Midnight Blues.

As I wade through the mountain of thoughts that keep me awake at night, I wonder about the vagary of the brain’s pathways and what fires it to this state of activity when it should be resting. Isn’t night time meant to rest the body, the mind and the soul, where dreams should take over and run one through the experiences of the day? Or of other moments which have made an impression on one?

I wake up, feeling its time to get up and start my day only to discover that I have only been in bed about an hour and a half! I have dreamt and now I awake fully prepared to tackle my new projects or continue the started ones and I despair that I have to lie here for another 7 or 8 hours, enslaved by all the ideas rushing at me wanting to be heard, chosen and developed. They ENvelop me and wrap themselves tightly, the most urgent ones returning constantly, hammering at me, until I get up and put them to rest by writing them down. And I imagine them cheering as I get up out of my warm bed to find somewhere to dispose of them in an effort to quieten these voices that suggest the thousand threads of ideas insisting on finding their way in here. Most will be discarded. Many will be thought about until tried out… some will become obsessions that I will work on and further change until I feel all has been done for and said about them.

I started thinking about writing a new chapter about some of the people who booked a berth on the Titanic. It was suggested I write a chapter about facts about the Titanic. It is a well-known story and I can’t add anything to what has already been discovered and written about it. My son went through a period in his ‘teens of intense interest about the Titanic. I bought many books, models for him to build, videos to watch. We followed with keen interest the adventures of Dr Robert Ballard who finally discovered its final resting place and read with mounting excitement the articles in The National Geographic magazine documenting this momentous event! http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/photos/discovering-titanic/

I also thought of documenting my current sewing project. It’s keeping me occupied during the wait for my vintage pattern package. It’s a Steampunk Outfit. Steampunk is a pseudo-Victorian movement involving Victorian derived clothing and Victorians’ fascination with the emerging machinery of the period. This jacket and skirt I am putting together have elements gleaned from several different fashion trends within 19th Century European mainstream costuming, plus some of my own ideas based on what I have at hand in my immense stash of fabrics, notions and trims. A certain fabric jumped to mind one day last week: it had originally been destined to be a Georgian outfit… I only had 2 m when i really required 4.5m to make the jacket i was thinking of… so i redesigned it and made it to complement the skirt. Or is it the skirt that will complement the jacket?  Let’s just say: They were made for each other! 🙂 Here are a few pictures.

  The fabrics I’m using:  
Next is a sleeve with black lace:  
The bodice is almost a stomacher:
There are loops at the back for the ties:

  Mostly pinned together outfit so far. There will be a bustle of sorts but it hasn’t been cut yet.

Another subject insisting on its time in the sun (under the moon would be more precise since I am writing in the middle of the night) is the finishing of my Siren Costume, there may be pictures in a future post. Then comes the realization that I will never be able to collect all the existing pictures of Victorian or any historical time fashions and clothing. I have spent hours in the past week surfing the Net, picking pictures and identifying them in chronological order to file them correctly in my Period Costume folder. Am I going crazy? I am not alone though! This past week and especially in the last two days, since the formation of this project’s Facebook Group, I have watched as the various participants of this Titanic Sewing Project join and share their own passion and excitement at being part of it! I see that there are a lot of women who spend at least as many hours as I do, searching for, exulting at and collecting dozens (even hundreds! Thousands?!) of photographs of fashion plates, paintings and old photographs of clothing of bygone eras. And I marvel at the enthusiasm of all these ladies, from beginner to hobbyist to professional sewer for the Titanic era clothing! I read that there are 345 of us who wish to challenge our brains and try our hands at assembling new garments from vintage patterns published a hundred years ago! So far 102 have signed up on the Facebook page. It hadn’t really occurred to me that there would be as many fanatics for this time-period as there were for Medieval or Classic era garb and way of life! And why shouldn’t there be? About 10-15 years ago I was seriously involved with the craze for medieval weddings and fundraising balls and other events. I am now mildly participating in this Steampunk movement as I was made aware of it about three years ago and I want to produce my version of it after absorbing the pictures for 2 years now! As a designer and creator of costumes and general clothing I feel privileged to be able to supply them to other people who want to share the feeling of what it was like to dress and live in those days, whatever the period. Or whatever the current version, vision and understanding of any period. I simply enjoy fabric and making things from it! I also make quilts, duvet covers, cushions, dolls, tablecloths, flags and banners and tote and handbags in many sizes and shapes. Soon I will be sculpting with it… if I could get this new clothing sewing obsession out of my mind!!! Everything in its time I guess!

I remember reading and hearing in a long ago past, that no music we compose, hear and listen to today is *new*. It has all been written already. We are just giving the same few basic notes new tempo, new rhythm, new context but the riffs are repeats of older compositions. It dawned upon me that the same can be said of clothing and making it. As I exclaim and melt at, admire, adore or despise the clothing I see in all in these pictures I have gathered, I realize that today’s designers are not inventing anything new, really. We are only folding, draping and assembling and embellishing fabric in combinations and modeling the same ideas over and over again. There is only so much which can be done to protect and adorn the same body shape after all!

And that brings me to another question that has taunted and pursued me for years and years. According to most anthropologists, we have all evolved from the same root, the same core in Africa. And some of us went east, others north and eventually some went west (once we had the technology) to meet peoples that had gone east millennia before. Of course the human animal encountered different living conditions everywhere it travelled, emigrated and settled… Yet I still wonder why or how the human brain contrived the easily recognized Asian styles of dress at the same time (more or less) as it developed the European styles. And why is it that the basic shape born and made in India, China, Japan,  Korea etc stayed virtually the same over the thousands of years that have been documented yet, European clothing changed so radically? The changes were slow at first but then sped up and went in so many different directions!! The basic tunics eventually became waisted gowns: high waisted, straight or cinched. Skirts went from tubular to bell and A-shaped to artificially widened sideways (with pads then panniers and then crinolines), then exaggerated all around then only at the back. Then suddenly the under frames evaporated away!! Hairdos (and hats or head coverings) did the same: short, then long and braided, long and rolled up, long and stacked on the head to two and three feet high, then back to rolled and tucked away. Sleeves were initially narrow and practical, then lengthened and then widened and even dragged on the ground then shortened and narrowed again. Nowadays trends last a month? But we certainly have more options available at once yet conformity is still a driving force.

I love to turn pieces of clothing into other things. For example I have often turned pants and leggings into tops or jackets. Short jackets into long coats. Skirts into pants and bags. Bags into belts and even dance bras!! All sorts of clothing goes into quilts, duvet covers and even floor coverings and carpets!! None of this is new: many of our ancestors did this! I firmly believe in recycling and re-using and will take apart various unused things to reconstruct them into new (hopefully) useful items. It’s mostly my love of colour and texture that drives me to these experiments.

What really impresses, or even completely blows me away, is the enormity of the work that went into decorating the cloth for clothing and furnishing the well-to-do over the ages. Today some is done by hand still but most of it is done with an artificially power-driven machine (as opposed to plain human powered), which dramatically speeds up the process. When you look at a hand-embroidered gown from the Middle ages, the Renaissance or China, do you realize this took months to accomplish? Do you remember that it was done in unimproved daylight or by candlelight? Some of those stitches are so small and so close together!! Think of the huge tapestries and bed coverings before jacquard and brocade weaving was invented and widely used!! Even after it was developed it was still a huge process until it became steam (and eventually electricity)assisted… It occasionally boggles my mind and that’s when I realize I have to stop looking at the pictures for a while…. I fry my brain with these thoughts!!

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