Friday, February 20, 2015

Ethics: Using Antique Materials to Recreate Antique Fashions?

I've posted on this blog a discussion about the mistreat/misuse of antique textiles; today's blog will reflect similar ethical themes.

I tried my hand at beading with the 1920's pink polyester satin dress I made a few months ago. I feel like the beading really makes the dress: it provides a touch of quintessential 1920's glamour, but was fun to do and the design wasn't overwhelming.

Adding iridescent black seed beads to the design
I used silver bugle beads and iridescent black/brown seed beads on my dress. I got the bead hanks (a hank is a bundle of beads), along with a few other bead hanks, at a garage sale a few summers ago. The lady running the sale actually gave them to me for free! She had acquired them at an estate sale a long time ago and had been unable to sell them--by this point, she was eager to get them off her hands.

These beads are remarkably beautiful and unusual compared to beads available in big-name stores. In addition, the hank strings were discolored and beige-y rather than white. My hanks are really tangled.

The silver bugle beads have a hint of black on the edges of the inner tube.

The seed beads are a metallic, iridescent black/brown/gunmetal, catching the light and changing color. The seed beads are hexagonal, but the height and length varies wildly and several were imperfectly formed. This was a much larger hank of beads, about 4 times the size of the silver bugles.

Based on the unusual quality and inconsistent size of these beads, I believe they are antique or at least vintage. My hanks, especially the black seed bead hank, look very similar to these vintage hanks below:

Vintage Czech Hematite Seed Beads from A Grain of Sand
Vintage Blue Czech bead hank from French Steel Bead Shop
And the beads look similar to those on this Victorian (looks about 1880s to me but I could be wrong) bodice from Ancient Point :

I realized my beads were vintage (or possibly antique) halfway through beading. At once a cloud of guilt felt upon me... these beads are probably rare and I should save them. I almost ripped out all the beads with the intention of replacing them with new, store-bought ones.

But then I thought: why save these beads? No museum is going to want a tangled and dirty hank of beads. There seem to be many vintage bead hanks available online. In the end, the beads are being used for what they were probably created for--a 1920s dress. I would have felt worse about using the beads on a modern garment, but using them on a recreation of a historic garment, using a period pattern/diagram and sewing techniques, made me feel better. In a way, the life of these beads has finally come "full circle."

Still, it brings up the ethical question: should we use vintage/antique notions or materials in the recreation of historic garments? I think this is absolutely appropriate. Use an antique lace collar on your next Edwardian dress. Use cut-steel buttons for your Victorian mourning dress. What better way to honor the history and provenance of these pieces than to put them where they've been waiting their whole lives to belong?

But please, cutting up that collar or working the buttons into your DIY wind chime will be where I start to cry.

I want to know YOUR opinion! Do you think historical sewers should use vintage or antique notions, trims, etc. on their historical sewing projects?

Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Re-Sew-Lutions

I had meant to post my sewing resolutions for this year in January, but became swept up in a rush of essays and assignments from college. With this year's resolutions, I'm really trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and incorporate sewing into my busy life instead of waiting for my vacations.

My 2015 Re-Sew-Lutions

1. Complete at least 1 project every month
These can be as simple as a petticoat or embroidered pillowcase, or as extravagant as a gown! I have a huge list of projects I want to complete this year, including my 1920s lingerie, another 1920s dress, a Waterhouse "Ophelia" gown, a Medieval linen cote, and a Portuguese folkloric costume.

2. Write at least 3 blog posts every month
I think this is a pretty reasonable goal, especially if I consider that at least one of those posts will be about my monthly projects! So far, in January, I published 3 posts and I think this is a pretty good blogging rhythm for me.

3. Participate in at least 6 Historical Sew Monthly challenges 
Though I'm striving for 12 completed projects this year, not all of those projects fit into the Historical Sew Monthly challenges. Half-participation is still better than my sporadic participation in past years, though!

I really feel like I got this year off to a great start with my beaded 1920s gown. I'm really excited about all the other projects I want to complete this year, and have already started planning and gathering materials for them!

On my blog this week, look out for posts about the vintage beads I used in my 1920s dress (with an ethics discussion!) and my progress with my 1920s lingerie set.

Have you set any special sewing resolutions for yourself this year?