Do I have to create all new clothes for The Challenge?
Do you want to?
Do you need to?
Some people will, because it is a good excuse to make something new and they have just been looking for a reason to finally get around to using that really good fabric they bought two years ago. Some people just don't have the time or the desire or the money to make something new.
The object of this exercise is to not force anyone to start from scratch (unless you want to) but to provide an opportunity and a reason for you to look at your existing clothing and make changes to improve your impression. Fix those shift sleeves so they are not down around your wrists, replace that machine sewn apron with a hand sewn one, small improvements can make a big difference and some don't cost a thing except a few hours of time. In addition, we are asking participants to look beyond "generic 18th century" and focus on Massachusetts in 1773, not Pennsylvania, Virginia or Maryland in 1778 or 1783. So what does your current impression look like? For example, do you have a shortgown, that is more appropriate for the mid-Atlantic than Massachusetts? Then consider a bedgown, which is better suited to New England.
Okay, so you have a impeccably hand sewn, center front closing gown with polonaise style back (vs. pleated en fourreau). Spot on for late and post war but, in this case, too far fashion forward for 1773. Wearing styles that had not yet been invented would not be appropriate for this event. If you participate in Battle Road and other pre-war events, a stomacher front/en fourreau back gown would be in keeping with the fashion of that particular time period and this event could be your motivation to create a new gown that would serve you well for the reenacting you do in this time period.
This challenge has started us (the Crazy Concord Chicks) on a research path to determine exactly what women in New England were wearing in the early 1770's, hence the portrait of the week posts. Something we might not be pursuing, if it were not for this challenge. That is what we are hoping will happen with everyone who participates, challenge all the assumptions, question what you think you know, document it and then represent it.
Another example -- you have a partially hand sewn (you did the unseen seams by machine) stomacher front/en fourreau back gown and you just made it and cannot even imagine trying to sew another at this point. This might be a chance to look at the other parts of your kit. Take a look at the caps being worn in the portraiture of the early 1770's, perhaps it's time for a new cap, new handkerchief or new apron. How can I accessorize my current look to be more in line to a woman coming out to a social gathering where she would want to put her best foot forward so to speak.
Remember this event is not mandatory, it is a new event especially targeted for civilian impressions. If you decide that this is something you want to do, you won't be out there in the wilderness trying to figure this all out on your own. We will be adding morning Sunday Hive sewing bees, starting in January, for you to get feedback and help with your projects, as well as to share research. In addition we will also have a Facebook page for you to discuss your progress with others, ask questions and post pictures. And you'll have those Crazy Concord Chicks to inspire, motivate and perhaps even amuse you with how they undertake this challenge and see their progress and frustrations as well.
Coming Next: Jury Duty