Tisch Drama Alumna Bernadette Banner Creates Online Business Studying Historical Dress

Thursday, Feb 27, 2020

Bernadette Banner (Photo: Hana DeHart)
Bernadette Banner (Photo: Hana DeHart)

With more than half a million subscribers on YouTube, Tisch Drama alumna Bernadette Banner (class of 2017) has skillfully stitched a study and exploration of historical dress into a full-time business that has generated interest across the globe.

Banner’s passion for historical dress took shape during her time at NYU, where she studied in Tisch Drama’s Production & Design Studio. After working as a design assistant on Broadway, she developed a desire to go beyond theatrical costume design and dig deeper into the history of dressmaking. 

To get Banner started on a new path, Adjunct Instructor Hilary Rosefeld advised her to approach the School of Historical Dress in London, where she was able to secure an internship with celebrated costume designer Jenny Tiramani. 

“I’m proud to say that I showed Bernadette the door to knock on—but I'm even more proud of all that she has accomplished after walking through it,” Rosenfeld said. Banner said her time in London was “supremely enlightening” and inspired her to post about her passion and excitement for historical dress on the internet.

“I shared my process of reconstructing garments showing methods and materials that may have been used historically by producing videos for YouTube," said Banner. This proved popular quickly—and beyond the expected historical costume community. “The videos began to circulate among mainstream audiences,” she added. 

Banner saw a business opportunity that could be supported by YouTube’s advertising model that enables popular brands and companies to pay creators a fee for mentioning services in their videos.

“I earn enough of a living from the videos that running the channel is now my full-time job,” she said. “I get to experiment with the reconstruction of historical dress, share my passion and excitement with the world, and make a living at it! It truly is a dream career that I had no idea existed in the field.”

Banner said she has learned not to limit herself or settle for something she is not truly passionate about—“because the right job might not have been invented or discovered for you yet.” 

There’s no simple pattern for creating  a career on YouTube. “It doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen easily," Banner added. "There are many hours involved not only in the actual sewing and researching content of the videos, but in film production and editing, in script writing, in search engine optimisation to ‘market’ the videos effectively for maximum return.”

Banner said she was grateful for her time at Tisch Drama, for teaching her a diverse range of skills that would prove useful in entering the field—skills in sewing and history, of course, “but also groundwork to develop skills in media production, in marketing, in business management, research, writing, and especially in effective storytelling,” she added.

You can follow Bernadette Banner on YouTube and Instagram. She was also recently interviewed by art and culture commentator Hyperallergic