A few months ago when I solicited suggestions for future Historical Sew Fortnightly challenges someone asked if we could do an ‘Up-Cycle’ challenge and I said “Absolutely not.”
Not because it’s a bad idea, but because I loathe that word. The word was a good idea to begin with, but has been used to describe so many silly, dreadful things that it has lost its credibility.
While I don’t like ‘up-cycle’ as a trendy word, I distinctly applaud the idea of taking old things and giving them new life, and new purpose. It’s a very historical idea – fabric and materials were very expensive, and people got as much use out of them as possible.
In this spirit, the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #18 is Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion. Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning. Turn one thing into another. Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again. Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat. Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.
There are numerous examples of gowns made from 18th century fabric that were re-made a number of times in the 18th century, and then re-made again in the mid-19th century, a hundred years after the fabric was first woven.
Throughout the 18th, 19th and early 20th century hats were de-constructed and re-trimmed, the embellishments used on other hats, and the hat frame used for new embellishments.
Gowns were made over to accommodate new styles by removing and replacing the trimmings, or changing the silhouette. They were also made-over to accommodate changing body shapes as the wearer’s body changed.
Lace was a particularly common component of re-fashioning. It was treated more as an accessory than a fabric, and would be moved from one garment to the next. Even Queen Victoria removed the lace from her wedding dress and re-used the lace, and had the dress re-styled with different lace.
I’ve already done a number of re-makes this year. I re-fashioned a modern fedora into a cloche for Embellish and again for Accessorize, and a modern straw hat into a bergére (both with tutorials!) for Stripes. The pet-en-l’aire that I finished for Embellish was made from a vintage obi (though that’s really sort of re-make lite, as an obi is just a rectangle, though I did have to take it apart and piece a great deal). I re-made an old fur sleeve into a muff for Flora & Fauna, and also re-fashioned a pair of modern kitten heels into late 18th century shoes for the same challenge.
I’ve got so many more re-makes that I want to do though…multiple pairs of shoes to make over, more hats to re-fashion, a bit of a re-make of my Greek-Key ensemble (and another Greek Key ensemble that you have never seen to re-make slightly), and some modern garment that have beautiful embroidery or beading that I want to cut apart and re-make as a historical piece. I’ll have to decide what to make when I get closer to the challenge!