Dressed for the past
I didn’t think I’d care to watch videos about dresses worn by people in the centuries past. But that was only until I stumbled upon the YouTube channel of dress historian Bernadette Banner. On her channel, she sows and teaches while showing you the whole process of reconstructing a dress or creating her interpretation of a dress, all the while providing detailed commentary throughout.
I first came across Bernadette Banner when I was recommended a video on Glamour’s channel where she checks whether the costumes in the Mary Poppins musical film are accurate and provides explanations for why women dressed the way they did in the time period the film is set in. I ended up watching her videos for nearly two hours, and by the end I learnt about some of the characteristics of fabrics like organza and tarlatan, grain panels and how they can be used to find colour differences, and new terms like pad stitching.
Watching her detailed and meticulous work is oddly relaxing and engaging at the same time. She tells you about the adjustments and mistakes she makes and lets you know what she is thinking as she is preparing the dress. When you see the end result, i.e. the completed dress, it’s even more satisfying because you were on the whole journey of watching it being made.
However, simply creating accurate historical dresses is not all she does in her channel. In one of her videos, she walks you through the entire process of making a dress inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s “Mask of the Red Death” and in another, she takes you to the NYC Garment District which is filled with countless colourful fabrics stacked tightly together.
Her video “500 Years of Correcting “Historical” Halloween Costumes” includes her, of course correcting dresses, but also making several beautiful drawings one after another and colouring them in, so you get the bonus of watching something aesthetically pleasing while being educated.
She also delivers thoughtful commentary and provides important information to her viewers in an accessible manner. This is the case with her video discussing corsets and her video titled “Buying a Knockoff of My Own Dress: An Educated Roast (actual fire used for Scientific Purposes)”. The latter video mentioned is far from the catty roast some might expect this to be, and as the title suggests, is actually educational. Instead of just comparing the dresses or pointing out the problems in the knockoff, she delves into serious topics starting from giving us an example of how cheaply fast fashion produces things by listing the prices of material and the hours put into the creation of her dress, and this gives us an idea of how extreme the exploitation of the person who had to make the knockoff could be.
You don’t have to be interested in historical dresses or even history to have fun watching Bernadette Banner’s videos. Give her videos a watch, and you’ll get educated on a niche topic without it ever seeming tedious.