History can be something to learn from, something to study, or just plain boring to some people. However, for some, it's a source of inspiration and a way to unleash their creativity and style.
Dr. Christine Na-Eun Millar is a "historical costumer, board-certified doctor, gamer, mother, wife. Not always in that order," as she describes herself in her Instagram bio. Christine creates amazing clothes, and especially gowns from the 1700s. She looks at inspiration from those times and creates her unique looks. She is an anesthesiologist by profession and has a beautiful child with her husband. Her family often appears in her photos also wearing historical clothing.
Christine shared with Bored Panda: “So, I work full time as a doctor (MD) in a hospital, so after everything I see and deal with at work, I need an outlet to sort of focus my creativity and my energy. I found that of all the mediums, sewing relaxed me the most. There is something about working with a needle and thread and patiently putting things together, slowly, that helped take away the stress of work."
Christine shared how she started to recreate the clothes she saw: "In particular, my favorite images growing up were historical gowns, princess gowns, and just overall pretty dresses. So I started to try to recreate them. I love taking a museum piece, like the green redingote from the Rijks Museum, and trying to figure out in my head how they sewed it together and how the original artist embroidered it."
Christine shared what inspired her to get into historical clothing: "I started in the cosplay scene. I would make a cosplay for every Comic-Con in NYC, but I came to realize that my favorite cosplays were actually from historical movies like Sleepy Hollow. After making the Sleepy Hollow black and white dress (not well, but passably), I became hooked on making all historical gowns."
"For me, while I love sewing, I don't enjoy hand embroidery. So I started doing the embroidery by machine. I draw out or 'digitize' the embroidery on a computer, designating exactly where I want each stitch to be, and in what order. After that, I send it to Foto to do Perfil de Sewstine, my embroidery machine, and have it stitch it out. It's a lot of fun to see something you've made on a computer stitched out in silk."
Christine told us how she learned to sew and if she studied anywhere: "I learned to sew from after-school programs, local classes, and home economics class. I had been sewing dresses for my dolls since I was a little girl, but getting to make historical gowns for myself was so much more satisfying, and I started to read books, watch videos, read blogs, and try to teach myself in college. Now, I also learn from Costume College, which is a yearly convention where customers help each other learn about sewing.
Though I sewed through medical school and residency, I had very little free time to do so. After I finished my training, I got to focus more on learning and teaching myself, and since then, I've been able to teach myself digitizing and exciting machine embroidery."
Christine also told us more about her creative process and how she chooses which gown to make: "As for how I pick which gown—oh, I couldn't tell you what it is. I always have a list of about 50 gowns in my head that I want to make. At some point, a whim or a thought comes to me that it's time to make that dress. For instance, just last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and I knew that I needed to work on a chemise a la Reine, so that will probably be my next project.”
"I love the 1740s to the 1780s and the 1880s to the 1900s. I think there is a certain silhouette I like, and I love the high drama of the costumes of these years. But it's not just that—I love the embroidery and the decadence of the style of the 1700s. In particular, the 1740s to the 1780s embroidery is very floral, very naturalistic, versus the more stylized flowers from different eras, so I keep embroidering more and more from that era," shared Christine when asked what her favorite period was.
She also shared what her favorite thing to create is: "My single favorite thing to make is a man's court suit. It's why my husband has three and my son has one. I love the heavy, dense embroidery, and the absolute decadence of it."
We have other articles that are similar to this one. If you like sewing, maybe you will be interested in making your mask out of old t-shirts? Or maybe you would like to see A.I. recreated historical figures? How about an article about another fashion blogger who recreates historical dresses? Check out these and many more interesting articles on Bored Panda!
Christine shared how she comes up with new projects: "I always have about 10-40 gowns in my head that I want to make. At some point, a movie, a memory, an image on Pinterest will pop up and I'll decide to make that next. For instance, the other night, I was trying to fall asleep and I just thought, "dang, I need to make that white embroidered chemise a la Reine from that Musée de la Toile de Jouy." The next day, I started work on it. Other times, I will want to make something, but be completely unable to make it due to a lack of supplies. For instance, the Marie Antoinette strawberry gown was one I wanted to make forever. However, I've only been able to remake it recently when I finally found a supplier for the fabric."
She also told us how long the clothes she creates take to make: "It all depends. The V&A strawberry regency dress was maybe about 100 hours to make, and the Sleepy Hollow black and white striped dress (my most recent movie replica) was probably about 80-100 hours. A simple dress isn't long, maybe about 40 hours? It's the trimmings that take the longest time. A full-on embroidered court suit usually takes me somewhere from 350-450 hours, since the embroidery, digitizing, and design process take so long. The big thing is, it's not about the finished project for me and more about the process. I love the tiny little details and trying to figure out how to make it work out, and since I keep it as a hobby for me, it's just so fun and a nice way to relax at the end of the day."
We asked Christine what she does with the created clothing and if she sells them: "Ha! I keep them for now. I have a large attic, and right now, I keep each costume in a box, with all its specific accessories. I used to wear them to local events, balls in Europe, and for photoshoots, and hopefully, once COVID is under control, I can start doing more of that. But for now, they're kept in storage. I do sell my older costumes when they no longer fit, and I also donate some to the local clubs so that a beginner sewist who doesn't have a full outfit has something to wear."
Christine shared with us that she doesn't have a favorite piece: "I love figuring something out with each one... and it may sound silly, but I have several. Matt's most recent court suit, I'm exceedingly proud of for figuring out the drape. I love my red franchise with all the trim since I wove that fly fringe myself. I think I spent more time on that project than any other—probably close to 600-700 hours over 9 months."
"I'm currently working on an 1880s women's suit so that I can costume a 'Victorian Lady doctor.' I love the history of medicine, and I would love to be able to talk about the history of medicine while dressed up as a doctor from the Victorian era. I also act as a doctor at a lot of conventions—whenever someone gets injured, or has a seizure, or chest pain, there is a call for a doctor and I'm glad that I can run over and help. It would be nice to cosplay a doctor as well. Interestingly, there are photographs of women doctors from this era, and I am trying to reproduce Elizabeth Garrett Anderson's 1880s walking suit.
I am also working on a chemise a la Reine, fully embroidered of course, just like the one featured in the 6th episode of the short-lived but glorious TV show, Stitch in Time."
We wondered what are Christine's favorite things about history: "I love how much sense fashion makes, and how comfortable it is. I also love that women's garments almost always have pockets. I also love the different shapes and silhouettes, and the attention to detail. I also just love the little things that you notice when studying older pieces, like the mistakes in the sewing or the lack of uniformity in the flowers. I feel like that's what gives it character and makes it look period-accurate and homemade. I love it so much that when I embroider, I intentionally put those mistakes into the machine so that it looks more period accurate."
Christine tells us more about herself, her life, and the journey that brought her where she is right now: "So, I should say, I am a giant geek. I love science and math, and I am a complete Trekkie. But I also love art, drawing, and beautiful fashion. I think that working as a doctor full-time and getting to sew and draw in my time off has been a wonderful way for me to encapsulate everything that I love, in both the sciences and the arts. I think it's important for all of us to embrace all the different facets of our personality, and try to keep up with all the hobbies that we like.
While I was a resident, I was working an obscenely large amount of hours in the hospital, and I had so little free time. However, even spending the few hours I had on sewing, I often got flak from my coworkers who accused me of not being 'doctor-y' enough. I think that's a ridiculously narrow-minded way to think—we can all love the different passions we have and embrace doing different things. We're all multidimensional people. On the other hand, trying to carve out time for my sewing during residency taught me a lot about time management. It helped me be able to balance work, sewing, and family."
"If people are interested in historical costuming, we have a wonderful group of people. They're friendly and happy to share the knowledge we have. It's a really fun, rewarding hobby and I would encourage all of you to join!"
What do you think of Christine's recreations? Which one is your favorite? Vot for your favorite ones and share your opinions in the comments down below! Also, don't forget to show Christine some love and support on her social media pages, and if you want to learn more about her, go visit her YouTube page!