Hi All! I received a question from Rachel and KittyKatt, asking how I found the era of history that was my favorite to start making clothes for, so I thought I would answer it in a post, in case anybody else wants to know.
I started this blog several years ago, when I wanted to be an owl for Halloween. My dear friend Maggie and I thought it would be cool to interpret animals – she was a fox, I was an owl – through the lens of historical garments, and for whatever reason I thought a big, feather-covered 18th century dress was a great idea.
|Maggie the Fox at left; me as an “owl” at right. Maggie is still a fox…and, well, I stay up late at night, does that count?|
I started researching, looking at pictures, and just fell in love with the styles of the 1780s and 1790s. I became intrigued by aspects that didn’t really have anything to do with my owl costume, such as types of hats, hedgehog wigs, etc., and blogging about those things so much that I decided to change the name of this blog from “The Barn Owl Gown” (inspired, right? blah) to “American Duchess,” and focus on 18th century costuming.
|My first blog banner from back-in-the-day|
I suppose you know you’ve “found” your era when it continually holds fascination and inspiration for you. I also deeply love the fashions of the late 16th century, as well as the 1930s, but for years now it’s been the late 18th century. Drooling over pretty dresses is where to start, but when you find yourself spending hours learning about laws on the import and export of textiles, how block printing works, and what kind of seam finishes were used, along with the period widths of fabrics (and the difference between European widths and Chinese widths)…well, then you’ve entered into major geek territory, and I would say you’ve found your era.
|Writing an article on 18th century dogs? Yeah…I went there. #geek #nerd #obsessivehistoryfreak|
Of course, nobody is limited to just one era. You may have three loves, and not love one particularly more than the other. Your loves may change over time. That’s all okay! This is for fun, education, satisfaction in crafting, all sorts of reasons that I hope are all positive for you. 🙂
|Historical accuracy is important to me, but I also don’t take myself too seriously.|
So ask yourself what you keep coming back to. What do you spend the most time drooling over, pinning to your Pinterest, and saving to your research folder? Then you will have a pretty good idea of what your favorite era is.
vintagevisions27October 15, 2012 at 8:21 PM
Sometimes I think I have too many interests. Is that possible? 😉
I love 1750s to 1770s as well as the 1860s. But lately I've been drawn more to the styles of the 1930s and 1940s. Maybe it's because these things are more readily available, easy to create and can be worn without looking too costume-y. It's true that interests do change over time but I still find myself coming back to the same "old friends".
Lauren StowellOctober 15, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Nope, not possible to have too many interests! I love the 1930s and 1950s the same as I love the 18th century, and have far more opportunities to wear vintage than a big floof from 1780. I completely agree with you!
JoniOctober 15, 2012 at 9:05 PM
I guess my era is the 1950s/early 1960s. I've made sooo many vintage dresses from that era – I think I like them because the crinoline petticoat disguises my giant hips. 😉
The thing I can't figure out is… how the heck do you find places to wear historical things? I would sew the heck out of a Regency gown or a 1770s robe a polonaise but I don't know the right people or belong to the right clubs so where on earth would I wear something like that? It drives me crazy, like the itch in the middle of your back you cant quite reach, wanting to do the amazing costuming I see on your blog but having absolutely no venue to wear it.
Lauren StowellOctober 15, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Ah, I will write another blog post on where to wear these things, as a follow-up. It's a very good question, and hopefully I can provide some ideas 🙂
JoniOctober 16, 2012 at 12:11 AM
That would be so great!!
ChelseaOctober 16, 2012 at 1:37 AM
Yes, please! 😀
AnonymousOctober 16, 2012 at 1:20 PM
I discovered one co-worker who was wierd like me about Victorian stuff. We started making stuff and going out together (to Victorian era places like museums and parks) and called ourselves a club, "Victorian at Heart". We invited other peole to join us wearing things my friend had made (hers were more adjustable mine were more fitted to me) in an attempt to lure them in. Finally, we met up with a couple who do historic tours in costume and they are a part of our group. Now we are a group of 4. Small beginings but they start by talking about your interest until you stumble on someone who shares that interest!
SandiOctober 15, 2012 at 9:38 PM
I'm too busy being intimidated by everything to sew anything.
Lauren StowellOctober 15, 2012 at 10:47 PM
oh no! jump right in – there's a worldwide community ready to support 🙂
E. WatermanOctober 16, 2012 at 10:13 PM
There really is! I often have that same feeling, as I sure Lauren does too, but you can't get better if you don't start somewhere! We believe in you!
JennyOctober 15, 2012 at 9:43 PM
I have not yet found my era, but I tend to like the Mid-Victorian and Renaissance. Next year will be a branching out for me, I hope. Maybe even *gasp* a blog of my own! You have come so far since the owl gown 😀 May I say it's been a pleasure knowing you and being able to call you my friend. You've helped me SO much with hints and tips, both blogging and face-to-face. So thank you 😀
(Also, you make a great renaissance Zombie) 😛
Lauren StowellOctober 15, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Jenny! Yes, please come back to blogging! I love the things you sew and want to follow along! (Also, you too make a great Renaissance Zombie)
LauraOctober 15, 2012 at 9:55 PM
My era is 1730s to 1780 (but no later!) These are the projects I actually find myself finishing and then wanting to make another of the same pattern. These are also the outfits I am most comfortable in. I feel like a fish out of water when I wear other eras.
Lauren StowellOctober 15, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Laura, I feel that way too (fish out of water) in certain eras – Regency for sure!
RachelOctober 16, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! My problem right now is that I have too many eras in history I'm interested in and don't even know which one to begin with.
I second doing a post on where to wear such glorious items. Ironically enough I'm from Virginia and couldn't stand how Virginians never change due to their love of history and got my first ticket out of there when I could. Now living on the other side of America I dearly wish I still lived there just because the re-enactment opportunities are through the roof in that part of the country. C'est la vie, I suppose.
AnonymousOctober 16, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Sometimes you think you have chosen an era, but then a different one grabs you. I started off with Early Renaissance and 1970s costumes, but ended up in love with the 17th century. 1600-1650 and the 1830s are my bread and butter. I can't get enough giant lace collars and untamable sleeves! It's suitable to my tastes and body type, too, so that's a bonus.
Once you find an era you love, even the tiniest things bring you infinite delight!
ChelseaOctober 16, 2012 at 1:47 AM
I started with Renaissance costuming and Star Wars, because I had opportunities to attend Renaissance faires and Star Wars conventions. But now that I think about it, my love for the late 18th Century came before either of those interests. My sisters and I had American Girl dolls growing up, and I was (and still am) fascinated by Felicity's colonial wardrobe and all the little details they put in – particularly the undergarments. My cousin also had an American Girl doll, and she and I spent hours and hours playing with them, even after my much younger sisters had "outgrown" dolls! I still love Felicity's outfits. I should do a blog post on all the 18th Century doll dresses I've made! :p
ChelseaOctober 17, 2012 at 3:14 AM
Katherine Caron-GreigOctober 16, 2012 at 3:21 AM
Regency was my first era and I always seem to go back to it, or at least find things that I love. It's funny how eras come and grab you though. I never would have dreamed that I'd absolutely fall in love with the 1920s. I'm even comfortable in front of a camera in 20s,which is saying something!
LumikettuOctober 16, 2012 at 4:53 AM
My interest has been divided into two: Historical clothing in the West and kimono (+kimono history) in Japan. As for a specific era in western clothing, I haven't decided or found my "true loves" yet, my fascinations seem to change. For a while I consentrate on Western thingies and then I forget them a while to consentrate on kimono (and vice versa). I've found that this works best for me.^^
UnknownOctober 18, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I started with a love of Gone With the Wind (wasn't what I planned on typing but really I think that's where it started). I grew up watching the movie every time I went to visit my Aunt and Grandmother. I always wanted to wear what Scarlet wore, so I guess I've always loved the Civil War to Bustle area. Ironically, I've never made either kind of dress. Somewhere along the way I fell in love with the 1750-1780s and I am currently working on a dress I have been dreaming of making for about 5 years now…. all that's left is the hemming! I've become so more obsessed with this era that I read the biographies of Madame Pompador, Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire, Marie Antoinette and am currently reading Queen of Fashion. Loving the link I just saw for Dress University – that's only a few hours away from me… I will seriously consider going!
KittyKattOctober 19, 2012 at 2:05 AM
I don't really have an era. I started out overdoing Halloween as a kid, when most kids in my town just wore masks and those plastic costumes you got in a box. Somehow I drifted into Star Trek, then Star Wars (I came a Darth Vader on cross dressing day during spirit week – confused the heck out of my classmates 🙂 Then Fantasy, Then SCA-ish medieval, then a big jump-off into professional theater costuming. I don't really sew much for myself, but I have made costumes for most of my boyfriends and friends. Right now I just make jewelry and herd cats for my local costuming guild (I'm the president), and love to see what everybody else is doing. I have some ideas and projects in the works, though…we'll see what happens.
AijaOctober 20, 2012 at 3:22 PM
I have loved Regency, Romantic Era, Victorian crinolines, bustles, 18th century gowns, Anne of Green Gables style and teens era all in turn. Depending mostly on the upcoming events and films I've seen and books I've read. I even took time making a Renaissance costume (not very accurate one though) when we had a dance performance with Renaissance and Baroque dance coming. But I guess the first bustle era is my all time favourite. I don't really know why, but somehow I find bustle dresses esthetic and beautiful. Weird thing is that I used to think teens era dresses were awful. I hated the Poiret-gowns and the figure that was more natural than that of the previous eras with corsets and hoop-skirts. Then I decided that instead of just doing historical costumes (since there isn't so many opportunities to wear them here) I wanted to slowly restyle my whole wardrobe to look more historical/vintage (or whatever). Suddenly, the teens era dresses were the most beautiful I'd ever seen. They have enough historical look in them but they are still modern enough to be worn everyday and there are no big skirts that get all dirty and make it hard to get on a bus. Recently, I have become more and more interested of the 20's-40's styles even thought I usually don't like anything that is post-WW1.