Friday, September 16, 2011

Sourcing 102: Beyond Fabric

Clothes may make the man*, but accessories make the outfit. Anything from hats to shoes to jewelry--they all help complete the "look" of a historical ensemble. Whether you need supplies to make your own, or you just want to buy something ready-made; if you can't find what you're looking for locally, here's a list of online sources that I've found helpful over the years.

Again, I'm trying to include vendors from which I've personally ordered, so this isn't a list of anyone who sells anything the discerning costumer/historian/reenactor might want. This is just a group of my personal favorites.

Fire Mountain Gems & Beads
    This is where I ordered the coral beads I've used for various jewelry pieces. They have a great selection of gemstone beads (peridot, garnet, coral, agate...etc.) and an easy-to-navigate website. Reasonable shipping prices, and if I recall correctly my order arrived quickly.

    Lightweight silk ribbon in a variety of colors and widths. Most of the stock is not silk satin, but more of a "China silk." I've used it for anything from sock garters to the trim on my plaid 1860s day dress. Great prices!

A-Z Needlepoint
    Multiple varieties of needlework threads and flosses. You can search by brand, color family, or DMC color code. The website is a little confusing, but as a needlework newb, I found the search functions and thread descriptions helpful. Reasonable shipping and delivery time.

Wooded Hamlet/Needle & Thread
    Anyone who has been to the brick-and-mortar location will tell you that the website doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of their stock. You also can't order online. However, I've ordered by phone several times, both for merchandise that's listed online, and for things I saw on the sales floor and foolishly didn't buy at the time. They sell black and brown polished cotton for $7.99/yd last I checked, though it's not listed online. I just called and asked, no problems. I've also done this for 54" hair canvas, $9.99/yd. Their narrow-wire hoop kits are wonderful (I own 2 in different widths), and they've got lots of fun notions available. I love the wooden thread winders I got from them, for example.

Mrs. Parker's Millinery and Mercantile
    I'm millinerily disinclined, to put it mildly. I can decorate a hat in a pinch, and I even blocked my own straw hat once, but I'm not enthusiastic about it. That's why I thank my lucky stars for places like Mrs. Parker's Millinery and Mercantile. With more options than you can shake a stick at, anyone should be able to find something beautiful and appropriate. Millinery is labor-intensive (which is why I don't do it), so be prepared to shell out the dough, but in my opinion the product is well worth the price.

Angela Liguori
    So far I've only listed places from which I personally have purchased, but a friend recommended Angela Liguori's 100% cotton ribbon to me, and I just haven't had a chance to try it yet. I will say I've never seen anyone else selling actual cotton ribbon--plain weave, finished edges--rather than twill or herringbone tape. So I can't speak personally about this one, but it came highly recommended!

Sock Dreams
    I spent 2 years at Michilimackinac wearing one-size-doesn't-fit-anyone-quite-right "reenactor socks" before someone pointed me at Sock Dreams' website. I got my first order in the mail and immediately said, "I will never order reenactor socks again." My personal favorites are the O Chevrons, O Basics, and the Military Bootsocks. And, free shipping! Can't beat that.

Robert Land
    Rober Land seems to be the go-to for ladies 1860s shoes, and now he's got a line of early 19th century styles as well. My pair of 1860s American Walking Shoes (actually boots) is nice, though not without issues (they dig into my Achilles tendon, but that's because my legs are not the same shape as the boots, not because the boots themselves are inherently defective). I always appreciate being able to order wide widths (see how much I love you, pinkie toe?), and there are lots of colors and styles to pick from.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Fugawee's shoes. I spent two summers wearing size 10 Wide in their ladies' colonial "Anna" style with no problem. I normally wear a size 8 Wide. So when I ordered my own pair of "Connies" because I liked the shape, I got a 9 Wide. They were fine for a while, and then all of a sudden at a random event, they became torture devices of unspeakable pain. I believe the issue is that I ordered a straight lasted style, but your mileage may vary. On the upside, the customer service is very friendly, and the prices are about what you'd expect for specialized shoes.

The Dressmaker's Shop
    I've never actually ordered from Kimberly Lynch of The Dressmaker's Shop, but I've bought plenty from her at events and her whole stock is online. In particular, I purchased a roll of her rice braid for bonnetmaking (did I finish the project? No. Is it lovely stuff? Yes.). She actually also has a fairly large stock of fabrics, but I haven't bought any yardage from her so I felt like I couldn't put this link on the fabric sourcing list!

Spencer's Mercantile
    Oh Spencer's Mercantile, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. My first introduction to Spencer's was at the Seige of Old Fort Erie. I walked into their tent, turned to Gwendolyn, and said, "Do you think if I handed them my credit card and backed my car up to the tent, they'd just start loading stuff in?" I still feel that way about their stock, and I can't speak highly enough about their customer service. They sell everything from socks and shawls to flintlocks and writing desks.

Hats by Leko
    Your one-stop shop for millinery supplies, patterns, etc. Straw hoods and capelines of all sorts, sizing, millinery wire, buckram forms...and the list goes on. The minimum order ($28) can be a little pesky, but if you stock up on staple items (like buckram and wire) to fill out your order, it's not a bad deal.
    No matter which way you slice it, corsetmaking supplies are pricey. I've been really happy with my purchases from, though. Their shipping seems a little expensive, but I've done a side-by-side cart comparison with a couple other vendors, and the prices usually come out within pennies of each other. Corsetmaking has the advantage of having a user-friendly site and giant selection, so two thumbs up!

*"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society" ~Mark Twain

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