How Do We Develop a Pattern — Part 1

Perhaps you’ve been wondering just exactly what goes into pattern production here at Reconstructing History.  Pattern production is a process that starts with inspiration, moves through investigation and research, involves drafting, grading, testing, and writing and ends with printing.  The process can take a few months or a few years, but the end result is always greeted with excitement.

Phase One — Inspiration

Sometimes I get the idea for a pattern from a picture in a book.  Sometimes I get it from something I see someone wearing at an historical event.  Sometimes I am urged to produce a pattern by our customers.  But even when I develop a pattern because of customer demand, I have to be inspired by it.  I just can’t produce a pattern if I am not inspired by something about the resulting outfit.

Let’s take for example the inspiration for “The Fruitseller’s Outfit”.  For years, customers have been asking me to produce Italian patterns.  But nothing Italian had ever appealed to me before this.

What’s the one sure-fire way to inspire me?  Show me common people’s clothing!  I don’t know what it is about me, but instead of loving the shiny fabulous stuff, I love the clothing of the people, the stuff you can actually live and work in.

Maybe it’s because I really do live and work in my historical clothing.  I love to dress up fancy and go to balls and “court”.  But most of the time at events, I’m working.  And for that, nothing beats the clothing of working people.

What started me on this quest was Vincenzo Campi’s 1580s Mannerist painting, “Kitchen” which is housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan.  Here’s a thumbnail (click it for a larger image at the Web Gallery of Art).

 

Okay. Let me tell you what gets me about this painting.  It’s the closures, the rolled-up sleeves, the missing sleeves, and the sleeves worn off the arms and held together behind the back.  These variations in style on basically the same dress intrigue me.  Also, the different ways of using the elements of the dress — removing the sleeves or at least getting them out of the way when working — are interesting to me.  I also admit to a certain delight in the juxtaposition of the old woman with the young working girls.  The differences in their clothing is remarkable and thought-provoking.  So often in historical dress, we ignore age-appropriateness.  Seeing the old woman next to the young women shows us the differences in dress attributable to age.

Tomorrow… Phase Two — The “Lit Search”


© 2009 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice, the author’s name and website, and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.