Author Archives: Susan

About Susan

Hi! My name is Susan and I am a historian, seamstress, teacher, mother, and wife. My passion for history has manifested itself in the art of recreating clothing from different periods of time. Growing up in the American South, I am heavily schooled in the art of recreating clothing from the 19th century. After nearly a decade of immersing myself primarily in the Victorian period, I found the need to branch out and explore other periods of time. However, it is my connection with the American South and the clothing of rural America that continues to be the driving force behind my designs.

QV Tea- About the Venue

We are just ONE MONTH away from our authentic Victorian Era British tea and I though it might be nice to chat a little more about our venue!

Legion Hall c. 1920s
The Legion Hall fully restored today!

The American Legion Hall in South Pittsburg, Tennessee was built in the mid 1920s at a cost of $20,000.00. It is a Sears and Roebuck catalog building purchased in Chattanooga and is in the Egyptian style. It was erected to honor the local men and women who served during WWI. Tennessee and Marion County had a large number of men who enlisted during this war and sadly many did not return home. This building pays homage not only to their service but the service all of those who have since come after them.

Volunteers from the US Air Force help restore the Hall. Image courtesy The Chattanooga Times.

The first event was held at Post 62 on November 11, 1926. Armistice Day events were then held there annually. In 1940, the local Girl Reserves hosted a mother- daughter tea with over 200 in attendance. A May 23 edition of the local newspaper records the event. “A Russian Tea was served from a beautifully appointed table with lace cloth and artistic arrangement of columbine in the center.”

The Legion Hall serves as a modern wedding venue. Image courtesy Facebook.

In 2016, a group of local preservation- minded citizens formed a nonprofit to restore the Hall. The goals of the project were to: 1. preserve the historical integrity of the structure (including the interior) as it was in the 1920s. 2. To provide a gathering place for all veterans (as it was originally intended) and 3. To make the Hall self sustaining through rentals.

Getting ready for the local Chamber of Commerce Breakfast. Image courtesy Facebook.

And oh what a marvelous job they have done! Not only do the proceeds from this Tea benefit our selected charity- Angel Gowns of the South but also helps contribute to the historic preservation of this gorgeous landmark structure!

Decorating the great foyer for the Holidays! Image courtesy Facebook.

Looking forward to seeing you on May 25, 2019 for our 200th birthday celebration! About the event.

Girl’s mid century try- on clothing

These two mid 19th century yoked front dresses were made for a museum in Arkansas for their children’s hands on exhibit. This style of dress was popular from about 1840 through the 1860s and was prominent in the American South. These two dresses are made from period reproduction cotton prints and are suitable for girls ages 4-13. They open all the way down the back to accommodate ease of trying on and close with buttons.

Girl’s mid century yoked dress sized for girls ages 10-13.
The pinner aprons is removable and is attached to the dress with snaps to make on and off as easy as possible.
Sweet summer dress of floral calico sized for girls ages 10-13.

We also made this close fitting straw bonnet to accompany this collection. This style bonnet was worn by girls from the 1840s through the 1860s. We constructed it in an easy to clean, durable way (without ties) to allow multiple young visitors to try on this darling little bonnet while at the museum.

Mid century straw bonnet without ties to keep little heads clean and tidy!

For more information about these custom designed historical children’s clothing or any of our historical fashions, please visit our website at www.maggiemayfashions.com

Girl’s 1830s-1840s dresses

These 1830s-1840s era dresses were designed for a museum in Arkansas for their children’s interpretive center. These dresses open all the way down the back for ease of getting on and off and have small snaps on the bodice to attach the pinner aprons for a mix and match look. These dresses are made in 100% reproduction cotton prints and have button closures at the back.

Bright turkey red calico suitable for a girl age 5-7. Turkey red was a popular color in the 1830s!
Yellow calico cotton dress with 1830s gigot sleeves. Dress suitable for girls ages 7-10.
Dress with pinner apron.
Girl’s 1840s era dress of period reproduction cotton print. Suitable for girls ages 5-7.
1840s era dress with apron. Perhaps my FAVORITE from this collection!
Bold print 1840s era dress suitable for girls ages 7-10.
1840s era girl’s dress shown with pinner apron.
1840s era dress detail. Sweet little ribbon and lace adorn with 3/4 length close fitting sleeve.

For more information about our custom made historical children’s clothing or any of our historical fashions, please visit our website at www.maggiemayfashions.com

Girl’s petticoats

We recently completed an extensive children’s clothing order for a museum in Arkansas. These garments are for their children’s interpretive centers and span the 1830s through the 1850s. Here are two examples of the petticoats we made for this commission.


The corded petticoat on the left is suitable for ages 9-12 and the standard tucked petticoat on the right for ages 5-8.
Girl’s cotton corded petticoat
Girl’s cotton tucked petticoat

For more information about our custom made historical children’s clothing or any of our historical fashions, please visit our website at www.maggiemayfashions.com

WWI Motor Corps Uniform- Part Deux

I recently completed a second WWI Era US Motor Corps Uniform for a private client in Texas. This uniform is made from 100% olive green drab wool and is lined in cotton. The buttons are reproductions as is the Sam Browne belt. The shirt and tie are up cycled and very similar in style to those of the period.

Curse you wrinkles in the skirt! I either need new iron or a steamroller! I pressed and pressed and steamed and steamed but they are still there! URGH!

Having made several versions of these WWI era uniforms in the past year, this one is slightly different than the first version we made for Alvin C. York State Park last year. We modified the cut of the bodice to reflect a closer fitting silhouette and widened the jacket skirting so it closes neatly in the front. The wool is a rougher weave and has slightly more texture. The buttons are reproduction brass military eagles and still have the sheen the originals would have prior to 100 years of patina!

Love the look of the shiny brass buttons! They are just as they would have during the war!

Very little modifications have been made to the skirt. It is fully lined in cotton and has two pockets at the hipline. Hem length reaches mid calf.

Even though I have already made one of these uniforms, it is still a beast! It took over 40 hours of labor to create this piece with 5 hours dedicated to just the pockets! However, all good things come with time and this is a beautiful museum quality reproduction! A big thank you to my client for her patience while I searched for just the right wool, did a little more research, and allowed me the time needed to construct this garment with care!

I have not yet made the necessary adjustments to this reproduction Sam Browne belt. When being used by women, the belt typically needs to be made smaller and the chest strap shorter!

I would love to make a version of this uniform with the jodhpurs! Any takers?

For more information about our WWI Era Motor Corps uniform or any of our custom designed historical fashion, please visit our website at www.maggiemayfashions.com

April 1! 10 Honest Answers to 10 Honest Questions

It’s April’s Fool’s Day! In honor of this silly day, I decided to conduct an “interview” and give honest answers to honest questions! Warning: you might find out more than you want to know! So here goes!

Q: Why do you make historical clothing?

A: Because I do not like teaching. Wait- isn’t that supposed to be the other way around? You know, those who can’t- teach? So cliche. But seriously, I was a visual arts teacher for a while. I loved working with kids but found the educational system most frustrating. I was the only creative in the building and that was a very lonely feeling.

Q: What is your favorite time period to design from?

A: Hmm. That’s a tough one. I love the understated elegance of the Regency Period. But I also love the over-the-top styles of the Bustle Era. I am not a big fan of the 1860s/early 1870s. I guess hoops just aren’t my thing anymore.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: The diversity! Checking emails is like playing the lottery! Today you might be stitching together a couple stock petticoats and tomorrow you might be working for Spike Lee! (True story! Although they called instead of emailing.)

Q: What do you dislike most about your job?

A: Deadlines.

Q: I see you are celebrating 25 years in business! That’s a long time! If you could go back and change one thing from the last quarter decade, what would it be?

A: I would have taken more time off when my second child was born. Literally, the day after he came home, I brought the sewing machine in from my studio and set up a mini sewing station in my kitchen. Why? Because I had deadlines.

Q: What do you think of social media? You know because it didn’t exist 25 years ago!

A: Short Answer: Overrated. Long Answer: I think social media can be a useful way to disseminate information and share ideas with people who have common interests. But somewhere along the lines, social media has become all about money and manipulation and while I do like money, I am not willing to let the social media giants be puppeteers over my life and business. Are you?

Q: Are you hot in those clothes?

A: Why yes. I am “hot” in these clothes. Thank you for the compliment but I am happily married.

Q: Do you dress like this everyday?

A: See photo below.

Q: What advice could you give people just getting started in this field?

A: Follow your passion. Ask yourself: What makes you happy Marie Kondo? What type of lifestyle do you want to live? What are you passionate about? Now what can you do for a living (You know- because you need money to live people!) that allows you to live the life you want? Get a plan and get to it! But be prepared! Success is measured in a variety of ways. Money is NOT happiness and nothing ever happens overnight!

Q: Where do you get your design inspiration?

A: Lots of places! I look at photographs of original garments. I read books (like ones with paper…) because context is important. And, sometimes I even have the chance to get up close and personal with original collections (thank you Costume Society of America!) It might be the overall silhouette I am drawn to or simply a small detail. Sometimes I make up characters or events in my mind. Then I just work up a design in my imagination and go from there! But I always try NOT to copy other creatives’ designs and I do NOT LIKE IT when others copy mine. (Yeah, you know who you are…..)

Q: After 25 years, what keeps you going?

A: I ask myself this question EVERY DAY and even more so when I am at an ebb in my workflow. I always try to focus on the positives. I practice thankfulness- like I am thankful I do not have to sit through a one hour staff meeting in some concrete building; or I am thankful I do not have to miss my daughter’s field trip because the boss would not let me have the day off. I love getting to meet people from all over the world who share the same passions about historical fashion. I thrive on creative collaboration! In short, I am grateful I have been given a skill and talent that allows me to live the life I really want.

Business Bevies: Royalties and why you should charge them

Let’s face it. After being in the creative business for over 25 years, I’ve seen it all. Nothing really surprises me anymore. Recently, I saw a conversation on a social media network geared toward historic costume professionals who design, create, and/or provide research and garments for large companies. The issue was they never received credit for their work and did not know why.

Sadly, this is a pretty common practice and there are a variety of reasons for it. Unions are a large factor. Unions are powerful conglomerates that protect their members by advocating for fair wages and universal working conditions. In addition, unions advocate for companies to only hire union members. This is not necessarily a bad thing except annual membership fees are ridiculously high. And being a member of a union does not guarantee you get hired on for a project.

One trick of the trade is for union costumers to contract or buy from non-union creatives and treat the transaction as if one is buying supplies. This works well for creatives who are just getting started, use the industry as an auxillary form of employment, want to build connections in the field, or simply do not want to join a union. However, the trade off is your work goes uncredited as you now become a vendor rather than a creative or designer. Under no circumstances does a buyer even have to acknowledge you.

More unscrupulous creatives can also pass your work off as their own. While this is ethically alarming, legally it is not. This is because creative property laws are vague and are inconsistent on an international level. Creative property laws rarely protect “articles of everyday use” such as clothing, furniture, pottery, some textiles, etc. The legal water becomes even muddier when one sells his/her work to a buyer. Does the buyer now own just the object as is? Has the buyer purchased the object with the ability to deconstruct it and replicate it? Does the buyer now own the idea behind the object? US laws are weak on these topics and as a creative, one must always assume the answer is “Yes.”

So what can you as a creative/or designer do?

Charge a royalty.

Royalties are a form of payment paid to an established brand or designer for the use of their work. The key here is ESTABLISHED BRAND or NAME. Royalties are a “right to use” fee and typically pertain to intellectual property (works that can be trademarked, patented, or copyrighted). Royalties protect both the buyer and the seller from claims of improper use. One could possibly argue that an object created under a trademark could be eligible for a royalty.*

The benefit of charging a royalty here is you are financially compensated for your ideas. Even though they are not written down in pen and ink, your “article of everyday use” is indeed a product of your intellect, talent, and skill. And for this, you should be compensated. Writers, composers, fine artists, and graphic designers receive royalties all the time. Why shouldn’t you?

But I am not an attorney nor do I pretend to be one. I am a business owner and a creative. I understand the rules of the free market. But I also know the value of my work. By charging a royalty, you send a clear and concise message to the industry that you feel your work has merit, you demand creative respect, and there is more to what you do than just “sell stuff.”

However, it is up to you as a creative whether or not you feel the need to require a royalty and whether or not you are willing to let clients to pass you by if they are not willing to pay it.

*All comments are my opinion and not meant to be interpreted as legal advice. For more information about royalties, licensing, trademarks, and unions please visit your local creative property rights attorney or small business administration.

1838 transitional dress

Earlier this year we launched a new design- our Anne dress– a late 1830s/early 1840s transitional style gown. This dress is based off an original in the Tasha Tudor Collection and is a longer sleeve version of our Brooks dress.

Our 1838 transitional gown in an earthy natural green cotton roller printed fabric

We quickly received our first commission for a custom made version of this gown. It is made up in an authentic reproduction 1830s era moss green cotton print. This dress is headed to Historic Brattonsville for one of their new volunteer interpreters!

The center back of our gown closes with either buttons or hook and eyes

This custom made Anne dress is shown over 2 extra full petticoats. Finish off the look with a chemise and corset.

Delicate piped details around the yoked neckline

For more information about our Anne dress or any of our custom and ready made historical garments, please visit our website at www.maggiemayfashions.com