I am interested in the history of everyday clothing, and especially in what clothing communicates about the wearer. My background is theatre, not the fashion industry; my experience is with costume design, costume construction, and costume history.
Most drama — film, theatre and television — is not about the people who wear couture. There is a great deal of information about high fashion in museums and books, but costume designers are always eager for information about ordinary people: what they wore, when and where and how they wore it, and what it tells us about their lives, their personalities, and their socio-economic position. We collect information about occupational dress. too. We love pictures of people at work. And we usually learn a bit of history along the way. (One of the pleasures of costume design is that you get to study a different time period and a different society with almost every play. )
Magazines and especially, clothing catalogs, advertisements, movies, and family photos are all primary sources for costume research. Novels and books of etiquette are also useful.
Eyewitness accounts of what people wore are especially fascinating to me — along with oral histories of the folks in old family photos. (I deeply regret that I don’t have a picture of my uncle, the master plumber, in his striped bib overalls and worker’s cap covered with union pins, circa 1950.)
Vintage sewing patterns often prompt my memories of the 50s and 60s — and I love to hear and read other people’s memories, too, since regional differences are also important.
With the internet, thousands of vintage patterns have become a new source of information, and I am currently undertaking a project that will help to date some patterns that were not dated by their manufacturers. I was inspired by a treasure trove of bound Delineator magazines in my local library. Now that I am retired, I have the time to really examine them — including all those vintage ads and articles that cast some light on women’s lives and work many decades ago.
I became a vintage pattern seller almost by accident. When I realized that I have accumulated hundreds of photos of patterns, I decided that the information I collected should not go to waste — it should be shared.
I love the conversations that happen in the comments sections of my favorite blogs. I hope some of those conversations will happen here.