorian paper dolls from the gift shop. I sighed over Rebecca's butter muslin gown and Anne's puffed sleeves. So it's not much of a surprise that when I first dipped my toes into the world of costuming as a young adult, the 1890s were my first love! I had a little bit of sewing knowledge from my mom and grandma, and soaked up as much more as I could. Back then it was a few books from the library and some antique magazines I purchased on eBay. It thrills me how much more information is available today!

(Denise Hendrick)

I came to sewing in college. I was in a generalist BFA theater program and was assigned to the costume shop. I had planned on being an actor—but after a couple semesters, I realized the only things I really loved about performing were the costumes and the audience. I switched my emphasis and have been sewing, patterning and designing costumes ever since.

(Jennifer Saxton)

My birthday is very close to Halloween, so my mom and I used to make costumes every year. One thing led to another, and I quickly got involved in theatre (made my own and other people's costumes) in school and with the local theatre groups. Later on I discovered the historic reenactment community (after a brief stop in the Ren Faire world). Love to explore the dress of different times and cultures.

(Lucy)

I am a fourth generation crafts artisan. My great grandfather was a master foundry man, which means that he carved the wooden patterns for castings at the foundry. My Grandfather was a foundry man and My father was a hand carved wooden sign make. Needless to say, crafts and art was important and encouraged in our household. I began teaching craft classes to the neighborhood children as a small child on my back yard picnic table. I began costuming very early on and when in college I was encouraged by a professor to apply for a position with a costume designer in RI. She became my mentor and this launched my career in and around the theatre. I have been the Costume Crafts Artisan at the Huntington Theatre Company for over 30 years and have taught Millinery and Dyeing at Boston University for nearly as long. I now have a studio of my own, where I can teach others the art and craft of millinery

(Denise Wallace-Spriggs)

I dabble in costuming by way of vintage dance reconstruction. In pre-pandemic times I performed with a historical dance troupe which required various 19th-20th c. garb.

(Felicia)

I began my love of historic clothing when I was 12 years old (1976). I fell in love with an antique 1901 Dobbs Fifth Avenue top hat box. It didn’t have the top hat but was full of other hats. It began a lifetime of collecting hats to start, then clothing and accessories. As I got older my tastes in what I collected narrowed to 1770-1865. In my early thirties I began to reenact and found that what was being offered as historically correct did not fit with the originals in my personal collections looked like. I decided I would make my own clothes based on meticulous research and access to many original garments in my chosen time period; the 1860’s. I was already an accomplished seamstress having been taught at age 5 to hand sew by grandmother, and at age 7 my mother taught me to use a sewing machine. I had made many many costumes for myself and later my children, so all I needed was a good library with extant copies of ladies fashion magazines (pre internet days). Since that time access to worldwide archives, collections and research has made it easier to get information. This has also expanded my love for garments of many eras. In turn spurring me on to expand my knowledge of how these beautiful pieces of history were constructed and learn more techniques. I have three advanced Degrees, BA history,MAed. And MA history. I am currently a History PHD candidate. I love the challenges Costume On offers and appreciate all the new classes that are offered.

(Kay Dodge)