The Sewing Academy

Elizabeth Stewart Clark & Company

Why I Wear Split Drawers

This story is somewhat diminished without pictures (which, thankfully, I do not have), and I confess myself a bit hampered when limited only to the written word, and deprived of the ability to gesticulate and pantomime the adventure. Nevertheless, I share my horrific tale in the hopes that someone may be edified, and spared a similar fate.

When I started out in Living History, I presumed myself to be a fairly Smart Girl. When I heard that to be historically accurate, a woman should wear drawers that lack a sewn-closed crutch seam, the Smart Girl in me cringed. How immodest! thought she. How inconvenient! Surely, this is beyond the pale.

And so, Smart Girl that I presumed myself to be, I held fast to a decision to wear that ultimate in modest apparel, cotton-lycra bike shorts, beneath my skirts.

Sure, it meant I had to carefully plan my beverages, and necessitated some fairly convoluted acrobatics just to use a porta-loo, but it was worth it, right? To avoid those dreadful split drawers, I’d do just about anything. Besides, the one pair I’d worn for five or six minutes (borrowed from a shorter friend) would have given me a permanent double wedgie, and that couldn’t be good, right?

I continued with my acrobatic endeavors for a few events. If you’ve not done it yourself, the process of trying to use a porta-loo, whilst wearing a hooped skirt, and a corset, and cotton-lycra bike shorts tucked up under that corset… well, let’s say that quantum entanglement theory is relatively simple, comparatively, and leave it at that. One key feature of the process is needing to hike the the dress skirt, several petticoats, and hoop skirt well above one’s shoulders, catch the hoops together with one hand and pull them toward the front of the body, and proceed with business with oneself as the rather sweaty, huffy cheese in the middle of a hoopskirt taco.

This tends to limit one’s peripheral vision.

About one year into my living history exploits, I took a well-planned trip to confessional at Our Lady of Blue Waters. I re-enacted the hoopskirt taco arrangement, and backed into a standard-sized porta-loo to perform my endeavors. It wasn’t until I was seated, and commencing my endeavors, that I noticed the entire interior of the porta-loo at been “decorated” by a veritable Poo Picasso. Everything I was wearing was now covered with human waste that I had not been able to see, because I was too busy wrangling my modern layers the Smart Girl Me had insisted on using, against the advice of very clever living history friends.

I survived. I burned all my clothes, but I survived. I also borrowed some books from those dear friends, applied some drafting and geometry, and worked out a good math plan to create historically correct split drawers for myself, that fit in the length (to avoid the Mother of All Wedgies), fit in the width (with a nice bit of overlap for customized privacy and convenience), and could be worn comfortably in all weather.

With well-adjusted split drawers, visiting Our Lady of the Blue Waters is as simple as stepping in, lifting skirts straight up, and taking a wide stance before sitting and commencing any needed endeavors. No more hoop tacos. No more Poo Picasso striking without warning.

And that, friends, is why I wear split drawers.

Here’s how to make your own.

Is It Really Important?

How important is historical accuracy in an interpretive plan?

Pardon me a moment while I hop up on this handy stump and share a few thoughts…

Patrons to any historic site (and extrapolating, to any history-focused event) have the very reasonable expectation that the site is “doing it right”–in other words, that the site is presenting them with historically-consistent information all the way through, from plants in the flower beds, to items in the gift shops, to household furnishings, to the details of material culture in clothing and accessories, and definitely including the information presented through entertainment.

Therefore, it is vital that any on-site entertainment be continually looking for ways to upgrade the historical content, becoming “edu-tainment”–something that patrons can enjoy, and also walk away having learned things that accurately reflect the historic record. The good news is, small changes can be free (or very nearly so), and change can happen over time.

Historic clothing plays a tremendous role in all of this. It’s a primary visual component of any historic interpretation, and deserves weighty consideration. The Original Cast did every single activity we might interpret while wearing a full complement of accurate clothing; there is no reason we should endeavor to do less. More after the jump… Continue reading

Immersion Events and Really Small People

The fast-approaching event season presents families with many options for living history activities. You might find yourself contemplating local “smorgasbord” events, historic house events, civic commemorations, semi-immersion events, or even full-immersion events designed to be functional laboratories for living history enthusiasts. Immersion events post some unique challenges to families with infants or very small children. With planning and determination, it is possible to combine immersion and infancy, without accuracy compromises. Continue reading

Getting Snoody

If you’ve been involved in living history for any length of time, you’ll have run across The Dreaded Snood (often in chubby rayon crochet iterations), and the Dreaded Snood Question (should I be wearing one? and if so, how, exactly?) You’ll have seen women with poofy bangs, and long, undressed hair swirled into an elasticized doily swiped from Grandma’s side table, like so much cooked pasta.  You’ll have seen them worn low on the brow, a’ la Lunch Ladies. You’ll have seen them used and abused (mostly the latter.)

Here’s a somewhat controversial opinion, though: wearing an actual snood for the mid-19th century is just fine in some settings, for some women.

I know. I just typed that out loud. Just breathe for a minute, while I explain.

The Oxford English Dictionary has a few options for figuring out the mystery of the Dread Snood, and how it might relate to mid-19th century living history wardrobes. (I love the OED. Such a useful publication!) According to the OED for “snood”, we have a few options, style-wise:

1: Several sources refer to the Middle English “fillet” or ribbon tied around the hair of a young, unmarried Scottish woman as a sign of her chastity and maiden status, and

2: Most of the derivations in multiple languages and eras come from words meaning ribbon, cord, string, or band,  or

3: It’s the floppy bit of fleshy appendage that dangles and covers a turkey’s beak.

That floppy bit over his nose is a snood.

Let’s go with the former two, rather than the slightly ooky latter, shall we?

Setting aside fleshy turkey bits, we’re left with something shocking: the snood isn’t the net part.

Beloved by Lunch Ladies everywhere, but Not A Snood.

It’s the ribbon bit.
Not the net… look to the ribbons! (1866)

Ribbon = Snood

 

Take a look at original images from the mid-19th century, and you’ll see a lot of women, from young to fairly mature, sporting nifty, fine-silk nets, many similar in scale to a modern “invisible” setting net (and those make a great, cheap approximation, actually). The net appears to be attached to some sort of structured, wired band over the crown of the head, and the band is often ornamented with folded or pleated ribbons, bows, and other such frippery. Simply-dressed hair is kept tidy by the net, and the visage is ornamented by the snood portion: the ribbon bits.

 

Why do we see them at mid-century? Blame Queen Victoria and Sir Walter Scott, the former for her penchant for Highland Romanticism and Nostalgia (and no one did Nostalgia quite like Queen Vic!), the latter for his romantical semi-medieval Scottish adventure novels that were all the rage in the era. They’re a fairly natural evolution of earlier hair ornaments, and very suited to so many faces and heads.

 

So, wear a snood if you want to wear one. Just make sure you know which bits you’re talking about, and how to use them well. A decorative hairnet with ribbon embellishments (snood!) is great for any upper working class, middle class, professional class, or higher impression, as a pretty accessory item for non-working settings, worn over simply-arranged and pinned hair. It can also be a great option for helping blend the join between real and false hair, for those of us with short modern styles, so long as the settings and activities are also compatible with using a fashionable accessory.

 

L to R: Snoody Friend, Reluctant Bride, Snoody Friend, Swipey-Stealy Friend; by Toulmouche, 1866

by Fattori, 1861; notice the snood (ribbon) on top, and also: she is rocking the fine white bodice and silk jacket combination!

Studious, and Snoodius!

 

Dancing!

I’m a big fan of dancing, and am so glad it’s such a prevalent form of entertainment at mid-century! If you’re interested in learning more about mid-19th century dancing, and even dancing for a good cause, you’ll want to check out The Victorian Dance Ensemble’s website.

Visit the Instruction section for some basic terminology, and a chance to request a completely free PDF historic dance manual.

And be sure to sign up for their email updates. I did, and because I did, I can now sit and writhe in a fit of green jealousy that those in the East have the chance to attend some really cool dancing events in the upcoming months. Not that I’m bitter. But the Rockies don’t have a lot of refined dancing going on!

Here are just three:

  • February 26, George Washington Ball in Winchester, Va., to benefit the Old Court House Civil War Museum.
  • March 19, 8th Annual Civil War Preservation Ball in Harrisburg, Pa., to benefit the Gettysburg Monuments Project Endowment Trust Fund.

They will also be offering totally free dance classes on 16 January, 13 February, and 6 March at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA.

Dancing plus preservation fundraising, and free lessons: what could be better, really?

Sign up to participate in any or all of these great dancing efforts by contacting them through their website.

And please: do a polka for me!

Shifty

What’s the best way to stay comfortable and confident in period clothing?

Have an adequate supply of chemises (or shifts) and switch to a fresh one as needed during your living history activities!

Chemises are most often made in tight-woven cotton or linen for the 1840-1865 era. The generous fit makes them easy to wear, and plain white textiles keep them very easy to launder. When you get a pattern that fits you comfortably, you can use like-sewing or “railroading” techniques to sew a whole batch of chemises quickly. With like-sewing, you complete the same construction step on each garment, one right after the other. Making a batch of chemises from our free Make a Simple Chemise pattern (just scroll down!), you’d:

  • Draft and test the upper portion of the pattern (waist length, just to make sure you don’t want to fiddle with things),
  • Cut all the chemises,
  • Sew all the shoulder/sleeve seams,
  • Sew all the side seams,
  • Put in all the hems (sleeve and lower edge),
  • Put on all the neck bands,
  • Have a cup of tea, and enjoy your accomplishment!

Like-sewing also lends itself well to sewing with tight schedules. If you will commit to sewing for 15 minutes a day (by machine) or 1 hour a day (by hand), you’ll make steady progress on your wardrobe! Work to complete each construction step on every garment of that type before moving on to the next step. You gain efficiency by repeating the same process multiple times.

It’s just one strategy to get you well-dressed for the 2011 event season!

Christmas Fun

If you’re looking to add a bit of mid-century flair to your modern decor, what about some fantastic silhouette ornaments?

These Regency silhouettes from the Magic Bean have me thinking hard about doing up a set of 1840, 1850, or 1860 silhouettes, with appropriately altered millinery shapes.

What a great addition to a mantle, tree, or even as a special seating placecard for a fine holiday meal! Please, someone craftier than I am, make a set and take snapshots. (I may have to break down and get out the glue… but only after I get all the small handwork projects for my own children out of the way! After all, a warm winter hood, or cozy shawl, or new flannel drawers can be used no matter what the century!)

Top 10 Reasons You Need to Make a Petticoat (or Three)

Petticoats are indisputably important to mid-century fashion! Here are the top reasons you may want to consider adding one or more to your list this year:

10: If you like to walk easily, petticoats help. The layers of fullness baffle one another at the waist and hip, which helps them hang away from your body a little bit further down your legs. Two or three layers of skirt are less prone to wrapping entirely around your legs during movement or with wind, too.

9: They’re an ideal “practice” garment. You’ll practice seams, simple hemming, gathering, waistbands, and closures, and if your stitches are uneven, or you have some wonky seamlines, who cares? And imperfect petticoat is still historically accurate (not everyone sewed perfectly then!), and eminently functional.

8. They cross economic boundaries. Working class women need petticoats; so do leisure class women, and the basics of construction are the same for each. Petticoats are one wardrobe item that can easily span a wide range of economic levels for your impressions, so they’re very multi-use.

7. Climate Control. Petticoats shield you from heat, as well as from cold. In fact, if you do cool or cold-weather events, you might want a quilted petticoat or a wool petticoat, as well as your regular cotton petticoats. (Learn more about cold-weather petticoats at The Academy @ Home Forum, or do one of the projects in The Dressmaker’s Guide.)

6. Creating the silhouette. The mid-century look is essentially an inverted triangle (bodice) on top of a bell of skirts. You can’t get the bell without the petticoats for support! This is an era where even robust figures add a bit more upholstery to the hips through petticoats. Just remember: everything below your waist is skirts, and no one can prove otherwise! Relish the boof! Just about any impression could use another petticoat.

5. Creating a tidy waist. Notice, that said tidy, not tiny. Mid-century torsos are controlled and tidy, and look small by comparison with the skirts. If you don’t have petticoats, you can’t get the skirt boof, and without skirt boof (see #6), your waist won’t look as tidy as it could.

4. Protect your dresses with petticoat layers. Though petticoats are hemmed just a tad bit shorter than your dress skirts, they’re going to take a lot of abuse from shoes and ground when you move around. Petticoats, combined with starching, pressing, and nice facings on your dresses, all work together to protect your hems.

3. Individual expression. I know, it doesn’t seem that stacks of white petticoats are anything terribly interesting at first glance, but just consider the wide variety! Petticoats with plain hems, or whitework hems, or quilted hems. Horizontal tucks, vertical or diagonal tuck insertions, sets of tucks large and small. Whitework insertions, puffings, and braidwork on the “for show” petticoats. There’s a white petticoat to delight any personal inclination, and then you get to wear it, too.

2. They’re dirt cheap. Even splurging on great fabric (try Kona or Egyptian cotton for petticoats that will last decades), you’ll spend between $5 and $25 for a plain, gathered petticoat, and only slightly more to embellish it with some gorgeous tucks that add body around the hem. (The low cost makes petticoats a great addition to loaner gear, too. Even a merchant-row make-do dress will look more historically correct if it has nice petticoats for support.)

And the number one reason to make petticoats?

They Did. In trying to replicate the look of the Original Cast, we’ll do best when we use the systems and shapes they used. Petticoats are an integral part of the wardrobe for babies, toddlers, girls, and grown women. Without them, we just don’t look like They did!

If you need just one more reason to make yourself some great petticoats?

You don’t need to go out and buy a pattern. You can get a free basic petticoat pattern here on The Sewing Academy, or try The Dressmaker’s Guide for petticoats beyond the basics!

Hoopla

This lovely tutorial comes to us from Joanna Jones, one of the Sewing Academy @ Home forumites. We’re tickled to share her project! Joanna used the instructions on making a cage found in The Dressmaker’s Guide.

Joanna started by deconstructing an older, cloth-covered hoop that had rusted. This was the common type, with 1/2″ buckram-covered pairs of steels. She split the steels out (slitting down the middle to free the individual, narrow steels), and sanded the rust off, giving them a light coating of shellac to help prevent rust in the future, then encased them in twill tape. Harvesting the steel from her old hoop yielded 12 lengths of narrow steel… a very frugal option!

Twill tape casings

The casings are made of about 30 yards of 1/2″ wide cotton twill tape, purchased at JoAnn’s in the ribbon and trim section, and folded in half. Most of the casings are secured along the edge with a very narrow zig-zag (note, this is a non-period technique that Joanna used after much thought and consideration), but the last ten yards or so were secured in half with a straight stitch very close to the edge (which would be a period technique). The casings could be sewn by hand or by machine.

(One thing Joanna found as she inserted the sanded and shellacked steels was that they seemed to go into the zig-zagged casings more easily than into the straight-stitch casings. This may be due to the rather more flexible formation of a zig-zag stitch. To get the flexibility without using a zig-zag, the casings could be hand-whipped (with fairly large, sloppy stitches!) around the steels.)

An additional 16 yards of twill tape was reserved for the vertical suspension tapes, supporting the rungs from the waist. Joanna cut the tape into eight lengths, and folded up about 36″ from the bottom to create a doubled section for the channels that hold the steel rungs in place. The first three channels were arranged fairly close together for better support of the lower hem area of the dress. Each channel is about 1/2″ wide, which allows for both the steel, and the bulk of the steel’s twill-tape casing.

Showing the channels in the vertical tapes

The next step was to make a waistband from scrap fabric. Joanna has previously made a dress dummy of her own corseted shape, so she was able to fit and balance the cage on a replica of her own body. (Customized dress forms are another technique detailed in The Dressmaker’s Guide!)

She pinned the vertical tapes at the waist, spacing them evenly around with the exception of the back two tapes, which were closer together at the waist. Threading the twill-covered steels through the channels to meet at the back, she used blue painter’s tape to hold them in place temporarily, and began balancing and adjusting the shape of the hoop.

The top three rungs were arranged to open at the front, for greater ease getting in and out of the hoop.

Beginning to shape and balance!

Then, she began playing with the overlaps at the back until she had a nice, belled shape. Joanna used the pictures from Katherine’s  “Koshka” cage crinoline for some additional guidance (and I can ditto that–Katherine does lovely work!) This process took about a day on and off, as she took breaks and made small adjustments with fresh eyes.

Then, she had a short epiphany:

I finally decided that it did not have to be perfect since I would have at least three layers of fabric over it. I never did get a great back thrust. I figure I will put a little pad back there.

And that, Dear Readers, is a grand realization! Even with “perfect” cages in the mid-century, women often used small pads at the back hip to give the ideal “boof” at the back of the skirts.

From the Sewing Academy @ Home Forum, other members offered this advice on getting a nice back-thrust to the 60’s cage:

The two tapes in front (either side of the front opening) will parallel to each other down to the floor, the next set over the hips will flare out a bit more but still run closely to the front tapes and so on. By the time you get to the back the tapes will be set fairly wide with a center back tape anchoring everything in place.  This positioning causes the steels to push to the back.

~ Liz W.

If you decide to play with getting the back thrust, try this:  the tops of the tapes on either side of the center back tape should be moved in towards the center back tape, and then the next set of side tapes should also be moved towards the back. The bottoms of all the tapes are evenly spaced around the bottom rung, and the side back and side tapes are moved closer to center back… so the tapes are diagonal from the bottom to the waistband, rather than straight.

~ Denise B.

Once Joanna had the bottom nine rungs adjusted to suit her, she took strong thread and tacked the steel casings to the vertical channels so they wouldn’t shift. Then, she trimmed the steels to let them overlap by, at most, 6″. She tucked the raw twill tape ends to the inside a bit, then laid one steel in front of the other, and sewed the casings together firmly by hand. Sewing the folded ends over keeps the steels securely inside.

The top three rungs get trimmed to end on the front vertical tapes. The raw ends of the twill tape casing are tucked in and sewn closed, and the rungs sewn firmly inside the vertical tape channel.

From the forum, Liz W. added a very important note:

The hoop may need to be “balanced” before attaching the waistband permanently by adjusting the lengths of the tapes so the bottom hoop is parallel to the floor.

We all like to think we stand up straight all the time but we don’t.  If for example you tend to lean forward, it will cause your hoop to thrust out and up in the back.  So shorten the front tapes and lengthen the back a bit to account for it.   A similar adjustment may be needed if one hip is higher than the other.

~ Liz W.

This balancing is the last step before firmly sewing the vertical tapes to the waistband, and adding a closure! A good finished hoop or cage (this style is an open cage, rather than a covered hoop) will end about mid-calf, for good skirt support and greater safety. If you look at original images, you’ll notice that many dresses hang roughly straight down from about the mid-calf; that often indicates the lowest circumference of the hoop.

If you’ve been wanting to upgrade from an older, steel-hooped “bridal” cage, using the instructions in The Dressmaker’s Guide can be a great option; you can also start with fresh steels, and build one from scratch with the same instructions!

Especially for Families

If you’re wondering just what to do with your child’s outgrown clothing, or are looking for a quick piece or two to round out the wardrobe, here’s a good option!

Economy & Frugality

Organized by Jessica Craig, the list is a free-to-use service for those seeking or selling highly accurate children’s clothing and accessories on a private basis. Listings are requested for historically-accurate items only (or, in the case of shoes, historically-unobtrusive.)

(And, as a few people have asked, though we do not currently license our patterns for ready-to-wear sales, it is absolutely okay to sell off your used, outgrown items made from our patterns.)

This new list is a grand option for growing families all over the country!

Cording by Machine

If you’re working on a corded corset, or a corded petticoat for pre-hoop-era use, you might be wondering if there’s a quick way to get those cords snuggled into their casings, without losing your mind or your religion.

In the interests of removing “colorful” language from the vocabulary of mid-century sewists everywhere, consider a few tips:

1: Feel free to use a machine. You can certainly hand-sew a corded garment, and for some items (such as a corded sunbonnet), the benefits of being able to precisely manipulate the fabric are great. However, it’s okay to use a sewing machine for much of the mid-19th century. Just use a plain straight stitch, and leave long enough thread tails that you can thread them through a needle, make true knots on the inside of the garment, and bury the ends within the garment layers.

2: Use an appropriate cord. I am particularly fond of the Peaches-n-Cream crochet cotton, as it’s a similar size and texture to the cording I’ve been able to handle in several original corded petticoats. Originals have cording both smaller, and slightly (slightly!) larger than the cotton yarn used modernly for crocheted washcloths, so you could of course vary your widths, but this inexpensive cotton yarn is widely available, and very inexpensive. Other alternatives might include kitchen string, and well-made hemp cord, but don’t use rope or clothesline, please!)

3: Consider a zipper foot. If you can use a zipper foot to get snug up against the cord, and then adjust your needle position over to skim at the very edge of the foot, you’ll find your cording goes in nice and smoothly, but very snug. It’s the repeated cords, snug in their channels, that start building body for your corded garment.

4: Rely on Colin Firth. If possible, sew in an area with a TV or computer, so you can pop in a Colin Firth movie (my favorite sewing companion is the CF/BBC Pride & Prejudice) and listen to something interesting while you sew. Corded petticoats are extremely tedious, and the occasional glimpse of handsome men in period clothing makes the process far more tolerable.

For complete instructions on how to make your own corded corset or corded petticoat, see The Dressmaker’s Guide in our Marketplace.

Free Children’s Pinafore Patterns

One item that should absolutely be in your young child’s wardrobe is a pinafore… or four.

However, we refuse to sell you the pattern.

(Wow–even the little fellow in the picture looks a bit dubious at that statement!)

It’s true! We won’t sell you one… but we’ll give you three for free, plus variations.

Pop over to the Compendium, scroll down, and you’ll find our free pinafore projects. You can use checks, plaids, prints, or even plain white cotton to make a pinafore (or four!) for your little one.

They work up quickly, require minimal sewing, and extend your child’s wardrobe tremendously. If you have a limited budget, or limited time, you’ll be better off making one dress and three pinafores than trying to finish three dresses, and your child will stay tidy through a multi-day event without a problem.

If you’re looking for our undergarment or dress patterns, we’ll be glad to sell you those… click here!

Stretch Your Living History Budget

If your household is like ours, you must organize your living history activities around a very real—and finite—modern budget. Keep a few things in mind to maximize your time and money.

Plan First, Spend Last
It’s exciting to get involved in the hobby! Without a plan, you could make some costly purchases that don’t serve you well. Research and plan first, so you can purchase or make the most useful items for your typical impressions the first time around. You’ll save money and time in the long run. If you only attend events with working class scenarios, an upper class wardrobe will be a waste of money, but an investment in clothing and books related to working class people will be well spent.

Think Critically
Not every willing resource is a good resource! It’s important to question the “status quo” and find out for yourself about the people and practices of the mid-nineteenth century. Consult multiple sources; see where they agree and where they disagree. Practice good research and documentation habits. Get in the habit of asking merchants and vendors for background information on their items, to ensure that the products really do meet your unique persona needs.

Do It Yourself
If you’re willing to gain a few basic skills, you can provide many things at a low cost, from home. For instance, learn a basic running stitch by hand and a straight stitch by machine, and you can construct the majority of a family’s undergarments at home, for the cost of inexpensive white cotton fabric and a few spools of thread. By making male shirts and drawers, and female chemises, drawers, and petticoats, you can focus your dollars on professional help with outer clothing—or, use the undergarments as practice for your trousers, vests, coats, and dresses. Sewing, knitting, woodworking, and other “do it yourself” skills, used with good historic patterns, can save you a tremendous amount of money.

Utilize Local Resources
No budget could purchase every book that would be helpful for learning about the nineteenth century. Get familiar with your local library; ask the librarians to help you search the collection for helpful volumes. As you come across book titles not in the local collection, ask for help with inter-library loan. It’s a no- to low-cost way to borrow books from other libraries on a lending network, to preview nearly any book, in or out of print, before deciding if it’s one you need to buy.

Maximize Your Wardrobe
How many sets of outer clothing do you own? How many sets of undergarments? In period wardrobe lists, undergarments outnumber dresses and suits; recreate that ratio, and you’ll recreate a functional historic wardrobe that works just as perfectly today. Invest the time and funds to make three to four sets of undergarments and accessory items (aprons, collars, cuffs, neckerchiefs), and you’ll be able to attend a three to four day event with only one set of outer clothing.

Keep it Simple
Don’t try to do everything right away. It’s just not possible! Set reasonable goals for acquiring material goods, upgrading your research, and incorporating new information into your impression. Make continual steps forward as your plan allows. If you start with the basics of what you need for your most common scenarios and situations, you’ll create a solid base, and expand from there. It’s effective for every budget!

Post-Traumatic Dress Disorders Part I

Studying history is not always serious and somber. In fact, most of the top-notch researchers in my acquaintance have a very wry, sometimes odd, but always influential sense of humor.

Here are a few gems related to the medical woes we risk facing with regards to living history and clothing.

Post-Traumatic Dress Disorder:
That nagging feeling that the dress over which you labored for ages on end still does not appear to meet that undefined word called “accuracy.”

Symptoms include:

  • Self-doubt
  • Continuously looking and re-looking at the same references over and over, asking the same questions on the SA to anyone who will answer
  • Long nights re-doing something that just isn’t quite right
  • Re-making the dress or parts thereof several times in an attempt to “get it right.”
  • Waking up in the middle of the night from a seemingly deep sleep with a dream induced revelation about the garment in question. Followed immediately by turning on all the lights and piling books around you in the middle of the floor to check your half-awake vision against documentation.
  • Some sufferers experience heightened anxiety and pre-occupation with a finished dress acquiring grime or dust, or a finished trim application being crushed or damaged. They can be recognized by the “shoo-ing” motions that occur spontaneously whenever anyone approaches within their 15-foot-diameter Personal Space.

Treatment Options
Many have found S’mores Schnapps and liberal use of copious amounts of good chocolate for temporary relief of anxiety symptoms. There is no long-term cure, though research continues. Research is hampered somewhat by the S’mores Schnapps and liberal use of copious amounts of good chocolate, but mostly, the Schnapps.

One unfortunate related disease is Dress Abandonment. A new, national organization, DAPS (Dress Abandonment Prevention Society), seeks to aid those afflicted. One member recalls:

I am a proud member of DAPS. My turning point in realizing I was a Dress Abandoner came when my husband fished a dress from the trash while calling my friend; together, they convinced me to give the dress another chance, and to realize it is not the dress’s fault.

Plandometriosis:
This syndrome is sometimes related to PTDD, but afflicts the sufferer in the pre-cutting stages. Dress after dress is dreamt of, sketched, researched, and planned to excruciating detail. In many cases, fabric is purchased to complete these projects. However, the planning stage becomes an insurmountable wall for the Plandometriosis sufferer, and rarely does a dress actually result.

Because the syndrome involves no cutting or construction, and thus, no fabric waste or actual errors committed, there are very few related anxiety or guilt symptoms, and chocolate in modest quantities is usually enough to stifle the sufferer’s intermittent musings about “maybe cutting out a project.”

In our next installment, we’ll discuss the twin syndromes, Kliptomania and Kliptophobia.

Contributors include forum members Noah Briggs, Joanna Jones, Denise Butler, Barbara Smith, Bevin McCrae, Rebekah W, Anna Worden Bauersmith, Eileen Hook, Annette Bethke, Amanda Rawls, Amanda Carol, Sarah Meister, Mary Gutzke, Jeni Hulet, K Krewer, Melissa Marie, Carolann Schmitt, Jean, Sarah King, Kimberly Jackson, Cassandra, Michael Mescher, Stormi Souter, Rebecca Roberts, Lissa Wilson, and of course, yours truly, since I just can’t control myself when terrible puns are in the offing.

PTDD: Part II

In our last discussion of unfortunate historic clothing maladies, we discussed Post-Traumatic Dress Disorder and its related syndromes. Today, let us turn our attention to the twin maladies of Kliptomania, and Kliptophobia.

Kliptomania has only one symptom: sufferers habitually buy fabric, pin down patterns, and cut the pieces, then fail to sewn a single section together. Unfinished projects can stack up over time, increasing the risks of Toppled Pile Crush Accidents and Gangrenous Rusty Pin Grazes. Most sufferers have, if not entire wardrobes, large portions of wardrobes in various body sizes and even eras, stacked on floors and flat surfaces. Some try to disguise the true extent of their affliction by boxing the evidence, lining the boxes against a wall, tossing a nicely pressed bedsheet over the top as a “table drape” and calling the whole assembly a decorative feature. However, the success is short-lived: the stacked and draped boxes create a new flat surface upon which to pile other kliptomania-derived stacks of cut, but perpetually un-sewn, projects.

Kliptophobics purchase fabric in dress-cuts or bolt quantities, but are unable to bring themselves to commit the fabric to a project or cut into it. Many kliptophobics spend some amount of time communing with their fabric stash, stroking or petting the fabrics, waiting for the fabric to “speak” to them and give them the courage to cut and sew a project.

Some researchers claim that the application of simple muslin can help treat the moderate kliptophobic, by providing the opportunity to work out dressmaking mistakes in cheap cotton first, thereby reducing any potential issues with cutting the stash goods.

In some cases, advanced kliptophobia is re-classified as Obsessive Compulsive Fabric Syndrome. OCFS sufferers experience the permanent urge to buy multiple bolts of fabric simply because it is “authentic” for their era. In severe cases of OCFS, the syndrome leads to encroaching on the closets, attics, basements, and under-bed space of family and friends. The disease can be fatal if allowed to progress to the point of justifying the purchase of a larger house simply to hold more fabric.

Contributors include forum members Noah Briggs, Joanna Jones, Denise Butler, Barbara Smith, Bevin McCrae, Rebekah W, Anna Worden Bauersmith, Eileen Hook, Annette Bethke, Amanda Rawls, Amanda Carol, Sarah Meister, Mary Gutzke, Jeni Hulet, K Krewer, Melissa Marie, Carolann Schmitt, Jean, Sarah King, Kimberly Jackson, Cassandra, Michael Mescher, Stormi Souter, Rebecca Roberts, Lissa Wilson, and of course, yours truly, since I just can’t control myself when terrible puns are in the offing.

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About The Sewing Academy

With a focus on the 1840-1865 era, The Sewing Academy is your home on the (internet) range for resources to help you meet your living history goals!

Elizabeth Stewart Clark has been absorbed by the mid-19th century for over 20 years. She makes her home in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, four children (from wee to not-so-wee), far too many musical instruments, and five amusing hens.

Email Elizabeth Or call 208-523-3673 (10am to 8pm Mountain time zone, Monday through Saturday)

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