A stitch in time is Rachel Crowther’s stock-in-trade.
The Forsyth woman is a walking fashion encyclopedia, her mind wrapped in the latest trends quickening the discerning shopper’s pulse back in the day when Abraham Lincoln was in the White House.
Crowther, who has reached the fashionable age of 19 some 115 years after the close of the Victorian era, is a 19th century-style purist who has just launched her own business, “Frozen in Time Clothing Co.” She offers meticulously accurate clothes, mostly for women, but some for men, targeting a clientele of costumed re-enactors and presenters or just people like herself who believe ladies fashion at the time of the Civil War was a winner, North or South.
“I sew by hand, or I use a treadle sewing machine, but I don’t use an electric machine,” Crowther said. “Now, it could still look right if I used an electric, but everybody else does that, and I want to be different.”
She’s busy explaining all this while getting ready to pose for some pictures outside the 19th century Trobaugh-Good House in the Rock Springs Conservation Area. She is wearing a rather fetching full-length and hooped green flower print “day dress”trimmed in darker green felt highlights. Black lace mitts adorn her hands and her head is crowned by a jaunty hat with attendant veil and decorated with two plump green bows.
If she had been stepping out back in the day, she would have knocked their antique socks off.
“This is my dream, to be making these clothes and wearing them and selling them,”Crowther says.
Her full repertoire ranges from elaborate ball gowns to exquisitely sewn and decorated bright red shoes meant for the feet of Civil War-era toddlers.
Prices for her clothing start low and climb toward a figure she would negotiate for those seeking custom-made dresses with lots of frilly bits. And depending on complexity, she says she can turn around something like her sumptuous day dress in just a day if she clears the decks of everything else.
She learned to work hard and fast growing up home-schooled, and a much-younger Crowther also gained an appreciation for the fabric of time. Her mom, Lataine Crowther, read to her from books on history, biography and historical fiction and her little girl, fascinated by vintage fashion, was sewing by the tender age of 4.
“She’s a kinesthetic learner, busy with her hands and constantly learning with her hands,” her mom said. “And Rachel can do anything: She can quilt, she can sew, she can embroider, she can knit and she can crochet.”
Her talented daughter has even gone one step further than that, mastering the art of spinning wool straight off the sheep’s back into yarn. Mom said the pesky sensibilities of the 21st century have stopped her ever-keen offspring from acquiring her own raw material production units, however.