Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Documenting Your Duds

Today we're going to take a look at documenting a middlin' class impression.  Even though surviving artifacts and portraits are rare for this group of folks, there is still lots of material to pull from. English genre art is a good place to start, but be careful of using them too literally since frequently things are being lampooned and, a lot of the times, we're not getting the joke. For today's example, I have chosen one of my favorite prints from the Lewis Walpole collection, "A Ladies Maid Purchasing a Leek" 1772. 

It is important to know that documenting your clothing does not mean you need to be running out trying to draft originals from collections. As I mentioned yesterday, many scholars have already done this for you, I'll use some in our example today.  In addition, your documentation doesn't necessarily have to be a work of art either. Sure, it's nice to have your items photographed professionally and to show off your graphic design skills, but it's not required, all you need is the information in writing and your sources cited.

A Middlin' Woman Impression

Shift: linen as described in Costume Close-up by Linda Baumgarten 1999, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Stays: as described in Costume Close-up by Linda Baumgarten 1999, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Gown: Open front gown, blue worsted, tabby weave
PA Gazette 10-16-1766
Quilted Petticoat: MFA Accession# 28.528b Pink Silk

Quilted petticoat
My reproduction

 Black Silk Bonnet over linen cap (as pictured in print)

Linen apron and printed cotton handkerchief (as pictured in print)

My interpretation

Shoes: Black Leather Shoes from Burnley & Trowbridge
NH Gazette 12-26-1766

If this all seems overwhelming, start with documenting your outer garment first and work from there.  Once you do this a couple times, it gets easier. And by the way, when you are shopping on sutler row, don't be afraid to ask for their primary sources.  The best sutlers have done their homework and will be able to cite them for you.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Documenting Your Kit - Easier Than You Think

Snakes, spiders, swarms of biting insects, wearing wool in 100 degree heat -- that's nothin' for most reenactors. But ask someone to provide documentation for their kit and they end up looking like they've just seen a ghost. But here's the deal, everyone should be able to document what they are wearing. Now it could be argued that not each person who takes part in this hobby is interested in the clothing aspect of things, but I would make the case that as a costumed living historian, it's actually one of the most important. It's the first thing others see and it's the visual memory you leave behind.  And consider for a moment the history you can teach using clothing as a prop.  Think: taxes, importation of finished goods to the colonies, social status, manufacturing, trade, etc.,  Being able to provide the sources for your clothing choices is an important part of taking your impression to a higher level.

So what is involved in providing documentation for your clothing? It's actually much easier than you think. Over the next week, we are going to share several examples, from working class to gentry.  The good news is, that it does not require writing a master's thesis, much of the work has already been done for you, if you look hard enough.  There are great reference books at your disposal to draw from, as well as countless on-line sources; and for you overachievers out there, well, the sky's the limit.

Today, we're going to start with gentry kit for a lady.......

Gentry Kit for a Lady: 1773

Shift: Linen, based on Copp Family shift at the Smithsonian Institute, CT provenance

Stays: From pattern drafted from pair at Memorial Hall, Deerfield, MA
(In progress: silk & wool covered stays)

Gown: Modeled after Dorothy Quincy portrait by John Singleton Copley – pink silk taffeta, open front 1772

Cap – Wired, lace with silk ribbon

Apron: Linen – hand embroidered
MFA accession# 64.1913 New England provenance

Handkerchief: Fine Linen trimmed with lace – Gainsborough, Countess Howe 1763

Hat – Straw trimmed with white silk ribbon - Gainsborough,  Countess Howe 1763

Thomas Gainsbourgh 1763 - Countess Howe

Fabric & Trim Samples

Shoes:  Silk Shoes

Silk covered shoes by American Duchess – silk dyed blue

Next: We'll take a look at a middlin' kit using many resources you are probably already familiar with.