Incomplete, insomnia, insane.

I have been suddenly and – stupidly – unexpectedly busy of late. Who would have thought that going back to university for a post graduate degree, attempting to scrape a living, sewing, and generally surviving, would leave me with bout 4 hours a day for the combination of sleep and blogging, and that none of the tasks would get done properly? Apparently not me, or I would never have signed up for the insanity… All of this, of course, means, that my plans for Historical Sew Fortnightly-ing, for doing side projects, of completing any projects to my own satisfaction, seeing my friends and family, and generally having any sort of breathing space have fallen by the wayside. So I’ve made a point of carving out a few minutes to post a much delayed and incomplete entry for the Bodice Challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, and added it to the list of things to be finished at a later date. Along with the planned rest of outfit to go with it…


The front cut-aways are still to be determined. It’s missing sleeves, trims, seams… but you get the picture, right? You do? Please say you do… Because I have big plans for this outfit. If I ever get the time, I have enough of the striped cotton to make a bustle/overskirt, and what I hope is enough of the blue linen left to manage some sort of underskirt, cobbled together in truly period fashion with cheaper fabric for the invisible bits. There is some weirdness happening in various parts of this which need to be addressed before that, though. And the whole hemline needs to be adjusted (it’s going to be higher in front and dip down at the back over the bustle). And there needs to be – well, there needs to be lots of things. I figure this bodice is maybe a third of the way done, if I’m generous. And that’s having cheated and machined it. What you can’t see from these photos, though, is that it’s also flatlined. I didn’t want to cheat on everything! I figured I could justify machining since they did, technically, exist then.












There are many things I would change about this in hindsight, already. Not least of them is the way I’ve done the back seams. It is in no way historically accurate. Nor it is something that I like, so I’m tempted to pull them out and re-do now that I’m not in a mad challenge deadline mode. Although I’m in mad Conservation Professional Practices easy mode, which will be followed by more essays and… If you look closely, you might just see that steam coming out of my computer, my ears, my head, as I implode from all the pressures at the moment. No wonder my sewing was not going well, with all this going on. But I have to put it aside. A certain niece has a birthday coming up, which means that all other sewing not directly relating to income must be put aside to make a Queen Elsa costume, in full Frozen/Snow Queen glory. Good thing I discovered how to get through months with next to no sleep during my first stint at uni. Shame that was more than ten years ago and my body refuses to submit to demands for alertness on a week of four hours a night. Which might go some way to explaining any incoherence in this post.




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.

The Dreamstress

One of the reasons that I started this blog – besides and insatiable urge to write stuff that has seen me start at least 2 other blogs, one of which lasted for about 6 years before I tired of it – is the inspiration of other bloggers. One of my main sewing muses is The Dreamstress. Her blog has the added bonus of being entertaining and educational. I can pretend that I’m learning stuff when I check in for my daily fix. It’s quite often information that I will never find any earthly use for – my favourite kind of learning – but there are some tid bits that I have picked up from her that I have put to good use in my own sewing.

The Dreamstress is also responsible for my discovery that it is possible to make a career other than costume designing out of an interest in historical clothing. Until that point, I never knew. If only I’d had this information years ago, things might have turned out very differently. As it is, I’ve been investigating my options study-wise to get into this field, but I’ve been disappointed to find that there doesn’t seem to be anything appropriate available for study in Australia, unless I want to go to Canberra and be an undergrad again. Call me nuts, but 4 undergrad degrees are more than enough for this little black duck. If anyone knows where I could find some sort of study, please, point me in that direction. In the mean time, I’ll keep making lists of books on Amazon, to be purchased when I have spare cash, for my own research purposes. And day-dreaming about studying at NYU, Georgia, Glasgow and, most exciting, the V&A in London (even though it’s not technically on the history of dress).

This isn’t just a random ode to a fellow blogger, though. She’s running a competition at the moment which requires a link back, as well as a comment on her blog. So here is my way of responding – because I love reading her blog, and I think it’s fair enough that she should get some kudos for all her efforts. With that in mind, I’ll occassionally blog about other bloggers – spread the love, as it were. You’ll hear about the American Duchess, various mantua makers, and someone who once discussed a dress a day – or near enough. If I love it, I’ll share it. Enjoy.