With the PEI 2014 celebrations now underway, some Islanders are updating their wardrobes with a step back in time to 150 years ago — the year of the Charlottetown Conference.

Karen Beauregard is making a period dress for herself from scratch. She's discovering the challenge of such a big sewing project. 

"The yards and yards and yards of fabric ... I couldn't imagine not having an electric sewing machine ...They could only invite so many people to parties because the gowns took up so much room when they were dancing," she said.

Beauregard has learned a lot from Arnold Smith, an Islander who has a passion for period fashion.

In the fall, Smith hosted a dress-making class in his home in Pleasant Valley led by fabric artist Ann-Blair White.

They'll hold another one later this month.

The goal is to encourage Islanders celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference to dress for the occasion, said Smith.

"If they're doing various functions, garden parties, reenactments, whatever, or if someone just wanted to dress up and go for a stroll down through Victoria Park, give the tourists a thrill and let them take their picture, there's lots of things you can do," he said.

A love of period clothing

Back in 1989, for the 125th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, Smith played the role of founding father Andrew A. MacDonald.

It was then Smith developed his love of collecting and making period clothing.

Smith picks up items at auctions and vintage clothing stores.

And he's happy to lend his collection to spirited Islanders with tail feathers for the men and elaborate dresses for the ladies.

"And it doesn't necessarily have to be something that looks 1864," he said.

"You can do any period through the time because part of the celebration is that they're celebrating the whole past, not just that one particular night."

Smith is also working on a couple outfits for the lieutenant governor's wife, Dorothy.