Why, hello, internet. How are you doing? I have been long absent from my poor, neglected, and never-fully-fleshed-out blog, but I have been reading a great many blogs and tagging items of interest very thoroughly with Google bookmarks (I really love Google bookmarks, really a lot). I haven't been gone from you, internet, I just haven't been adding to your wisdom...at least not in a cohesive fashion. I do leave the occasional witty remark, book recommendation, thoughtful critique, or recipe review, but given that I continually overflow with notions and ideas and plans and criticisms and techniques and perhaps even wisdom, it seems to me that I ought to be collecting some of those mental overflows in one place, and oh internet - you have seen fit to provide me with blogging, so I can do just that!
Okay, I think one paragraph of addressing the internet as an entity is quite enough. Moving on.
I need to take pictures and upload pictures and go back in and write entries and edit my blog subtitle and so forth - but I will do that later. Right now, I will simply say (and then possibly go on to ramble extensively) that I have decided to actively take up blogging, and there will be more, much more. In large part, things will center on my senior thesis project, which involves studying public history specifically as regards historical costume and involving extensive sewing of reproduction clothing. First of all: public history is history for, and involving, the public, as opposed to the more strictly academic confines of the traditional discipline of history. That's what I'll be studying in graduate school after I get my bachelor's degree in May (yessssss), and on a smaller scale, it's what I'm studying now as well. I believe that public history should not only make history accessible and interesting to people, it should truly make history relevant - it should help people gain historical understanding in ways that are actually useful to them, whether on a conceptual level or a purely practical level, or, ideally, both. I think that looking at the ways in which people of the past have interacted with clothing and needle arts can be informative on both of those planes. It can even be "green" - really!
Consider: if you possess basic sewing skills and the time and willingness to use them, you can alter your clothes to fit better, alter them if you get bored of them, and alter or re-purpose thrifted or gifted clothes - all of this potentially resulting in a better fitting, more unique wardrobe, at a lower cost, which lasts longer and which takes advantage of second-hand clothing that might otherwise end up in a landfill. This is apart from the possibility of making your own clothes from scratch! By avoiding, even in part, the various pitfalls of the ready-to-wear industry and the intense consumerism that accompanies it, utilizing one's sewing skills in such a way increases the sustainability, so to speak, of one's lifestyle. I have a lot more to say on this subject, and this is merely a jotted down introduction, but I think it's important to point out that there's a great deal more to the study of historic costume, and to reproduction sewing, than "ooooh! pretty!" - though there's that too.
So, anyway, I am doing this thesis project, which involves a great deal of sewing, a great deal of research, a great deal of documenting my research for the things I sew, and some formal academic writing about the history of costume, as well as less formal writing about how historical needle arts can be tapped as a resource for green living....etcetera. (Sometimes I like spelling that out, for dramatic purposes. It's a personal failing.) My bloggitty blog will also be receiving some back-dated posts following up on last spring's 1830s sewing project, including an updated and greatly expanded annotated bibliography (of epic proportions, seriously). I didn't make it as far as sewing the dress, but I do have the fabric, and I'm planning to make it as part of my thesis project. I did finish the quilted petticoat, with the exception of attaching a waist fastening, which I need to do, because I'm in Massachusetts and it's bloody cold and I could wear the thing around, by gum!
Additionally, I expect that I will post about various other things that happen to interest me, particularly miscellaneous domestic pursuits (I love to cook and have a strange fascination with housewares), graduate school applications and plans (including occasional gleeful squealings about how I don't have to take the GREs), fabulous tutorials I have found on the internet (I Google bookmark them, carefully tagged), angry rantings about this-that-and-the-other (including both ridiculous conservatives AND ridiculous liberals!), and so forth. Occasionally, I will say shocking things, such as "I don't actually consider myself a feminist" and "Well, I decided I needed bangs, so I grabbed a pair of scissors, went into the bathroom, and cut bangs...oh, and they look fabulous, by the way." Not that the two are necessarily on par. (I promise I'll explain the feminism thing later - it's not as bad as it sounds, really.) It is likely that I will sometimes remark on the fact that my boyfriend looks like Orlando Bloom. This is because he does. No, really, I watched Pirates of the Caribbean with him recently, and it was just plain disconcerting. He is known around campus as "the guy who looks like Orlando Bloom." It's not so much that I'm gloating, it's just a rather astonishing reality of my life that I can't quite get used to, even though it's been more than a year. Oh, also: I go to weird hippie college that has its own bizarre vernacular, which I am forced to translate for the rest of the world. Probably I will get lazy and start actually saying "Div III" (which is what it is) instead of "thesis project" (which is the only way to give most people an idea of what I'm doing). Just to clarify, a bit, Div III is short for Division III, and that's three the Roman numeral, and it's a massive independent project that takes up the bulk of one's final year here, though that's only my second year, as I transferred in.
Now that you have been fairly warned - sort of - and introduced to my incredible predilection for parentheses (oh, wow - that phrase was accidentally even awesomer than intended - and I accidentally opened parenthesis to comment on it [this is getting uncomfortably meta]), I will share a few of the specific things I'm planning to post about soon(ish)...in part to remind me that I thought of them.
-Thanksgiving. I cooked an epic feast for my boyfriend and some friends, since we were all staying on campus for the holiday, and it was actually the best Thanksgiving ever. I made so much glorious food, including some small and highly amusing minor mishaps (one involving cayenne pepper), and even remembered to photograph most of it (albeit with my camera phone's rather mediocre powers). I will be sharing and linking to recipes, including the recipe for the magnificent banana cream pie that I made, which is happily available to all on the magical internet.
-Other People's Tutorials. There are many of them, but they're frustratingly hard to find when you need them. I may actually make some sort of ongoing, regularly edited post full of good ones, organized by topic. They'll skew toward vintage and vintage-inspired, though, because I read a lot of those blogs, they offer a lot of tutorials, and I think a lot of them are clever. I'll try to group them functionally, for instance putting together all the articles on things to do to make old/boring sweaters awesomer. I can think of several tutorials that do just that off the top of my head.
-Ramblings About Corsetry. Because I'm doing a lot of corset-making, I'll be teaching corset-making in January, and I'm writing an enormous research paper on the historiography of the corset. Which is to say, I spend so much time bitching about the ways in which people fundamentally misunderstand and misrepresent "the corset" that I thought I ought to turn it into actual work. I'll even be giving a guest lecture on the subject for a course in the spring! In short: the corset is not inherently a tool of torture, museum collections demonstrate that 17 inch waists were by no means common in any period, rib removal absolutely positively was not practiced during the Victorian period, and a properly fitting corset does not actually hurt to wear. Nevertheless, I am pleased to have the option of not wearing one every day without risking social ostracism. (See? It's not that I'm against feminism. I just don't like labels. And stuff.) Anyway, it's really interesting to see how academic research has used completely flawed sources (one 19th century fetish book, in particular) to make completely fallacious arguments, without any real understanding of the hows or whys of corsetry. I'll be floating some thoughts on the subject here as I work on morphing miscellaneous thoughts into a proper creature of academic research.
-My Obsession With Trader Joe's. Seriously, I love that place. OH MY GOD. It just occurred to me that there might not be a Trader Joe's in the rather rural area where I'm planning to go to graduate school (my top choice, that is)....so I stopped writing this post in order to check....and there isn't a Trader Joe's closer than 200 miles. Well, 191 miles. OH GOD WHY? This is genuinely upsetting to me. However, there is a famously awesome farmer's market, so that will have to console me. You know that stereotype that women love shoe shopping? That's how I feel about Trader Joe's. Um, sort of. Actually, as I think about it, the analogy is collapsing. Nevermind.
-Pretty Things. I love pretty things. Especially when those things are deceptively useful, and/or charmingly old-fashioned. I use a cut-crystal candy jar to hold my hair pins. (I have a lot of hair pins, and I generally shed them everywhere I go; it's my calling card.) I garnish perfectly ordinary bowls of soup that will be eaten sitting on a bed while watching a movie. I believe in the mood-lifting powers of pretty underwear, even if absolutely no one is going to see them. Despite being over-full and generally a bit (or a lot) messy, my room is perfectly color-coordinated in black and white and red. I handmade my own lampshade using cream-colored pleated chiffon, loopy gold braid trim, and shimmery dark red ribbon bows: it is magical. I also made myself a black silk velvet pincushion with a white silk organza ruffle all around. I'm really a very practical person, but I also adore pretty things.
Altogether, I am a rambly sort of creature, but I shall try to be organized, and to tag thoroughly, so things can be sifted through more easily. Also, I promise to post more pictures in future, and soon, but right now, I really need to be writing papers, so I will avoid giving myself further excuses to procrastinate. My excuse for writing this post was that it might help me sidle up on writing my papers, because it's less demanding and doesn't involve Chicago-style citations. Trying to actually write, while wrangling citations in Chicago-style, is mind-warpingly difficult, and I hate going back in later to do citations, but I suppose I'll have to. Because really, every time I think about getting back to work on a paper, I think "oh no, the citations" and my brain melts. In that very non literal way, obviously. I don't even dislike academic writing...it's something about the formatting of citations that just makes me twitchy.
Er - anyway - must write that paper now. More soon!