Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Be Part of the Solution!

I have a friend who worked in NYC for a summer.  One day, she was walking down the street and she noticed that men were looking at her.  Wow, she thought, I must look pretty hot today.  As she continued on her way, she heard whistles and cat calls.  My, these new pants must really fit me well, was all she could think. All of a sudden a woman came up behind her and whispered, "I'm not going to mug you, just let me walk behind you."  She then told my friend, "You probably don't realize this, but the back seam of your pants has split open and your butt is peaking out. I'm a seamstress at production studio about a block away from here, I'll keep walking behind you and when we get to my office, I'll sew your pants up for you."

So how many people saw my friend's wardrobe malfunction and didn't say a word.  Did they not care or were they afraid of embarrassing her even though she was doing a good job at that herself.  If you have spinach in your teeth, don't you want someone to let you know?  How about toilet paper on your shoe?  

The other day, I suggested that we, as a community, do what we can do make sure the reeanctorism known as "the bodice" goes extinct.  If you own one, burn it, turn it into a dust rag, make a pillow out of it, but whatever you do, don't loan it out.

But the bigger question seems to be, what do you do if know someone who wears one?  Do you say something or just ignore it, even though we all  know it's not correct.  And here when we say not correct, we are talking mythical, made-up, make believe.  Whatever way you spin it, the bodice that reenactors wear is, in fact, a 20th century creation and has no basis in the 18th century. As I said in my earlier blog post, we have known this for over 20 years, this is not cutting edge research.

Now I'm certainly not suggesting that you walk up to strangers and start giving them clothing advice! But I do think we need to consider people that you know. Let's start close to home first.  Is there someone in your group who wears a bodice?  If she's in your reenacting group, you could start a conversation at one of your meetings about accuracy, sharing research and what your group can do to improve their impressions.  If you are not a Battle Road group participant, perhaps you could download their standards and see what they are all about.  Arrange a sewing day where the ladies make bedgowns for themselves - they are easy and do not require much sewing skill.
Bedgown from the Manchester City Gallery c. 1760-1780
Accession# 1972.110
If you live in New England, suggest that she join you at a Hive.  Each year we run a free newbie/tune-up clinic, where we review all the parts and pieces of clothing an accurately dressed woman needs and what works well for someone just entering the hobby.

No one really wants to be out of step. You can be the world's best spinner, know scads about hearth cooking, can talk to the public about every battle in the Revolution, but what the tourist will bring home, is that picture they took of the people in the funny clothes.  We owe them accuracy in the information we share them as well as accuracy in the clothing we wear.

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