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Ancient Inspiration

I freely admit to loving ancient fashions. To me, I like the look of the flowing garments or the elaborate outfits because, for the most part, they look comfortable. When I discovered handweaving, especially the fashion aspect, I had new respect for ancient fashions, and wanted to include the patterning into my own repertoire.

It's been a work in progress.

When I found Women's Work: the First 20,000 Years,* I was more than pleased over the discovery. Barber's book focuses primarily on weaving, the history and social aspects. A few items touch on the fashion, but it isn't her primary focus.

For me, however, finding out how items were made helps explain the reason behind the structure of the clothing. Sometimes, people's views of the process seem to be off slightly - for example, I read an article where the author described the reason for the loose fashion of ancient times being the result of people not wanting to cut their beautiful handwoven fabric. Believe me - if I need to cut it, I will, but most importantly, I will only cut it where it needs to be cut. It comes down to the amount of work which goes into the finished garment and if I have the time to do so.

Therefore, one important thing to remember about ancient fashion is who makes the garments - for most of human history it was the women in the house. If there was a large production of fabric, it was usually only in the wealthier households who could afford a myriad of slaves. Having more pieces to cut meant more seams to sew and more time wasted in creating a garment. On the other end of the situation, more cut pieces and more seams also diminished how much of the cloth could be reused later. Ancient women were masters of recycling.

Another thing to remember is  location - most of what we consider ancient fashion comes from the Mediterranean region. In this part of the world, loose garments work better for the weather - until you take a look at the form-fitting style of the Egyptians, accomplished most likely by pleats. In the Far East, the styles also incorporate large amounts of fabric (think of saris and kimonos) for much the same reason - more cutting equals more work.

When taking ancient fashions for the modern age, keep in mind the fact that the garments needed to be easily washed, take as little time as possible to make, and be reused later. Of course, we don't have many of those problems, but to be good custodians of our world, maybe we should reconsider.

Next week, I'll focus on some of the locations where I develop ideas.

*The link and book cover are both affiliate links. You are not charged, but it's a way for me to earn a little bit extra.


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