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.
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.
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!
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 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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
So in case you haven’t heard- In honor of Queen Victoria’s 200th Birthday (and Maggie May Clothing’s 25th anniversary), we are hosting an authentic Victorian Era Afternoon Tea on Saturday, May 25, 2019 at the beautifully restored American Legion Hall in South Pittsburg, Tennessee! But what exactly is an Afternoon Tea anyway? And what should I wear?
Unlike High Tea, which happens late into the evening hours and includes a hot dish, Afternoon Tea (or Low Tea) is reserved for an intimate gathering of friends with light refreshment including finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets. Because the length of time between lunch and supper was quite long, an intermittent course of finger foods and tea was served to stave off hunger- thus becoming what we know today as Afternoon Tea! (The term “Low Tea” has nothing to do with reduced luxury- but instead the height of the tables on which it was served!)
A less extensive version of Afternoon Tea is know as Cream Tea which consists of just scones and cream. On special occasions, a final course of champagne was served during Afternoon Tea, thus becoming a Royal Tea service.
Regardless of whether you are attending an Afternoon Tea/Low Tea, a Cream Tea, or a Royal Tea, mode of dress is always semi-formal. Historically, being invited to attend Tea meant one would dress in Sunday best out of respect for the hostess. Long ago, before the emerging informalities ushered in by the post modern world, people “dressed for occasion.” Formality was part of the cultural norm and how one dressed, behaved, and spoke was directly tied to moral character and one’s upbringing. This is still a pervasive theme in America’s Southern culture today.
So this sounds like lots of fun… but what should I wear?
Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. This is the period we call The Regency Era (or The Georgian Period depending on where you live). This is the time period we often associate with Jane Austen (d.1817). It is known as The Era of Good Feelings. It is the same year Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, Alabama became the 22nd state, and Spain ceded Florida.
The Regency Period is recognized by its long, sleek, Greek and Roman inspired silhouettes. Free-flowing cotton gowns pulled in just below the bust were popular during this period. Simple, straight-forward gowns were offset by elaborate accessories! Short waisted jackets, shawls, bonnets, jewelry, hats, and parasols were all the rage!
Men’s dress consisted of a set of close fitting trousers, shirt, waistcoat (sometimes 2!), cravat, and jacket. Accessories such as tall hats, walking sticks, and boutonnieres were very fashionable.
When Victoria became Queen in 1837, she ushered in a new time period called the Victorian Era. This period lasted until her death in 1901. The clothing of this era consisted of corsets, tightly fitted bodies, full skirts, and (later on) bustles. The use of accessories did not diminish. Shawls, jewelry, and parasols were often used. Gloves became an important accessory during this period and were worn during formal and semi-formal occasions.
Men’s fashions did not change considerably as time progressed and a respectable gentleman never went out without his trousers, shirt, waistcoat, cravat (later on necktie), and jacket. Even working class men wore all these garments. Hats, walking sticks, and umbrellas were typical accessories.
In the modern world, the term “Victorian” has come to be associated with “old fashioned” clothing that has a romantic flair. Long flowing skirts, lots and lots of lace, sheer fabrics, large hats, floral prints, pastel colors, high heeled boots- these are all images that come to mind. This is thanks to the Neo- Victorian revival that happened in the 1980s. This fashion trend has its foundations in the 19th century Victorian period and thus are all perfectly suitable for Queen Victoria’s Tea.
Hats! Hats! Hats!
If there is one garment that is “Oh- So British,” it is the hat! Large hats, small hats, fascinators, tiaras, capotes, outrageous hats! You name it! They wear it! And oh how they wear it with style!
With that being said, we would prefer to avoid Gothic, Lolita, and Steampunk for this event. These are 21st century styles that (while I love) just do not quite fit the atmosphere we would like to create for this particular event!
For your dining pleasure- We are proud to share our menu for Queen Victoria’s 200th Birthday Tea!
Food historians note Queen Victoria had a well versed palette and a distinct love for both the sweet and the savory. Mutton, potatoes, and Beef were most commonly seen on her menus as well as a variety of fish and an assortment of breads. Her favorite sweets consisted of sponges, wafers, biscuits (or shortbread cookies), drop cakes, Scottish tablet (a dulche de leche-type fudge), petit fours, pralines, almond sweets, pies, and berry tars (specifically cranberry) with creme. But perhaps my favorite of hers are the Langues de Chat (or Cat Tongues) which is an elongated shortbread dipped in chocolate.
I imagine the royal kitchen was a very busy place! And the royal garden diverse! The Queen advocated for fresh foods and discouraged ingredients out of season. The exception was pineapple- for which the Queen had a passion- and was thus grown year round in the Royal hothouses.
More fun facts and information about Queen Victoria can be found on on our blog. If you are interested in attending our QV birthday tea, online ticketing can be found via Eventbrite. Paper ticketing is available on our website. Current information is available on our Facebook page.
This year marks Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday and we are celebrating in Royal fashion!
On Saturday, May 25, 2019 at 2:00pm CST, we will turn the historic 1920s era American Legion Hall in the quaint little town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee into a true Victorian Era tea room!
Using Her Majesty’s favorite Afternoon Tea recipes, guests will be invited to taste a little bit of history at this one of a kind, one day only event! (We will be serving Queen Victoria’s original royal tea blend dating back to 1890!)
An event page has been created on Facebook and tickets are available for purchase online either via our mail in registration (save the convenience fees) or through Eventbrite.
Tickets are limited and all proceeds will go to benefit one of our local women and children’s charities. So grab your friends, family, little ones, or neighbor and join us.
Suitable for children ages 5 and up. Gents welcome!
Check back regularly as we will be posting fun little tidbits of Victorian history, menus, tea selection, and a special surprise (Hint… it has to to with the royal wedding!)
It’s all 1880s around here these days! This fun little “flower pot hat” is perfect for a breezy summer afternoon!
Made with the signature 1880s era squared off crown, an upturned brim adds playful charm. Trimmed in 100% plaid silk, this hat boasts elegance as well as whimsy. The color palette is an appealing array of earthy jewel tones with a little Colonial blue thrown in as contrast.
A trio of natural feathers adorns the center front for a little extra height. The crown measures 23″- allowing extra room for hairpieces and larger hairstyles. The hat body is lined in 100% cotton. This hat is meant to sit down onto the head just above the ears and is secured with a matching hat pin (included).