Goal Setting For You

If you follow almost any historical costuming blogs/Facebook pages/Instagram accounts, chances are that you’ll see an overview of the previous year and a set of goals or projects planned for this one. I’m guilty of doing that as well. I personally found it quite interesting to look back and see what I did since I started the year with no goals, planned projects or events (apart from an 1890s outfit). And I’ve decided to try and figure out some of what I want to do or achieve this year – as a way to try and not get carried away with impromptu, spur-of-the-moment ‘I want to make that’ moments which lead me straight to the fabric store.

Of course, it can seem a bit daunting when you see how much other historical costumers have achieved in the space of a year. I mean, I’m in awe of just how much time and energy some of the bloggers I follow have poured into their projects. Then again, I have stretches of time where I know that I should sit down at the sewing machine for half an hour but just don’t feel like it. Perhaps if I stayed focus I too could create more garments or accessories. Or if I had more fabric. Or a new pattern or book…

See how easy it is to start playing the ‘what if?’ or ‘if only’ game?

If you choose to set yourself goals for the year ahead then you shouldn’t be trying to match what others are doing or aiming to do. Your goals should be a personal reflection of you, your skills, and what you really want to achieve.

A couple of years ago I had one simple goal – to teach myself how to sew so that I could try my hand at historical costuming. I kind of blew that goal out of the water as I grew quite ambitious and adventurous and ended up with chemises, a corset, three dresses, and a hat. Looking back on that year I could hardly believe what I had achieved and I could safely say that I had met my goal.


I think, however, if I had decided on all of those projects as goals for the year I would have felt terribly overwhelmed and disheartened. It’s all well and good to write a nice long list of projects that you want to make but if you put too much on your plate at the start then it can be extremely overwhelming and if you only tick one or two projects off that list you might end up feeling like you’ve failed.

If you’re nervous about overwhelming yourself with goals or projects then you can always start with a simple goal or project and just work on that. See how you go and remember to focus on how you are doing and not how you are doing compared to others.

Your goals might be huge, like to hand sew an entire 18th Century court gown from underpinnings out all by hand. Or your goals may be quite modest, such as to master French seams. Whatever goal or goals you choose, no matter how grand or ‘bland’ you think they might be, that’s okay. As long as your goals are tailored with yourself in mind that’s all that matters. The whole point of goal setting should be to aim towards improving your own skills no matter what level you are at and towards building your own confidence.

Recalling the Past Carlton Alfred Smith 1888
Don’t despair if your goal list isn’t like everyone else’s or if you didn’t have a productive year. It’s absolutely okay. Recalling the Past, Carlton Alfred Smith 1888

Your goals don’t have to be strictly sewing related either. Maybe the goal you’ve set for yourself is to accept a compliment when it is given instead of refuting it. I know far too many historical costumers who can’t see or won’t accept how wonderful they are and how great their outfits look. Or maybe your goal is to talk to more people at events because you’re shy.

My goals are not your goals and my goals are different to those of every single historical costuming blogger out there on the interwebs. Why? Because we are all different people. We are all unique. We all have different dreams, creative ideas, and skillsets. Not to mention that we all have different budgets, whether that be money or time, and access to different resources and stores, which also affects what, how, and when we can sew.

Personally, I like to have some goals – or at least ideas of what I would like to try or accomplish. It keeps me on track and generally stops me from getting distracted by whims and fancies and ending up with unfinished projects. But they only work out if I have set them for myself. If I tailor my goals to align with someone else’s because I want to keep up with them then I’d just end up wasting my time, energy, effort, fabric, and money. You want to make an 1850s crinoline dress? That’s fantastic, and one day I wouldn’t mind trying the same, but right now I’m not in a very hoopy place in my historical costuming journey. I’m going to stick to my bustles right now.

Les Mode Parisienne 1855
Okay, I won’t deny that I love the mass of bows, but I’m not looking to sew in this fashion era yet so a dress like this isn’t on my goal list. Les Mode Parisienne 1855

Almost seven years ago my life was turned upside down because of the 22 February Earthquake. Goals, dreams, plans I had made prior to that date fell apart and it took me a long time before I felt like I could set goals or make plans again. It was a struggle because I couldn’t see the point since any outside force could come along and shatter them. Because I had no goals I felt less than productive. I would get up late, do whatever, go to work, come home, watch tv and go to bed (I was working later afternoons/early evenings).

When I started to set new goals, to make new plans, and to start dreaming again I felt like I had more control of my life, and I felt like it was possible to work towards with them, the fear of someone or something taking them away from me lessening. Setting goals – such as entering a half marathon, or breaking my personal best time – and achieving them taught me that goal setting is a good thing for me. I thrive when I can accomplish the goal that I set and this may be the same for you, or you may find them stifling to your creativity. Everyone is different.

I guess the best advice I can give you is figure out whether goal setting is something that works for you. If it does then look to yourself and what you want to achieve. Your goals can be huge or they can be quite small. You can have one or many. As long as they are going to serve a purpose to your own historical costuming journey. Everyone is on a different journey and out to achieve different purposes so don’t go hopping off at their stops or destination if it isn’t where you want to go.

Le Moniteur de la Mode 1874 railway station
We’re all on our own journeys, with different destinations and travel times. Le Moniteur de la Mode 1874

And, try not to be discouraged by what those around you are achieving or setting as their goals. If you know what others’ goals are, then go ahead and support them if you can. Tell people what your goals are and ask them to support you too. They might be your goals but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them to yourself or work on them on your own. Keep records of your achievements too, so that at the end of the year you too can look back and say ‘wow, did I really do all that?’ because sometimes it’s easy to forget some of our smaller victories.

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