The Grand Project


I don’t talk very much about this project o’mine, because everyone knows the stereotype of the person who makes loads of plans to do something amazing and talks about it incessantly but never gets around to doing it.  I don’t want to fall into that trap!  But I do think about it a lot of the time.

 A mannequin I dressed with a partner at FIT

When I was taking a class in sketching extant clothing and dressing mannequins at FIT, I liked to joke that my ambition was to be the next Janet Arnold.  My sketches went from scale versions of the study garments to full-on patterns with directions.  I even did an extra one because I wanted to make the dress.  While I was researching my thesis, I took a couple of really quick patterns of garments that weren’t technically related to my topic.  (I’m glad I did, that set of stays made up very quickly.)  Then, when I was interning at the Albany Institute, it suddenly struck me that it would be a fantastic extra if the website for the exhibition could have patterns of the dresses on view for the .05% of the visitors that would like them, or if we could *gasp* publish an eensy book or pamphlet for the gift shop.  Can you imagine?  I mean, can you imagine?



I approached the curators and while the latter was only a possibility for a short period of time, we were set to go ahead with the former.  I took the patterns of the ca.1765 sacque, the ca. 1797 white cotton dress, the ca. 1822 evening dress, the ca. 1838 day dress, and the ca. 1867 evening dress … and then it became apparent that only the two 1920s dresses were going to fit on the mannequins.  Those stayed in, and I went through all of the 1920s evening dresses in the collection (seriously, all of them) to find enough to fit all ten mannequins instead.  Oops.

 The ca. 1797 dress I patterned

But thinking for a minute that there could be a pattern book sitting on the shelf with my name on it fired me up.  And when the possibility fizzled, I said to myself, "That’s perfectly okay, because I’m going to do a book of my own."  (And then over the course of several weeks determined that it would have to be more like four books.)

I haven't really worked on this project since I decided that I was going to do it, as I've been very busy with my present internship, but it's coming to an end this Friday.  I'm working at finding a new job, but museum positions aren't easy to come by and the competition is absolutely staggering.  In the meantime, I'm hoping to really get started at talking with local museums about allowing me to do this, and at taking patterns with detailed notes.


A bodice I saw at my most recent internship - am I bribing you with photos of extant garments to like me?  Maybe.

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