I'm 26, coming of age into the post-recession world in a field that is largely government- and charity-funded, and therefore dropped half of its workforce just before I was ready to join it. I've done some work in the field and as much as a temp out of it; in the periods of unemployment I've applied to every lower-level history museum job out there, and worked on taking patterns (see my grand project label) to make a book on 18th century women's dress. I spent the past year writing the explanatory text - my handwriting isn't as good as Janet Arnold's, so it has to be moved off the pattern, which introduces more confusion and explanation - along with an introduction, a description of the progress of women's dress over the course of the century, and a description of the usual construction techniques.
In academia, it's not considered sensible to write a book before you have a contract. You're supposed to write a proposal and send it to publishers, get accepted, and then do the work. And that is sensible - you're going to have to travel and do research, which means taking time off of work and spending money.
I broke the rule because I was so enthusiastic about the project, but also because I wasn't sure a proposal would work. Maybe my perception is skewed by the museum world, where fashion's uncomfortable place between material culture and art make it frequently neglected, but it seemed very possible to me that no publishers would be interested in this book. I mean, at one museum where I inquired about the extent of their costume collection, I was told that "you don't really need patterns for that period, anyway" - who could tell if a publisher would care as much as I did about documenting the progress of the pointed waist seam, or the shaping of the top of a petticoat? And I was right: the first (very academic) publisher I sent a query letter for the finished book turned me down, and even the second, which was much more likely, was uninterested.
So then in February I tried Batsford, an imprint of Pavilion Books, previously Anova. It's been a publisher of important fashion texts for a long time, which was intimidating, but if there were any publisher (other than the second that tacitly turned me down) that would want a book of historical patterns, it would be Batsford. And I was ecstatic when I received a positive response, even though it wasn't an immediate yes. Kristy Richardson, a senior editor, wanted to take some samples of the work to the London Book Fair in April to gauge interest. It was very good that I had done the whole book then, let me tell you, because I'm not sure I would have gotten that without something that could be shown.
Three of my patterns had decent photos and represented the breadth of the book: a European undress jacket from the 1730s, a ca. 1770 sacque with petticoat, and a Neoclassical chemise gown. I redrew them to fit properly on the page and inked them so they would read better and be more editable. And then waited. Finally, the book fair came and I found out that it had done well!
Over the course of the next few months, there were more discussions at Pavilion and between myself and Ms. Richardson, and it was finally decided: I'm going to be contracted to write a new book of patterns dated 1800-1830, to be published in autumn 2016, and the 18th century book may follow it.
Bad news for people who wanted to make a satin robe à la Harpie, but very good news for Regency enthusiasts!
And a lot of it is down to you, readers. Your comments and even your quiet hits have done so much to encourage me at a difficult time in my life, when sometimes everything seems impossible. I'm still struggling with (un)employment, but now I at least have a purpose, gowns to pattern, and an audience to please. As the heading implies, you won't be seeing it for some time, but it will be happening and I can't wait to share it with you.