Women’s Fashion in the Victorian Era – Guest Article on CliqUnited
My good friends over at CliqUnited asked me to write for them a while back, and inspiration finally came in the form of the history of women’s fashion in the Victorian era. Huge thanks to them for hosting me, and it’s a two-parter so stay tuned!
I’m ready for the weekend!
(And yes, I did put the coat on my dressform over my 1830s day dress in order to take a picture.)
I’m a happy grenadier! My coat came in the mail today!
I actually did a happy dance around my kitchen. I’m now going to take the rest of that energy into sewing on the lace. And if the buttons arrive in time, I’ll be wearing the coat in a parade in two weeks. There will be pictures!
…But not for long!
Starting out as a reenactor is a nearly Herculean task. Whether you reenact male or female, the amount of clothes or kit required is downright daunting. And EXPENSIVE.
That’s the thing about reenacting — it requires much out of your own wallet, not only at the outset but continually via upkeep and maintenance — and pays little to nothing in return. Now that I mostly direct and produce theatre, I don’t actually perform much anymore. But back when I did so, people asked me constantly if I was getting paid to sing and dance. I do community theatre: volunteer, nonprofessional, rehearsing nights and weekends around work schedules, losing sleep during tech week because theatre is our hobby and our passion but not our job. When I’d reply that no, I wasn’t getting paid, the asker would exclaim, “Well, then why on Earth would you do that?!?” When I answered, “Because I love it,” it took them some time to process and understand that.
Reenacting is much the same. We do it because we love it. Because we love history. We love passing on our knowledge. And we absolutely love running around in 90+ degree heat in three layers of wool.
Well, maybe not that last one so much.
Ya wanna talk embarrassing? I’ll tell ya embarrassing. It’s your Captain hauling your arse over a fence in the middle of a battle.
It was a tall fence. It was a really tall fence.
Honestly, it was a combination of a lot of things, most of which were my short legs and the gaiter tops. I really, truly despise those contraptions. Some other time I’ll expound on the topic of gaiter tops. On paper, they sound like a great idea. Ours is an early-war impression and we can document that the 35th had them. The trouble is, they’re death traps for short people (which was not a problem for actual grenadiers. Those entitled giants.) They lay flat against the knee when the legs are straight, but stick out when the knee is bent. So, per se, if you’re marching through tall grass, your gaiter tops are om nomming the vegetation all the way.
And getting stuck in the slats of the fence you’re trying to climb.
I live in the States. Everyone loves to be “the good guys” (though in war, “good” is even more subjective than usual). Most people who join the hobby, understandably, want to reenact militia or the Continental Army. They want to be patriots and fight for their country in albeit an unorthodox way.
But here’s the flipside of that shilling: it’s hard to have a game with only your side represented. Somebody has to be the offense, and I’m going to stop before I descend into some half-baked sports metaphor because I’ll make a fool of myself.
Reenacting a British regiment largely means two things: one, you’ll get invited to more events because there are less groups out there to choose from; and two, there are often less of you on the field.
Sometimes with hilarious results.
I believe in women’s equality, and I believe we have a LONG way still to go. Hell, we may not even get there in my lifetime if current attitudes don’t start changing a little faster.
And yet…at the end of the day I’d rather gain recognition for doing a job well than gain recognition for doing a job well because I’m a woman. And I DON’T chew a guy’s head off when he opens a door for me.
And I sure don’t want to be pointed out as a woman when I’m reenacting.