|That's me YEARS before becoming a mother of two! How time flies!|
As a child, I spent many sleepless nights contemplating beautiful costumes. Due to the fact that I was born into a seriously untalented family, these sleepless nights revolved around me wondering how in the world I was going to have that costume for my own. In high school it was a Renaissance court dress that I wanted to wear with my friends. I bought the fabric, borrowed my aunt’s sewing machine, but got stuck at threading the machine. No one in my household could help me.
In college it was Eowyn’s shieldmaiden dress that caught my eye. I wanted to wear it for the Lord of the Rings line party, but knew making one was out of the question, so my sleepless night on the top level of my dorm’s bunkbed was spent worrying how I would get the $500 to have a replica made online. I never got the money.
I had to resort to collecting costumes to fill my fancy. I have an entire closet filled with costumes not made by me: A beautiful Cinderella theater costume, a thrift store Eponine dress, a red velvet princess top from Pismo. I have many examples, but not a stitch was sewn by me.
Then in April of 2010, our first ever local Jane Fest rolled around, and since our local theater costume shop had gone bankrupt, I knew I was screwed. I wanted so much to look like Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice. One week from the event a Facebook acquaintance fortuitously wrote: “Chelsea, there are many regency patterns out there… you could make one up EASY.” I miraculously believed her. There was one massive problem: I didn’t own a sewing machine. That night I bought an e-pattern, two kinds of fabric and the next morning dropped the whole lot on the sewing teacher’s desk at the school where I teach. She thought I was insane when I asked if she could help me tape the 30 page e-pattern together. She wanted to commit me when I said I only had one week to finish! Every night that week I stayed at school until 10pm sewing up this “easy” dress. But every time a sleeve was finished or a lining was attached, I was moved to tears because I was creating it. All day at Jane Fest I reminded folks of Jane Bennet and I was living a dream finally fitting right in to something I’d always wanted to be a part of. The feeling I received from saying “I made the gown myself” was like nothing I’d ever experienced.
Then Dickens Fair 2010 came around and I nervously asked the same Facebook friend if she thought I could make a hoop dress that I knew was way out of my sewing league! She said “absolutely!” and sent me some pattern links. I admit I went a little overboard, and bought a sewing machine as well as patterns for all the underthings. Since I was nervous, I figured I should practice by making an insanely complicated chemise (with gussets… the evilness) and drawers (that the pattern directions neglected to mention DO NOT CLOSE UP IN THE BACK for, I guess, historical accuracy) and then began to make the bodice toile… again, and again since it took me awhile to learn my torso is freakishly long. I also decided to draft my own pattern for sleeves and make numerous un-patterned changes to the bodice. Sure things went wrong but I finished my very own dress and rocked that Dickens’ Fair! I beamed with the compliments on my gown, since they gave me a chance to say, “Thank you… I finished it last night!”
I’ve been sewing ever since and I am hooked, absolutely hooked. I have numerous files on my computer’s desktop with reference images of things I want to make. I barely know where to go next. In addition to period pieces, I’ve become obsessed with vintage patterns as well! There are so many possibilities that I probably don’t even know exist yet and I have a lot of sewing to do to make up for the years it was missing from my life. I will not be satisfied until every era is represented in my custom-made sewing closet.