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Ms. Jean
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« Reply #20 on: September 30, 2013, 04:54:23 PM »

Disclaimer: I am an Expert Soccer Mom.

Sheers as a possible fad: I started reading this forum in the 1990's, and became an avid reader about 2004.  As I recall, there was little talk of sheer dresses until about 2008.  What is the publication date for the Atlanta History Center sheer dress pattern?

The knowledge and an appropriate pattern were available.  People with time and talent, and money to invest, made sheers.

Probably over-represented in some places due to being the newest thing.

Elaine Kessinger said it very well. 

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« Reply #21 on: September 30, 2013, 06:39:19 PM »

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.

I agree, Ms. Lane! Here, we are wearing shorts (modern life) until mid-October most years! Periodly speaking, I got hot in my wool dress when I wore it ten minutes to take pics a few weeks back! I'm not sure about the temp in other areas, but it seems to me like in the Summer, most ladies in the CW would have had a sheer, wouldn't they? Wasn't that "What Was Worn" during summer?

And... kinda noticing, I think wealthy impressions are REALLY overdone! Like people might make them periodly, (read silk waists and skirts), but then EVERYONE is wearing them because they saved up to make this "correct period impression" and then thinking that they did it so well that they HAVE to wear it! Not that this is bad, but when a lot of people get the same idea, it ends up being a fad, really. I think I have noticed this...

I'm loving reading everyone else's comments!
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Anna Worden Bauersmith
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« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2013, 07:33:26 AM »

This discussion has me wondering if we can and/or should differentiate between a fad and something falling less than ideally along the under-represented<>represented<>overly-represented scale.

Looking at the sheer dresses, the fad aspect would encompass how they are the 'cool' or the 'it' thing to have right now. Someone pointed out that sheers started popping up in discussion 10 or so years ago. Since then, we have seen more discussion, patterns available and an increasing number of sheer dresses being made by merchants as well as individuals. With the online culture of reenacting that has developed, some items, like a sheer dress, become popularized. I would say the sheer dress hit this point in the past 2 or 3 years. You could say, for some, the sheer is the new silk (which was the 'it' garment in 07-09/10); while the silk was the new repro-print of some years earlier.

To me, a fad is developed in modern popularity. (not that fads are modern)

Looking at representation, we have items and garments that are under-represented and overly-represented at events. It isn't always as noticeable when we have something missing from an event. It is definitely noticeable when there is a super-saturation of many things at events. With the popularity of sheers, especially in warmer weather, some events may be seeing a saturation or even a super-saturation. The challenge is thinking through aspects such as location, timing of the event (year), season, etc in combination with the attendance base. While events with specific predetermined roles prompt participants to select roll specific attire well in advance of the event, many to most events do not have this type of coordination.

On a personal level, I started wearing sheers around 2002/3. Now, I am finding with my heat/sun issues, I would have trouble doing many events without my sheers (or travel attire). When I am at an event where a significant number of people are wearing sheers, I feel like I should find another option to help rebalance the representation.
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Frau Burau
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« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2013, 08:49:09 AM »

When I am at an event where a significant number of people are wearing sheers, I feel like I should find another option to help rebalance the representation.

I think this is exactly the point many of us are trying to make.  Whilst we all enjoy the lovely items we make (and we should wear with pride!) there is the historian aspect of making the best possible representation for the masses at events.  But we must be able to explain why the differences are there.  Since we are using sheer dresses as examples, what other options did women have besides sheers to keep cool?  And then the option of explaining why sheers were not an option for some women due to cost/availability/frivolity. How would a common housewife working keep cool in summer months when a sheer is impractical for household chores? (ie underskirts, hoops, rolled sleeves, cotton vs linen, etc)

The other option is to just have a mammoth clothes trunk to have three outfits for every scenario so we can change to help balance out the overall representation. All in favor for more clothes?  Cheesy
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BethT
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« Reply #24 on: October 01, 2013, 03:38:28 PM »

Aye! 

Cheesy

I have not been at this very long (five years I think) but after an extremely hot (for Michigan) reenactment, I rethought my original pronouncement that a sheer wasn't something I would ever need, as I am usually pretty cool most of the year round.  I personally don't think of a sheer as a fad, but as an aha moment wherein I realized how a person could much more easily be acclimatized to high heat!  I can't speak for everyone, however. Wink I know you're surprised to learn this. 

I've found enough dag/ambro/cdvs to indicate (to me) that sheers were not shockingly rare, but I don't know about the area most of the images were taken from.  It also seems to me that opaque dresses were much more common, be they cotton, silk, or wool.  I have found more pictures taken of original sheer waists than dresses, which is what I ended up opting for, being young-looking enough (I think) to carry off a young lady's ensemble.

 
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melissamary
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« Reply #25 on: October 01, 2013, 03:46:05 PM »

Also on fads in the hobby, recently I've seen an exorbitant number of people using the Peachtree pattern... for everything.  Repro cottons, sheer cottons, silks, you name it, if the person has the pattern, they're using it.  I'm no expert, but I've only seen three or four original gowns/images that show a bodice cut like that.  It makes me really discouraged to see so many people opting for the "easier" option instead of doing original research and reproducing a more common garment (i.e. simple gathered or darted bodice with trimmings or no)
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Carolann Schmitt
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« Reply #26 on: October 01, 2013, 05:52:45 PM »

Since we are using sheer dresses as examples, what other options did women have besides sheers to keep cool?

- Very lightweight cotton dresses. These are often as cool or cooler than some sheer fabric.
- Partial linings. Half-high linings are not limited to sheer dresses. Neither are linings in the underarm area only.
- Shallow V necklines. Unfasten the top 2 or 3 hooks, fold the corners to the inside, tack in place.  That 6 square inches of open skin works wonders in feeling cooler.
- Shallow square necklines.
- Unlined sleeves.
- Open sleeves, e.g. coat sleeves that are open at the wrist.
- Bishop sleeves with bands instead of cuffs. That extra space between your wrist and the band can make a significant difference.
- Bare feet when circumstances permit.
- Sitting with your feet in a basin of cool water.
- A fan. Never leave home without it.
- A hankie moistened in a solution of rubbing alcohol and witch hazel; add a few drops of your favorite scent.  It works even better if the solution is chilled.
- A sponge bath and a fresh chemise late in the afternoon or early evening.
- Stay out of the sun. Carry a parasol. Wear a lightweight corded sunbonnet - cooler than a slat sunbonnet.

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« Reply #27 on: October 01, 2013, 06:57:58 PM »

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 - (big snip)

I can think of a third:  Many men seem to buy clothing for one event, with the evident idea of reselling it later.  It's far easier to do this with a sack coat or overshirt than a properly fitted frock coat.  I've been a little disappointed to see clothing I worked hard to fit listed for sale after just a few events.  To me a custom coat is an investment, to be kept for several years; but I guess that doesn't work out for everyone.
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Donna Rowan
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« Reply #28 on: October 01, 2013, 09:07:51 PM »

Sheers are better by far then the white blouse, triangle cape, and drawstring skirt sets you see at every sutlers.And when I first started in this hobby you were NOBODY if you didn't have a snood, I wasn't really excepted as normal till I got  rid of my black 'lunch lady' snood I had sewed to a velvet head band, and bought a white snood and a navy blue one.The white one came in handy for WW2 though. Oh and the men's "Hollie Hobbie" shirts. Made of more difftent fabrics then a rainbow.You know the ones that have each sleeve and each cuff a diff fabric and the body of the shirt is made of of at least 4 more diff calico's.Extra points awarded for a homespun /calico mix.Please show me the proof for that. I'm not a stitch Nazi,But really. And widows..went to a small local event last year..there were more widows then normal women.It's to the point when you wear "the good black sunday dress" [Mines a wool /linen cross. thats the one on my avatar.] people as you if your in mourning? And who for?Sure I'm in mourning wearing a sky blue silk fashion bonnet, give me a break.
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hanktrent
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« Reply #29 on: October 02, 2013, 05:06:11 AM »

When I inquired about attending local mainstream events as a civilian, I was surprised at the advice just to research whatever portrayal I wanted, register and show up. The idea that everyone was cooperating to recreate a specific historic situation was completely foreign.

So it occurs to me that there are two issues with fashions and fads within the hobby. One is when incorrect things spread through the hobby, and the other is when accurate things become more popular within the hobby than they were in the period.

The first problem is self-explanatory, and one can identify it easily by the fact that most photos of reenactments can be dated two ways: the historic period represented, and the modern era when it was taken. In actuality, only the historic period should be identifiable, if there were no incorrect fads coming and going in the hobby.

But the other is a little more complex. At first glance, it seems obvious when something is over-represented, but to make that judgment call, one has to assume the civilians at an event are representing something collectively, whether it's a sampling of the entire 19th century or a specific situation. If each reenactor's impression is a stand-alone one, then by definition nothing can be over- or under-represented.

For example, if an event is a deep-south upper-class gathering in the summer, sheer dresses would be hard to over-represent. If it's a backwoods gathering of poor white hill-dwellers, even one sheer dress would be too many. At an event recently, we were portraying citizens of one of the richest counties in the nation. Something like four out of five men in my age bracket had property worth over a quarter million. So I dressed as upscale southern as possible. Turned out I was the only one portraying someone that wealthy, but it actually pulled the collective portrayal back toward average for the situation, and two or three more rich people wouldn't have been out of line.

So what is being represented by the civilians collectively at the average mainstream event? Is the goal to portray a cohesive and logical situation where people come together, whether for a bread riot or a plantation ball, and therefore they should all be similar even if they're not representative of the whole country? Or is the goal to portray the 19th century on average overall, even if all those people wouldn't be living and socializing in proximity? Or is each impression a stand-alone one, unconnected to any others around?

Hank Trent
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« Last Edit: October 02, 2013, 02:40:16 PM by hanktrent » Logged
Lady Savannah
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« Reply #30 on: October 02, 2013, 12:29:39 PM »

I find this discussion fascinating! I have only within the past two years gotten involved in CW reenacting, but I have been stunned by the level of research a good many of the folks appear to not put into their impressions. I don't really want to be involved in reenacting in order to play dress-up, but to better understand and to represent history as accurately as I can. For instance, every garment I have made, I have done extensive study of CDV's and photographs of extant garments as well as other research and altered every pattern I have used.  Embarrassed I always do that..... I look at my attire and accessories and question which is right for this location and event...ask myself what impression and story do I have for this event...etc. etc. etc. I have on occasion felt uncomfortable and a bit overdressed, even when I wasn't dressed as finely as many other women, due the event itself, wondering what sort of historical impression I am actually portraying.....

...And the clothes are the easiest part...I know I have botched up etiquette a few times, even though in modern times I have rather conservative, even "old-fashioned" decorum and manners. Clearly, I have MUCH, MUCH, MUCH to learn--and sadly my mind isn't working very well right now, so reading is difficult for me to do much researching...even though I love to research, too...... I wish to be able to be "in character" among the reenactors as well as with the public--but I am afraid a full measure of that is going to have to wait until I have my brain back! Meantime, my sister says we will continue the reenacting as long as I am at all up to it.  Smiley Meantime, I continue reading and learning little bits here and there......
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Frau Burau
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« Reply #31 on: October 02, 2013, 06:07:57 PM »

Many of the events my family attend (we are attached to a military unit) there seems to be no particular "representation" being requested. There may be a token "Battle of _____________" title, but nothing in registration documents to suggest participants beyond military should be representative of such-and-such region or societal class.  Oftentimes it reminds me of the Rod Stewart lyric "all the girls walk by, dressed up for each other".  Wink
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Jim_Ruley
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« Reply #32 on: October 02, 2013, 07:03:42 PM »

So what is being represented by the civilians collectively at the average mainstream event? Is the goal to portray a cohesive and logical situation where people come together, whether for a bread riot or a plantation ball, and therefore they should all be similar even if they're not representative of the whole country? Or is the goal to portray the 19th century on average overall, even if all those people wouldn't be living and socializing in proximity? Or is each impression a stand-alone one, unconnected to any others around?

Hank Trent
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To address this question I think it is useful to look into what motivates the participants.  There have been many attempts to "classify" reenactors, the most often quoted one being the supposed "F/M/A/C/P/H" progression attributed to the late Charles Heath.  These usually imply that reenactors enter the hobby at the "low" end of the scale and eventually "progress" toward the "high end".  Progress is seen as one-dimensional, passing through a series of defined "stages".  This is fine for defining a "caste system" within the hobby but doesn't really explain all the variations in behavior we are liable to encounter.

I submit that things are really more complicated, with motivations that are really "multi-dimensional".  I can think of several different types of "needs" that event participants are trying to satisfy, and I believe it has more to do with an individual's personality and motivation than anything else.  Some categories come to mind, none of which are necessarily associated with any "level of progress" or "authenticity":

- Need to belong.  People motivated by this look at reenacting as a social activity.  They want to "fit in" and will do whatever the group expects of them.  They are unlikely to press for changes or contribute much that is original, but they are often the most faithful workers for a group or event.

- Need for competition.  These people want to be "the best", and often wish to be seen as the best.  This can come out as spending the most money on one's gear, joining the unit perceived as "the best", going to "the best" events, or gaining rank or influence within a unit (or Internet forum).  

- Need for understanding.  These people want to learn everything possible about how certain things worked or were done.  They often focus narrowly on one area (e.g. military drill) though they may emphasize different things at different times.  While they may be walking encyclopedias about their specialty, they may completely neglect other aspects.

- Need for becoming.  These people, and they seem to be quite rare, want to "become" someone from the past; to experience "magic moments".  While many if not most reenactors will pay lip service to this concept, I have met very few who seemed to really embrace it.

So returning to the original question about "what is being represented":

- The "belongers" are trying to fit it.
- The "competitors" are trying to one-up everyone else.
- The "inquisitors" are trying to learn something new.
- The "becomers" are asking, "What's it all about?" Smiley

« Last Edit: October 03, 2013, 02:45:27 AM by Jim_Ruley » Logged
hanktrent
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« Reply #33 on: October 03, 2013, 04:56:25 AM »

So returning to the original question about "what is being represented":

- The "belongers" are trying to fit it.
- The "competitors" are trying to one-up everyone else.
- The "inquisitors" are trying to learn something new.
- The "becomers" are asking, "What's it all about?" Smiley

Interesting concept, and I don't disagree.  Smiley The problem is, though, I'm not sure how that intersects either with fads or with what an event is collectively representing if anything.

The belongers may try to fit in by following the fads everyone else is doing and/or by coming up with their own unique little occupational booth like everyone else at an event. Or they may try to fit in by asking what role is needed in the specific community being recreated for an event and picking a portrayal that's typical for the situation and approved by the organizers, if it's that kind of event.

The competitors may be the ones trying to control the fads and fashions, telling everyone else they should do it this way, right or wrong. Or they may be the ones trying to tear down the fads, telling everyone they should pay attention to the time and place being reenacted, present their documentation or rethink their impression.

The inquisitors may happily go along with fads because that's the quickest way to fill in the gaps of their impression that they don't care about. Or they may want to study each thing in turn, rejecting fads or reenactor lore and replacing it with documented examples, and seeing the larger recreation of community life as their interest.

The becomers may enjoy mainstream events for the old-timey atmosphere and get their magic moments in brief unconnected encounters. Or they may want events to be an accurate portrayal of a slice of the past where everything fits together.

So I can see all those motivations, but I can see them all either promoting or tearing down fads, or at events based on a wide variety of premises.

Hank Trent
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #34 on: October 03, 2013, 09:02:38 AM »

Excellent thoughts! I see a lot of sense and application in them, and I think we can use these sorts of motivating goals to push beyond fads, and increase options.

Mr Trent, I do see a lack of overall "story arc" in a lot of "smorgasbord"-style events; they seem to be a lot more loose in terms of what the range of acceptable presentation is, and that's both good (loads of room for interesting stuff) and bad (loads of room for anachronistic "let's go camp in silly clothes for the weekend" and "let's go play Scarlett" stuff, too, which is far less interesting as public history.)

At a certain point, upgrading the story arc at a standard "Two-Battles, Duds, Tea, and Ball" event structure requires either being in charge of the citizens, or bending the ear of someone who is... and then still being willing to turn a blind and charitable eye toward the folks who aren't actually in it for history's sake, but rather, just want to dress up in fun clothes and be out for the weekend. (I do think there's room for interesting opportunities even within this segment of the population, and that it's a good chance to spark some passion that leads to participating for other reasons... once a person falls in love with the actual people in the past, it's very hard to go backward!) (And there I am, doing just what Mr Ruley said: understanding progression as a forward continuum, from "less understanding" to "greater connection.")

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« Reply #35 on: October 03, 2013, 04:19:08 PM »

Quote
The problem is, though, I'm not sure how that intersects either with fads or with what an event is collectively representing if anything....I can see all those motivations, but I can see them all either promoting or tearing down fads, or at events based on a wide variety of premises.

Exactly.  And I would says these motivations exist at all "levels" within the hobby, and generally drive the particpant's actions more than their degree of "understanding" or "connection".  As such they are neither "good" nor "bad"; my intention was not to create an alternative hierarchy of stereotypes.  They simply describe an individual's motivation or "style" in a manner analogous to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (if you're familiar with that).  And individuals are rarely "pure type".  Most of us can "identify with" all these motivations to some degree, although you, Mr Trent appear to be the archetypical "Becomer" Smiley.

I think what an event "represents" is largely independent of fads, so that wasn't what I was addressing.  Although some event types seem to be "fads" that come and go.  I believe events are what the participants make them.  Sometimes everyone is "on the same page"; more frequently (and maybe at all kinds of events) each individual or group dances to its own tune, in keeping with its driving motivation...
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« Reply #36 on: October 03, 2013, 04:47:23 PM »

Mr. Ruley's thoughts made me think of some things my mom says sometimes. She says that you can never live life over again... This is probably why different fads are created each time someone reenacts "THAT DAY"!  Cheesy Because people are still people and will have their own attractions to different styles. So, if something in the Civil War that one person did, didn't catch on, but we see it now and think, "Oh that's cute." Then it is likely that several people may try to recreate it. So the fashions and fads of yester-century will never be properly portrayed by us of the mundane because, let's face it, our modern tastes differ with that of our ancestors. No matter how into our role we get, we can never change our minds to that of an eighteen hundreds person!  Cheesy

I hope that made sense!  Embarrassed Smiley Grin I love this topic! It makes me think!  Grin
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« Reply #37 on: November 13, 2013, 08:06:03 AM »

I think that "fads" as we identify them, are dependent on the event. For instance, you are more likely to see a true "fad" (something worn or done out of a peer pressure environment) at a "mainstream" event with battle/ball/sutler's row going on. Place where there is no specific year/place/environment (even the large battle of Whatnot really doesn't portray that place on Sutler's row, or even on the battlefield!) Whereas a good "fad" (which in this case might be trend, or train of thought) might take place at an immersive style event, where participants are actually expected to BE somebody for the weekend. There, you have a "fad" maybe, towards working-class looks for the women-corded pettis or small hoops, neckerchiefs, etc. Just because most of the women are wearing these styles does not make it overrepresented in that particular environment. MOST women would have been farm-wives, etc.

I kind of think of it like BBC. Though of course I'm not overlooking that they still do have some historical inaccuracies in their costuming, you can tell someone is in mourning because she is the only person wearing ALL black. You can tell someone is more affluent by their attire when they stand next to someone who is not. The differences are subtle, but they seem to be very thoughtful with their costuming. The costuming reflects the character, and because they are doing a specific era/place/time/event/people, they cannot over or underrepresent something.

I guess I don't think of fads as a bad or good thing, but a neutral thing. They can be used negatively or positively by who wields them and when/why/who/what/where.

A good example of a fad might be the sack and petticoat thing. Recently "discovered" by many in the community after the Past Pattern published featuring it, and depicted in women's magazines, it's hard to tell right now how popular or widely worn they were, but we do know they are clearly for laboring and working. If you are laboring or working, it might make sense to wear one. One person wears one that they have based on an actual example, even if no one "copies" them, questions will get asked and more people will at least learn about this garment. So I think that it is positive. And it will be very hard to evaluate if they are being over-represented in years to come as more people make them because we just don't know enough about their use at the moment.

A negative example-well, I find it humorous what the folks who are in the hobby for social reasons only gravitate towards!

Bevin
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