Sharing the History of Everyday Fashion


Everyone is a witness to fashion.

     I am interested in the history of everyday fashion, the clothing people wore to work, to school, at play, and for special occasions.

     My background is theatre: costume design, costume history, and costume construction. 

     Fashion historians tend to document the clothing worn by a very small portion of the population, but most plays, films, and TV shows are not about people who wear couture. Costume designers need period research about farmers, plumbers, housewives, waitresses, teachers, teenagers, hobos, nurses -- and about people of all ages, in all social situations. The costumes that actors wear give the audience an enormous amount of information about the character’s personality, situation, habits, age, and socio-economic position. Costumes help tell the story, so we want them to be accurate.

     Old magazines, old advertisements, old movies, novels, histories, old photographs and paintings, old books of etiquette, old clothing catalogs, even magazine cartoons – I have used all of these for research.

     Now, the internet makes it possible to share information about vintage photographs, and see thousands of authentic vintage clothing patterns, which are a great guide to what ordinary people wanted – and could afford – to wear.

     However, many vintage patterns are undated, which makes them less useful for purposes of research. Recently, I discovered a time machine at my local library: a set of bound Delineator magazines. I realized that I could use the pattern numbers in them to date Butterick patterns from 1900 to 1937. I will also use other sources, such as pattern catalogs (early ones are rare), pattern flyers, and other vintage magazines to date more patterns and make the information available to costume historians and collectors.

     My blog will also allow us to comment on vintage patterns and photos, sharing our knowledge. Whenever someone can say, "I wore that suit to my first job interview in 1967!" or "My mother made me that outfit for my first day of high school in 1972," or "This is my grandfather, a carpenter, at work in 1937," we are sharing history.

     This site is a work in progress, and a labor of love – my love of the stories and fashions of the people who don’t wear couture.

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