Your Wardrobe Unlock’d and Foundations Revealed have, at present, about eight weeks left to live. We are in trouble, and we need your help to survive.
Over the next few days, I’m going to release three articles that tell the story of both sites, what they are, what they do, the effect they have and what they could still go on to do, including the behind-the-scenes details of how the sites actually work – I think you'll be surprised at how we make the magic happen every week.
And then, if I may, I’m going to ask for help from both members and non-members to get us back on our feet. I’ll leave it up to you to consider the evidence and decide whether to answer that call.
Your Wardrobe Unlock'd and Foundations Revealed are two arms of a strong, successful business. We've been around for years now, so that means we'll always be here, right? Well, not necessarily.
Let me start at the beginning and celebrate, for starters, how far we've come.
Lynn McMasters showed us how to master 5 Victorian Evening Hairstyles in September 2010.
Stumbling across the online historical costuming world in 2005 or so, I wished I could persuade all my favourite bloggers to really show me, step by step, how they do what they do. I developed a vision of a website that would support and encourage sewists to reach beyond their limitations and make better art. Perhaps, I mused, if enough people like me clubbed together and paid them for their time, our favourite bloggers would be willing to make us all better costumers, increasing both our skills and our enjoyment of our art.
I was right.
Two years later I realised that the same model, when applied to corsetmaking, could make an even bigger impact. Modern corsetry was still in its earliest stages of infancy, with multiple enthusiasts scratching around in the dark at Livejournal.com trying to figure out how all this steel boning and coutil went together, and I considered that if we began working together formally, a new site could not only share knowledge from the leaders in the field with the rest of us – but we could also actually develop corsetmaking as a whole, moving forward together to gradually figure out how the Victorians did it, and how we can apply what they knew to today’s body.
The result has been a quantum leap in the quality and variety of corsetry being produced, in the number of people developing an interest in it, and in the number of people elevating corsetry to the status of a professional pursuit.
Sunny Buchler's articles offer an in-depth analysis of the beautiful extant Victorian and Edwardian dresses in her private collection,
with many photos, construction details, and of course the patterns. This is the 1904 Lingerie dress from September 2009.
Over the last six and a half years, Foundations and Wardrobe have become the go-to source for costuming and corsetry information online. Whether you’re in Tulsa or Timbuktu, Chipping Norton or Canberra, you can find all the information and instruction you could ever want by just logging on and subscribing to our sites.
We started small, but by adding an article a week on each site, there's now an enormous wealth of knowledge and practice to be found on both sites.
There are 300 articles on all aspects of corsetry, plus bra making, lingerie and a burgeoning Business section at Foundations Revealed, and there are now 500 or so articles at Wardrobe, covering Medieval times, through a rich resource on the 16th century, 17th, 18th and heaving 19th century sections, Gentlemen and Tailoring, through to Vintage and 20th century projects.
Readers have found out how to draft their own corset pattern from mere measurements, how to use steel boning, how to unlock and use Victorian corset patterns that, until now, looked incomprehensible. Curved hems are smoother, sleeves are better fitted and gowns are tackled with more confidence and gusto than ever before. We have watched members enter our competition as Beginners, win the whole thing, and then do it all again in the Experienced category. We have watched them take control of their careers and start their own businesses.
Not only that: don’t be fooled that the readers are the only ones benefitting. It has been a joy to watch our writers, and even members of the publication team, develop the confidence and self-belief to run their own courses, write books, open boutiques…. meanwhile, special mention must go to the indomitable Julia Bremble of Sew Curvy, who adopted an idea we mooted but chose not to act on, and single-handedly made it into the wildly successful Oxford Conference of Corsetry.
It’s easy to blow our own trumpet; we have so much to be proud of. But if something doesn’t change fast, we won’t be able to continue doing this work much longer.
Edwardian silk ribbon-embroidered evening gown, now possibly accented with hints of readers' saliva,
from our Museum Study Day in March 2011. Image © Bath & NE Somerset Council. Used with permission.
We still have so much to do
You only have to look at the average corset of the 1880s and the average corset of today to see how far corsetry still has to go. And any CADD historical costumer knows that there’s always something new to discover in the history of costume.
- We could be publishing patterns. We could be writing books. There is an unmatched collection of antique corsetry and patterns at the Symington collection that’s under-used and potentially under threat, and we’d like to take a role in bringing its rich wealth of secrets to the community at large.
- We have made so much progress in the construction of costume and corsetry, but we still need to show you how to make it really work as a business so that sewing can actually support you financially.
- We could support beginners better. We need to champion struggling professionals and academics who have great research and practice languishing in their noggins and on their hard drives, and help them share it (and get compensated accordingly).
- We want to get stable enough to give a proportion of our membership fees to support the welfare of those slaving at sewing machines in the Third World to make us cheap day clothes.
But we need your support if any of that’s going to happen.
Right now we have 508 members. We need 750 to survive beyond the next eight weeks, and more to pay our taxes at the end of the year and keep moving forward comfortably. If you see value here and you want to support this project, SIGN UP HERE, and share this post on social media.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s instalment, in which I’ll go into more detail than ever before about how Foundations and Wardrobe actually work, behind the scenes. In the meantime, we want to hear your story in the comments below. How have Foundations Revealed and/or Your Wardrobe Unlock'd changed your sewing life?