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Sunday Gazette - 2002
Schenectady, NY - USA

Fashions In Time re-creates styles of past
By GAIL SCHUFELT
Gazette Special Sections

Hilary Buckland was given a Mary Poppins doll when she was 8. Within days, she had turned it into Anne Boleyn (second wife to Henry VIII and mother to the first Queen Elizabeth).

That was 36 years ago. And Buckland is still doing it. The only difference is that she's doing it today with real people, not dolls.

Her Glenville business, Fashions In Time, provides gowns for brides and bridesmaids, mothers of the bride, flower girls, even grooms and groomsmen. All are in medieval, Viking, Regency, Victorian, Scottish, Elizabethan, fairy tale or Edwardian styles.

Where Buckland's fascination with period dress and early European history comes from is unknown. It has, she said, been a lifelong passion - "I've had a Tudor fixation since I was 5" - and one that she was fortunate enough to turn into her life's work.

That, however, took a bit of time. In actuality, it almost came about by accident.

After graduating from Schenectady's Linton High School, the fashion designer and seamstress obtained a bachelor's degree in Elizabethan history from Syracuse University. Then she enrolled in the University at Albany, earning a master's degree in library science.

All the while, she was making most of her own clothes. Except for a basic junior high school home economics class, Buckland pretty much taught herself to sew; her grandmother had shown her how to knit and crochet.

But, as far as her formal education was concerned, she never taught a history course; she never worked in a library. Instead, Buckland became a computer programmer and a graphics artist, primarily designing web sites.

Period outfits
While doing that for a number of area businesses, Buckland started to make period outfits for friends and acquaintances. Many of them were in the Society for Creative Anachronism, an organization she had joined years ago, "basically because I wanted to dress up."

SCA members delve into the Renaissance and medieval times as easily as more modern history buffs re-create Revolutionary and Civil War experiences and encampments, They all dress up and attempt to bring those earlier times back to life. To wit: the many Renaissance fairs and festivals held all over the country each summer.

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The medieval gown modeled above can be made by Hilary Buckland for between $275 and $300. It features lined sleeves of iridescent chiffon; a pannι brocade corsetlike bodice; gold and pearl trim.

Fellow anachronists were keeping her busy with requests for period costumes.

Making them authentic was a natural, as she could fall back on those college history lessons and, when necessary, use her library science skills to research questionable styles.

As orders mounted, she founded Fashions In Time and created a web site for herself. That – and word of mouth advertising – generated so much business that she soon dropped web site designing for others, and concentrated on making dream outfits for people just as fascinated with past centuries as she is.

The move from period clothes for anachronistic functions to weddings was a natural. She had one request, from a woman who wanted a medieval gown. That was followed by another, and then another.

Wedding fashions
Within the past few years, weddings have become a major part of her business. And that often means dressing the entire bridal party, including men, as well as mothers of the bride and groom and, many times, some of the guests. For that, Buckland, still a one-woman operation, needs at least three months.

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Hilary Buckland works on one of her creations in her Glenville studio. She combined a lifelong fascination with ancient times and a talent for fashion design and sewing, along with an educational background in history and research and work experience in computers, into her Fashions In Time business.

When she first started making outfits professionally 11 years ago, most of her customers were from the Capital Region or at least from nearby New York City or New England. They would drive here to discuss their wants and desires, to have measurements taken and for fittings.

Now, there are many times that Buckland never meets her clients – people who contact her from all over the country – on a face-to-face basis. They check out her web site (www.fashionsintime.com) and call to discuss exactly what they have in mind and what they can afford.

A basic Viking-styled gown can be made for about $100 while more elaborate designs, like those from the Elizabethan era, would cost close to $800. On the whole, most of the dresses she makes are under $500 and that usually includes headwear, underpinnings, corsets and hoops (if appropriate) as well as all trimming and handiwork.

Occasionally, when someone wants a lot of beading and/or embroidery – all of which Buckland does by hand – on really fine fabrics, the price tag could rise considerably (up to $2,000 or so) but "I try to work within their budgets."

When all the details have been hammered out over the Internet or telephone, the customer will send necessary measurements and Buckland reciprocates with swatches of available materials and colors. If the style is extremely complicated, she'll make it in muslin for the client to try on before proceeding but, in most cases, she completes the outfit and sends it on. The bride – or groom or attendant or mother or whomever – can then get a seamstress near her to make final alterations if needed.

The hard part, conceded Buckland, is not being able to see the finished product, although many of her customers do send her wedding photos.

Some of her clients are involved in anachronism societies and activities and will use their wedding outfits over and over again. Some are fulfilling a dream, re-creating a childhood fantasy or a favorite era. A few want something they have seen in the movies. "Those, said Buckland, "are easy. All I have to do is get a video tape and pop it in."

Halloween busy
Halloween is one her busiest times of the year. Then there are all the Renaissance fairs (in 1997, she was costume chairman for the summer-long Sterling festival near Oswego) that essentially started her career, to say nothing about high school prom gowns, theatrical costumes, fancy ever-after little girl dresses, holiday party attire and other special-event garb, such as for the annual Scottish Games.

Buckland can be reached at her Fashions In Time headquarters by calling 370-1883.

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hilary@fashionsintime.com

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Not only does Hilary Buckland make period wedding gowns, like this Burgundian dress, but she can also outfit the entire bridal party, including the groom and his attendants. In come cases, she has made clothing for wedding guests, too.

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