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 The Fashion Archaeologist

The Fashion Archaeologist

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 WELCOME TO FASHION ARCHAEOLOGY - History to Wear and more! Offering our exclusive 'Edwardian Rose' antique sewing patterns, replica antique garments, fashion CDs, and other treasures for antique and vintage fashion enthusiasts, professional theatres and filmmakers. Add us to your Favourites

We specialize in sewing patterns with full English instructions in modern sizing, developed from authentic antique originals of the 1850's to 1930's, especially French Edwardian/Titanic era fashions.  These are not so-called tailor's draft patterns requiring complicated enlargement skills, but can be used like any modern pattern straight out of the envelope.  Click on our "STORE PAGES" (scroll down left) to read more about how we develop these patterns! Try our Antique Patterns on CD that you can print at home to save on shipping.   ~ We hope you'll enjoy browsing through our store, and that you'll check back again soon to see what new treasures we've listed. Thanks for visiting!

Copyright Reminder: Please note that all our 'Edwardian Rose' patterns are copyright, intended for personal use only, not to be copied in any manner or used for commercial garment production without our prior written permission.  

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General Interest

What is Fashion Archaeology anyway?

Fashion Archaeology 101 -- While conventional archaeologists may go on digs to uncover lost treasures of civilization, we go on forays to uncover lost treasures of past fashion and other decorative arts.  We use some of the rarest fashion documents in the world and through tracing, scanning, translating, copying, interpreting and reproducing them not only preserve them for the future, but also make them accessible on eBay.  In addition, we seek out authentic vintage and antique costume and other items of historical interest to offer in our store. 

It's exciting and fascinating work bringing into the 21st Century antique designs that might otherwise be lost forever.  How is it done?  On the left is an example of a bridal gown sketch from an original 1905 French publication of "La Mode Illustrée".  We start with a design such as this that is of special interest, that may (or in some cases may not) have a pattern available on a 100 year old pattern sheet.  Then we progress to Fashion Archeology 201...

Fashion Archaeology 201:  This is the phase of the "dig" that demands the most delicacy and patience!  Just like archaeologists who must gently and painstakingly uncover artifacts inch by inch with the smallest of brushes, the required pattern pieces for the chosen garment are carefully traced from the fragile and often deteriorating pattern sheet (the photo at left is a typical example of one of these ever-so-delicate pattern sheets -- usually in French -- with its incredibly complex intermingled lines of different shapes and types).  Often there are reduced-size sketches of the skirt pieces for the garment, which are not on the pattern sheet but must be drafted by hand following the measurements and instructions given on the original document. 

Next, all markings and other notations necessary for completing the garment are added to the traced pattern pieces.  At this stage, the pattern consists of rather rough pencil-drawn, scribbled on, corrected, and taped pieces of tissue paper that are then used for the next phase of the process.

Fashion Archaeology 301:  Once the necessary pattern pieces are traced from the original pattern sheet, the real preservation work begins.

The next step is where our 'Edwardian Rose' and 'Fashion Archaeologist' patterns go beyond other patterns copied from antique sources that are currently available.  Most so-called "antique patterns" are simply traced off the original pattern sheet, and a few markings and some assumed construction notes are thrown in (which often do not accurately reflect the historic construction of the garment).  This demands very little time, effort or experience on the part of the pattern seller, but the seamstress/seamster is left to his or her own devices to puzzle out how to sew and fit a rather mysterious garment. 

Antique fashion magazines with pattern sheets rarely gave more than a few limited guidelines for completing garments.  Why?  Because it was assumed they would be made up by dressmakers who were skilled in the construction techniques of the era.  Being able to read and properly understand the original French (or German) notes, and having knowledge of antique garment construction that comes through years of experience and study makes all the difference in the patterns we offer!

If instructions for making the garment exist in the original French (or sometimes German), we translate and incorporate this information into the new, step-by-step notes that we write up in English based on actually making up a test garment from the pattern.  We then add helpful markings on the pattern, again derived from on our hands-on creation of the item, to make garment construction clearer.  Smaller pattern pieces, such as cuffs, pockets, flounces, etc. were often not included in Edwardian patterns, and so these too must be drafted, or instructions given for measuring and cutting them. 

The rough draft of the pattern is checked, corrected where necessary, and usually graded up to a modern size.  In some cases, where construction lines aren't overly complex, we are even able to produce a multi-sized pattern that is still completely true to the antique design. 

Next, the pattern is normally tested as a "muslin", any revisions made, and all the pattern pieces for the garment are carefully re-drawn as a final master. The master is then professionally printed on sturdy 20-lb pattern sheets and the new design, including its full English instructions and a print of the original period fashion sketch, is added to our line of patterns on eBay.

All in all, the process of converting an antique design into a modern, useable pattern with full instructions (including making up the test garment) can take 30 to 100 hours or more, depending on how complex the garment is.  The result is a completely "updated" pattern, with clear sizing indications, that will look familiar to anyone who uses modern commercial patterns like Vogue or McCalls, yet retains all of the integrity of the original design. 

With our patterns, you will not be wasting frustrating hours guessing at construction steps, re-drafting pattern pieces, or enlarging a miniature version of the pattern to actual size (these 'tailor's drafts' can be very difficult to get just right).  You can take our patterns straight out of the envelope and start sewing! 

Last but not least, as the ultimate in Fashion Archaeology, we select particular designs to make up again 100 years or more after their original appearance by developing them into real-life garments that are offered in our store under our 'Edwardian Rose - Couture Historique' label. 

We especially love to bring gorgeous replica Edwardian evening gowns back to life from original designs of the era, like the pink silk gown in the photo (previously sold) -- check back often to find out what treasures we've uncovered!!