Sorting family possessions, unless you come from a particularly orderly family, is full of highs and lows. Icky, cockroach poop-filled lows of drawers that haven’t been opened since grandma died, but the highs of items unexpectedly saved. Things you never knew were kept, or never imagined were brought on the journeys that brought your people to the places you are now cleaning out.
There have been a number of remarkable finds in a recent packing up of a house that was my grandparents’, probably the largest my generation will have to do, and I want to share one of the most extraordinary with an audience that will gasp as I did. I found an 1895 book of dress patterns. In Russian. This is the title page:
Around forty pages, it is clearly meant as a comprehensive covering of all the basics, including a riding habit, aprons, travelling cloaks, and outfits for a little boy and girl.
Did you ever wonder how to fit a blouse over a corset?
Or what the pattern would look like to cut a leg o’ mutton sleeve?
Or how to adjust a high collar pattern to a décolletage suitable for evening?
This book may have travelled with my great-grandmother from Harbin, or may have been passed around among members of the sizeable Russian community that existed on the outskirts of Sydney in the early twentieth century. My costumier friends are going to love me forever.