Gathering Ideas

Weaving and fashion are two of my favorite topics. I was always the child who wanted to know how something was done, ultimately to see if I could recreate it myself. When I learned to sew clothes at the age of twelve new possibilities opened before me, but I quickly realized I didn't have the necessary skills to create what I wanted, To a point, I still don't, but as problems arise, I learn how to navigate them and try something new.

When I'm working on fashion, one era I return to is the Ancient Times, partly because the clothing is suited to handwoven fabrics. Granted, all fabric up to the Industrial Revolution was handwoven therefore even the brocade and velvet of the Renaissance was handwoven, but the current topic is the Ancient World.

Handwoven top
Regency Era
I tend to gather the ideas from two general fields: historically accurate and historically inspired. Normally, I begin with a vague idea of a style I want to emulate. Sometimes I can find a pattern for that item. Case in point, the photo to the left. This is one of the shirts I made using handwoven fabric and a store bought pattern.

Handwoven dress
On the other hand, I might have an idea of what I want, but I don't have a pattern handy. In those cases, I wing it and see what happens. The photo to the right is an example of this. I knew roughly I wanted a halter top, and that I wanted a dress, so I cut the material to length and went with it.

In either case, when I need to generate ideas beyond my own abilities, I go to several sources:

Historically Accurate

My initial search usually takes the form of books or the Internet. Books on costumes, historical time periods or art history all normally have depictions if not actual textiles photographed. The best ones are those primary resources such as vases, mosaics or paintings depicting everyday life in the time period. All of these give us accurate ideas of what the silhouette would have appeared.

When I want to see the original, I go to museums, though an everyday trip isn't practical for me. At the museum, especially if they have a variety of items, I can see the size, shape, structure and material used. Most of this is available online through photographs as well, but I find being in front of the object helps me understand it better.

Historically Inspired

There are times when I want to know what others think about a time period. Styles tend to circle around, and certain eras come back into fashion. The early Twentieth Century had an obsession with all things Egyptian, and the styles reflected it at least in design. The Regency Era loved Ancient Greek and Roman styles, and once again, the women's gowns especially reflect it.

Another historically inspired category are films and television. Some of these can be put up into the historically accurate as they recreate items used in the past. I also like watching fantasy and science fiction for inspiration as well. Fantasy often works best for Medieval or Renaissance Europe, but every now and again, you can find something.

The last category is a flip-flop because it can go both in historically accurate or historically inspired as it almost depends on the location. In the East, traditional clothes are most often historical clothing from ancient times such as kimonos and saris. In the West, traditional outfits are normally from the Renaissance time period, maybe Medieval, but are rarely ancient.

Regardless of where I gather the initial idea, I take that inspiration and twist it around until it suits whatever I need it for. In some cases, I want to know how something was worn historically, in other words, I'm working on a novel set in the Ancient world, and want to know how a character would have worn the garments. On the other hand, sometimes I just want the look because I'm creating something to sell or I'm trying to decide what a fantasy character might wear. Inspiration leads to application, and next week, I'll describe how I take the inspiration to a finished item.


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