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Re: [oneroom] Reproduction Clothing

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  • James and Mary Krier
    I appreciate your advice Mark and would like to help those of you authenticators who wish to employ a professional clothing research and replication team.
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 28, 2006
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      I appreciate your advice Mark and would like to help
      those of you authenticators who wish to employ a
      professional clothing research and replication team.
      Westendorf Costume Emporium in Keota, Iowa houses
      thousands of authentic and historically accurate
      reproduced clothing. Proprietor Jane Westendorf and
      daughter Lori, are experienced in professionally
      costuming nationally acclaimed opera festivals,
      theatre productions and community, college, and high
      school theatre productions, as well as offering custom
      costuming on an individual basis. They have a
      nation-wide clientele, and serve on their national
      costume affiliate board. They are the best kept secret
      in the costume clothing and accessory business! Their
      e-mail address is: costumes@.... Their
      mailing address is: Westendorf Costume Emporium 204
      E. Broadway Keota, Ia. 52248 Phone #: 641-636-2099

      You won't be disappointed! Mary Krier

      --- Mark L Shanks <mlshanks@...> wrote:

      > Sarah:
      > First let me commend you for broadly addressing the
      > question of costuming in living history
      > presentations such as recreating one room schools.
      > I very much agree with you that asking for "a source
      > for costumes" without knowing the era to be
      > portrayed, the level of authenticity sought, and the
      > items needed is an almost impossible task. However,
      > I make a few observations of my own on the subject,
      > having over the years seen some very good....and
      > very bad jobs of costuming to portray teachers in
      > one-room schools.
      > Much as I agree that pictures from the period to be
      > portrayed must be the first guide in assembling a
      > costume, rather than pointing to catalogs and
      > magazines, might I suggest that dated pictures of
      > local one-room school teachers should be the first
      > source ...and if none are extant, at least school
      > pictures from the right period should set the basis
      > for the clothing we choose. There are plenty of such
      > pictures available from the late 1860s onward, and
      > books such Gulliford's "American Country Schools" or
      > Freedman's "Children of the Wild West" will provide
      > a start to assembling such pictures. But check your
      > local school district, historical society, or county
      > archive...as may be pleasantly surprised as to the
      > wealth of primary source images.
      > Second, I'd offer the opinion that setting a firm
      > standard of "getting it right" is a reasonable goal
      > all that care about portaying early schools. If one
      > is not firmly trying as best one can to portray the
      > costume of the time period, historical interpreters
      > wearing "masquerade" costumes are more indulging
      > their own vanity than teaching about the past. I
      > can't imagine any of us would be happy telling
      > children "4+4= something close to 7"... Why then
      > accept either a volunteer or professional wearing an
      > outfit that is not correct to silhouette, color,
      > shape, pattern, or the way that the body moves
      > within the clothes?
      > Yes there are compromises to be made. I've done
      > some when over the years I've run interpretation
      > departments of small and mid-size living history
      > museums. For example, I've scandalized hard-core
      > reenactors with the notion that machine-made
      > buttonholes may be acceptable for 1870s
      > clothing...or that as long as my staff knew not to
      > show the inside of certain garments, serger-edged
      > selvage was to be prefered because of the duribility
      > it gave garments. Shoes that were only 80% correct
      > might be acceptable, and some minor accessories were
      > let to slide.
      > But I know I'll get in trouble with some... But
      > I'll take issue with your "sports bra" comment. The
      > proper woman's foundation garment is critical to
      > setting the correct silhouette and movement to any
      > historic woman's costume of the 17th-19th century.
      > No period cut garment will fit correctly when worn
      > over modern foundation garments....because prior to
      > about 1915, women's garments were FITTED to create a
      > silhouette, not tailored. A fitted garment conforms
      > closely to the body AND THE FOUNDATION GARMENTS in
      > creating its shape, rather than hanging off the
      > shoulders and creating its shape through it's own
      > struture. Don't wear the proper foundation, and the
      > fitting completely changes. Further, I will
      > guarentee that I can spot a women not wearing such
      > foundation garments the first time she moves in the
      > costume...as she & the clothes will look entirely
      > wrong.
      > As to the movement and restriction of the clothes,
      > I'd observe that with practice, one can easily do
      > everything that one's historic counterparts did in
      > the costume. Emphasis on the word: practice. I've
      > good a good friend (and a noted 19th century
      > costumer and corset maker) who would demonstrate the
      > possibilities of period clothing by riding horses,
      > playing baseball, and doing cartwheels in an 1880s
      > costume. My own female staff at a living history
      > museum of the 1870s did farm chores including
      > harnessing horses, plowing, chopping wood, milking
      > cows and bucking feed and hay all while wearing
      > proper costume including their "stays..." Including
      > one volunteer in her late 70s. Teaching school by
      > comparison is a breeze...even if one goes out and
      > plays "red rover" with the kids at the nooning. Of
      > course, that means the RIGHT period clothing, fitted
      > properly and worn in the correct fashion.
      > As to questions of where to find good repreoduction
      > garments, I'd recommend that anyone serious about
      > this talk to someone who is already dealing with
      > garements of the period you are interested in.
      > Where to find such people? Major living history
      > museums are a good place to start. So is ALHFAM
      > (the Association of Living History, Farm, and
      > Agricultural Museums http://www.alhfam.org ), who
      > have a professional interest group devoted to the
      > subject of living history costuming.
      > Mark Shanks
      > mlshanks@...

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    • robansuefarm
      I m glad to get a discussion going and I hope other people will chime in. Again, historic clothing isn t my main focus of interest (that would be foodways),
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 28, 2006
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        I'm glad to get a discussion going and I hope other people will chime
        in. Again, historic clothing isn't my main focus of interest (that
        would be foodways), but one that you have to deal with for living
        history. I hope we are all here to learn and I would be truly
        interested in knowing what any of the stand alone school museums or
        anyone else actually have for a clothing policy or system they have
        set up to deal with clothing.

        I agree with Mark that to be historically accurate does require
        accurate undergarments. Also, people who aren't willing to bypass
        vanity for one thing, might not be the best to trust on getting other
        things right. The people on Frontier House make an excellent example
        of how one refusal to do things right, led to another, and another. A
        good way to show how bad small things can be is to pull out old re-
        enactor photos from the 1970s-1980s. I have one that I never noticed
        the glasses when I took, but they sure tell you what decade they were
        taken in now. However, if you are dealing with a small pool of
        possible volunteers and you get one who knows schools and can present
        well and is available when you need, it might not be worth throwing
        out the baby with the bathwater in a local political scene. Maybe a
        compromise would be not to try to wear historic garmets and have some
        sort of uniformish standard instead or to clearly label people as
        costumed guides, one of my first volunteer positions had costumed
        guides and then moved to uniform in later years. Are any schools
        doing something like that?

        There are various 20th century cultural reasons why some women refuse
        to wear corsets. Also, there is the cost to consider, if people are
        going to be providing their own clothing, are you only going to take
        on people who can afford the highest class garments, historical eye-
        glasses, true period shoes etc., you might not be having anyone at
        all. I still hold that it might be necessary to compromise somewhat,
        although to be accurate as budget allows is a goal and its been my
        experience that living history is a slippery slope and the deeper you
        get into it the more accurate you want to be and many (though
        certainly not all) volunteers and staff find this to be so and may
        help you move towards more quality later on, rather than trying to
        enforce everything yourself. Of course if you are a boss with paid
        staff this shouldn't be as much of an issue. This might be an East
        Coast/Midwest thing also. On another listserv I recently had someone
        actually think it was laughable that I said Highway 60 in southern
        Missouri was a busy road. Of course, she's from urban England, so her
        field of comparisson was totally different than mine (I was comparing
        it to rural backroads of SW Minnesota my other frequent Laura Ingalls
        Wilder destination). I could definitely see how someone on the East
        coast with higher incomes and denser population would have an easier
        time finding volunteers committed to that extent. Again though most
        of my experience has been with town type sites, stand alone schools
        might be different.

        Mark's point about the accuracy of photos from daily life (even
        dressed in your best daily life) as opposed to the ideal of magazines
        and catalogs is a good one. I would certainly do your best to find
        such photos to add to your collection. However, even good photos
        blown up to a large size can be hard to see clothing details. Class
        photos often have the teacher in the back and most of the clothing
        blocked. I suggested magazines and catalogs because they tend to be
        line drawings which show exact details more clearly in my experience
        when you are trying to copy them. I think the main thing is start
        looking and see what you can find. Start a scrapbook, but don't plan
        on finishing it. ;-)

        Again, as Mark says I'd say the lower levels of costuming are to be
        avoided, but I was describing the situation as I've seen it. It's
        important to know what's out there to understand other sites ideas
        and levels to understand the advice they might give and what people
        are used to seeing in your area which both visitors and volunteers
        might ask about. I hope nobody misunderstood my list of levels to say
        I advocated lower levels if you have any choice at all, I'm just
        saying they are out there.

        The sports bra suggestion came from a session at the ALHFAM
        conference in Williamsburg a few years ago and was put on by members
        of the clothing PIG. It was a very interesting session on getting
        things as right as possible on small sites in the face of small
        budgets and volunteer/staff resistence. Perhaps I took it too far out
        of context, but I was trying to keep my message a readable length. I
        certainly encourage everyone to go to a living history conference if
        they ever get a chance. They are in the links section under support
        organizations, but the links are http://www.alhfam.org and

        I also want to clarfiy that I didn't mean you couldn't do some things
        in period clothes. They were worn by people who worked a lot harder
        than most of us and most proper and appropriate period clothing
        doesn't mean that you have to stand like a china doll, but it does
        effect how you move, how you stand, your patterns of movement, etc. A
        common example is the scene in Huck Finn when disguised as a girl, he
        pushes his knees together to catch something in his lap, like someone
        used to wearing pants, rather than spread his skirts to create a bag
        to catch it. One of the reasons to wear good period garments is to
        get you out of the 21st century habits of movement and thought
        patterns, to get closer to what it was like.

        I thought I was being clear in my last post and I did read it through
        before I sent it, but I hope this will clarify understandings. Again,
        I hope other people chime in with what they already doing to see
        what's out there, because I think we can agree on the goal. Please
        post if you don't.

        Sarah S. Uthoff
      • Robert Goodman
        There is another Iowa reenactor and seamstress, who does excellent work for a nationwide clientelle. She gives attention to detail, authenticity, and fit, and
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 21, 2006
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          There is another Iowa reenactor and seamstress, who does excellent work for a nationwide clientelle.  She gives attention to detail, authenticity, and fit, and has sewn for a variety of time periods, although her main focus is the 1860's.  I have contacted her about our group's search for period clothing for a variety of periods for school marms and masters, and she is quite willing to be available.  I have included both her web address and e-mail contact information. 



          Judy Goodman

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