Historical Accuracy meets my costuming philosophy

When I first considered getting back into this hobby I promptly dismissed the idea.  My thinking was if I couldn’t do it in a historically accurate manner I wasn’t going to do it.  I got hung up on the idea that I couldn’t afford 12 meters of pure silk taffeta so there was no point.  I just was not too interested in what the poor ladies were wearing.  I was looking at Worth dresses and the like and drooling over them.  I didn’t want to be making cotton shifts that the maid would wear. 

1877 dress worth dinner dress The Met

Then I started to think in details. 

I would have to use modern materials if the original material is illegal to own.  An example of that is ivory.

1868 ivory parasol The Met

If I was replicating something with fur on it, I would likely use fake fur as I’m not in favor of an animal dying for my hobby, it is too expensive to buy and I’m not skilled enough to not ruin the fur and make that animal’s death an even bigger waste. 

1916 cape The Met

 And real jet and diamonds is simply not an option.  What if one fell off!

I had no moral or ethical issues over using modern substitutes for these items.  Once I agreed with myself that these substitutes would be OK I asked myself why a synthetic fiber would be considered wrong.  True, polyester would not be an accurate fiber but if I can’t afford the real stuff polyester would be an affordable option.  Also, synthetic fibers wash better.  I would be wearing these outfits as a costume, not as a museum piece and not as a contest entry (at least not at this point).  As costumes, they would get dirty and  I’d have to be able to wash them without worrying that I ruined 3 days worth of pay in the wash tub!  This started me into thinking of perspective.  I wanted to look like a lady from the 1800’s but I don’t have her money or her maids.  IT IS A COSTUME!  If I’m a fake lady I can have fake fabric. 

Don’t get me wrong!  If by some miracle I find 12 meters of silk at $2 a meter I’m snapping that up and making me a dress.  But, I’m not going to sit around waiting for that to happen!

So what will be accurate?  I want to match styles to the era.  If I’m wearing an 1880s dress I will wear lace up boots (granted they are pleather and not real leather) and not strappy stilettos.  The correct sleeve style will go with the correct skirt style.  If I make a dress that would be dated pre sewing machine then I’d like to think I’d hand sew that puppy.  (No plans for pre machine dresses.  I’m chronically lazy.)  I’d also try to use colors that were available.  No hot pink 1840s numbers unless I can find proof that there was such a creature.

How do the rest of you balance authenticity, expense, skills and availability of materials?

2 thoughts on “Historical Accuracy meets my costuming philosophy

  1. This is such an interesting topic!
    I would describe myself as a historical purist, in that I love making things as authentic as they can be. But I must admit, I have often taken shortcuts with fabric, accessories, fastenings (like zips!), and design features, etc… just to make it easier to sew and wear in the modern era.
    For instance, I remember deliberately making the necklines of my bodices higher because I felt more comfortable and less self-conscious dancing in them.
    In the end, everyone has a different level of skill, resources (money!), time and effort that goes into costume-making, and you have to work within those, hey!

  2. […] Historical Accuracy meets my costuming philosophy – by Wanda B. Victorian (So how far should you go for historical accuracy?) […]

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