The Historical Sew Fortnightly ‘Flora and Fauna’ challenge fortnight starts on Tuesday, and I’m SO excited about it.
I love using the natural world as inspiration: I’ve done it with the Juno Gown (melding Greek/Roman mythology and nature with the peacock motif) and with the Luna Moth gown, plus the Laurel Gown, which also used natural motifs and classical inspiration. I also do it with not-so-historical garments, like Carolyn’s wedding gown, which borrowed from both butterflies and fish, and with Shell’s wedding dress, which borrowed from native New Zealand birds.
There are so many different ways to interpret ‘Flora and Fauna’ – you can simply use fabrics that depict flora or fauna, or fabrics made from flora or fauna, or can add in flora and fauna based motif, or you could create a garment that is inspired by the aesthetic of a particular bit of flora or fauna. The last bit brings to mind the yellow and black Regency dress that I posted a few months back that many people felt had been inspired by a bee. That’s pure conjecture, but we do know there were historical garments inspired by the natural world. Louisa May Alcott described married Meg as wearing a grey dress that made her look like a little dove, and Emily spends the entire payment for a story on a dress that reminds her of a specific summer evening.
I had the most exciting project planned for the Flora and Fauna challenge: a replica of an embroidered 1920s dress in my collection that combines a very traditional feminine nature motif (a butterfly) with the exciting colours and broken lines of Fauvism, Futurism and Cubism. Alas, while I located half the fabrics and embroidery threads needed, a reasonable match to the fabric I would be embroidering on has eluded me, so I’ve put the project on hold until I can find the right fabric. There is no point in spending a hundred hours embroidering on a less than ideal fabric.
Instead, I’ll be making one delicious 18th century accessory, and a 1930s capelet for a dear friend for the challenge. Not what I’d intended, but wonderful none-the-less.
Here are a few of my favourite flora and fauna inspired garments:
First, you have to look closely, but Lady Arabella’s skirt is spiderweb patterned. I am SO in love. SO IN LOVE. My wedding veil was a piece of 1910s metal lace with spider webs. I like spiders, and I LOVE spiderweb motifs.
I adore this workbag. I’m sure the embroidery is meant to be flowers, but it’s so delicious and juicy looking that I like imagining it as berries.
Look at this fichu worked with lace bees! How sweet is that! (though, of course, it was actually a political statement at the time, as the bee was a Napoleonic symbol).
There are all sorts of divine Regency items with flora and fauna motifs. This dress, with its hem garland of oak leaves, just makes me swoon.
Clearly I’m not expecting anyone to make one of these, but I still can’t help showing you one of those tiaras that I love so much:
These shoes are a great example of how simple floral inspiration can be. And the whole silhouette of these shoes is just divine. I’m keeping an eye out for modern shoes with this look that I could re-make to be more historical.
In general, I don’t like 20th century vintage cherry motifs, but I love these 1870s stockings. If I ever find nice silk or cotton knit with a cherry pattern I’m going to make my own!
I think this butterfly inspired cape is just fantastic. It’s just another piece of proof that garments really can literally be flora or fauna inspired.
Isn’t the fabric on this ’20s dress just fabulous? Its also a great inspiration piece for Eastern Influence.
Ah, so many pretty inspiration pieces, so little time to sew! If you want to see more, check out my Flora and Fauna pinterest page.