Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wise Advice: Proper Foundation Undergarments

            When the itch to start making historical costumes took hold I had no idea where to begin. I was down the rabbit hole in terms of following costume bloggers, lurking in Facebook groups for 18th century and reading every book I could order off of Amazon, but not quite sure how to make the final leap.
            Many established costumers seemed to have a strong understanding of patterning and sewing- usually learned from a mom or peers in the reenactment community. I, meanwhile, came from a family that excelled at shopping not sewing. Nor did I have a local group who shared my interests and from whom I could learn what it took to put a basic kit together.
Vintage counts as costume, right?
            So I did what any good millennial would do and turned to the Internet. I cannot recall with 100% certainty which group I posted to (probably ‘18th Century Sewing’ on Facebook) but I know I asked something along the lines of “what is the easiest 18th century dress to make?” In hindsight my wording alone makes me cringe, but at the time I didn’t even realize a Mantua, stomacher and petticoat weren’t one big dress. A group member kindly suggested perhaps I should start with Regency era as these gowns are considered a much simpler undertaking. However, and this she couldn’t emphasize strongly enough, no historically accurate costume would ever look correct without the right undergarments. I pooh-poohed this comment not realizing just how true it was.
Breathtaking! (CC attendee)
           A few months after I posted online I signed up for the super bowl of costuming: Costume College (or CC as it is affectionately referred too). I had a vast collection of vintage clothes, which I figured would give me an air of legitimacy even though I didn’t have any handmade costumes to show off.
CC is it’s own blog post; hell it’s probably a good half a dozen blog posts, so I won’t get into a full description right now. But essentially the workmanship and beauty of the pieces people craft are astonishing.
I'd wear this fabulous renaissance bee everyday
 (CC attendee)
There was an ice cream social the first night and that was where I saw it: an impeccably crafted Victorian gown (not shown here). No expense had been spared with fabric and detail. But for all the time and love that the creator had put into it, the gown fit her body like a sack.
I narrowed my eyes and thought hard about what was so off-putting. And then I realized it- this woman wasn’t wearing the proper undergarments for the outfit. No bustle, not corset, probably not even a shift- and the end result was a horribly fitting garment. 
At that moment I fully understood the importance of foundation garments. I realized my dream kit wasn’t just one simple dress but a full arsenal of garments. How to begin then? There was no getting around it, from the bottom up.
             Next time on AAA- making a shift. 

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