Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Focusing the Zoom Lens: 1770-1783

The Hive blog in the next few months is going to be taking an in depth look at the styles of gowns worn during the time period of 1770-1783 from both the standpoint of fashion and social context.

A common error made by many reenactors is dressing “generically" 18th century.  If a re-enactor is wearing something that was worn sometime between 1740-1790  it is working for them. Many will read this and say why bother, it is just a hobby.  Get over it.  Why do the guys bother discussing uniform buttons for days on end and the lock of a musket or the strap on a cartridge case?  If those details are important for them, shouldn't our details as women be important to us?

 Here in the New England area, Revolutionary War reenactors participate in events that range in date from 1770 to 1783, a span of thirteen years!   That 13 year time period saw not only the Tea Party and the American Revolution, but also a revolution of style in clothing, especially for women.  It is our intention to focus as best we can on those stylistic changes over that 13 year time period.

 Up until the explosion of the internet, providing us ALL with access to newspaper archives, portrait and print collections as well as the treasures locked away in museum storage, this information was available only to a small circle.  Colonial Williamsburg with its many archives and collections, always had this advantage and has shared much of their research with symposiums, books and exhibits.  Now it is up to all of us to start doing our own work, the information is there.  Shame on us if we don't even look at it!

We are going to take a methodical look at portraits, extant garments and the social media of the day, the satires, to build a case for change over time in women's clothing among the various social strata, and how we should or should not be reflecting those changes in our dress.

Each of those areas of research has issues: portraits in the colonies reflect the upper class of society, extant garments are often undated or misdated with no provenance and the satires have pointed jokes that we often don't understand.  

We will do our best to look at all the research available and hopefully we can draw our own conclusions when presented with the data.  We will strive for frank discussions based on facts not opinions.  Please join us in our quest!

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