Meet the Historical Costumers of Instagram


Historical costuming is most frequently associated with period dramas and Renaissance fairs, but go on Instagram and there’s a vibrant community of people who attract followers and friends for their clothes from the 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries. Though retro by definition, many creators view their craft as an act of self-care—in line with the sourdough baking boom of spring 2020, or tending to a garden. Some see the hundred or thousands of hours of drafting and sewing historical garments as a way to promote slow fashion, create the clothes for themselves that their ancestors would have been excluded from, or to explore history in an unexpected way. These creators have a deep reverence for the art of making clothing as painstakingly specific as a corset or a pannier—even when the history of the time periods they are reflecting are not quite as pretty. “Collectively, it’s all about creative escapism,” Medrano says. “I’m the heroine of the book. I don’t want to think about the awful surgical case I had earlier today. I want to think, [slips into a British accent], ‘oh is Mr. Darcy going to come by later?’ That’s my self-care.”

Medrano is one of the historical costumers who wears her creations on a semi-regular basis. She finds much of her fabric from thrift stores, turns $2 sheets into chemises with the help of pattern books like The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. While she enjoys going to festivals dedicated to such costuming, during COVID she’s found other outlets. “When I’m at home, I’m in my bedgown, which is an 18th century style dress, and I’m in my corset instead of a bra, and my chemise,” she says. “Or I’ll decide to have a picnic in my front yard because, why not? My neighbors are used to it; they’ll wave.”

Similarly, A.J. Elias, an 18-year-old student who started sewing two years ago, wears his corsets most days. His pithy captions bring the Edwardian, Victorian, and late Rococo designs into the Instagram era. Consider a casual Edwardian ensemble he posted to Instagram, with a ruffled top, gold skirt, and a boater hat. The caption reads, “POV: There are no attractive bachelors at the garden party, and so you look away in disgust.” “I hope nobody is offended by this, but I just don’t find men’s fashion as appealing,” Elias says. “A lot of the reaction is largely positive, thank god. People are really interested and they ask questions. A lot of them just stare, which I don’t mind. I like the attention; I’m an actor.”

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