CoBloWriMo ’17 Day 4 – Fave Friday: Favourite Era


Like many costumers, I dabble in many time periods. Some I have loved for a long time; having attended my first renaissance faire at the tender age of 4, I’ve always had a fondness for the Elizabethan era. Some I have come around to after a long period of skepticism: this actually applies to several periods that I’m now interested to in – Regency I never thought I could wear because I’m a big girl and only got into because of dance, late 18th century I never liked because I couldn’t see past the ridiculousness of the giant panniers on French court gowns and never knew any better, and and the 17th century just struck me as a low point between the extreme fashions of the 16th century and the extreme fashions of the 18th century, until I started working in a museum where I had to study it more closely. But the period that I consider to be my favorite is the period that got me into historical costuming in the first place, and that is the crinoline era, or approximately 1855-65.

This 1855 Winterhalter painting was my computer background throughout most of high school

Ironically, it’s the period that I know the least about in terms of detailed historical context; I’ve never really had any occasion to study it – I’ve never even been to a civil war reenactment! But I’ve always loved the bold shape and dramatic scale of the crinoline. It began with a resurgence of love for The King and I when I was in high school – it had been a childhood favorite movie, but at age 15 I decided I loved the character of Anna, and I loved her clothes. I became obsessed with the story – I watched every movie version I could find and read Anna Leonowens’ real memoirs, any biographical information that I could find on her, and the 1939 Margaret Landon novel all the movies are based on. I also took a ballroom dance class which cemented my love of the polka.


One of the happiest moments of my teen years was getting the 50th anniversary remastered DVD and discovering that this gown was not in fact pink, it was gold.

I bought my first hoop crinoline sophomore year, and made a gown to go over it for a friend’s masquerade-themed Sweet Sixteen (this, for better or worse, was my second ever machine-sewn garment) – it was made of polyester crepe-backed satin with crappy lace and metallic ribbon from Jo-Ann Fabrics, and the pattern frankensteined together from a Simplicity Civil War dress and a Butterick halloween costume. I was totally out of place at my friend’s party when everyone else was wearing cute party dresses with masquerade masks, but I felt majestic.


This is a friend wearing my first dress at a ball a few years later; you can see it’s a huge disaster in terms of accuracy, though Aubrey rocked it.

I’ve come a long way since then in terms of research and construction, and I still have a great love of this period.  My next gown after that was made from an original Harper’s pattern, and my most recent one based on a Tissot painting (long-time followers of this blog have seen my Young Woman In A Red Jacket ad nauseum).  I unfortunately don’t have much opportunity to wear this period anymore – I used to go to balls and dance workshops fairly regularly when I was in college, but in my current job I’m rarely free on weekends to go to events.  I do already have a couple of projects lined up, though, just out of love – I recently bought a white striped voile for a Tissot-inspired sheer that I’m very excited about!

I’m going to close this post with some of my favorite crinoline era images, and very self-indulgently include a few of me as well.  Other than that, until next time!

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