Historical Sew Fortnightly

The HSF ’14: Challenge #20: Alternative Universe

Gosh, time flies!  It does not seem a fortnight since I wrote the last inspiration post for the HSF!  Things come around quickly!

This particular challenge, #20: Alternative Universe (due Sat 1 Nov, because hey, Halloween is the day before and look, sometimes I can plan!)  is quite exciting, because it’s the one challenge of the year where doesn’t require you to  be properly historical.  The brief is simple: make something from an alternative universe, that shows elements of costume history within our universe.

With the Alternative Universe challenge we’re exploring all the ways in which history has influenced fantasy, and all the ways in which we’ve imagined the world would look if events had gone differently, or all the ways in which we would dress if we simply lived in another world, with another set of rules and history and species.

There are so many choices to pick from.

There are realms from literature: Middle Earth, Narnia, Westeros & Essos, Damar, Hogwarts, Diskworld, Oz, Barsoom, Dinotopia, Earthsea, and Neverland, to name just a few!

Aldersbach Abbey, Allemagne, circa 1200

There are worlds created for film & television, like the Once Upon a Time world, and variations on history within Doctor Who.

Wedding Dress of Cream Silk, 1785

Wedding Dress of Cream Silk, 1785, Shrewsbury Museum Services

And alternative universe lifestyles that extend far beyond one initial media, like Steampunk & Dieselpunk.

Clarice Mayne by Bassano - 1910s

Clarice Mayne by Bassano – 1910s

There are also alternative histories based on a change in events.

What would have happened if the Stanley’s had supported Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field?  If Lady Jane Grey had held on to the throne of England?  If the English Parliament hadn’t tried to re-enact the tea & stamp taxes and the US Revolution had never happened?  If Josephine & Napoleon had had an heir?  If William Perkins had ignored the bright  hues  of his failed experiment, like a number of chemists before him?  If the Archduke Ferdinand hadn’t taken a route that drove him right past a drunk, angry Gavrilo Princip?  If Grover Cleveland had agreed to let  Lili’u’okalani  banish those who had overthrown her, or she had agreed to pardon them all, and she had been restored  to the throne of Hawaii?

Kaiulani, photograph by Tynan Bros, ca. 1895

Kaiulani, photograph by Tynan Bros, ca. 1895

How might any of  those have changes what was worn?

If you are a historical purist and don’t want to make something that is a fantasy, there is no reason that a garment from an alternative universe might not be perfectly accurate within our universe as well (notice that I have used period garments and images to illustrate this post).

Many fantasy lands are based on the technology and society of Europe in the Middle Ages, Doctor Who visits many timeperiods, and while he may encounter aliens living in Pompeii and robots at Versailles, the pallas and stola and robe a la francaises worn around them were probably the same.   An alternative history might provide the opportunity to explore a garment that is theoretical, but not proven, to see if it makes sense as a working garment.

Have fun exploring the history of alternative universes, and may it shed some light on our own history!


  1. Really looking forward to this challenge…so many ideas so little time. 90% of my hsf entries could count for this challenge. lol!
    I’m either doing something Doctor Who-ish or Stargate SG-1 themed.

  2. Lynne says

    I wonder what style the trouser-legs of time would be?

  3. Why can’t I stop thinking of Chinoiserie and Japonerie as alternative themes in hsitorical European fashions now? o.O

  4. […] Challenge #20: Alternative Universe — due Sat 1 November.  Create a garment from an alternative universe: fantasy, steampunk, dieselpunk, etc.  Your item can be perfectly historically accurate within our own universe as well. […]

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