Where It All Began….

While I always liked to dress up, I never thought that it was possible to make what I dressed up in. Until I met other people who did just that. And I met those lovely people in Oamaru while attending the annual Victorian Heritage Celebrations. There was Pauline, who was full of encouragement and gave me the advice to start with something simple – a skirt – and see how I go. And then there was Liane.

Before Liane, I had hired dresses to wear during the weekend from the Victorian Wardrobe (in which I always feel like a child in a candy store). Those dresses were beautiful and so amazingly made but I had never really thought about the fact that once upon a time they were just pieces of fabric and spools of thread. I think, at the time, the concept of creating a Victorian dress (or any other, for that matter), was beyond me. So just how these dresses were constructed and created was somewhat beyond my comprehension.


Liane (L), wearing a dress she made, and myself (R), wearing a hired dress in 2011.


I met Liane while I was wearing one of the hire dresses and she told me that she had made her dress. My jaw hit the floor. Really? There were people who came along to the celebrations wearing clothing they had made? Perhaps I had assumed that everyone hired their outfits. I was incredibly impressed and believed that anyone who could make their own Victorian clothes must be incredibly talented and only a few must be able to do it.

I couldn’t believe my luck when she offered to make me my very own Victorian dress. A very enticing offer – I got to pick the colour, it would fit me, and, of course, it would be my very own. Yes, I did have to pay her for her services (which makes complete and utter sense because it was her time and skills I was using) but, how could I say no?


I needed help picking out my fabrics because I didn’t know anything about what they were made of or how different fabrics behaved. My first trip to a fabric store with Liane was incredibly overwhelming and I must have asked her ‘would this work?’ at least fifty times as I unrolled the fabrics to get a better look. I still really didn’t know anything about the fabrics by the end of it but had chosen a colour that I really liked and we left with enough for a skirt, overskirt, and a bodice.

Over the course of the year, I got a glimpse into how my dress was coming together and how it evolved from some lengths of fabric into something wearable. I guess seeing that then helped me feel a tiny bit less overwhelmed by the prospect of one day tackling my own project.

I’m not sure if the whole experience opened the door for me, but it certainly twisted the door handle so that it could open later. And I certainly do hold Liane responsible for my (still quite new) addiction to this glorious, exciting, and challenging hobby of historical costuming. I don’t wear the Rose Wine dress very much anymore, but it still lives in my wardrobe, looking pretty, and keeping my creations company.

I am in no way a wizard and my sewing projects take forever to accomplish because I’m slow or I constantly need to unpick seams and redo them. But somehow I am bumbling along and if anyone reading this doesn’t know how to sew or thinks that they can’t then all I can say is this: if I can do it, then you can do it. Like Pauline once told me – start with something simple. I did. And now there is no looking back.


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I do have a Seamstress’s Cat after all… what more do I need to sew historical costumes?










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