The Dress Diary of Mrs. Anne Sykes

Kate Strasdin at The Paris Review:

There was no immediate indication of who might have created this amazing dress diary, as I called it—of who had spent so much time carefully arranging the pieces of wool, silk, cotton, and lace into a document of lives in cloth. While there was much I was uncertain of, however, one thing I knew for sure from the careful handwriting that arched over each piece of cloth: this was the work of one woman. I just didn’t know who she was.

In the months that followed, I began to try and unravel some of the stories that might be contained in the album’s pages. Rather than detail its contents digitally, I had a sense that, to be authentic, I needed to write everything down in longhand. I bought a leather-bound book of handmade paper and a black ink pen and started at the beginning, transcribing each tiny caption. I wrote down names, dates, fabrics, colors, and patterns, trying to see who might emerge, looking out for clues about who the author could have been. I counted more than two thousand pieces of fabric: some patterned, others plain; some large and others much smaller. There were pieces paired with longer captions, and others that bore simply a year or nothing at all.

more here.