The Historical Sew Monthly 2021

How it works:

The HSM 2021 is a monthly historical garment challenge.  Every month in 2021 will feature a themed challenge.  Sew (or knit, or crochet, or tatt, or embroider, or milin, (or whatever it is you call making a hat), or otherwise create) a historical garment or accessory that fits the monthly theme.

We’d love it if you did all 12 challenges, but how many you complete, and what order you do them in, is up to you.  Push yourself and participate in all 12 challenges, do a half-marathon with 6, or just pick and choose the ones that fit your sewing schedule. Do them in order, or skip around doing the challenges as it fits your schedule.

Finish all 12 challenges by the end of 2020, and there will be an exciting finishers badge for you to put on your blog/IG/FB page/Twitter/ etc.

Your HSM 2020 items can be as basic or elaborate as you want, from a simple fichu to fill in the neckline of a gown, to a full ensemble from the undergarments outward: whatever you need and are able to do time and skill-wise.

However, each item should be a complete, wearable item on its own: so an Elizabethan sleeve, which could be moved from one outfit to another, counts.  A Victorian sleeve, which was permanently sewn into a bodice, does not.

The Overall HSM 2021 theme: Fiction

In addition to having 12 monthly themes, the 2021 HSM has an overall theme: Fiction. Use your research into historical facts and reality to create costumes for fictional characters, whether it’s one from art/literature/media, or a persona you’ve created. The items you create should still be as accurate as possible: this is your opportunity to create historically accurate versions of non-accurate characters, or to costume characters from historical novels, etc.

The overall theme is entirely optional: use it as an additional inspiration, and try to incorporate it into each challenge throughout the whole year, or just stick to the 12 challenges on their own.

What does ‘Historical’ mean?

For the purpose of the Historical Sew Monthly, ‘historical’ is Pre-WWII and earlier, so no later than 1938.

The Historical Sew Monthly is meant to encourage research and historical accuracy,  not fantasy or ‘costume.’

Of course, for many periods making a garment that is identical in every respect to a period garment is basically impossible.  Even getting close can be quite expensive and physically demanding, which isn’t possible for everyone.  Ultimately, the level of accuracy is really up to your needs, skills, and resources, as long as the item is in pursuit of greater historical understanding.  There are also many ways to consider accuracy (you may find my post on how I approach it interesting), and we hope that the HSF will get people to think about accuracy, and how our relationship to what we wear and how we make it has changed over history.

More info:

Some background posts about the Historical Sew Monthly:

How to participate:

  • Join the Historical Sew Fortnightly group on Facebook. You can chat with other participants, get ideas, encouragement, and work through difficulties. When your item is done, you can post photos in the album for each challenge, give a description, and link to an online photo album or a blog post if you have one. You MUST answer the questions in order to join the Facebook group.


  • Participate through this page for the Historical Sew Monthly 2020 on my blog. Leave a comment with a link to your blog to let us know you are participating. Grab the button below and post it in your sidebar.  Be sure to link it to this page. With WordPress your html will look like this: <a href=””><img src=””></a>(unless, of course, you save the image to your computer and re-upload it, in which case your image address will look different).  

  • Participate on Instagram!  Follow @thedreamstress, and tag me in your finished item posts using #HistoricalSewMonthly2021

 No matter where you are participating, with each post or photo be sure to give your item a name/title (be creative!) and tell us:

The Challenge:





How historically accurate is it?

Hours to complete:

First worn:

Total cost:

The Goals:

  • To encourage collaborations and interactions in the historical costuming community;
  • To encourage all of us to do more historical research, to improve our standards of historical accuracy, and to expand our historical sewing skills;
  • To provide excuses to sew amazing garments from throughout history;
  • To provide incentive to photograph and document these garments so they can be shared, appreciated and used for reference;
  • And most of all…
  • To have fun!

The Challenges:

January: Joy: Create an item that brings you joy, or that epitomises the joy you find in historical costuming.

February: The Roaring 20s: Make something from the 20s (any century) or that somehow incorporates a number in the 20s.

March: Small is beautiful: Little things can make a big difference to the finished look. Make something small but perfect (bonus points if it exclusively uses materials purchased from a small business)

April: The Costumer’s New Look: Give an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.

May: Purple: Make an item in any shade of purple.

June: On Your Head: Create an item you wear on your head.

July: Like a Melody: Make something inspired by music.

August: Cite Your Sources: We’re always a fan of research in the HSM, but this time it’s the centre of the challenge. Create something that requires research to get it right. Be thoughtful in your choice and use of research sources, and (of course) be sure to share your research sources along with your make!

September: Closures: This one is all about how you fasten a garment. Try a new type of closure you’ve never done (time to tackle dog-legged plackets, hand-sewn eyelets or pinning yourself in?) or make something where the focus is on the fastenings.

October: Orange: It’s the final colour to be covered by a colour challenge! Make something orange.

November: Zero Waste: Make something that creates zero waste. You could either sew a garment like a shift that uses clever geometry to use all the fabric, re-make an old costuming item to extend its life, or create something entirely from re-used materials.

December: All the World’s a Stage: Make something inspired by theatre, opera, or the modern stage: films & tv. You can recreate a historical stage costume, a historically accurate film costume, or use this as an excuse to make a historically accurate version of something that isn’t.