Tasha Tuesday & Giveaway: Pioneer of Historical Dress

Good morning! Here we are— AUGUST! And as promised, I’ve got some fun Tasha Tuesday posts lined up for you, with some great giveaway prizes as well, as we celebrate Tasha Tudor’s birthday month!

EDIT: The winner of this week’s giveaway is LAURA (Laura’s Favorite Things)! Thank you! And come back next week for another giveaway!

Each Tuesday this month, I will have a new Tasha Tuesday post, chatting about something Tasha Tudor related, and also a little bonus treat– I will be giving away a Tasha Tudor related prize each week as well. To enter to win the prize, you just leave a comment here on my blog, and/or on the corresponding instagram post on my instagram feed! You are welcome to comment in both places to increase your odds of winning. I am also so so thrilled to announce that I have a wonderful partner in these giveaways– Anokhi— who make gorgeous authentic Indian block printed scarves like the ones Tasha was famous for wearing. Anokhi is also a small, family run business that is now in it’s second generation. You can read more about their story HERE (it’s fascinating!)

Read through to the end to see what this week’s prize is, and a special thanks to Anokhi for being a part of Tasha Tuesday!

Tasha Tudor- The Original Historical Costumer

Tasha Tudor- A Pioneer in Historical Dress

In recent years, I have been thrilled to find many like-minded history and heritage craft loving friends whose passion are to keep the skills of times past alive. Many of these talented people, craftsmen in their own right, take their love of history and make it real by creating and wearing clothes from the past. Whether they wear them to work or volunteer at living history sites, or wear these clothes in their personal daily lives, historical costuming has become a movement for people passionate about the past, sustainable fashion and real craftsmanship in our ‘fast fashion’ culture.

While in many ways, the concept of making and wearing historical garments may seem relatively new as it gains popularity online, there have been pioneers in this way of living and dressing who go decades back…and one of them, I firmly believe, is Tasha Tudor.

In her later years, it was not uncommon to find Tasha Tudor at her loom weaving historically accurate fabrics that she would later sew into historically inspired dresses. I have yet to meet anyone else in the historical dress community with that level of commitment, but then again she was many years ahead (or back??) of her time. By the end of her life, Tasha was more or less wearing antique dresses and dresses inspired by historical clothing full time. Photos of her taken by Richard Brown in her 80’s show her always in a plain calico frock, an apron, and her iconic headscarf. If it was chilly, and it often was in Vermont, she’d layer on a sweater or even a wool cape. She had spent most of her life collecting antiques, and her clothing was no exception. She even used antique children’s clothing to dress small models in (usually her own children and little neighborhood friends) so that she could sketch them for future illustrations.

Tasha’s love for old clothing can be traced back to her childhood, when she was sent to live with bohemian friends of her parents after they had divorced. Before that time, she had lived the ‘prim and proper life’ of an upper-class child descended from Boston society elites, a life complete with a Scottish nanny and staid child tea parties. In 1925 that all changed, however, as her parents ended their marriage and her mother decided to pursue her dream of an art career in Greenwich Village, and her father soon remarried.

Tasha, who was nine at the time, was sent to live with Gwen and Michael Mikkelsen in Redding, CT. Gwen’s family was intertwined in friendship with both the Tudors and the Burgesses, and she was also the grand daughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Mikkelsen home was full of play, imagination, loose rules, late night reading sessions and lots of dress up performances with plays written by Gwen performed by her daughter, Rosemond, Tasha and other neighborhood children.

Tasha is quoted as saying, “In Redding we lived like bohemians….they had a huge a dress-up chest, a Norwegian dower chest as big as a table, brick red and decorated with flower painting and the date, seventeen something, and the initials of the bride. They dumped all the costumes out that they thought would be good, and we used real makeup and false beards. I was just mad about anything old fashioned, and there were some grandmother’s dresses in it from the 1860s….It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.” (The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Richard Brown p. 9)

Teenage Tasha Tudor in an antique dress from her collection (Photo from Drawn From New England by Bethany Tudor)
Young Tasha Tudor in an antique dress and hat in front of her mother’s home in Redding, CT. (Photo from “Drawn From New England” by Bethany Tudor)

That first experience with old clothes made an impression on young Tasha, and in later years when she would attend antiques auctions with her mother (who later also moved to Redding, CT.) where she would bid on any old clothing and cooking utensils that would come up on the block. Tasha’s youth worked in her favor, as others at the auction hated to bid against the ‘little girl’ so eager to collect old things, and quickly Tasha amassed quite a collection of antique clothing.

“My antique clothing collection is a great folly of mine,” Tasha once said. “They majority are from the 1830s, but I have examples from every style and decade from the 1770s to the 1870s. It’s very common for a friend who tries on one of my old dresses to feel transported to another time. It gives a different perspective on life.” (The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Richard Brown p. 66)

Tasha loved old fashioned clothing, tending to animals, and other old fashioned pursuits (photo from Drawn From New England by Bethany Tudor)

This is a sentiment I hear quite often from friends who also wear historical dress, whether it be for personal use or their work. I’ve even had these experiences myself. Making a historical dress is also an interesting education about fashion and function. Because fabric was so expensive and historical dresses use so much of it (a very basic work dress will still use about 7 yards of fabric) dresses of bygone eras were made to last and to be adjustable to any changes in a woman’s body. It would not have been uncommon for a woman to go through an entire pregnancy wearing the same dress….it may have just meant the discreet movements of hooks and eyes, pleats or hems within the dress to let out or take it in as the wearer’s body dictated.

In today’s ‘fast fashion’ industry, this is impossible, and the gaining or losing of a mere 5 pounds can render a garment unwearable. Having made my own historical dress for living history volunteer work (with much moaning and ripping our of seams, I’ll admit!) I found this lesson very valuable. The idea that clothing should be meant to last for years and be adaptable to changing bodies is a very old concept, yet it seems to have been forgotten in today’s world. I feel that it is something very much worth bringing back, even if you’re not wearing a full length dress and petticoats. Well made clothing meant to last a lifetime can be anything, it just has to be— well made!

For Tasha, though, the lure of an old fashioned dress was strong and as she became more confident in her later years, she decided that was the way she wanted to always dress. “I feel myself much more at home in an old frock,” she said. “There’s no feeling of dressing up; they just feel right.” (Drawn From New England by Bethany Tudor, p. 66)

After her death, Tasha’s dresses were catalog and displayed, many at Colonial Williamsburg. It has been noted that her private collection of historical clothing was one of the most extensive in the United States. You can see many of her dresses and other antique pieces in all of the books about her life (favorites of mine are The Private World of Tasha Tudor by Richard Brown, and Tasha Tudor’s Garden and Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts, both by Tovah Martin) as well as in her illustrations.

Her example inspires me, and many others, to think outside the box when it comes to fashion and to follow my own heart about what makes me happy to wear, even if its not the fashion of the moment. I challenge you this week to think about what you wear— how much thought and intention do you put into it? Does it make you truly happy? How long do you anticipate it will last? And can it change as your body changes (and all bodies do!) These are lessons I’ve learned from historical dress, and from Tasha as well. Perhaps you’ll find some inspiration in these thoughts as well?

And now—- for our prize!

This week’s prize features a beautiful scarf by Anokhi as well as a 5×7″ notecard with matching envelope featuring my original painting “Tasha Tudor at Home.” To enter to win, just leave a comment on this blog post! You may also enter on instagram on the corresponding IG post. Winner will be chosen on Friday. You could even use this scarf to begin your own unique and sustainable clothing collection! I can attest that these beautiful scarves can be wonderful addition to your wardrobe for decades to come—

Good luck! And of course— Take Joy!~ H

22 thoughts on “Tasha Tuesday & Giveaway: Pioneer of Historical Dress

  1. I dont know how she washed and driedher clothes with so much fabric and cold weather i would have loved o see her collection amazing they never wrote a book about her dress collection.

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  2. I cannot imagine sewing 7 yards of material and have it end up looking right! Making historical clothing must have been a huge challenge, especially when the garment was made to adjust to body changes. It is all hard to image making wardrobes with all the many details and embellishments. Tasha was an incredible artist with talents that extended beyond painting. How she did so many creative pursuits is part of why I am both intrigued and amazed to read about her many pursuits in life. What an inspiring women for all ages!

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  3. Thank you for the lovely article. I have admired Tasha since I was a young girl. I too have a collection of antique and vintage clothing. I started collecting in my teens! I have most of her books. Since the 70’s I have been very earth-conscious. I make things and cook from scratch. I have been growing herbs for the last 30 years.
    The scarves are so lovely and would dearly love to have one. And your notecard too. I love your paintings. I’m a folk artist myself.

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  4. What a detailed and interesting post. I would love to spin and weave my own fabric for my own historic costume. The largest handspun garment I have done so far is a sweater. Having seven kids keeps me from diving in as deep as I would like. I have sewed historic clothing for us all to wear while doing living history for colonial times and civil war times. It was enlightening. I wore my colonial outfit when I was nine months pregnant and it still fit! Their clothing was designed for maximum wear. We should go back to that.

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  5. I am always amazed at the various forms Tasha’s Tudor’s artistic gifts took. From illustrations to the re-creation of historical garb, and even to her gardens, she found ways to share beauty.

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  6. Just wonderful! So glad I found your site☺️
    I love all things Tasha and have sewn clothing and knit shawls to match hers. I lived in NH for 15 years heating and cooking on wood we had to split.
    I do appreciate her life style when you know it got down to -55 sometimes in the winter and you could have frost till July ☺️

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  7. I love Tasha Tudor! I purchased 2 of her books over 20 years ago. The card and scarves are beautiful and really capture the essence of Ms. Tudor. Thank you for the inspiring stories and paying homage to Tasha ❤️

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  8. I love Tasha Tudor and have her books, she was great and a real inspiration! I love your painting of her. This is a sweet homage to her!

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  9. I have followed Tasha Tudor for years, after IG finding a children’s book illustrated by her. Her simple homespun life fascinates me. Through your Tuesday posts, I’m learning even more!

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  10. I had no idea she collected (and wore) historical clothing when she was a teen! That’s so cool. Now I don’t feel so bad about frolicking around in historical fashion myself when I was younger. A kid teased that I was “Miss 17th century” because I wore the same Williamsburg inspired dress to church 5 Sundays in a row. I snubbed him and told him it was 18th century (legit one of the few times I had a good comeback)! So chuffed to find I have something in common with dear Tasha!

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  11. Thank you for sharing your love of Tasha – it’s so wonderful to find kindred spirits online. This series is so exciting, and I can’t wait for more! Thank you!

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  12. Lovely post! Her look is so cozy and homey, too. I would love to make a simple dress and apron to wear, in similar style but maybe not needing seven yards of fabric…thank you for sharing Tasha with us!

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  13. Thanks so much for this thoughtful post not only on Tasha’s life but also the implications for my own life and clothing choices! When I lived overseas in South Asia I also appreciated the way clothing is made to fit women’s bodies in all stages of life rather than being unwearable if one gains or loses a few pounds like with many of our current styles

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  14. This is such a beautiful post, Heather! You captured exactly what it feels like to wear historical dress, the beauty of Tasha Tudor, and just why I keep being tempted to just wear long calico dresses for the rest of my life 😂

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  15. Thank you for sharing these posts on Tasha Tudor. I have loved Tasha for many years and enjoy learning more about her. Your blog has become a favorite of mine!

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  16. So happy that you are writing about Tasha again…I love the Tasha Tuesdays. I first heard about Tasha on your blog and I was so inspired by her whole way of living and her art!! I love to draw and paint too (just for fun) and these little blogposts are inspiring and wakes up my imgination!

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  17. My family started giving me Tasha Tudor books before I can remember. She has always been a part of my life. I think it’s so lovely you’ve started Tasha Tuesdays. Thanks for the giveaway!

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