Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Wearing History's Costume Design Challenge - Part One

This month I'm participating in Wearing History's Costume Design Challenge. Each day in November has a theme set by Lauren, and everyone sketches their interpretation in costume form and posts it to instagram. I'll admit I haven't been keeping every deadline, and that's even taking into account that I'm working on the US time zone, but I have mostly caught up now. The challenge is just over halfway through so I wanted to share my designs with you here on the blog too.

I apologise for the picture quality. Most were taken on my phone, and although you might think I could scan them in now for better images, that would imply that they don't have shopping lists and to-do lists all around them by now.

Femme Fatale 

I tried to move beyond the first ideas that came into my head and come up with something more unusual and hopefully interesting for each theme. My femme fatale became literally deadly as a skilled fencer. I love some of the crazy fencing outfits women wear in some vintage photos, so I took some inspiration from those and a bit of musketeer flair and went from there.

Gothic Thriller


I had a few ideas here, including a crazy headdress designed to look like a Gothic castle (perhaps someday...) and then I thought about the Landmark Trust's Gothic Temple and how I considered staying there on my last UK trip (again, perhaps someday - despite the steep stairs to the bathroom). So my Gothic nightgown and cap incorporates some of the architectural features of that gorgeous building.

She Travels By Train


I was recently reading some of my grandmother-in-laws record of her memories from Hungary during the war. Amongst these were some train trips using borrowed identity documents. I've pictured my girl as younger, and with a borrowed overcoat as well as borrowed papers.

On the Farm

One of my quicker sketches, and not the most inspired. I struggled to think out of the box for this one, so I just focused on the hat. I have some artificial wheat sheaves in my millinery stash, so I imagined a straw hat using those, with sunflowers, sweet peas and lavender, and gingham brim binding.

At the Ascot Races


Given this challenge fell around Melbourne Cup time, I went modern. I don't really do racing millinery, but I love the amazing creativity and artistry of those who do. As a starting point, I took my inspiration from a vintage Australian racing fashion image.

The Opera Singer


Since the opera followed the races, my thoughts turned to the Marx Brothers. Naturally. So I thought about the wonderful farewell song between the boat and the shore, and spun that story out. My opera singer is farewelling her love as she leaves for her new and brilliant career. Her dress and hat are decorated with forget-me-knots.



It almost isn't worth showing you this one but in the interest of completion, here it is. Plus I quite like these hats. My sister suggested the "ethical fashion revolution" when pressed for an idea, but I didn't know what to sketch for that. Then I thought about the materials I wish were available to me as a milliner - ethical options for faux fur, silk and feathers, and ethical wool felt that still blocks as smoothly as fur. A girl can dream.

The Factory Worker


Rhiannon also suggested Steampunk, which I used for the Factory Worker challenge. I combined the excessive patterns and trims of the Victorian era with a big draped apron full of pockets and tools, and a jaunty wind-powered light hat with dragon wings.

A Royal Wedding


This isn't really a new design, but a sketch of my great-grandmother's bridesmaids dress from the 1920s. The bride's dress was a similar style, and I find it one of the more interesting and unusual dress designs so I wanted to highlight it. I added some oak and roses and fleur-de-lys as things I (and the helpful internet) defined as feeling rather "royal".

The Chorus Girl


The day before this challenge I went to the zoo, and wanted to use that as inspiration. I love the golden pheasants, so I combined their colours and patterns with some design elements from this family photo of Mabel (some kind of great aunt?) performing at Drury Lane.



So the story here is that when I was pregnant, we spent a lot of time discussing names. Sometimes a name would suggest a particular personality or future occupation that we would joke about. Most significant of these was "Kit Kovari: Girl Detective." And here she is.

Tea Dance at the Palm Court


I didn't know what that meant at first, but Lauren explained that the grand old hotels would have afternoon tea dances. Now I don't know much about dancing but I do know my afternoon tea. I'm a bit of a high tea connoisseur, in fact. So my design is a modern vintage-style novelty dress with a three-tiered dessert skirt, and a tea-themed whimsy on top. If you can't see the detail, that's sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle, and miscellaneous desserts (mostly small fruit tarts) on the top. Yum!

The Collector


My collector is a bird watcher, collecting the names of birds in her book, ticking each one off a great long list of birds. With giant bird buttons and bird fabric on the cuffs of her trousers.



I struggled to think what design elements I could really add to underwear. I could sketch it, but I didn't feel I could really design it. So I wanted to come up with an actual costume, something arty from a ballet or opera or who-knows-what (you certainly can't dance in this, or even walk really) with underwear as its basis. Then during an early-morning feed I was thinking about moths, and this came to me. So there it is.

Before this challenge, I'd actually been sketching a little each day, over a toddler-paced breakfast, to work on my drawing skills, particularly at drawing people and faces. So the challenge fit right in with my goals, and although it is taking more time than those quick morning sessions, I feel like it is a great exercise in creativity and in developing my artistic style and skills again. I've experimented with faces, no faces, drawing on croquis or freehand, pencil sketches and coloured images, different papers and all sorts of things! I'm really enjoying it.

I'll be back after November ends with Part Two!


  1. I've been enjoting watching thes emerge. But somehow I missed adventure! Love seeing Kit Kovari.

    1. You didn't miss it, I only just caught up with that one!

  2. Very cool! This is such an awesome idea on her part, and I love seeing all of the creative ideas the prompts inspire. I think the ascot races and the underwear one are my favorites.

    1. It is a really fun activity, although quite exhausting to keep up with on busy days!

  3. I have so enjoyed seeing your designs on Instagram. This is such a marvellous idea of Wearing History's.

    1. Thank you! It is a really fun idea and I'm glad she did it!

  4. These are super cool! You are a lady of so many fantastic talents, dear Tanith

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you Jessica! I spent most of my childhood and teen years drawing :)


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