Tuesday, 17 February 2015

My Edwardian Dressmaking book

There are 4 weeks to go until the publisher's deadline (march 17th, 2015) and it's that time of the day when I run out of steam so I thought I would post something about my experience of writing my first book.

The book involves the recreation of museum garments and accessories from the Edwardian period and I began by writing a synopsis which outlined the content for each chapter, over time some content has changed. I then searched for pieces that would make good projects to copy. the Edwardians loved frills, flounces and embellishments of all kinds which is what I love about the era but it also makes it difficult to match contemporary fabrics and trimmings. Each project has to be something that can be recreated and so many lovely things were rejected because it was not possible to find a close enough match.

beads and sequins for the evening gown project

All projects are based on the fabulous dress collections at Brighton and Worthing Museums and are garments and accessories that could have been made by an Edwardian dressmaker, either someone sewing in the home or from a small workshop. This means that I have not included couture, tailored outerwear or corsets. Worthing Museum has a great selection of home dressmaking journals and manuals which further helped in identifying projects.

Once I had amassed a collection of possible projects I began to take measurements for making patterns. I used one (now rather scruffy) notebook for recording all notes and details, I also took lots of photographs. Once the patterns were made, I made a toile to test the fit before cutting out in fabric. Each museum piece is a different size so while the exterior of each garment is as true to the original as possible the sizing has been standardised.

Each project involves sewing a section, photographing each stage and then moving to the computer to write step-by-step instructions, uploading the photos and editing. I have also been writing an object focused history chapter, and further chapters on equipment, fabrics and techniques. The patterns now have to be reduced in scale and this is a job I will be passing to an expert. The whole book has been a collaborative project and I will have many amazing people to thank in the acknowledgements page. There is still so much to do and I currently spend a lot of time wearing jogging pants and old jumper, when the book is finished I might bury them in the garden!

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