I Sewed an Outfit Using 18th Century Reproduction Fabric

Back in August, I visited Tarpley, Thompson, & Company with my friend Chy while exploring Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Tarpley, Thompson, & Company is a quaintly styled shop on E Duke of Gloucester Street, in the middle of the living museum. It’s open to the public without tickets, so you can visit the shop without paying an admissions fee. The front of the shop graces you with beautiful straw hats and tied fabrics, and windows showcasing elegant 18th Century clothes and jewelry. The staff is wonderful! We were lucky enough to be serviced by a young lady named Grace, who helped with me and my friend Chy’s purchase of fabrics and soaps. As I expressed in my Tarpley, Thompson & Company Haul, walking into this shop inspired me to try sewing again. The shop sold a variety of gorgeous reproduction fabrics, tools, and silk threads.

The front of Tarpley, Thompson & Company

The Fabric

Along with two yards of the Exotic Blue Flowers Fabric, I also bought the Fanny’s India Floral Fabric, which is what I decided to use first. I love the contrast of the neutral toned pinks and blues. The floral pattern also isn’t as “busy” as some of the other floral patterns in the store. The flowers are elegant and delicate. You can purchase both fabrics online if you don’t live near Colonial Williamsburg.

Fanny’s India Floral Fabric

The men’s doublet on the right features the Fanny’s India Floral Fabric

My First Project

Other than mending seams and holes in my store-bought clothes, I had never actually sewn anything from scratch. When I was much younger, patterns looked so complicated, and I had gone through an “everything girly is dumb” period where I shunned cooking, baking, and sewing (go figure). An older and wiser me now sees sewing as a creative outlet and a way to partake in a more sustainable lifestyle by indulging in less fast-fashion―a practice attached to countless human and environmental rights violations. We can’t be perfect, but I prefer to use less if I can. Oh, and did I mention that sewing is a vital life skill?

After running to Jo-Ann to get a a bunch of other supplies, I spent a few days practicing hand sewing basics and stitching to get my fingers fluid. Fortunately, I have already been knitting for years, so after I got down the basic backstitch, zig zag stitch, and slip stitch, I was ready to dive headfirst into my first project. A shirt.

I made Shirt #4 in Maddy’s The Essentials Club Video: “Gathered Balloon Cami.”

4 Easy DIY Cami Style Tops (Self Drafting Process)

What I love about Maddy’s tutorial is that she offered four stylish projects that don’t require pattern reading. I was impatient and wanted to get sewing immediately, so I found this video incredibly helpful since I wanted to sew without compromising on the project’s final look.

Sewing it Together!

Sewing this even by hand was so addicting. I binged watched Downton Abbey while I stitching everything together, letting my brain just enjoy the repetitive motions while dishing out an original outfit. I followed Maddy’s directions exactly. The only difference was that I did not use a sewing machine.

Four simple pieces for the balloon shirt.

Shirt can be worn without the shoulder ties.

The Finished Top

I loved the finished top so much that I modeled in front of the mirror for… an embarrassing amount of time. I did not want to take this thing off! The fabric itself is light yet of good quality. When hemmed correctly, it sewed up into a solid piece of clothing. I can wear this top with or without the straps. It’s super versatile for the fall, spring, and summer.

The Matching Shorts

With the leftover fabric, I used another Essentials Club video to make a pair of matching shorts. I did hem my final version.

I had enough fabric and elastic scraps to also make a matching scrunchie!

Shirt, shorts, and scrunchie.

The Finished Look

Balloon top with reproduction fabric.

I decided to add sewing to my bucket of crafting skills. I thank Colonial Williamsburg for inspiring me try out some old world skills. I will definitely be going back to Tarpley for some more fabric!


Fanny’s India Floral Fabric: https://shop.colonialwilliamsburg.com/Fannys-India-Floral-Cotton-Fabric/

Blue Exotic Flowers Fabric (Seconds) https://shop.colonialwilliamsburg.com/blue-exotic-flowers-fabric-seconds/

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