Monday, September 24, 2012

Midnight Musings: When "Costumes" Become "Clothing"

One thing that I know will annoy Mike is if anyone refers to historical clothing as "costumes." I admit, I have been known to use the terms interchangeably when I'm feeling particularly lazy ("Can we go in costume?"). But there really is a difference, at least for those of us who use historical clothing as a very important (and visible) part of interpreting history. In the simplest explanation, costumes become clothing when you choose to make and wear garments based on your physical need for them, in the same way that you buy and wear clothes today. And I don't mean need as in "OMG THAT DRESS IS SO PRETTY I NEED TO MAKE IT!!!!!!". But need as in "Hmm, it's going to be 50 degrees at this event, so I want to have this, this, and this to be warm." It's picking styles and materials that would have been appropriate to the type of person you are portraying. And it's building upon existing pieces in your wardrobe, in the same way you do with your wardrobe today. It's saying "I want to wear this ribbon/petticoat/brooch/bonnet today" to change up the look of an outfit, or simply throwing on a hat and coat because you're going outside, and that's what you do.

I got a serious lesson in treating costume as clothing this summer when I worked in Colonial Williamsburg. I had essentially three outfits that comprised my wardrobe (which is barely over the minimum number of outfits most destitute poor and slaves were given, but that's an essay for another time...) so it was a fun exercise each day figuring out how to put things together differently, or add a new ribbon, or wear a different cap and kerchief combination. And it felt the same as getting dressed in 21st century clothing, when I stand in front of my closet for 20 minutes trying to figure out what to wear...

This weekend, Katie and I went to a small, local Civil War event. Neither of us wore anything new. And it actually felt great. Of course new clothes are always fun. But there was something really rewarding to go into my closet of historical clothes and pick things out as a woman of the 1860s would, thinking "It's cold today; I need my flannel petticoat and my paletot," and "This is one of my better dresses; I want to wear it to look particularly fashionable today!" And then throwing on my trusty bonnet and gloves. I felt complete, and like a real person in real clothes, not a person in a funny costume. If you treat your historical clothing as a wardrobe, the way a person of the past would have approached their wardrobe, you come away with an invisible mindset about yourself that translates into something visible for the pubic.

Pictures from the weekend, by Katie Jacobs.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tips and Tricks: A Survey

As many of you know, my blog consists of my creations and the events I wear them too. But lately I've been wondering if it might be helpful for me to take construction pictures and do a more tutorial-style write up of things. I'm not tech-savvy enough to figure out how to do a poll here, so I would appreciate it if you would leave your opinion in a comment. Just curious to see what people would like to see!

a) I enjoy reading your blog the way it is.
b) I would appreciate construction pictures and/or tutorials in addition to your usual posts.

Thank you! :]

I will leave/bribe you with this fantastic picture of my fiance hard at work, taken by the fabulous Mr. Paul McClintock of From Common Hands 18th century book binding. Thank you Paul!

Monday, September 3, 2012

1790s Redingote

I've been planning this outfit since April when I visited with my dear Miss Waterman (who incidentally got engaged yesterday at the event!) in Tennessee. I thought it would be fun to do something 1790s at the Fair at New Boston, since the time frame for the event is 1790-1810. This is definitely on the early end of the 1790s! I felt really elegant in the outfit, even though the humidity and rain did a number on my hair... It was still tons of fun to wear, and the entire event was awesome as well! I got another chance to use my bow during a ladies archery practice on both days. I also picked up four period arrows to go with it! 

To make the actual redingote, I modified my basic 1770s bodice pattern, adding the lapels and giving it a straight waistline. I then had to draft the capes. Luckily I could use the two piece sleeves from the Mill Farm riding habit pattern. After much staring at the KCI 1790s striped jacket, I finally figured out the funky cuff on that too. The whole thing was assembled using 18th century techniques, in particular the "weird running whip stitch thingy" that Abby describes here: I LOVE this stitch! It is very fast and easy and gives a very neat look to the seams. I also referenced her tutorial for my hair, but again, the humidity and rain really made all the hard work almost for naught...