I was going to do a cabinet card post today (my go to post when I don’t have anything new to share), but the lovely Dreamstress got my mind churning on another topic. Costumes and Accuracy.
I wont quote back what she wrote because you can and should read the actual post. In fact, you probably did read her post before wandering over here to read mine! Rightly so! I did want to share some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind all evening since her post.
First of all…I agree with what she said totally. And I’ve gleaned a new concept or two that will impact my choices (I hope) for future projects. One was weave. I really have no idea how many ways there are to create a fabric. I understand knits. I understand that denim is made differently from a brocade but beyond that…. I don’t know. Perhaps, one day, I will take the time to learn different weaves for fabrics and more importantly, learn what was common during Victorian times and how to recognize if the fabrics I’m looking at are correct (or at least close enough).
Further to the topic of fabric, I was thinking about getting good fakes as far as color and pattern go. I rely a lot on what I see in museums for what was available at the time. Color and patterns terrify me. I keep drifting towards plain browns for fear of picking a color that was simply not possible at the time. I force myself buy color and pattern so I wont end up with 50 plain brown dresses and I tell myself it is a 50/50 crap shoot. I may discover something is horribly wrong and then never be happy with the dress again (a good reason to not blow $400 on fabric for one gown) or I may stumble across an example that is a near perfect match and think I am the most gifted costumer.
You’ve already “heard” my rant on costumers who look down their nose at folks who choose to use synthetic fibers for costumes. As I commented on Dreamstress’ post, I have laid a silk next to a fake and could not tell the difference…until I looked at the price. If you have to set it on fire before you can tell if it is real or synthetic it is a good fake. For me this is a hobby and not a career. I’m not spending tons of money for a hobby when 95% of the people in the world could not tell the difference and 4% would have to set me on fire to know for sure. The 1% that could tell at a glance are not worth the money.
One day I will hand sew a whole costume, more as an exercise to prove to myself that I can be that disciplined and to learn what it feels like to do that task. But for my purposes, at this time, I don’t feel I need to hand sew when no one will be looking close enough to see machine stitches.
My goal is not to create a counterfeit Victorian gown that will totally fool 95% of the world into believing it is a well-preserved dress from that era and force the other 5% to rely on chemical testing, x-rays and microscopic analysis to discover the fake! Nor is my goal to get a museum to display my dress as a reproduction. My goal is to feel pretty. I kind of think of myself as more of a theatrical costumer than a museum curator or reenacted. My goal is to pretend for a few hours that I am a rich Victorian lady. In reality I’m an actress, or more accurately, an 8-year-old in a middle-aged woman’s body and I am playing dress up with my other 8-year-old friends. I want to have my “audience” suspend reality and allow themselves to imagine for just a moment I have stepped forward in time. They will not know enough/care enough/ get close enough to see the inaccuracies.
Besides, if I have car keys in my bag, deodorant on my body, fillings in my teeth and plastic boning in my dress I cannot be 100% accurate and I am not willing to leave the keys in the car, smell au natural, knock out my fillings and kill a whale for the sake of being authentic. So why kill myself and wipe out my bank account trying to achieve the impossible. I want to know what makes my dress different from a real Victorian dress so I can be more knowledgable about the time I am interested in. I think it is a good thing to know that they didn’t have polyester blends and that they didn’t have sewing machines in 1840. These are facts and facts are good. Knowledge is good. And one way to gain knowledge is to make a mistake. Maybe I will discover that my Copper Penny dress is too vibrant a color for that era. “Ooops. I made a mistake. I learned from that mistake. Thank God I didn’t spend $40 a meter on real silk”.
And just like the Dreamstress says, you can hand sew a dress. You can use only real silk. You can use the perfect pattern and under garments. And it can look more inaccurate than a machine sewn poly blend because the dyes available at that time did not make that color.
To put it short and sweet, my costume philosophy is “have fun learning and playing dress up.”