Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The question of accuracy in fabrics when on a budget...

I will probably catch some flack for what I'm about to write, but this is just my opinion in a sea of many.
When it comes to sewing historical fashion on a budget, for me personally it's going to require even more research into fabrics used, to make up for lack of discretionary income :-)

So often I see beautiful formal 18th century reproduction gowns at events made of expensive silk in taffetas, velvets, brocade and duchess satins. The keyword here is Formal wear.
Naturally, people who choose to create a formal gown want it to look expensive. Yet more often than not, the materials they desire are too expensive, very rare, or just not available any they choose a modern synthetic range of fabrics in place of actual silk.

I will admit that this can bug me. A lot, but we do what we need to do and use what our wallets will allow. I save my pennies so I can by silks when I find it at a great deal
But, why would it *always* need to be silk or satin in the first place?
Here's an idea; how about cotton?

Cotton prints and wovens during the last 2/3 of the 18th century were in high demand and highly fashionable. They were not only seen in day wear, but often at social functions and dances, even at court(!).
Yet today cottons are overlooked when costumers are on a budget to create a formal ensemble, and instead they end up with a plastic, way-too-shiny acetate or polyester outfit...that I might add, photographs horribly. Seams on poly satin ripple and the fabric doesn't breathe. Acetate can often look too stiff or shiny as well.

That's not to say there aren't some nice blends out there that work quite well, but it's all in how you use it, and being knowledgeable about how the synthetics are going to behave. In drape, fit and texture.

I've used synthetics plenty of times, including the blue gown in the previous post.
That was an acetate cotton blend bengaline (it has a faille texture), and behaved much like a heavy silk. It's sheen wasn't too shiny and the drape was wonderful. I only used this fabric however, because I was familiar with it's content and behavior.

This is a great post about cotton fashion and how it is too often excused as 'casual', or only used later in the century, at another 18th century blog, At The Sign Of The Golden Scissors:

I think one point I should state, is that when the use of synthetic fabrics truly bugs me, is when someone brags about how "perfectly accurate" their polyester ensemble is.....perhaps not for 1782, but 1982?

1 comment:

  1. I've also used polyester several times because I've found something that you couldn't really tell whether it's silk or not. So to me, the fabric has to look and feel like silk but doesn't have to be it in reality. Unfortunately, I'm always on tight budget because I study and have no stable income. I'm currently trying to save some money for silk but it has failed a few times already because of sudden need for money (I wouldn't starve for days just to buy fabric...)

    On the other hand, I also never claim that my work is authentic nor accurate. I try to make it look accurate but it never really is. And that's fine for me. I don't really understand some people going mad about someone using synthetic fabric if it looks like period fabric. We can, after all, never be 100% accurate. I know some hardcore reenactors make fabrics even on their own so it's fully hand-made and it's kinda cool but I would never go that far.

    And I do appreciate people "going all the way" with hand-sewing and all and I'm more and more driven to make my costumes as accurate as possible as well. But I don't really care if someone turns up into an event with a gown that's clearly synthetic by the looks of it. Do people take it too personally if they take it as an offence? I do think so. It's a hobby, and we're suppossed to enjoy our hobbies. So I think everyone should be allowed to have fun without beeing accused of using a wrong fabric. Oh, and ofcourse it also depends a lot on the event how accurate people should be.

    I could go on and on about this because there's just so many things to it but I'll leave it for now :)


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