Historical Sew Fortnightly

The Historical Sew-Fortnightly Challenge #23: Modern History

We’re almost there!

The second-to-last Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge of the year, due 15 December, is an easy, fun one, and I hope that everyone participates, even if they have missed a few challenges across the rest of the year!

The theme is Modern History: make something historical that is wearable in a modern context.

I love this theme because it’s so practical and useful!  And it’s also something I’m particularly good at.  Since my life doesn’t provide as many opportunities as I would like for wearing over-the-top historical pieces, I have to find a way to fit period into my everyday wardrobe.

Here are some of the historical things I’ve made that I actually do wear as real clothes:

I’ve worn my 18th century ‘brown’ linen shift as a summer dress, with a belt and sandals,  and no one has commented on it, or noticed that it is entirely hand-sewn!

Late 18th century 'brown' linen shift

I’ve also worn my 14th century nettle shift as ‘normal’ clothes:

14th century nettle shift thedreamstress.com

And I’ve only worn  it that way once, by my 1780s pet-en-l’aire actually makes a spectacular jacket over jeans or (as I did it) a pencil skirt.

1780s pet-en-l'aire and pleated petticoat

Accessories are a great way to use historical items in a modern wardrobe.  I particularly like my muffs  with an ordinary winter coat, but there are also bags, and hats, and shoes, and gloves, and shawls…

Late 18th century inspired muff thedreamstress.com

I’m not usually  the biggest fan of this look, but wearing corsets as bodices for evening wear is a classic way to add a fabulous historical twist to modern looks.  Perhaps I should try it with my 1890s ‘midnight in the garden’ corset turned inside out!

1890s 'Midnight in the Garden' corset thedreamstress.com

My 1910s paisley skirt & plaid blouse have actually been worn as ‘normal’ clothes far more than they have as historical items.  I get asked where I got the skirt, or the pattern for it, every time I wear it!

The 1913 paisley skirt thedreamstress.com
And, of course, the easiest way to incorporate period pieces into modern wear is to go for ’20s-’40s fashions.  In fact, it’s so easy I’d almost feel I was cheating doing it, because so much of my wardrobe is based on pieces from those decades!  I probably still will though, because I love them so much and I’ve got so many ’30s looks I want to make up for this summer!

Last summer I did 1929 Bambi:

1929 'Bambi and Bows' dress

1940’s trousers:

1930s/40s 'Smooth Sailing' trousers thedreamstress.com

1930s housewife:

1930s inspired 'Hooverette' wrap dress thedreamstress.com

And the unexpectedly fabulous 1930s button dress:

1930s Bad Plaid dress thedreamstress.com

All of which were worn constantly through the warm season!

Plus late ’20s  style cloches, which are the perfect sunhats in Wellington, as they shade the eyes but still STAY ON!

Little bit of red dress & cloche


And, of course, the Vionnet chiton dress, in whatever version I make it!

My version of Vionnet's 'Chiton' dress

My version of Vionnet’s ‘Chiton’ dress



A dress for Mansfield's 'When I was a bird' thedreamstress.com

That’s how I make historical work for me in a modern way.  Can’t wait to see how you do it!


  1. Elise says

    Product of the 90s, right here: I adore the corset/bodice-over dresses/jeans/skirts look.

    Yay! It’s been too long since I popped into the group. Sounds like a really fun challenge. Personal style is so neat, along with personal taste in historical period.

    Ooooh, I wonder if there is a WEDDING coming up! That’s a great place to wear historical clothing!

  2. I actually feel a bit like cheeting for this, but I am going to a ball in the end of November and I need to make a fabulous skirt for it, and what better than to use some historical inspiration. I’ve already decided to use one of my victorian corsets as a bodice.

  3. I’ve worn my transitional wrap stays / brassiere instead of a modern bra and no one seemed to notice, probably because wearing a dress and hat is enough of an occurrence in my hometown. 😀 And I have been thinking of making a chemise as a summer dress.
    What I will actually make, if anything, will probably be decided at the last moment…

  4. I always used to like the corset-as-a-bodice thing because I used to have a problem with back pain, and nothing fixes back pain like a corset. I always preferred 18th century stays though – more comfortable. Still, when I grew a bit the back pain improved (and I left my Goth phase behind) so I haven’t worn a corset in years. I’ll probably do something ’20s for this one, because there’s a Poiret pattern in Waugh’s Cut of Women’s Clothes that I’m itching to try. I love ’20s clothes.

  5. This challenge is such a great idea!

    I assume “wearable in a modern context” is a matter of individual opinion, yes?

    I think I might make another shirt.

  6. This is going to be so interesting. There are a few projects I would love to do for this challenge. So excited. 🙂 Here’s hoping they will all get done within the month…

  7. Brilliant! I do this all this time, but until recently my era was mostly 1940s. I’m branching out a bit, though, and have incorporated some 1910s into my daily look, and have developed a rather raging obsession with 18th century laced bodices over skirts lately, so I’m scheming to make one and wear it day-to-day without looking costumey. The fabric just arrived, so maybe I can do this challenge!

  8. Well… I didn’t read the instructions well enough, so thought “historical” and… picked an era too late for the actual criteria.

    STILL… I tried – and trying is important too, right? LOL I don’t have the time to come up with something else for this challenge right now, so I’m submitting a 1950s circle skirt… in my own vaguely gothic style in a skull print for this challenge – albeit with the caveat that I realized after the fact that it doesn’t actually fit the time frame. 🙁

  9. […] #23: Modern History — due Mon 15 December.  Make something historical or historically inspired that is wearable in an everyday context […]

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