I'd like to tell you a little bit about a project that I first got involved in back in 2014 with the very talented Heather Audin. Heather is the curator for The Quilters' Guild Collection of British patchwork and quilting for The Quilters' Guild and also the maker extraordinaire of Peacock Costumiers. The combination of these two roles and her love of historical fashion (in particular, Victorian dress making) have brought to life this amazing book, Making Victorian Costumes for Women which has just been published by The Crowood Press.
I have had the honour of photographing most of the costumes featured in the book whilst marveling at their beauty, the skill Heather has to make them and occasionally wondering if I would have ever survived in the Victorian era as I swung between loving the idea of swishing around in lovely big dresses (every day might feel like my wedding day) and back to being very grateful I can sit here and type in my jeans and a cosy gillet whilst outside the wind blows and the sleet comes down.
There are some gorgeous dresses here, with styles dating from the 1840s (think Jane Ayre for the dresses on the left in the image below) to the 1890s showing the progression of styles through the Victorian era.
Heather's book gives a fantastic insight into the fashions of the time with fashion plates, photographs of women wearing the dresses (nothing has changed much - even then we idolised a body image for fashion seen on the plates which really has no bearing on what most of us look like) and a wealth of fascinating history. Each dress has a scalable pattern and full instructions with photography by Heather of all the processes each step of the way, so you can be sure to guided through safely through making each dress.
It's rather hard to chose a favourite dress, but I think the one that calls to me most is this beautiful 1880s brown wool, velvet and gold damask bustle dress. Theres' something about the richness of the colour and the tailored top that really appeals.
Funnily enough, one of Heather's favourites is the same dress but in a completely different fabric and with a few minor tweaks to the details. This results in such a different dress (can't you just see yourself promenading down the pier in this one accessorised with parasol and a good looking gentleman?).
If you'd like to own your own copy Making Victorian Costume for Women can be bought directly from the publisher, and at the time or writing they have a discount available when buying directly. RRP £25, ISBN 978-1-78500-051-5. Visit The Crowood Press page here (which will open a new page) They also have a more books in the series for Edwardian and Georgian costume.