The urge to procrastinate

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I’m back studying 3 days a week at the moment, which means that I am feeling the urge to procrastinate. I’m not sure why the two go together – I’m enjoying the study so far – but whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing, you can guarantee that I’m doing something else. And the something else very rarely involves work, either. You’d think by now I would have managed to play off my two main causes of procrastinating against each other. But no. So, instead of reading about cultural material conservation, like a good little masters candidate, I’m wondering how to start a museum of fashion in Australia. As far as I know, there is nothing of the kind already.

It might be that I was inspired from my travels through the UK last year during the lost months of blogging, and just how many places there are for a costume nerd to visit. Everywhere from Killerton House, in the wilds of Devon, to the V & A in London, or the civilised Museum of Costume in Bath. And that’s without moving off a single train line. After I dragged an uncomplaining friend through 2 weeks of clothing historicism – complete with dress ups, which were photographed but will never, ever be shared with anyone who wasn’t there – I was very upset at the lack of similar enjoyment opportunities at this end of my flight. That was after I got over, or at least accepted, the terrible quality of almost every photo I took on the trip. Camera shaking in excited hands, where you can’t use a flash? Leads to blur, reflection, and frustration. Guess which picture from this post was taken by me. A quick google search both before and after my trip led to disappointment on all sides. There are a couple of private collections which are occasionally open for viewing; there are touring exhibitions, like the Edward Steichen exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria – worth a trip for anyone in Melbourne, just to marvel at the beading on the exquisite 1920s evening wear if nothing else – but there is nothing more permanent. And this made me sad. Australian fashion history is neither long nor, according to some, terribly illustrious. But it is being lost. The online Australian Dress Register is probably the closest we have to a permanent display. It suggests that there are collectors out there, and that there is enough interest for people to have begun a digital record of what is held in private hands. It is a missed opportunity to let it slide.

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So, while I put off finishing a reading about the need for uncertainty in conservation, I’ve been daydreaming and finding ways to spend millions of dollars. And that was before it occurred to me to check fashion and costume auction listings… As a semi-employed student, there’s no hope of me ever realising this particular day dream. But a girl can dream. And in the mean time, she can procrastinate some more looking into funding and finding the perfect building to house it…and making lists of potential acquisitions…and drooling over photos… and, in short, anything that isn’t what she is supposed to be doing.

Because even I can’t write about clothes all the time…

I’m in a bit of a non-sewing-related funk at the moment. Things have been…let’s just go with unsettled in various areas of mlife lately, and no amount of organisation of my sewing things has settled me (although my lovely new books on textiles did get me settled on the couch across the weekend far more than was good for me…). So I’ve been daydreaming about alternative plans and, as always, they revolve around an area of interest – in this case history of clothing.

I’ve daydreamed in the past about study in New York, in London, then I down graded to Glasgow and finally Athens, Georgia. But the reality is that there is no way for me to study full time overseas. The cost of tuition alone is prohibitive, without the restrictions on work when you’re on a study visa, and the lack of a support network when I ran into the inevitable financial struggles.

So instead, I’m trying to find a way to formally study clothing history at an Australian university – possibly with a stint overseas – knowing full well that there are none who offer more than a single unit of study on the subject, especially at post-grad level (4 undergrad degrees is more than enough for anyone, no? Yeah, I get bored, and I study. That’s how it works). I think I might have it though – masters by research. I frame my own topic, I set my research, and I have a perfect excuse to spend time overseas ogling various serious collections of clothing. Not to mention going to seminars, conferences, and talking to people who know far, far more about this than I do. Of course, I haven’t spoken to a university about this plan yet. And given my academic history of sitting just slightly above mediocre with my grades (as long as you take out the architectural design subjects, which manage to drag my average down at least 10 per cent, or rather somewhere just slightly above a pass mark), there’s no guarantees that I’ll even get in.

So, to further my goal, and my tradition of last minute university decisions, I’m attempting to pull together a research topic that would convince the history – or heaven forbid, an art history – department of a university that I knew what I was doing, that it would relate to their field. That there is enough there to write 40-50,000 words. That there is some benefit to academia, if not society, in the work. That I’m not just someone procrastinating as a professional choice. Yeah, might be up against it on that one. Especially since I have my sights set on the closest thing Melbourne has to ivy league – University of Melbourne. So far, I’ve narrowed things to the industrial revolution and the impact this had on clothing production and styles. It’s a fairly wide-ranging topic, and one I’m sure has been done to death by others before me. I’d we willing to adjust it and look at the impact of war on women’s fashions in the same period…or later periods, given that there were some interesting things happening during the twentieth century wars as well. But what the hell. I’d welcome any suggestions or comments on how to do this. Or just to recommend a good therapist to get this whole study thing out of me, because I bitch and moan when I’m doing it, and can’t get enough of it when I’m not. I know. Nuts. But just to get through the insanity, this is where I would be studying.

University of Melbourne 1888 Building - home to graduate students

University of Melbourne 1888 Building – home to graduate students

Law Quad Cloisters

The old Law Quad, the oldest buildings remaining at the university

Old Arts

And suddenly, it makes a whole lot more sense.

Living the dream

I’ve had some excellent news this morning. I will soon be the proud owner of my own private space for sewing. So I’ve started looking at how I can get it set up to best suit my needs. The stash itself should be pretty easy to arrange. Afterall, I have my shelving unit, and it mostly fits now. But there’s the crucial machine placement (and whether I can find a way to upgrade to industrial machines, but that’s a question for another day).

I have to factor in lighting. Afterall, the best sewing is done with plenty of light, right? And I need cutting space – not to mention a proper cutting table. I’m thinking that the folding picnic table I’ve been using up until now is probably not going to cut it. So I’ve been searching the internet for inspiration. And boy, is there plenty of it.

I’m liking the look of space some of these have, the elegant simplicity.

I could happily work here – although I doubt it would look like that for too long. So perhaps something a bit less minimalist would work better. The one below has a lot to recommend it in terms of practicality. It is an actual work space, rather than a designers dream of how a work space would be.

Still, it’s a little too cramped for my taste. Practical, but not spacious enough (although I am jealous of that pattern drawer unit). I’d take either of these instead:

Nice, bright, and seemingly well laid out. They look like spaces that I could easily spend hours in – provided I had the right tunes going in the background, of course.

Before I get too carried away, though, a reality ceck might be in order. Because my sewing space is not going to be a whole room, or anything close to any of the images above. It’s a storage room under the house. It has a low ceiling, no natural light, and lovely brown tiles to match the creamy bricks exposed on all four walls. Oh, and in the most interesting feature, it has a 10cm gap at the top of the door, so I’m not even certain it’s weather tight because I know it’s no dust or spider tight. It is also home to a large Ikea expedit shelving unit that I couldn’t fit upstairs when I moved in. Or rather, which I couldn’t convince the movers that they would be able to get up the turn in the stairs (so could have done it, they were just lazy). So really, my sewing room? Yeah, it’s a glorified cupboard with a couple of power points. But I still have hope. I could always do something like these:

I think I’ll start my letter to the landlord now:

Dear Landlord,

Please let me paint/wall paper/otherwise decorate the store room under the house. I want to work under there. Oh, and can I please have a glass hinged door that goes full height, to let natural light in? And while we’re at it, can I pull up the hideous floor tiles and replace them with something more…well, pretty?

Yeah. I think I’ll just start planning my trip to the hardware store for some MDF sheets that can leave with me when I eventually move out, that I can pin stuff all over, and then to Ikea to pick up a few of the gorgeous work laps I’ve seen in their catalogues. And I’ll give Dad the good news that his wood porking skills will be required for a small collapsible cutting table. See? I have a realistic plan of sorts. And, it means my machines are out of my bedroom. It’s progress.