Tomorrow Tony and I will be making our way back home from our lovely time spent over the past few days in Vancouver, but first, I wanted to share this month's exciting new "Meet a Fellow Vintage Blogger" interview post with you.
For November's one-on-one chat, I had the immense pleasure of discussing vintage, historical reenactments, sewing, her wedding, when she'd go back in time to, and oodles more with a woman that, really, needs to no introduction to many of us in the vintage and/or sewing spheres, but whom I am beyond honoured to introduce to all of you here today: Emily from the site Emily's Vintage Visions.
Emily is not only an incredibly talented seamstress, great blogger, and sweet-as-all-get-out lady, but she also shares my passion for launching innovative ways to bringing the online vintage community together, such as the two fabulous vintage fashion contests that she held on her blog this year (you may recall my post from October about the fall one).
As a relatively small (in the grander scope of the blogging universe) group of people, most of whom live in different corners of the world, I think its of the utmost importance that some of our members take the initiative and start/organize events that see some of the community's members come together like this and absolutely doff my hat to Emily for doing just that.
A creative, smart, terrific person, you never know what Emily is going to show us or come up with next, and that is a big part of the appeal of her beautiful blog, as well as why I was all but hopping up and down with excitement over the fact that I got the chance to interview her her this month.
Join me, won't you as we get to know this stellar lady and her immeasurable passion for sewing and historical costuming even better!
In your blog's sidebar "About" write up, you mention that you're always game for any excuse to dress up (same here!). How would you say that your desire to dress in vintage and/or historical costumes has shaped the kind of topics that you share on Emily's Vintage Visions?
Hello, Jessica! Thank you for this interview, it's something I have really been looking forward to! I have always had a keen interest in history and beautiful old clothing so starting a vintage/sewing blog made a lot of sense. When I first started blogging, I looked at it as a way to share and keep track of my various sewing projects. Sort of an online sewing diary if you will. Many of my posts are inspired by the vintage/historical or special events I go to.
As you've said, I love dressing up in both historical and vintage fashions and as my blog as grown I have found different ways to share my outfits and related topics of interest. My spring and fall vintage photo contests are good examples of how my love of research and dressing up turned into blog posts! It was so much fun planning not only my own outfits but the blog posts to go with them.
You began your blog in 2012 and it has flourished into one of the most beloved in the vintage and historical sewing world. Did you set out with any specific goals in mind when you launched your site?
It's been really exciting to see my blog change and grow over the last three years. It took some time to get into a blogging groove. As I said, when I first started blogging it was just a way to keep track of projects.
I had, and still have, the goal of sharing what I have learned by studying and recreating historic/vintage clothing and to show a few items in my own collection. But I've found my blog has become so much more! When I started I didn't really expect to have many followers. But now I have close to 200 followers on my blog and nearly 1,000 on Facebook! I have "met" so many great people in the vintage and historical sewing world from all over the globe! It's amazing!
You're an incredible and very talented sewer. When did your passion for sewing first take root?
Thank you! My mom taught me how to sew when I was younger, she's an avid quilter and made a lot of different things for my siblings and I when we were growing up. I've always had an interest in history. It was in high school (that seems like ages ago!) when I really got interested in historical sewing and joined my first reenacting group.
I had a student internship with my local historical society where I had my first opportunity to examine antique clothing up close. I was hooked and started collecting antique garments of my own. I think it was around that same time that I really started sewing for myself.
Does your day job involve your love of sewing as part of it?
I wish it did! My day job involves ZERO sewing. But I can't complain because my day job is pretty cool and allows me to actually use my history degree! I work as a writer and content specialist (oooh, fancy title! haha!) for a company that digitizes historical documents and newspapers and markets them in a fully text searchable data base for libraries, schools and universities around the globe. (I'm sure many people are familiar with America's Historic Newspapers and the Archives of Americana.) My day is split between researching and writing about historical topics and posting current news stories on a special website.
What's your favourite (or top three, if it's hard to narrow it down to just one) thing that you've ever sewn to date?
Oooh, that is hard to narrow down. I think my favorite historical projects so far are my 1750s green silk sacque back gown and my 1770s stays. Both projects are entirely hand sew and although they required a lot of work, were not as difficult as I feared they would be. I don't get to wear the silk gown very often but my stays get a lot of use!
My favorite vintage sewing project? That's much harder! It's a toss up between my 1940s brown linen slacks and my 1940s plaid hoodie. Although I would have to say my Red Birds Dress is hot in the running too. It was my first project using all new to me vintage materials, including the pattern. (You can find these projects and more through my Portfolio page.)
And do you have a favourite type of garment (i.e., dresses or blouses) to sew?
Although not always the most practical, I enjoy sewing dresses the most. I like seeing a length of fabric morph into something beautiful and fun the wear.
Do you tend to have a lot of WIPs on the go at once, or do you prefer to try and work on a project from start to finish before moving on to the next one?
I tend to have more then one project in the works. Sometimes I get into a groove and cut several projects out in one evening that way I always have something to work on. It also depends on what events (historical and vintage) I know will be coming up and how much I "need" something new to wear. I like to have a couple hand sewing projects going because they tend to travel well and can easily be worked on while watching a good movie. Plus, I find hand sewing weirdly relaxing.
Would you say that you sew more historical costume/reenactment outfits or vintage garments, or is it a fairly even mix of the two?
At one point the easy answer was mostly historical clothing. But in the last few years I've been making more vintage inspired and vintage reproduction garments. The line between what I make for living history and everyday use has been blurred as I try and work more vintage into my everyday wardrobe. While I don't dress in vintage every day it's not uncommon to see me wearing my 40s slacks and a vintage sweater or me made 30s/40s blouse to work.
What is some advice that you give to a sewer (of any skill level) who is looking to get into historical costuming and/or vintage sewing?
Don't be afraid! Historical and vintage sewing is not as scary as it may seem, I promise! I learned soooo much in my first few years of historical/vintage sewing and I fully admit I made lots of mistakes.
Many vintage patterns are easy to follow once you learn a few basic skills. My advice is to ask LOTS of questions! There are tons of great blogs, website, and Facebook pages with people willing to share their knowledge and sewing experiences. Oh, and you don't need to spend a ton of money on costume books either if you have a library card! Inter-library loan rocks!
Who and/or what are some of your key sources of sewing inspiration?
Original garments for sure, nothing beats the real thing! And let's not forget old Hollywood movies! (I love anything with Deanna Durbin!) But old photos, newspapers and sources like vintage patterns are key for me too.
When I make an item of clothing that I plan to use for living history I don't think of it as a costume. Because it's purpose is in part educational, historical accuracy is important to me so I go the extra step with my research and source appropriate materials and if needed (depending on the time period) hand sew the entire thing. Another huge source of inspiration for me are other bloggers. :) I love seeing other peoples' outfits and sewing project come to life!
What are some of your favourite online sources for historical and/or vintage sewing related items (fabric, notions, patterns, etc)?
My favorite places for historical fabrics and notions are Burnely and Trowbridge, Wm. Booth Draper, and Sign of the Golden Scissors. I know the owners of these shops personally. They are friendly, very knowledgeable and offer some of the best products. Etsy are Ebay are great sources too for vintage sewing patterns and extras like buttons and buckles. I highly recommend Duchess Trading and Vintage4me2.
Is there much in the way of a vintage community and/or vintage/antique shops where you live?
Here in New England we have lots of antique shops! Like covered bridges and fall foliage, it's one of the things we are known for! There are a few places that carry antique and vintage clothing but it's hit or miss. You never know what you are going to find which is part of the fun in visiting them. There is a HUGH week-long antique/flea market in Brimfield, Mass each year that is always worth the drive. As far as a vintage community there isn't a whole lot in my immediate area.
I don't know of anyone who wears vintage in my town. Boston has a pretty active vintage scene. The Great Boston Vintage Society was formed about three years ago and hosts fantastic events, such as the 1920s beach and lawn parties I have blogged about. Sadly, Boston is still over 2 hours away so it's not always possible to attend their events. Sometimes Cori and I will make our own "events." Dressing in vintage attire to go out for lunch and visit our favorite antique shop has been come a birthday tradition. :)
In addition to blogging, you also have a lovely Etsy shop - also called Emily's Vintage Visions - where you stock a delightful assortment of vintage items. I understand that you're looking to expand into carrying vintage reproduction pieces that you make yourself, too. Could you please share more with us about your exciting plans on that front?
Of course! My long term sewing goal is to offer a variety of ready made vintage reproduction and vintage style garments. I only have a few items in the Made by Me section of my shop right now but I will be updating that soon.
It's been a much slower process then I had hoped getting everything in order. In preparation I created two online surveys (which can be found in the upper right hand corner of my blog), and a couple blog posts, to help determine what people want to see offered for sale. Feedback so far has been great but more is always welcome! I wanted to have a section of blouses and dresses ready to list this fall but it looks like that listing will be pushed back until late winter or early spring. Be sure to check my blog and FB page for updates.
Jessica's note: Emily has very kindly offered all Chronically Vintage readers 15% off on everything in her Etsy shop between today and December 10, 2015, when you use the coupon code EMILYSVINTAGE15 at checkout.
You set the vintage blogging world on fire last year when you debuted photos of the stunning mid-century style wedding dress that you made for yourself. Did you know from the get-go that you wanted to make your own dress or did that come about as the search progressed and you weren't finding your ideal gown?
I was really surprised by the amount of feedback I received on my dress and vintage themed wedding! It's still among my most viewed posts. I think in the back of my mind I always knew I would end up making my wedding dress. I did go to a couple shops to try on dresses and get an idea of the styles available. It was a fun experience shopping for such a special dress with friends but also very frustrating.
I found that most of the dresses I really liked were way more then I was comfortable spending on something I knew I would only wear once. My husband and I planned to pay for most of the wedding ourselves so staying within our comfortable budget was key. (Believe it or not, the lady at a high end shop where I tried a few dresses actually told my mom if we cut back on food I could buy a more expensive dress!! Seriously?!?!!) Once we settled on having a 1930s/40s themed wedding, making my dress just made the most sense. I did look for a vintage dress but again price, condition and size never worked in my favor.
Any tips for others who might be thinking about sewing their own wedding dress?
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time! Take lots of breaks and don't forget to breath! Oh, and buy more material then you think you will need. ;) It never hurts to have a little extra. (We used some of my leftover lace for bunting!) Also if you have someone who can help you with fitting your life will be much easier.
Did you sew/make many other elements of your wedding day as well?
A big part of our vintage themed wedding was DIY. Along with my wedding dress, I made a shorter dress to wear for the reception. All the bouquets for the girls and myself I made out of wool felt and vintage notions. The boutonnieres for the guys were special ordered from a vintage blogger and etsy shop owner in England. The bunting we used was made with the help of some friends and all our center pieces were put together using various items that Cori and I have collected over the years.
You and your husband, Cori, are both avid fans of historical reenactments. Do you have a specific favourite type of reenactment (e.g., Civil War, WW2, etc)?
Although we don't get to go to as many events as we would like, 18th century reenactments will always be very special for us because that was how we first met. Cori and I were friends for about 2 years before we started dating. It only took us 9 years to finally tie the note! Lol! Lately our favorite reenactments have centered around WWII, especially those were we have the chance to meet and interact with veterans.
What have been some of your favourite aspects of being involved with historical reenactments?
The history for sure! It's really an amazing and unique experience to travel to some of these historic sites. One of the highlights of my reenacting "career" was attending the 250th anniversary of the Siege of Louisburgh in Nova Scotia and standing in the spot where General Wolf's army came ashore under heavy French fire.
The other aspect that I truly enjoy are the people! I have many friends that I only see a few times a year but they have become like a second family. It's similar to the vintage community in many ways, its very close knit and we all look out for one another. And it's tons of fun to geek out with people who share such similar interests. ;)
When not busy sewing, blogging, running your Etsy shop, or taking part in reenactments, what are some of your favourite ways to spend your time?
I like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and/or a cat (I have two, Miss Rita and Miss Ava) and watch a good movie or read a book. If the weather is nice I much prefer to be outside working in the garden or just soaking up the sunshine! I also enjoy hiking and running, I ran track and cross-country all through high school and college.
If you could back in time and spend a year living in any point in history, what year would you pick and why?
Goodness, that's a tough question! I would love to travel back to a time right before the American Revolution because I think it's such a fascinating period of history. Plus when I came back I would, hopefully, be able to answer some of the tough historical costuming questions! Though I'm not sure about spending a whole year, things like modern medicine and plumbing have their perks after all! If I could spend a whole year in a past time I pick a year during WWII. I think it would be great to witness a time when the our country really pulled together to fight for a common cause.
Do you collect any types of vintage items aside from clothing/jewelry/accessories?
I love antique books and have a small collection of them including a set of British theater books from the 1770s. I like to look for vintage magazines, patterns and sewing notions of course but also enjoy useful and colorful household items like Pyrex dishes and tea cups.
And last, but not least, as we look towards 2016, do you have any specific vintage and/or historical costuming related goals or plans that you can share with us?
This year I started a series of Behind the Seams posts showing some of my vintage and antique garments so I want to continue with those. I want to work in a few book reviews and tutorials too. Updating my Etsy shop with ready made clothing will be a big focus. As for personal sewing, I have two new 18th century gowns and a few vintage separates planned out. Thanks to you and Lauren of Wearing History, my fall vintage photo contest was a smashing success. I will be hosting another one some time next year for sure!
You can connect with Emily on the following sites:
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What an enjoyable, thoroughly lovely interview, Emily. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with all of us here today and for sharing some of historical, vintage, and creative related things that bring your heart the most happiness.
If you're not already doing so, I can't urge you highly enough to follow Emily's blog, as well as her social media accounts. Whether you love sewing, history, vintage, or all three, this fabulous lady will be sure to deliver plenty of fun and inspiration your way through her sites!
After two back-to-back months of visiting fabulous women in the States, come December, for the final Vintage Blogger Interview of the year (but certainly not of all time!), we'll be popping our winter boot clad selves back across the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean.
Once there, we'll be talking with a vintage fashion, travel, and literary loving lady who, much like Emily herself, is a new bride (who shared all about her big day and ensuing honeymoon on her dynamic blog). It's going to be great!