The Unsuitable Governess Skirt


dress 3 - Version 2

screenshotI did my undergrad in English Literature. My degree was a prolonged existential crisis; I had reached my supposed academic peak, completing an Honours thesis at a prestigious university, but could recognize all the unhealthy choices and habits that had led to it. My whole scholastic lifestyle was unsustainable and I was beginning to crack. I was not handling that knowledge well–I wanted to shine brighter, do everything, and make beautiful things. Which, incidentally, is evocative of the Victorians, who I was reading a lot of at the time. They were pretty miserable in spite of their great technical, educational, and social advances and were deeply unsettled by the threat of decline and collapse. They took a lot of shortcuts, and the weight of their outward show of success was crushing everything and everyone beneath it.

I kinda “get” the Victorians–their anxiety is very familiar, and Victorian writers really knew how to jazz up grim despondency. And it is comforting to know that, by Victorian standards, I would be a budding spinster with a good education and a knowledge of music and the modern languages, so a career as an underpaid and reviled governess would be awaiting me.

A colour photograph of the illustrations on a sewing pattern, on a colourful woven background.

This is not a Victorian pattern, but somehow, between my lack of a 1950s wasp-waist or the kind of military styling, it gives me the look of a Victorian governess. By a stroke of luck, I happened to have pretty much the exact fabric depicted on the pattern illustration: a medium-weight wool tartan. My grandmother gave me the fabric from her stash; it’s probably anywhere from 20 to 40 years old.

100_0960 100_0961

It’s one of the first garments I sewed; the edging is a disaster, and I didn’t get the pattern of the tartan lined up exactly right. Still, it’s kind of an unusual and pretty little skirt, and fit my tortured-artist aesthetic all through my undergrad with the Victorians.

A colour photograph of a young woman standing beside a chair in her bedroom, with clothes hung on hooks from the wall beside her.

Speaking of Victorians, I wore this skirt one Halloween for my Anne Brontë costume to impress this dude I had a crush on, and he didn’t get it. Womp womp.

A colour photograph of a young woman with a pen and a notepad, seated on a chair in her bedroom.


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