My Costume College talks

I’m off to the US for Costume College this week, and I am SO excited!  I’ll be seeing costumers I haven’t seen in almost a decade, meeting costumers I’ve never met in real life, taking some amazing classes, and even giving two p  myself!

My first talk is a topic I’ve been fascinated by for years, and which I’ve given as a class or presentation in various forms: the history of the paisley/boteh motif.

I just think it’s amazing that this one motif  has become so universally recognisable (even Mr D knows what paisley is!): as much so as spots or stripes or checks, though its much more specific and esoteric.   The history of how it came to be so well known, and the different things it has represented in Western fashion, is quite phenomenal – and quite important to know as a historical costumer, so that you understand what your paisley garment would have meant to the people viewing it at the time it was made (spoiler alter: wealth!, knowledge!, sex!, security!, ethics!, conventionalism!, respectability!, rebellion! – depending on the particular era).

From Boteh to Paisley – Saturday 30 July, 12-1

The paisley or boteh motif has gone through many variations in aesthetic and symbolism in Western dress, from the favoured design on the gowns of an empress, to grandmother’s shawl, to its association with the counter-cultures of the 1960s. Explore the evolution of the motif, and its influence on dress with Leimomi, from its origins in the fertile Vale of Kashmir, through the Western & Islamic influenced changes of the 19th century, and into the paisley renaissance of the 1960s, to better understand what a paisley garment actually meant at any point in fashion history.

Regency frocks thedreamstress.com5

My second talk doesn’t really need an introduction if you’ve been reading my blog for the last month.  I’m going to be talking about the Fortnight in 1916.  I’ll be covering lots of information that I haven’t covered in posts yet, so it should be interesting!

A Fortnight in 1916  – Saturday 30 July, 1-2

Learn what it’s like to spend two weeks attempting to live like a 1916 housewife in Wellington, New Zealand: doing housework and shopping in petticoats, wool stockings, and a longline corset; making-do a garment in the spirit of WWI fabric shortages, and socialising and interacting within a very small, local sphere. Leimomi’s experiment will explore both the benefits and drawbacks of the 1910s lifestyle, how it impacted her body and relationships, and the surprising insights gained from an era that is rarely explored as an immersive living history option for women.
A Fortnight in 1916 thedreamstress.com

Sadly, because my talks are right on top of each other, I won’t have time to wear my Kashmiri gown for the first one, and change into 1916 clothes for the second.

If you’re at CoCo and don’t already have something fabulous booked at midday on Saturday, I do hope you’re able to come to one or both  of my presentations!

It’s not false arrogance when I say I’m a very good public speaker (I know my weaknesses and won’t hesitate to admit them, but being extremely entertaining and informative as a teacher is not one of them!), so I can promise you’ll both learn something new, and enjoy yourself  (and maybe cry.  Because I’ve yet to do a run-through of the Fortnight talk without crying.  WWI is just so sad…)

See you there!  And for those who can’t make it, there will be blog posts, of course.


  1. Have a wonderful time! Looking forward to hearing all about it when you get back!

  2. Deanna says

    I hope you have a safe trip and lots of fun! I wish I could come, it’s kind of weird to be so close and not able to make it work, when others are coming from all over the world. I’m filing it under “someday”. 🙂

  3. sewcharacteristicallyyou.comI would love to hear all about your talks. They both sound interesting to me. If I could only hear about one, I would probably choose your Fortnight talk, but the history of paisley sounds really interesting and obscure at the same time (which might partially be the reason it fascinates me, because it is one of those little pieces of history that nobody really knows.)


  4. Theresa says


    Have a GREAT time at Costume College!

    your once and future model

  5. Elise says

    Have a swell time! Too bad about the costumes…maybe you can get a volunteer to model?

    The sadness is real, and I know that some commenters touched on it when musing whether we would like to live in the past. I would have a hard time with the poverty, legal mistreatment of children and animals, and all of that on top of the devastation of WWI even far away. With a husband in the military, we lose 1-2 friends or acquaintances every year due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Which then makes me think about the families in those areas who have lost even more, just as the French would have suffered in WWI.)

    For me, it’s a call to action to that by 2116 we can be even better than we are at 2016, which is arguably better than 1916. You certainly provide a lot of joy in your blogs, along with awareness of sad items. Yay, you!

    Now, go enjoy the best of history at CoCo!

  6. Adriana says

    Looking forward to hearing from you this weekend. I enjoyed reading all about your 1916 adventures and can’t wait to hear about them in person. We are all going to have so much fun!

  7. So wish I could go to cc! Maybe one day. . . I would love to hear your talk on paisley. I’m making an 1890’s paisley dress and really hoping the paisley I picked is atleast somewhat accurate (I looked at aweful lot of 1890’s paisley dresses ahead of time online, but still) Have a great time and I reay look forward to reading about your talks later!

  8. Have a safe trip and a wonderful time at CoCo! Perhaps, as Elise says, you can find a model to wear your Kashmiri dress for the Paisley talk?

    WWI is sad. So unnecessary, and such a waste. There are a lot of lessons there for us today.

  9. linda olson says

    Yes WWI was sad, but it was short. My grandpa and his two brothers enlisted, one did not return, but it was a powerful experience that matured him and he told stories of comraderie between enemies near the front lines. He was very blessed. And he was home in two years.

  10. It was short if you were fighting for the US. The other countries fought for over 4 years. :-/ I’m glad that your grandpa and great-uncle survived. How sad about the final one.

  11. Sounds fascinating, I would love to hear both those talks! I love paisley and have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your fortnight in 1916!

  12. MJ Ruisi says

    best of luck…enjoy the visit… shame you can’t stay for TIKI Oasis!!!!!

  13. So bummed my limited classes were during your talks! It was great to meet you in person though. 🙂

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