There’s something absolutely captivating about the 19th century – the art, the architecture, the clothes… Anyone who’s ever seen a Jane Austin TV adaptation knows the feeling of wanting to jump into the TV and join the fun. And while we can’t do exactly that, some try to live as close to the past as possible – take Bernadette Banner, for example.
Bernadette is a fashion historian, focusing mostly on 19th and 18th-century fashion. She hunts down antique sewing patterns and then tries to recreate the cloth as authentically as she can. She buys the right fabric, uses old-school scissors, and even sews by hand since home sewing machines weren’t widely available up until the past couple of decades! And her clothes aren’t meant to sit in a museum. She wears the pieces she makes, to understand exactly how navigating one’s surroundings in those layers of fabric felt like for a 19th-century woman.
And how does one go about becoming a fashion historian? For Bernadette, it was a matter of skill, gumption, and luck. She started out as an assistant costume designer on Broadway and was disappointed to learn that all those beautiful gowns are held in place with duct tapes, zippers, and wires. She wanted to learn how people really used to make clothes, so she signed up for a history of fashion program in New York.
One day she decided to upload a video of herself recreating a dress to YouTube, and that video exploded. Viewers from all over the world were fascinated by her work process and wanted to learn more about historical sewing. So she showed them. Today, Bernadette has half a million subscribers and makes her living teaching others how much value there is in the past.