Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Fashions Revisited: A Look at Period Clothing (and Food!) with April C. Thomas

I first met April Thomas 3 years ago when I started attending the Fort Frederick Market Faire in Maryland. I instantly fell in love with her work and it has now become a little tradition of mine to always make her sutler tent my first stop when at Fort Frederick. I and many others are out there sporting her designs at historic events, and her work has also been seen in films and tv productions on PBS, BBC, History Channel, and Discovery Channel. And as a side note, I love the Keep Calm and Wear Your Stays bumper sticker that she has available in her store (because don't you dare try to tell me that my stays - or corset as they are more known as - are making me suffer as they crush my ribs into nothing...because I'm not and they're not...sorry, I had to get that out :P ). But without further ado, check out my interview with April and learn of her experiences in the world of period clothing (and food!).

TA: First, thank you for being here! How about introducing yourself and telling a little of what it is that you do?

AT: Thank you for having me! So, my Name is April C Thomas, i'm the owner designer & proprietress of FASHIONS REVISITED which is a small business providing historic reproduction clothing and sewing patterns for Living History, Reenactors, Theater, Film & Tv. I graduated in 2003 with a Degree in Fashion Design, and decided to basically keep out of the mainstream fashion industry and prusue my passion for historic dress and costume. I make all of the clothing I sell, and I draft the patterns based on all the researh ive done over the years here in the USA and in parts of Europe.

TA: What were some of your earliest influences when it comes to costume making?

AT: My earliest influences were simple. Gone with the Wind, my Maternal Grandmother, and my great Aunt Zuzu. I was obsessed with the idea of wearing ANYTHING other than modern clothing, my great aunt encouraged me to dress however I wanted, and my Granmother first taught me to sew. Over the years those two women, who both lived through the great depression and WW2, were amazing examples of independence and style...as well as some mad life skills!
TA: What sort of research do you do for the garments you make?

AT: Over the years, I have spend al lot of time in museums and private collections to examine and learn about historic dress, mainly the 18th century. I have spent a lot of time at the V&A, Museum of Costume in Bath, and all over the US viewing originals in museums. My favorite collection is my own. I have collected antique costume for over 20 years, and have been very lucky to have found some rare & amazing pieces. Sometimes, early in my marriage,  I chose to buy an antique dress instead of the weekly groceries...much to the forgiveness of my dear hubby! besides studying originals, I plow constantly through a mountain or costume research books on an almost daily basis. The other place most of my money goes...books. I have many, many costume books.

TA: Do you have a preferred era, decade or century?

AT: MY preferred era is the 18th century. I LOVE french and English fashions of that century. My second favorite is early 19th century, 1812 era. I just love anything with a high empire period waistline.
TA: With your experience, what would you say is most misunderstood about historical clothing?

AT: In my experience, the most misunderstood thing about historical fashions is....people think that just because clothing is old, that its not well designed or not well thought through. Just because people lived 200 years ago does not mean they had inferior intellegence. Believe me, if an 18th century tailor or mantua Maker saw our waste of fabric, and "throw away" nature of clothing...they would be shocked. They were masters at their art, wasted virtually nothing and had skills that would make most of us professionals today look overpaid. I am forever learning that they have skills we have simply lost.
TA: Now in addition to making historical clothing, you also the Director of the Historical Foodways Program for the Northern York County Historical and Preservation Society and Historic Dill's Tavern. Can you tell a little of what you do there?

AT: My job as Director of Foodways for Nychaps and the Dill's Tavern is really fun, and i'm honored to be doing it! I manage our two listed kitchens, train staff in both modern & hearth cooking skills, develop & plan food events like Tea's & special dinners, and run food concessions when we hold festivals. Basically, I get to come up with ideas, based on the site & historic events and create fun & authentic events. It's amazing fun, hard work, and I'm very blessed to be there. Just this past July, we were able to fim an episode of "A Taste of History" with Walter Staib! It was an amazing experience, I had contacted Walter several years ago when I first joined the Dill's Crew, and after seeing the amazing team I am with and the site, Walter was really excited to do an episode with us. It will air on season 11, spring 2020 on PBS and Amazon video!

TA: If you had to choose between clothing in food, would you be able to?

AT: No. I don't think I could choose between food or clothing. Both are absolutely necessary for life. But I guess if I'm pushed...it's clothing. Nothing better that seeing a garment I made on someone and seeing their smiling face.
TA: What do you enjoy most about doing living history and reenactment events?

AT: What I love most about living history, is the way it helps you connect with the past. I love books, but they can't really take you places other than in your mind. If you make food, sew clothing and walk in the footsteps of the past....you actually connect with it. It's very transformative.

TA: And finally, are there any future projects or events that you have coming up? Plug away!

AT: well....future projects are adding a new line of patterns to my pattern line Fashions Revisited TM. I have been dressing Vintage a lot recently, and have a real love for the 1940's and 50's...so I have decided to branch out into vintage! I sell vintage pieces in my ETSY page that I purchase and sort of "rehab" as well as reproductions that I design. My love for this period come from the Great Aunt I mentioned. She had a clothing & hat shop from the late 1930's until she passed away in the 1990's. I was able to learn so much from her, including some millinery tricks. I will be attending vintage shows in 2020 and branching out into the mid-century-modern lifestyle crowd! I am planning to continue to make as many reproductions as possible.

Thank you for being here, April!

If you would like to check out her work, visit and follow her at her website and social media:
Fashions Revisited Website
Fashions Revisited Facebook
Fashions Revisited Instagram
Shop Fashions Revisited
Historic Dill's Tavern

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