About the author

My love of historical costume goes back as far as I can remember, and I’ve been sewing since late highschool.  Put the two of those together and you have me and what I’m doing today!  On the way here I completed (though somewhat belatedly) a BFA in Visual Art specializing in drawing, painting, and photography.  It was during this time that sewing and the historical costume interests first came together – I took all of the costuming courses available through the Theatre Department.  At first I thought I wanted to be a costume designer, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that where my true passion lay was with actual historical garments and their construction.  Thus, the project which makes up the purpose of this blog is really just self-indulgence!  And I couldn’t feel more grateful or priveleged to be able to do it!

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28 Comments »

  1. Carolyn

    Your blog is beautiful and interesting – but then, what else would I expect? Here at PP today we’re looking at perhaps THE most stunning Mantua I’ve ever seen, made c1750 of duchesse satin, with brocaded flowers and gold embroidery: you would drool all over it! It was recut c1880 for Fancy Dress so the family are asking our advice as to what to do with it – return it to its Georgian shape (v v wide paniers) or leave it in late Victorian style…Wish you could see it…Mark x

  2. Koreen Dowdell aka. Mummy Said:

    I’m glad to see that the little I taught you on the old Singer has blossomed into such a magnificent passion. Proud of you I am!!

  3. Anne Said:

    Hello,
    I read about your project in The Calgary Herald this morning (March 24th). Very interesting. I, too, have a treadle machine, and use it to do seams on baby quilts (I hand stitch the quilt itself) and for mending. Your project, using only needle and thread is intriguing! I have always had an interest in history and loved the clothes. However, I am grateful to live in modern times with the comfortable clothes we have available. Your project has given me some food for thought regarding the seamstresses, their fingers, their eyesight and their backs — all in the name of fashion!
    Fantastic!

  4. Tannis Said:

    Beautiful exhibit, Carolyn!

  5. Susan Said:

    I got the chance to check out your exhibit over in Human Ecology today – I had read about it in Folio a couple of weeks ago. You’ve done a fantastic job! My favourite is the riding habit.
    I can’t even begin to imagine the work that obviously went into this project. I’ve been telling people over here in Renewable Resources to check it out.

  6. Shari Said:

    I got your website links and your story thru Cathy Hay and absolutly love it!!
    Such art and devotion, you are truly an idol to look up to as a historical costume lover and maker.
    I hope one day to have the time and information you have to repdroduce 18th Century clothing in a historically accurate way.
    You should really write a book about your journey as well as any information you wish to share and write for YWU.
    I do think Janet Arnold would have congratulated you , if she was still alive.
    It gives me great pleasure reading your journey and seeing the result, looking forward to your exhibtion page!!

  7. Carolyn, what an amazing project! We have much in common, I too am a photographer and artist in other fields, but I came to historical clothing late in life. It is an obsession, and I can see that it is for you, too. I wish I could see your exhibition, sounds marvellous. Congratulations on your beautiful work, and thanks for all the information!

  8. charlene roberts Said:

    I also found your blog through my membership at YWU.I stumbled upon historic costuming late in life, so I am delighted to see someone so young(and a Canadian at that!) with a whole lifetime ahead of them doing such great work.

    From Civil War to War of 1812, this re-enactor is now stepping into the 18th century. I am making clothing to wear for Halifax’s 250th this July. I want to do the riding habit and as I have never seen an extant example, I so appreciate your guidance in regards to the sewing techniques used. Been spending a lot of time on your blog. Thank you so much for sharing your journey into costume.

    Charlene Roberts
    Kitchener, Ontario

  9. brocadegoddess Said:

    Lynn,

    If you’re interested in doing a riding habit (and they are very smart looking indeed!) then keep checking back here. I’m hoping to get the exhibition page done soon(ish), and then finish the Riding Habit page. Hopefully it will be in time to be of use to you.

    There is a pattern for a really nice one in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion I taken from an artefact at the V&A.

  10. Actually, it is Charlene who wants the riding habit…..but I have my eye on another Janet Arnold riding habit pattern, the one from the Salisbury Museum, which is Regency….how could you read my mind!

  11. Angela Said:

    Carolyn,
    I stumbled onto your blog and exhibit looking for 18th century hairstyles. What a wonderful exhibition and the research and work you did to complete such a project is fabulous. Congratulations! I have returned to making historical clothing. I use to belong to re-enactment groups ages ago. After a long time not really producing much, I have joined a group that does all things French and 18th century. The figure is no longer the same, so darn it I have to make a new wardrobe. Anyway, it is inspiring to see your passion and your work. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Liz Webb Said:

    Hi Carolyn,

    It was great talking with you a while back. Isn’t it funny how life is when we are all interested in historical costuming. Meeting you Mom was a fluke, but a good one.

    I hope the photos she took of my outfit weren’t too bad.

    Since then I have been lucky enough to come into possession of some antique velvet, similar to the velvet you used on the riding habit. It’s beautiful, so different from the modern stuff. Now I have to decide what to use it for, as there is only 5 feet of it. Any ideas?

    The offer to travel next year stand at anytime. Keep in touch.

    LW

  13. Amy Said:

    I wanted to try and find away to direct message you rather than comment since it doesn’t really pertain to your content but I couldn’t seem to find it.
    Anyway, i do not mind at all you putting in your 2 cents about grad school. i love it actually since i feel a little out of my league. i am also looking for specific things and am not really sure to go about looking for them. I have seen/heard of material culture associations but what is it?

    Po”B is Patrick O’Brian. He is the author of the Aubrey-Maturin series of historical fiction novels. it has a cult following and is absolutely excellent despite being very technical.

    thanks for your suggestions. i will be looking into them. And congrats and best wishes for all your work. i literally drooled all over my computer for days when i first found your blog!

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Hi Amy,

      Thanks very much for the comments!

      Material Culture is essentially the study of things, stuff. Any object that humans make and/or use is a piece of material culture. Clothing and textiles happen to be quite a popular area of material culture. Here’s a link to the Material Culture Institute at my current university, the University of Alberta: http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/materialculture/ Incidentally, they have are in the process of developing a very strong clothing and textiles/material culture/museum studies sort of program for Masters and PhD degrees – you just have to be able to handle living in Edmonton, Alberta. I forsee them becoming a leader within Canada, if not internationally.

      However, that’s not the only route you can take for dress/costume history. A piece of advice I was given is to find people who have your dream job, then ask them what they did to get there. Authors, curators, professors are all so easy to contact these days, and are usually happy to answer legitimate queries. So I’d suggest looking up the people doing things you’d like to do and pick their brains! Good luck!

  14. EJVC Said:

    Amy, what a display! No wonder your mother is proud of you. I’ve spread your blog around a little so I hope you get even more visitors.

    I would love to understand more about the stitching techniques you mention, for example, the lapped-and-run seam; I take it the seam allowances are folded (somehow) and then the running stitch from the outside secures them? Any links or descriptions would be gratefully received.

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Hi there, thanks for the comments. Although my name’s actually Carolyn, lol.

      I actually intend to include a page or something on here with samples/diagrams of all the stitching techniques I used. It’s just that I’m about a year behind with finishing the garment pages, and that other stuff. However, what you’ve described about the lapped seam is pretty much it.

  15. EJVC Said:

    Sorry, Carolyn! I guess your mother wouldn’t make that mistake, LOL. OK, but how are the allowances folded? Are they interlocked? Or folded over together? That’s what I’m wondering. Thanks for replying! I imagine you do have a lot of work left on the site with garments, suppliers (I loved the hem tape on the flowered jacket/petticoat), but just so you know, we are hanging on your every word.

  16. liz Said:

    dear carolyn, my god, ……………..so amazed about your site! I was clutched to your site the whole evening I LOVE IT !!!
    thank you for chearing all your work, details, pictures and experience by making these fabulous costumes.
    i am a 1st degree teacher in historic costumes but never was able to get a job so i became an account manager in non ferro metals up to 12 years ago then i got an accident with my horse and got disabled………now my passion for historic clothing came back to me and i started collecting early victorian dresses and gowns of all sorts, restoring them, turning them inside out and at this moment i have 21 mannequins in my small farmhouse all dressed up but i found out that the interests go further to an other age in clothing.
    so very delighted to have found your site and compliments for your work and making me so happy anthousiastic fanatic. It will not take long before i will be using my skills again to make beauties like yours………you are just amazing. thanks for lifting my spirit! Hope to find out what your next project will be………..thanks for this lovely exciting site, i am so greatfull you want to chear all this with others. compliments all the way !!!!!

  17. Alisa Said:

    Found a picture of your riding habit popping up here:
    http://www.thesidesaddlemuseum.com/detai1730habit.html
    I hope they asked you permission. Just in case they didn’t, I thought I’d let you know.

    All the best!

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Thank you for the heads up!

  18. Elizabeth Galindo Said:

    I am in awe of your research and blog. Thank you so much for all of hard work and dedication. I share a similar interest in that…
    My research explores the relationship between the director and costume designer working on historic Hollywood films made in the 21st century that attempt to use “originary practices”. Originary practices for the purposes of my dissertation means the self-conscious practice of constructing costume through historically accurate crafts and skills to recreate historical authenticity. I research and document the interaction of the costume designer with the craftspeople producing the agreed-upon costumes. The 30 Oscar winning directors and costume designers I have interviewed have all made a self-conscious effort to use historical crafts whenever time and budget allows. Each interviewee has a passion for history, values historic crafts, and respects the craftspeople whose talents embellish the script, provides an immediate conduit to an actor’s character and thus heightens the audience’s reaction. Originary craft practices for constructing historical costumes in Hollywood are dying out, literally, as the artisans become elderly with few young people succeeding them. Many practices have already begun to disappear in the Hollywood Studio costume workshops and even in two of the largest privately- owned costume shops like Western Costume Company and United American Costume Company, which are both located in North Hollywood.

  19. When searching for the image on your front page, I came across what I think is the paper you wrote in connection with the exhibition. I would like to find the paper you wrote, I found it so fascinating to get into the head of the women who were responsible for the manufacture of so many kinds of garments.

    Do you have a link, or would you be willing to email it to me to read again?

  20. […] also quizzed the amazing Carolyn of Brocade Goddess as to what an 18th century fur muff would be lined with, and she suggested a thin silk.  So, as […]

  21. Lake Lili Said:

    Am blown away by the amount of research you have put into each garment. I am desperately seeking information on the mantura business in Montreal in the 1770s/1780s, but I keep coming back to your site for more detailed information on the garments themselves. Many thanks!

    • brocadegoddess Said:

      Oooh, I love the idea for your research. It’s something I’d like to find out more about myself. We need some historians of Canadian dress! I hope to become one myself after the PhD and ancillary stuff is done. Good luck with your research, would love to hear what you find out!

  22. Cassandra Hall Said:

    Hi Carolyn, thank you so much for this wonderful website and blog. You are the first person I have found who describes and provides pics of how to make 18th century stays in a totally comprehensive and detailed fashion- I’m not sure what you’re doing now- your last posts were in 2014, but your wonderful work will continue to help people as long as historical dress will remain popular. All the best, Cassandra, Australia

  23. lotte Said:

    Hi there,
    I was wondering if you could tell me how much fabric you used for your 18th century riding habit and if possible it would be amazing if you could send me your pattern?

    Thank you very much, Lotte

    • themodernmantuamaker Said:

      Hi Lotte,

      I honestly can’t remember now just how much fabric it used but I would estimate 5-6 yards or metres. As for the pattern, it’s a modified version of the riding habit in Janet Arnold’s “Patterns of Fashion I” book.


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