I thought you might like to share a wonderful new resource I have found (and have just added to the “My Links Section” in the left hand column to this page), the Dressing History web-site owned and created by Serena Dyer.
Serena has been studying historical costume since 1999, developing her knowledge through reproduction and recreation of historical pieces. She has spent time in the Textiles department at Christie’s, as well as with the wonderful Snowshill Manor Costume collection.
She is currently working towards studying for a BA in History, which she hopes to develop into an MA in Fashion History. Her voluntary work with the National Trust has led to the development of her historical interpretation skills, which she now does regularly at Wimpole Hall, near Cambridge,appearing as various characters from the Hall’s history.
Serena makes and sells fabulously accurate reproductions of historic clothing for re-enactors, museums and the heritage industry. She is able to supply thoroughly researched, highly accurate reproductions or recreations of historical garments from any era, and from a variety of social classes. Importantly she only uses natural fibres for the garments, and tries, wherever possible, to use authentically woven fabrics. Many of her pieces are based on original garments, portraits or fashion plates, and a research portfolio is available for each garment.
Here is her marvellous recreation of a 1797 open robe:
For part of her dissertation on the dissemination of fashion in England c. 1770-1820 Serena made this dress-from beginning to end:
She explains that:
I am using this dress to explore how closely the best sorts of dresses owned by the ladies of ‘polite society’ followed the plates of the period. Unlike simply looking at extant garments, this process allowed me to emulate aspects of the process through which a contemporary lady would make her decisions.
Serena also gives talks, all vividly illustrated with her own reproduction garments. Her talks currently include Bonnets to Boots: A Regency Lady’s Wardrobe complete with garments reproduced from the 1810-1820 era which she recently performed at the 2010 Jane Austen Festival in Bath and, one for Henry Tilney, Knowing Your Muslin complete with reproduction garments and fabrics from 1780-1820 which Serena performed at the 2009 Jane Austen Festival.
She also performs a talk which is of special interest to us, Dressing Jane Austen with reproduction garments representing the period 1780-1820. In Serena’s own words:
This presentation examines both Jane’s personal attitude to fashion, and her use of it as a literary device, using the portraits, letters and novels as evidence. Reproductions of gowns described in the letters and novels are also used, as well as an examination of the Pelisse which is believed to have belonged to Jane, providing the audience with a talk that is both visually interesting and provides an insight into how Jane viewed herself and others
Serena also provides an historical interpretation service, in which she portrays a wide range of characters, both in third and first person, and covers the 16th to 19th centuries.
Many of the characters portrayed are real historical people, and are presented as my interpretation, after thorough research, of what that person was truly like. I can also offer more general services, using a constructed character of my own, for any era, or alternatively I can give various demonstrations. Please contact for details and fees applicable.
The characters available are:
Jane Austen (1790s, or 1800s),Charlotte Bronte (1830s), Jemima Yorke, Marchioness Grey (1740s), Lady Amabel Yorke (1770s), Marion Syratt (C16th),Molly Young, aMaid( C18th) and Mary Zouche (1540s)
I have to admit I am so very tempted to order one of Serena’s magnificently trimmed bonnets….
But when to wear it?…would it look at all eccentric if I gardened in it? Of course not (!!) Details of Serena’s bonnet trimming service is available here and if you like to trim your own bonnet ( or like Lydia Bennet, just like to pull something to pieces) you can buy plain straw bonnets and ribbons from Serena too, here, in her Haberdashery section.
If you want to contact Serena to buy some of her wonderful merchandise, book her for a talk or interpretation or view her fabulously interesting website, then go here and she can also be contacted (and “liked”!) via Facebook.
I do hope I get the opportunity to hear one of her talks soon and I hope you have enjoyed reading about her.