Accuracy and accruacy

While working on Padme and All Those Stamps and teaching Victorian patterning workshops and interpreting a portrait of Anne of Cleves I’ve been really able to think about the phenomenon of Accuracy again.

I am not sure how many people have pondered the inner workings of my mind but as a laurel, as a very long cosplay judge, and currently learning the Legion Costume Judging ropes for the Rebel Legion I’ve very definitely had lots of opportunity to take what feels intuitive and apply to the work of others- in a way that is not Judgey(tm).


I have seen a perfect description of reproduction vs replica but it’s been a while so to summaraise: you can try top reproduce an item as it was made, with exact dimensions and exact materials but is that actually accurate?

Extant objects (and character design) are specific objects for specific people.

So for anyone who is not an exact match there is always going to be interpretation.

What makes something more or less accurate is really down to understanding what the original creator thought was most important. Even if that goes against what current thinking is. It can be very hard to go against What Everyone Knows.

So I hoard patterns and tailors manuals not just because I like them but because they tell me what craftspeople in a region or time would know. So that I know what the ideal is. I look at how objects are manufactured (fabric widths, twists of yarn for sewing by hand versus machine, loom types.)

And then I go looking for extant items to see the reality.

And the reality shows where shortcuts are taken universally, Where the most mistakes are made, and where the most care is taken.

I want to think like a professional not as a modern person with the advantages and limitations I have in a workshop. Most of what I make has been the result of dozens of people. I am one person.

So to this end I have not just learned how individual objects that interest me have been made but I have an idea of what people wanted and expected and actually experienced.

One of the complaints of tailors in the 16thC was that fabric merchants sold fabric folded- because of the folds you expect there to be more fabric than there is so the client would buy the wrong length (due to the inner curve of the folds, I think.) This is super important when you are butting pattern pieces next to each other to use every scrap. A few inches shy and you can wind up way out.

Dressmakers of the 19thC flipped skirt pieces so often you see enough to think it was a fashion option not a common error- unless you read the manuals they were supposed to work from.


So accuracy or ideal, and what compromises need to be made now.

In deciding some scale or texture or fabric options I tend to prefer to use what I know a designer would do.

So for my Marie Antoinette gown I am basically only using historic patterns for my panniers. Everything else is from early costume history books and pattern books from the 1930s. My wig will be pale blonde vs powdered and I have to make concessions with the lace to be able to afford it. A few kilos of actual silver? Not really possible!)

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