Minimalism in Costuming

Soooo I’m sick, and I got about two hours of sleep last night, and I still most likely will have to go to work today.  As a result I’m reading costuming blogs to cheer myself up, and I’m 4 or 5 pages in to Terry Dresbach’s blog of the Outlander costumes.

Now I haven’t seen Outlander, because I do not have cable nor do I like romance-focused tv shows (I gave up on Game of Thrones back in S2 when they started putting sex scenes in that were not in the books), but you can’t be interested in costuming and planning your first 18th century costume project without coming across pictures from it.

And let me tell you– I love, love, love what she’s done.  I love how she’s captured the essence of the French court without the elements that seem weird or out of place to modern eyes.  Is it historically accurate all the time?  No.  Does it still evoke the feel of a time and place?  Hell yes.

That is my goal a lot of time with costuming.  I look for fabrics that “feel” a time period instead of duplicating exactly what is in a fashion plate.  Life is too short to stress about whether a fabric would have been made at the time– if I look at it and think “yes, that is 18th century” or “I see a bustle dress” that is good enough for me.

And even though my costuming “comfort zone” (as much as I can have one having only done this for 2 months) is the 19th century, I struggle with the Victorian notions of decoration and trim.

The Victorians didn’t know where to stop.  The Painted Ladies in SF are riots of color and texture and detail.  Especially after ~1865 dresses exploded with ruffles and trims and pleats and textures and I…. I am not good at that.

In my Real Life™ I wear black, navy, and grey t-shirts with leggings or black skinny jeans.  I rotate between three pairs of shoes.  My wardrobe has only recently begun to include color again post a terrible relationship my Junior year of college.

I’m also 24, which puts me smack dab in the middle of the Millennial generation, and I don’t like Stuff.  My parents were born in the 1950s and they like Stuff– my mom collects folk art and knick knacks, my dad antiques.  I don’t spend money on anything other than craft supplies.  I have difficulty getting into a mindset of abundance and exaggeration.

And as a result Claire’s clothes speak to me on a deep and visceral level.  Beautiful fabric cut perfectly.  The shape and the drape and the pattern shine– the silhouette and the fabric do the work.

Is it historically accurate?  Not really, not truly.  Is it something I can see myself making and wearing?  Yes.

I also think there is something in common between the Millennial generation and people who were children in the Great Depression, who were young adults post- WWII– exactly who Claire is in Outlander.  Growing up in economic uncertainty changes how you look at the world.  I can feel that in the costumes and they resonate very strongly with me.

In case you don’t read this to hear me ramble about minimalism, here’s my Francaise fabric:

Screenshot 2017-11-24 21.56.40

Is it historically accurate?  No.  Does it have something of the 1760s about it?  Yes.  A little bit of fun, a bit of florals, but also a crisp simplicity that I adore.  And it reminds me of some of the hand-painted silks on Outlander, which brings us full circle.

One thought on “Minimalism in Costuming

  1. “Is it historically accurate? No. Does it have something of the 1760s about it? Yes”

    Sums up Outlander really well. Historically accurate enough to make you feel like you’re there without making you feel like you’re in too alien of a world. The books are great, haven’t seen the show.


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