Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Harvard Project

Well, I'm afraid this project might look terribly ordinary and unimpressive, but this is actually one of the coolest things I've ever done!
This is a garment from the Harvard Archives, dated to around 1836 and worn by a student of Harvard.  This could be called a Mens 'robe' or a 'dressing gown', and naturally, was sewn entirely by hand.  Prof. Laurel Ulrich, who happens to be in our ward, teaches a general course this semester on Harvard Collections (and also won a Pulitzer for writing A Midwife's Tale), and commissioned me to replicate it in its exact measurements.  We ventured deep into the Harvard archives, past security checkpoints, where I got to handle the original and get measurements and pictures.  Here is the TA, dressed in the gown for the lecture where I got to attend and chime in!  I was even introduced as an "1800s Historical Clothing Construction Specialist", haha!
The lecture revolved around what we can learn from this garment as a picture, and what we can learn from it by handling an exact (and new) replica.  Though it looks like a women's nightdress above, these were the ritzy sweats of the young wealthy radicals of Harvard.  Its crazy how simple and underwhelming this looks, but it actually took forever!  Most of those hours consisted of drafting up a pattern in tissue, three attempts to get the sleeves in just right (it was a totally bazaar technique I've never seen before) and hand-tying each of these tiny tassles on the 7 yards of trim.
It was a huge honor and quite fun.  Prof. Ulrich says the dept. wants to do a workshop/forum more about the construction where I will get to talk more about how this came together.  What a funny thing to have brought me to a Harvard lecture!  I may not have the smarts, but my skills can still get me into the Ivy League, ha!


Barbie Mills said...

What an honor! That sounds so fun to analyze how something so old was put together. It looks like you did a really good job copying it!

Mom Millar said...

That's way cool Camille! What a fun historical project.