Teen's 300 historical outfits share 'forgotten' stories

A North Yorkshire schoolgirl has become a social media star after handmaking hundreds of historical outfits highlighting "forgotten women's stories".

Eleanor Shenderey, 16, posts photos of herself wearing her costumes, and has 59,000 followers on TikTok.

The schoolgirl sometimes wears the clothes while visiting historic houses, and is frequently asked to have her photo taken with other visitors.

"I often take the dresses with me because I just think - why not? If you've got this gorgeous backdrop, why would you not want to immerse yourself in it and get dressed up?"

Eleanor was taught to sew by her grandmother, who was an art and textiles teacher.

She began sewing historical costumes in 2020: "I just haven't really stopped. I think I've just been inspired by all the beautiful things that I've seen."

Among her inspirations is the TV show Bridgerton: "It's such a new type of period drama because it's not what you're used to seeing. I think it's really interesting," she says.

The first historical piece she made was a Tudor gown, crafted out of her parents' old curtains: "I said, 'I'll take those!'... and it's just gone from there," she recalls.

Some outfits can take a month to complete.

"It just depends on the complexity of the costume. So, for example, if I was going to make a Regency dress, I can usually get that done within a few days - or up to a week.

"But later Victorian dresses, such as bustle dresses, have so many layers to them, and they're so much more complicated to make, that it can take me up to a month."

Storing the dresses can be a challenge, however, having made some 300 outfits to date.

"We don't have a spare room anymore - I've got all my costumes in there!" she exclaims.

She has not kept all 300 dresses though. Some have been sold, and others have been dismantled and remade into other costumes: "If I'm not going to wear it, there's no use in it sitting around in the box."

Currently she is busy making her prom dress, but says it will not be a period piece.

"It's going to be more modern. It's not a very interesting dress: It has a corset bodice and a short skirt - so it's not the usual big costume."

Eleanor is fascinated by history and fashion, and finds fashion to be an accessible way of telling stories.

"I think part of the reason I make the dresses is to tell this visual and social history,

"Especially for women in the past, so much of how they communicated is through what they wore and how they presented themselves," says Eleanor, who is considering a career as a historian, or in curation.

"It's something I'm really interested in doing. Even if it's not solely focused on fashion, I think fashion will always play a part in it, especially because I'm so passionate about telling forgotten women's stories," she says.

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