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E L Watkins-Morris
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« on: September 28, 2013, 07:08:52 AM »

I have been in this hobby since 1996. There are those who have been researching and creating and sharing for much longer and I am forever indebted to them.
So I ask this question only in the interest of bettering my research and impression.

Has anyone else notice the fads that we create amongst ourselves as new research appears?

It is most obvious within the items of reproduction clothing we choose to make but I also see it in the "stuff" we carry about to recreate life in camp.

I have three that immediately come to mind:

   -Cage versus covered crinolines: definite preference for the cage with little to back up that preference (if you have it please provide).

   -In 1996 it was: every lady must have a reproduction cotton print dress, now it is every lady must have a sheer dress. I call that a fad, whereas to have minimum clothing requirements appropriate to the woman's place in life is fashion.   

    -My tent/fly/living space should be on par with my front parlor in its trappings.

What items/subjects have you seen become a fashion or fad in your time in this hobby?

Thanks,
Liz W.

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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2013, 09:35:40 AM »

Philosophically, I think fads happen when individuals are not engaged in their own passionate research, so they latch onto the coolest looking/seeming items they see others use. Sometimes that's a correct latch, and sometimes it's not. The only solution for the faddish behavior is to be immersed in individual research and inquiry!
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Elizabeth
Frau Burau
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2013, 12:51:06 PM »

The Richmond apron is a "fad" I've seen at many of our events the past two years. (especially annoying considering it was an original fad in only ONE city!  Huh )

Men's overshirts are the newest fad this summer... went from seeing none to seeing at least a quarter of the male population wearing them.
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NoahBriggs
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2013, 01:03:46 PM »

Twenty years ago in the military someone discovered "leggings", a type of white canvas, buckled thing that covered the lower leg from mid-shin to the top of the boot.  Yes, documented, and all of a sudden just about everyone seemed to have "documentation" that their unit also had these damn things.  They also forgot to read the second part of the research - the original cast might wear leggings on parade, but they got kicked off or otherwise removed on the first march because they were impractical (especially if you had insanely skinny legs like I did).
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Anna Worden Bauersmith
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2013, 06:11:43 PM »

I to, have noticed some fads. (I've also noticed some cycles of interest and inquiry.) In addition to Liz's observations, I think items can be correct or borderline but fall into over-representation 
As far as fads, over the years, I've noticed:
Ribbon hairnets (over-represented, situational)
House caps (dated)
Paisley shawls (over-represened, needs to be economic status balanced)
Mock-Paisley shawls (border-line item over-represented)
Cockades (over-represented, context)
Mourning impressions (over-represented in context)
Specific dress styles (as you mentioned sheer. Also, bodice cuts.)
'Okay'ed hat designs (over-represented. At events with 100 women, I should not see 25% in the same uncommon millinery.)
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Frau Burau
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2013, 08:53:16 PM »

Mr. Briggs... are you referring to gaters? (The canvas "leggings" or half chaps men wear over their brogans?) I've often wondered where the practical use was (besides keeping those dang cockleburs from creeping up your pants at events).  Also, how tight/loose should they be?  I see some who where them so loose they crumple at the ankle.  Very curious!
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MaryDee
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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2013, 10:57:02 PM »

Even 21st century hikers wear gaiters!  They keep rocks and other debris out of shoes and prevent ticks or other bugs from crawling up your legs inside your pants.  In winter, they keep snow from getting into your shoes and waterproof your legs below the knee.  Last summer, while I was exploring the Barlow Trail (part of the Oregon Trail) over the Cascades, I discovered why I should have worn mine--an ant crawled up my leg and bit in a sensitive spot!  Unless there's snow, though, we wear short gaiters that come to just above the ankle.  

I recently read a thread about gaiters on the Authentic Campaigner, which stated that while they were part of the uniform early in the war, soldiers on the march generally ditched them and the military stopped using them by mid-war. I didn't bookmark it, though, since a female refugee or cook/laundress in the OC wouldn't wear them.  However, Annie Oakley (long after our period) wore them; I've seen pictures.  

As for hoop petticoat vs. cage--I'd like to know more!   And what's a "Richmond apron"?  I googled but could find only a restaurant in Richmond!

I'm sure there were fads back then, too!  But we need to be sure we're using the OC's fads, not our own!  
« Last Edit: September 28, 2013, 11:09:05 PM by MaryDee » Logged
NoahBriggs
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« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2013, 06:31:02 AM »

I have no useful research on the gaters.  The best example was that they were issued to the Iron Brigade regiments to create a sense of uniformity, dash and esprit de corps (which is bizarre because since most of them were white it would mean you had to keep them clean).  Their function, I guess, was to keep the undergrowth from tearing trousers or letting insects and seed pods creep under the trousers  If fitted correctly, they could do that.

Unfortunately modern vendors sell them in "one size fits most", with an emphasis on the fact that most men's legs will be, well, fat.    So us skinny fellows will buckle them on as tight as we can and it looks bulky and loose and you get the "ankle bunch" you mentioned.  I always saw gaters ("or gators", in that reenactor obsession with spelling everything by its homophonic mirror) as just another add-on sale that you buy and wear once or twice before you ditch it for the next neato thing.

We went through a lot of fads in the nineties - some buying, some how you wore or used the item.  Ah.  In the late eighties, there was the Confederate clown patch look.  When your uniform wears out at the knee and elbow, crudely sew on a large patch, preferably with the loudest, most gaudiest fabric you can find.  Bonus points if you have a couple of patches overlapping.

The "Beverly Hillbillies" hat look.  Take an unfinished Army dress hat blank, steam or soak it, wear until dry.  By pinching, rolling and otherwise handling it while wet, you can "sculpt" the hat into a "campaign slouch" hat, with weird brim configurations that look like the goofy hillbilly hats from stereotypical redneck hillbillies.

All of this is just like looking at pictures of ourselves in eighties hair or seventies outfits.  WTH were we thinking?
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MrsPeebles
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« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2013, 08:56:11 AM »

Ditto everything Mrs. Clark said in her post.

Personally, I see fads only when reenactors copy other reenactors in their dress and campy decor. The worst is the white blouse, calico skirt, and snood. Sadly, I just read it recommended to women in an article this morning which made me shudder.  Why fads? Well, like she said, many do not have much interest in reading primary sources, or spending time looking at original clothing or images. The interest is only slight, so the attempt at looking good is also slight. Time is money, and so it goes for many mainstream sutlers who spin good yarns while selling unauthentic goods to the poor unfortunates who have that slight interest in how they spend their spare time. Sad isn't it. On the other hand, I've noticed some young ladies here who are doing an amazing job with their sewing, which gives me hope that the hobby will grow and become better.

Some of us are just wired differently I guess. Last night I drifted off to sleep thinking on period portable temporary buildings with the bunks attached to the walls that could be folded up or down for use, and how neat it would be if we could get groups to use these things. <sigh> bet that won't be a fad any time soon. Wink
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2013, 09:31:31 AM »

Okay, so let's tip the discussion a bit: how do we encourage individual application of actual facts, rather than faddish trends? Period, Everyday, Common is a great way to lean, in my opinion... how do we encourage ourselves and others to start with PEC and add depth with personal study in something that gets us passionate (hopefully, beyond just clothing!)? What has worked in our experience?
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Elizabeth
NoahBriggs
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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2013, 10:28:22 AM »

You posted a couple of articles you wrote on your main site, specifically how to shuck the "mavens" who tend to maintain fads (even if they don't start them), showing others how to do it correctly, by doing first as an example.

Someone mentioned a glut of patriotic trinkets as a trend - easily traced to all the patriotic trinkets and merchandising crap designed to make us feel more patriotic for "our boys" serving overseas.

Now that I think on it, there is a fad among the fellows - the desire to portray in the civilian world the blue-collar worker, so they have an excuse to dress down and wear looser fitting sack coats.  They may be doing this for two reasons -

1. To give a middle finger to wealthier class impressions, in line with the late nineties and turn of the millenium trend to direct your hatred to large, impersonal corporations, big box stores and "Big Nouns" (Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Food, Big Auto, Big Soda, &c.) and the cubicle farms.  In period this seems to be in line with large factories "defecating on the little guy" and putting small craftsmen out of business by mechanizing certain trades and mass producing the items.  Small business owners and craftsmen fought technology like hell, to the point where many tailors and dressmakers refused to use sewing machines, for fear said machines and those who use them would put the needle trades out of business.  This trend will continue, thanks to the sudden glut of department store dramas - Mr. Selfridge and The Paradise come to mind.  Both shows have themes of large, department stores threatening to put out of business smaller stores around them by offering one-stop shopping for the same items - cheaper.  Sound familiar?

2.  Most men today, now living in the era of "business casual", let that attitude reflect in period outfits, which makes them appear to be too cheap and impatient to wait for a tailor or tailoress to make a properly constructed and fitted coat.  They want something NOW, dangit, and sacks frequently offer that off the shelf instant gratification so prevalent in today's society.

Okay, that might be sociological overkill.  Point is, the way to control and direct fads in a positive direction is research, and making sure you understand how this new research relates in its proper historic context.  Many reenactors only do casual research, and don't have (or are unwilling ) to make the time for more detailed research which could shed light onto why it is what it is.  Those who don't keep up with the research go from trolling fads to perpetuating mythologies, which only makes our work that much harder.  many of the myths we have to debunk appear to be based on older fads that don't die out.

I think the best way is simply to do first by example - document like crazy what you do, wear, eat, sing, and take the time to make it PEC so that you can blend with just about any event.  If something is trendy, ask why.  Become the obnoxious five year old until you get a satisfactory answer. (Yeah, but why?)  Because it will force people to start looking deeper into why something appears trendy, and whether it's based on real history, or if we are applying modern attitudes to it. (Yeah, but why?)
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Paula
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2013, 10:54:44 AM »

I'm in a different situation than many, in that, I don't attend many if any reenactments and spend most of my "period" time as an educator of children (both at our site and in public schools).  I also do Oregon Trail rather than Civil War so while I do have to deal with the Little House on the Prairie idea.  I'm not fighting Scarlett and her 240" hoops and dresses made out of curtains.  Grin

One of the things that I have found that works well with people who are anxious to learn is to point out the differences between "real" and "dress-up" politely and with documentation before they invest a lot of time or money.  Again this probably wouldn't work as well at an event but here's an example we have done at my children's school.

Every year they have a Pioneer Day where the kids dress-up and do "pioneer things."  These are pretty popular events at all the schools in our school district and include things like butter/ice cream making, corn husk dolls, candle dipping, etc.  About five years ago I was involved as my first child was in fourth grade.  I volunteered to do a presentation (with Micaila and Heidi) on Mid Century clothing (which I now do every year at the start of the unit) Suddenly I had teachers commissioning me to make real dresses so that they represented things correctly to the students.  They also began sending me pictures of originals that they liked for me to use as inspiration. They also updated the wording of the information going home to request Pioneer Costumes not Pioneer Clothing and suggesting links to Liz's site for period correct bonnets and aprons.

The next year, after I knew the teachers better, I suggested that candle dipping was not very common in the period that most were factory made and provided the documentation for this.  We now still dip candles but talk the kids about how we do it because it is fun and that most pioneers would be using store bought candles and show them a replica of what they looked like. The next project to get updated (and documentation provided) was to switch corn husk dolls to rolled fabric dolls, we tie them with yarn since most of the kids still have a hard time with a needle and thread but I still look at it as progress.

I find a lot of people are receptive to learning and appreciate it if you can work with them BEFORE they make a huge investment in dollars or time.  That being said, it's looking like I may still have the joys of making a pioneer dress using  yellow & white poly-cotton gingham for the next pioneer day but at least Mom and daughter and making an informed decision.
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Frau Burau
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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2013, 11:15:37 AM »


Here is a link to the original "confederate apron" as held by the Museum of the Confederacy (Richmond).  Apparently (I learned something new!) they were not indicative to just Richmond area, but to both sides of the fight.
http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/media_player?mets_filename=evm00001774mets.xml

http://thesewingacademy.org/index.php?topic=2390.0 is link to previous discussion on "Patriotic Aprons".  But I still see it as a fad which is out of proportion for what was actually seen in the time period.
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2013, 12:55:08 PM »

I think I must be contrary in nature (I'm sure my mom thought so when I was young!). Anyway, my tendency is to see what everyone else has at a location and then do the opposite since it gives me an opening to talk about the differences with the public. So, when everyone at one site was in working gear, I did a dressmaker impression and wore a slightly fancier outfit with a hoop. When most people at a later era site were wearing shirtwaists and skirts, I made a Mother Hubbard and worked hard to stain, tear, and fade my apron. Even on short notice, if everyone has a pinner apron, I'll flip my bib under and wear a half--or vice versa!

I've done enough research on period clothing to be able to talk about trends and exceptions for several time periods. I think this makes for fascinating discussion and, hopefully, the public I share it with agree.

Anne Foster
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2013, 04:41:11 PM »

Great thoughts, all! I'm interested in hearing continuing discussion, as this topic affects those of us who do public history at historic sites, in schools, at events... everyone, really!

Noah, I don't think you're over analyzing the menswear points you made. I think they're quite valid, even if others don't always articulate them. I see some similar things in women's wear, too, and particularly in dressing children.

I think it's highly informative to show contrasts, as Anne mentioned. Too often, the past gets condensed and homogenized, and showing contrasts helps people figure out there IS more than one perspective and historic experience.

I really appreciate your remarks on upgrades over time, Paula. The way you ladies have gone about it leads to progress without hard feelings, and that's very keen.
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Elizabeth
NoahBriggs
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« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2013, 02:12:17 AM »

To summarize a conversation a friend of mine and I had this weekend - lack of research is no longer a valid excuse to to justify poor impressions or mythology, especially since anyone with basic tech know-how can load Google and/or Wikipedia onto their smartphone, and the world of knowledge is at their fingertips (or at least shoved into a corner of the purse where they don't remember putting it there).  Of course, I'm not rude enough to fact check someone's lecture in front of them, but I have gotten into the habit of running key words through various searches, just to see where they were getting their information from.

A lot of the fads suffer from the gross generalization fallacy - if you find an example of one patriotic apron, it suddenly becomes the "source" for all those patriotic aprons, without checking to see if the original apron was a unique example, or PEC.

I'm pretty sure I have other thoughts on this, but it being 5am and I need to get ready for work, it will have to wait.
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Sue Leurgans
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« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2013, 06:24:05 AM »



Paula, thanks for that post, my sister is a elementary school librarian and I passed it on to her.  It's insightful.

Question,  Sheers are a fad?  I think of them as practical and there are quite a number of extant ones, so did not think of them as unusual.  Disagree?   

   
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Elaine Kessinger
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« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2013, 07:04:01 AM »

You have one well=researched person who creates something new/different and pretty/interesting/nifty.
Their friends want to be likewise pretty/interesting/nifty things... so they make their own version.

Suddenly, the larger groups are seeing groups of well-researched people wearing versions of something pretty/interesting/nifty and the item is brought to the front of discussions.

Then it gets over-represented, possibly in inappropriate contexts.

Encourage each person to look beyond appropriate materials to the period thinking behind the choices. Just because men in photos wore wild plaid pants... look at the perceived situations for the wild plaid pants (age, status, other garments making up the ensemble, popular years, why they are out-dated) and make sure the person is wearing them in the same contexts.


Most of the sack coat/working class fad is well-researched military wanting a civilian look similar to their military look from the military merchants they are familiar with. They are accustomed to wearing fatigue blouses or battle shirts in their military personae, so they want sack coat or work-shirt for their civilian impressions. Most also are convinced they were farmers before military and that farmers wore sack coats and work shirts, forgetting that farmers may have had more than just the one outfit.

For the men with a military portrayal in addition to a civilian portrayal, they often need a reminder of perceived age. They are accustomed to placing a photo of a period soldier (in the 16-30 age range) next to photos of themselves (in the 35-60+ age range) and comparing how close they come. When looking at civilian photos, they also look at photos of men in the 16-30 age range instead of men closer to the age they are.
As sack coats and looser styles were popular amongst the younger men and deemed not "dignified enough" for many of the older men, they over-represent younger styles in age denial.

Women, too, can benefit from a reminder to look beyond the period appropriate to the situational appropriate. The sheer dresses, working sacque/petticoat ensembles, hats vs. bonnets, swiss waist/waist and skirt ensembles, cockades... all recent fads that are quite appropriate but become over-represented or represented in inappropriate contexts as recent research by well-researched people bring them to our attention.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 07:39:55 AM by Elaine Kessinger » Logged

E L Watkins-Morris
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« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2013, 12:32:10 PM »

Dang!   Grin Ya'll brought many and more to the table. Like it.

Elaine K., I think you pegged the thought I could not formulate.

Keep at it!

Liz W.
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« Reply #19 on: September 30, 2013, 01:36:56 PM »

Question,  Sheers are a fad?  I think of them as practical and there are quite a number of extant ones, so did not think of them as unusual.  Disagree?   


Sue, perhaps the answer depends on geographic location. In most of the South, sheers are very practical, since they can comfortably be worn for 6+ months out of the year. In North Texas, I wouldn't even need a shawl after dark from April - October, and very warm days (80s-90s) happen in just about any month but January. IIRC, Vicki Betts has documented at least one homespun sheer. But the story could very well be different in other States. My SIL is from Iowa, for example, and sheers wouldn't get nearly the wear there that they do here.
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