Dusting off Historical Fashions

Recently having moved (from one room to another, though with the effort involved it may as well have been across town), I had occasion to go through every item in my possession. Wow. If one word could describe the experience, it would have to be “overwhelming.”

I quickly discerned that I had amassed much more than I had ever inventoried in the way of paints, pencils, photography equipment, canvases, paper, books, magazines, rubber stamps, and scrapbooking tools.

And that did not include the supplies for my latest pursuits: stashes of fabrics, trims, and ribbons; bobbin spools; thread; two sewing machines (and accessories); button and zipper collections; patterns and inspirational sketches; thrift-find garments and remnants for costuming; two bridal ball gowns (don’t ask); multiple formal dresses; a full-form fabric-covered mannequin and brushed metal stand (Quite useful, but hefty. Again, don’t ask.); several petticoats; a salt-and-pepper wig; and an array of leather, faux leather, suede, and vinyl in assorted finishes and colors.

Phew. That was just the start of it.

However, between the dusting, organizing, sorting, filing, tossing (and keeping!), I learned a few things about myself.

Things I’ve never thought about.

And things I’ve always wondered.

For instance, why do I gravitate toward these types of patterns

Simplicity #2881
Can you imagine how many yards of fabric this would take? 
Not to mention the time involved in hand-stitching every piece.

Simplicity #3727

when I am supposed to be shopping for something more like this?

New Look #6699
Much more age-appropriate. And more of this century.

The reason was tucked away on my bookshelf. Right there. Bottom shelf. No, a little lower. Nestled between a dusty photo album and Roget’s Super Thesaurus. See it?

Paper dolls book back coverPaper dolls book front cover


Yep, I actually own these paper dolls. More specifically, I have owned them since a very tender age. I used to play with them on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Wow. I had forgotten all about them.

Paper dolls

I had forgotten the countless hours I once spent tracing every silhouette, every dress line as I painstakingly cut the fashions from the book’s pages with a knife. The care I took around every trim. The fantasies I indulged in. . . me, walking demurely into the parlour in my soft silk. . . the weight of dozens of petticoats beneath my skirt. . . me, swishing elegantly into the grand ballroom. . . my posture perfect. . . waist slimmed with the aid of my best corset. . . the soft lace of my décolleté against my skin. . . my dance card swaying coyly from the delicate wrist above my gloved hand. . .

Okay, so I was a weird little girl.

But I suppose it is true: Our fashion consciousness must be formed when we are very young. Because somewhere in my subconscious, these styles from two centuries ago are still near and dear to my heart. Even the pieces I never had time to cut out, that were never truly played with, that I simply imagined with. Somehow, I identify myself with them.

I mean, look! Even the undergarments are tasteful, feminine, and strangely becoming (though a little uncomfortable-looking in hindsight, I must admit).

This slim book of dolls is going right back on the shelf where it belongs as a sacred piece of my past, though I believe it safe to say I won’t be making up Simplicity 3727 or 2881 in my size anytime soon. (I can’t imagine trying to fit yet another voluptuous garment in my closet—though I did find a hoop-skirt pattern a lá 16th-century dutch among my numerous and varied possessions, and I have this perfect gold silk that I found on clearance for $2 a yard—but I digress.)

At least, I won’t be making up these patterns until I finish cleaning my room. And cutting out that summer maxi dress from fabric Carolyn gave me. And wading through my mending pile. . . and editing my latest movie. . . and deciding which books I have room enough to keep. . .

Does anybody want to help me put together a bookshelf?






One response to “Dusting off Historical Fashions”

  1. sarahp Avatar

    I really, truly LOVE the Simplicity 3727…I don't know where you could wear it but wow.

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