I am about to embark on the greatest creative project I have ever started. It’s bigger than a bustle gown. It’s bigger than an Edwardian corset. And it should last, in total, about nine months.
In an effort to get my homefront ready for this endeavor, there needs to be some organization and furniture relocation. The areas of wasted space are the first battlefields. Today, a logical place to start was the “laundry room,” which is really more like a laundry, sewing, and out of season clothes room. When the house was built, it was the bedroom of the domestic help, situated near the back stairs and above the kitchen. The capped gas lines still have their Eastlake plates to this day, and heat comes from an ironwork vent that used to be above the Victorian stove in the kitchen below. Since the room wasn’t meant for a member of the family, it is the only room in the house to have one window only. And, it faces north, and is a dreary corner of the second floor. After moving in, I cheered it up by painting it soft yellow and hanging some lightweight Laura Ashley floral curtains so the neighbors can’t watch me hang my delicates.
This out-of-the-way room if filled with boxes of stuff, much of it forgotten. And it’s really great stuff: jewel-colored silks, upholstery fabric I bought just because I liked it, antique Edwardian-buckled silk-covered shoes, ermine muffs, ecclesiastical gold brocades, antique laces, old costume designs and so forth. I bought lots of fabric before Fabrics and Findings closed, most of it for cheap. To admit, this is a sad commentary on my disorganized and acquisitive nature, and this is also just the first layer. Beyond the laundry room, there is the giant closet. Then the other giant closet. Beyond that is the attic. And even beyond that is my mom’s attic, filled with costumes I made before the house when I was prolific though less skilled.
So, though I may not be able to make historical costumes for a while, I have lots of them I had forgotten about to brighten my days. Reuniting with them is like finding a $20 bill in a pair of pants you haven’t worn for a few seasons. It’s like it’s better than free, because it has memories attached to it. And, you are happier with old costumes than you were when you finished them. Though you hated the way the neckline turned out on that purple velvet houpplande years ago, you think it doesn’t look so awful now that your frustration is so distant. Or that thing that you put away in contempt after you whipped it up for some party now looks clever and creative. I realized there was a lot there I had previously cast off that wasn’t too bad.
Happily for my current circumstance, I recalled that I went through a 15th century period for a while, a period when if you weren’t pregnant the clothes would do their best to make you look so. So if I need a costume (just in case) I have plenty that will foot the bill. Most of them came from a time when for some bizarre reason, my overriding goal was to make costumes as indestructible as possible. So they weighed a ton, and were stitched over multiple times. I would sacrifice delicacy for durability. But they were still beautiful.
If I run out of things to do – which is both physically improbable but sadly likely at the same time – I will take on projects for the sake of them: make a corset or a gown just for the fun of it. After all, skiing is out this year.
And the possibilities for humorous discussion on Victorian female medicine and gynecology are endless…