This is the first of a series of posts by our Hive Instructors so they can share with you their perspectives on reproducing 18th century clothing.
Why You Should Learn to Make A Man’s Shirt
How About Them Details??
By Victoria Brenckle
Since you are reading this post on The Hive’s website I am going to assume that you have already seen the fabulous workshop selection for the 2012 season. Next, I am going to go out on a limb and assume that most of you were swept away in daydreams of tuning up your gun or making leather breeches. Perhaps your mind wandered towards overalls or waistcoats because those get “seen” and are important to get to first.
Why would I accuse you of such things? I know because I was there. I came to the Rev War via the 1630’s which was, by the way, a century and a half BEFORE the Revolution. (I wish someone told me that when I started in Revolutionary War reenacting.) I wore my old clothes to my first 2 events. The first thing I made was a jacket; outerwear.
Now, as a seasoned so called "veteran reenactor", I will share the most important rule in building an historic impression. Start from the inside and work out! I can now assume the two questions that come to mind: What do I do in the meantime? and Why should I do that?
The first question is the easiest; either show up and soak it all in as a spectator to start with or ask your group where the slop chest is or who will let you borrow an outfit. As long as you are actively working to get yourself outfitted, most reenactors do not mind loaning clothes a few times.
On to the harder question. Why would I make you put off the chance to learn all that other cool stuff first? Here are my reasons:
· By studying inventories and reading copious primary sources, Matt and I see the same thing over and over again. Men had numerous shirts. You see, shirts got dirty since they were worn closest to the skin (which was not cleaned as frequently as yours is…assumptions again). Do you change your underwear everyday but wear your pants more than once? Eighteenth Century men followed the same pattern. Shirts were the most worn, laundered and replaced item in a man’s wardrobe. If you have a shirt now, wouldn’t you like to have another? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to repair it? How about to make another when that fabulous shirt you make with us gets tired? We’re teaching you how to fish here people!
· By fish I mean…sew! When you make a shirt by hand you need to learn and use (over and over and over again) those basic stitches that are used to make other 18th century reproductions. Sewing a shirt by hand will force you to make your stitches smaller, neater and quicker than you are now. Once you construct a shirt by hand, you move from basic to intermediate sewer. An intermediate or advanced sewer will reap the same benefits of smaller, neater, quicker stitches as well!
· As I compose this post on “Cyber Monday” I know how easy it is to acquire a ready-made shirt. Truth be told, you can order one for less money than this class costs!
Will that shirt be made of appropriate materials? (Probably not)
Fit you properly? (If you are lucky)
Give you the warm fuzzy inside feeling of being the most accurate you can be? (Definitely not!)
· You will have not one, but two experienced historians, sewers, and nice people to help you along the way as you construct the most important garment an eighteenth century man wore!
Sign up to make your own shirt or a shirt for your favorite man.
Looking forward to working with you,
Vicky and Matt Brenckle
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up
(Also, please note that we will offer the option to make a woman’s habit shirt. A habit shirt is the undergarment a woman wore under her riding habit, it looks similar to a man’s shirt but is much shorter. If this option interests you then feel free to write to me.)