In the spring of 2010, during my second of four semesters at Hampshire, I did an independent study for credit, essentially a pilot study for the research and work I wanted to do for my thesis project. I focused on clothing of a very specific time period, the late 1830s, which had a very distinct aesthetic, transitioning between the Romantic Era 1820s-30s, and the Crinoline Era 1840s-1860s. This is the very beginning of the era of photography, on the cusp of it, really, so the difference in evidence between researching this period and researching even a decade or two later is incredible – more guesswork and extrapolation is required.
But, as I found during my independent study, there is a great deal of information available about the period, it just requires sifting and evaluation and analysis to use. During the independent study, I created the annotated bibliography which grew into the many-tentacled beast currently residing on this site, and I spent a lot of time looking at the strengths, weaknesses, and biases of various kinds of primary and secondary sources, discussing how to use those various sources together to create a full and nuanced picture of a particular period of clothing.
In addition to writing a paper for that independent study, I also sewed several garments and sewing kit tools, constructing everything by hand and as accurately as possible, using natural fibers and primary source instructions. I made a quilted petticoat, a ruffled bustle, a pair of pockets, and for my work box, a velvet pincushion and needle book.