I wrote previously about some of what I mean when I say “Pinterest Research.” But there’s another important piece of the process: Pinterest research is right for some projects, but I don’t use it (or start with it) for everything.
I used the process used for my first Regency dress to explain that Pinterest can help find an individual example to imitate, or look at lots and lots of examples to understand “rules” and trends of some particular category (time, place, activity, et c), or look at lots and lots of examples to find one that shows the exact under-arm-cuff-seam I’m having trouble with. Additionally, though I didn’t mention it there, I often find examples of modern reconstructions whose creators have documented their projects online, which are also very helpful for technical details as well as broader advice.
What kind of projects need this? I used a similar process to research my 1490s Italian dress; when I began, I knew almost nothing about the time period or its fashion, and so I needed to quickly gather up an understanding of the basic elements of clothing, the finer details, the aesthetics for color and pattern and texture, and a direction to start in. To this end, I initially gathered portraits of Caterina Sforza, in part to narrow down the time range I was looking for, and in the process got a bunch of mislabeled portraits from around the same time, and somehow learned (maybe by searching for “italian 1490”) that many people had done similar projects to mine, and so I learned better terms to search for (like “florentine gamurra”). It was by reading other reenactors’ webpages about their sewing projects that I got titles of books to find at the library, and dress-draping instructions online, and then could dive deeper into those particular topics, eventually coming back to Pinterest to find as many portraits as I could that showed sleeve closures and lacing rings. (Which I will probably post about sometime, so that some future person can learn from me like I learned from others.)
So, that project, where I didn’t know much about the period and was willing to be brave and experimental and work without buying a pattern with instructions, benefited from Pinterest research.
The project before that, which was my 1630s muster breeches and cloak, involved no Pinterest research at all; the rest of my reenacting group had already kitted themselves, so they had expertise, books, patterns, advice, and fabric store trips to offer. I came back to Pinterest to look for close-up photos of buttonhole stitches to make sure the book I was working from seemed correct for the time. I intend to, sometime, make a pinboard for that period so I can get a better sense of accessories, trim, lace types, and other details as I continue to refine my suit (and, I swear, make the matching doublet before the breeches are worn enough to not match anymore).
My next project, a 1560-70 man’s fencing outfit, is involving very little Pinterest research, so far. We’re doing a series of demonstrations of material from Joachim Meyer’s Art of Combat and want to dress like the illustrations, so we already have plenty of examples for what looks to imitate; that book has woodcut illustrations with no color, but I was able to look at scans of a slightly earlier manuscript by Meyer that has painted, full-color illustrations, and I chose one of those to inform my color and style selections. I decided to use patterns from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, having heard that book is especially good for this project as Arnold was able to study the Sture Clothing, three men’s suits from the same family and year (so, representing a small range of ages and interests and styles). I have used Pinterest some to try to gather as many photos of the Sture Clothing museum exhibit as I can– which is still not very many or varied– and I may come back and look for contemporary portraits in order to figure out buttons, finishing stitches, and that kind of thing. But, for the most part, between the illustrations in Meyer’s books and Arnold’s careful documentation of detail (including things like needle-holes suggesting a decorative element had previously been attached to a garment, and places where the tailor ran out of braid and had to substitute a “close enough” alternative, and hints of the original color of garments based on the current appearance of tiny areas less exposed to light and air), I hope to be pretty much covered.
I also use Pinterest for non-historical research; examples of ways to use red eyeshadow, or current trends in long, fitted coats, or costumers’ techniques for making wings and horns. I haven’t yet attempted Victory Roll hair, but I’ve got a bunch of tutorials pinned for when the day comes. But in general, Pinterest research is for when I need to know about something specific and don’t know where to start. Or when I need to look at 200 examples of something. I started this blog for the times when I need to take my collection of sources from a couple hundred down to a couple dozen things to look at, and it’s sort of turning into a costume construction blog too (when I put my needle down and write, anyway)– but I hope it is also useful as a model for a way to do research.