I have a confession to make.... I am a retread. I actively took part in re-enactments, living history days, workshops, e-groups, etc. for thirteen years and then took a four year sabbatical. Last summer I returned to the hobby and participated in two events at Hartwell Tavern. It was clear to me last fall that I had some catching up to do.
My kit had be acceptable to good. I shed the mythical bodice during my first year in the living history community and had stays made. I had several gowns, coordinating petticoats, cloak, bonnet, appropriate size straw hat, 18th century shoes, mitts and eyeware. But when I came back into the hobby, the research rendered my kit out-of -date. No one had said anything to me. I was not approached by the fashion police and hauled before a magistrate. I knew that I needed to update my kit.
I registered for a gown making workshop sponsored by the Hive. I'd made plenty of 18th century shirts, shifts, waistcoats, workman's coats and regimentals but I'd never made a gown. I also signed up for advanced tailoring workshop so that I'd learn the latest 'old' techniques to improve my skills. There was encouragement and help from each person that taught a class or evaluated the item I was working on.
While freezing in the field opposite Hartwell Tavern last April, I asked a question about my "short cloak". The answer, which was given in a friendly manner and with an encoouraging smile, had me downloading an article about short cloaks and purchasing some new wool as soon as I got home and thawed out. But, until I asked, there was no critique. It was not until we struggled to fit the bodice of my second hand- made gown some months later, that I realized I needed a complete 18th century make-over, starting with new and better fitting stays. It may have been obvious to others that my kit had some serious problems but I was allowed to come to the realization on my own. Once I voiced my need for new stays, there was agreement and support from the group. The gown is on hold until the new stays are completed. I've bartered some wool from my stash for a new bonnet kit. I've ordered higher heeled shoes from Fugawee as my feet are too wide for my preferred shoes from Burnley and Trowbridge. When my new stays are ready, I'll ask some of my fellow "Crazy Concord Chicks" to evaluate the look. We'll see what can be re-worked and what needs to find a new home, even if that home is the dustbin.
So while the others look for the perfect fabric or learn a new skill to make a desired item, my personal journey to the 1773 Muster Day-Garden Party begins with a total re-assessment of my 18th century kit.... everything. Some things will stay and others will join the things that already have been recycled.
My usual posts to this blog will be about the research on the fare and material culture for the Garden Party- Muster Day. I'll be trying recipes.... maybe even giving them a test drive at Sunday afternoon Hive sessions for something new, and keeping you informed of the results. From time to time though, I will continue to make "confessions". Know anyone who needs striped stockings?