Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Wearing History's Costume Design Challenge - Part Two

Today I'm presenting part two of my illustrations for the Wearing History Costume Design Challenge. You can find part one here if you missed it. For the second half of the month, I put a more consistent effort into my sketches, although sometimes that meant getting behind and then catching up. Some costumes are (I feel) a more unusual take on the theme, with others they are more obvious and less creative. I had fun doing the sketches either way.

I found that for some eras I knew the fashions better and was able to play around with them more, while others I was in less familiar waters and my designs are more straightforward. I have decided I much prefer the sketches where I went to the effort of finding a photo with a more interesting pose to start from, rather than a straight-on view. And, as you can see, I took the time to colour most of them, and in general I like that much better too.

So here we go!

Romance on the Highlands

I was trying to think away from tartan on this one, but I also really wanted something I could imagine being worn out on the Scottish landscape. Once I could tear my brain away from older historical styles, I could see a hippie look with long flowing skirt and hair among the heather. I based my outfit on a long velvet skirt I have (and photographed with some floral headbands last year) but centred the design on Scottish flowers. Thistle was obvious, but I relied on the internet to give me some other suggestions. You can't really see them anyway, but there are Scottish bluebells and the hat features rowan leaves and berries.

On the Job

For some reason I thought of a young fashion designer in London in the 1960s, working with some friends in the little boutique they own and make the clothes for from their own designs. From there I naturally thought of my friend Nicole of Manic Pop (who I collaborated with last year and who made me a maternity dress). While she isn't pursuing fashion design currently, she has a distinctive style, and it was actually hard at first to try to work in her aesthetic without taking too much inspiration from her work. But she loves rainbows, and I love Yves-Saint-Laurent-style bubble hats and we both love the theme I chose for the dress. Bonus points if you can pick that!

Monaco Road Trip

I have tried to incorporate hats as much as possible in my sketches, and they have often driven the whole design. In this case, my first thought was of a scarf tied around the head, as is traditional for an open top car ride, I believe. From there I thought of where I could take that idea, and then (as I said on instagram) I was watching a Muppet Family Christmas, and then this happened. If you've seen it recently you may know, but maybe not. Anyway apparently Monaco doesn't get very cold, but there are cool winter days and it must get pretty breezy in those cars.

Music Hall Sweetheart

I've done some interesting research for this challenge. Music Hall was one I didn't know much about, and my internet wanderings led me to some male impersonators and so I went with that. This was a bit of a quick late night sketch!

Wild West Show

I thought of Jane Russell in The French Line. At the beginning of the movie she is in a practical western outfit of checked shirt and jeans, and later in the movie she does a dance number in a ridiculous sequinned number. I decided to go somewhere in between, with a shorter, sexier, dancier version of the first outfit, without getting all blinged up.

Venice Carnevale


My entire motivation here was to sketch one of the wonderfully outrageous medieval horned headdresses. Then my gold pen leaked over it. That's all there is to say really.

Vintage Reminisces of the Past

The 1920s loved their Egyptian revival, and that went from high fashion all the way to the elegant nude/semi-nude costumes. They are really so classy, in their own way. And a good excuse to really go all out on the head wear.

Her Dressing Gown

I wanted to go for something wintery, with a lush faux fur collar and a ridiculous turban, so that's what I did. I could handle lounging around in this during the cooler months.

A Transatlantic Voyage

This outfit was inspired by this image of a stunning coat from the 1920s, with an entire cruise ship pictured on the back. To change it up, I translated the ship image to the cloche hat, and kept just the waves on the lush velvet wrap coat.

At the Garden Party

Again my first thoughts were probably floaty chiffon 1930s dresses or all-white Edwardian numbers, so I kept on moving, and settled on some big bold sixties florals again. And the all-over floral hat options that go with it.

The Circus


I'm quite a Marx Brothers fan, but I had never seen "At The Circus" (although I have it on DVD, courtesy of my father-in-law). So I started to watch for inspiration, and it didn't need more than 5 minutes to find an inspirational and lust-worthy outfit, from which starting point I created this.

The Jane Austen Adaptation

Totally motivated by my fascination with this lamp-shade of a hat style. I picture it being worn by Caroline Bingley.

In Palm Springs

Another one that led me to the internet to find out more about Palm Springs. Their tourism website made it clear that Palm Springs is full of young people in bright bold prints. And I love bees. So there you have it.

The Poet


I felt I needed a character for this one. A real story. The first poet I thought of (perhaps oddly) was Augustus Fawnhope, a character from Georgette Heyer's "The Grand Sophy." He's a beautiful young man completely absorbed in his art and dreamily unaware of most that goes on around him. Since I hadn't done any male costumes, I thought that would be fun.

Fairy Tale Ending

I had a few ideas for this, but I couldn't get away from drawing a version of my own fairytale ending. There are of course many facets to that, this was an obvious choice. One day!

This was an epic challenge, that exhausted but also inspired me. It was the first daily Instagram challenge I've participated in, and I enjoyed it, but I would think very carefully before embarking on another one! Maybe a one-week challenge would be better. It would be fun to see some more happening in the vintage community.

Over to you! Any of these outfits take your fancy? And is there any kind of Instagram community challenge you wish existed for you to take part in?


  1. Ah, Augustus Fawnhope. What a great choice!

    I love most of these but I really want to wear the Romance In the highlands, transatlantic voyage and palm springs. Although palm springs only if I can be thin.

    I've had so much fun watching this challenge and especially seeing all the different sketching styles - one or two I'd totally buy as decorative prints. It would be a lot of fun to do a similar challenge but I can't off the top of my head think what. Really probably something similar and I'd just have terrible sketches!

    1. I hoped you would appreciate him!

      Thank you! That is all lovely feedback. I think if you drew on a croquis you'd be fine! They help a ridiculous amount.

  2. I love the Jane Russell - just perfect. The cruise liner sketch reminds me so much of your great-grandmother, I'm sure she had a similar coat once, and definitely a similar hat! Great sketches, and I hope your dream comes true.

    1. Thank you! Dora's style often inspired me for anything from the 1920s, although I only know if from a few photos.

      I hope so too :)

  3. I adore the Palm Springs one and the Western Wear one, but honestly they are good. Great job!

    Liz :)

    1. Thank you Liz! Those two are definitely wearable ones :)

  4. Goodness, these are so fantastic! I love that you're including props and/or a sense of setting in some of these beautiful fashion illustrations. I really do enjoy them all, but in terms of what I could easily see myself wearing, it's Monaco Road Trip, The Circus, and Fairy Tale Ending in particular.

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you Jessica! I found the drawings much more satisfying with those details, although not as quick, of course. I'd love to wear the Circus one too, although I'm not sure where to!

  5. I enjoyed seeing all your entries to this challenge so much. It must have been lots of effort to do but I am kind of sad that it is over! I loved seeing the hats taking on the days themes. I really like the Fairy Tale Ending and Transatlantic Voyage outfits and also love Her Dressing a Gown because of that rather marvellous turban!

    1. Thanks Kate-Em, that's really sweet. Actually I am kind of sad too, although I definitely needed a break! (I am a bit obsessed with that style of turban at the moment!)

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you! It's one of my favourites too.


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