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Delia Godric
09-11-2006, 08:38 AM
This past Friday a local news station did a piece on a Civil War living history. Part of the segment included talking about fashion. I won’t even get into the problems I had with the inaccuracy of the clothing. But, I would like to talk about the approach. The presenter went from “full” dress and un-dressed down to her underpinnings (stockings, drawers, chemise and corset.) Personally, I found the whole idea of undressing on television rather shocking.

At a mainstream event or an accurate teaching event, what approaches have you taken to presenting the layers of clothing to the public or to other reenacters? What, if any, considerations do you make for period modesty?

One approach frequently done locally is to “dress” an audience member in a set of clothing. This usually includes drawers, chemise, corset, petticoats, cage, skirts, dress and accessories. The audience usually finds this interesting. I have seen this done with rather farby clothing and fairly authentic clothing. Obviously, I prefer to see it done with authentic clothing and accurate historical information.

I know this could spark a general conversation about the mode of fashion shows at events. I have several issues with fashion shows. But, I would like to start with this specifically.

Anna Worden

vmescher
09-11-2006, 11:59 AM
This past Friday a local news station did a piece on a Civil War living history. Part of the segment included talking about fashion. I won’t even get into the problems I had with the inaccuracy of the clothing. But, I would like to talk about the approach. The presenter went from “full” dress and un-dressed down to her underpinnings (stockings, drawers, chemise and corset.) Personally, I found the whole idea of undressing on television rather shocking.

At a mainstream event or an accurate teaching event, what approaches have you taken to presenting the layers of clothing to the public or to other reenacters? What, if any, considerations do you make for period modesty?

One approach frequently done locally is to “dress” an audience member in a set of clothing. This usually includes drawers, chemise, corset, petticoats, cage, skirts, dress and accessories. The audience usually finds this interesting. I have seen this done with rather farby clothing and fairly authentic clothing. Obviously, I prefer to see it done with authentic clothing and accurate historical information.

I know this could spark a general conversation about the mode of fashion shows at events. I have several issues with fashion shows. But, I would like to start with this specifically.

Anna Worden

I have seen this done both at "fashion shows" and at conferences and don't really find it immodest since it is "a teaching tool," although it would have been so in the 19th century but the fashion show or conference would not be 19th century. There are many things about teaching subjects pertaining to the 19th century that improperly done could be immodest but when properly done are not immodest. For example, I've done a presentation on 19th century sanitary protection but I don't think that anyone was uncomfortable and no one left the audience. Of course it was an adult audience and I would not do the presentation except in a controlled situation, such as a conference.

In my case, when I have done a presentation on "what's underneath" I have used a couple of other methods to illustrate underpinnings. For small groups, I have a series of overlays where there is a drawing of a woman in her chemise, drawers, stockings and shoes with overlays of a corset, petticoat, hoops, petticoat and dress with accessories. By the time I'm done, she is dressed. The overlays can be varied to illustrate a day dress, working dress, evening dress, outerwear, etc.

Another way is to use a doll and have a complete outfit for her. Of course for a large audience, one would need a large doll so that everyone could see.
If one made a variety of clothing for the doll, one could illustrate all sorts of clothing and outwear.

ElizabethClark
09-11-2006, 01:47 PM
I've used a doll (the extra clothes can also be handed around or put out for touchy-feely), full-size garments on a mannequin, and overhead projection with overlays as Virginia mentions... Personally, if none of these was an option, I'd choose to have one woman in a full complement of undies (with a large shawl for pre-display coverage), and one woman fully dressed, rather than disrobing someone.

And, of course, showing off the GOOD stuff is key. :)

Carolann Schmitt
09-11-2006, 02:29 PM
I’ve been doing presentations on mid-19th century clothing for 30+ years, and I’ve used a live model or models for most of them. The circumstances and locations have varied: individual classes; national and regional conferences; seminars for various special interest and focus groups; school groups, North-South Skirmish Association Costume Committee activities; national, state, and local park programs; and reenactments (mainstream and history-heavy events). The size of my audience has varied from a handful to almost a thousand, with ages from infants to seniors, male and female.

My approach is the same for each group: an educational, historically accurate presentation that is informative and entertaining but never immodest or risqué. In the course of my presentation I will discuss clothing for men, women and children; but I will also discuss social behavior, etiquette, family and household management, the Industrial Revolution, the textile industry, dyes and dyeing, ready-made clothing, transportation and shipping, period publications, politics, immigration/emigration and common myths and misconceptions. These presentations are not ‘fashion shows’; and I make sure the audience understands that what they will see is a learning experience and is not an example of actual behavior during the period. It is always a third-person presentation, not first-person. I have never received a comment indicating the presentation was inappropriate or indiscreet.

I’ve been fortunate to have several close friends and associates, male and female, who have been willing to serve as my models and have historically accurate wardrobes. I know that the clothing is made from appropriate fabrics, using period construction techniques, is properly accessorized, and fits well. Depending on the circumstances and time constraints, I try to show as many variations in dress as possible.

Invariably, the audience is most interested in “what’s underneath”. My narration for this segment focuses on how period undergarments work as a system, providing support for the layers worn over them, and creating a period silhouette. I put as much focus on ‘why’ as I do on ‘what’. I prefer to ‘dress’ rather than ‘undress’, as it makes it easier for the audience to understand this premise. And, adding additional layers to someone who is already modestly covered eliminates any inadvertent suggestion or reference to inappropriate undressing. My model is usually dressed in a wrapper which is removed to show her dressed in shoes, stockings, garters, drawers, chemise (untucked) and loosely laced corset. Her chemise and drawers are constructed from appropriate fabric: tightly-woven medium weight cotton that is opaque. Her corset is constructed of two layers of coutil. She is covered from shoulders to below the knee in two or more layers of opaque fabric, with no show-through. When I do this presentation at the annual Gettysburg reenactment, my model in her undergarments is more modestly dressed than most of the audience. LOL! As I discuss each article of clothing (chemise, drawers, stockings, etc.) I display an original garment and use it to show period characteristics and how it works with the other undergarments. After discussing corsets and showing how they are laced, we add petticoats and crinoline or other skirt-support, again using original garments to explain the characteristics of each one. Finally, we add a dress, outer garments and accessories. If the setting permits, I will also include and refer to a display of original garments and accessories.

Putting each garment in fashion and cultural context makes the audience focus on it as an article of clothing and not an unmentionable. Discussing the laundry process while my model dons perfectly starched petticoats puts the emphasis on how women managed a household dressed in all these layers rather than creating an image of immodesty.

I’ve occasionally done the “dress a member of the audience”, but it’s not my preferred method. The clothing doesn’t fit properly, so it’s harder to grasp the concept of how the undergarments work with the dress to create the proper silhouette; and it has great potential to turn into a presentation on “dressing up” rather than a presentation on historical clothing.

Understanding how all the components of a period wardrobe work together is essential in understanding period clothing and, by extension, the social and material culture of the period. It can be done in an educational manner without being immodest or inappropriate.

KathyBradford
09-11-2006, 04:11 PM
Two sisters and their friend do another variation. Sister One dresses behind a folding screen a la "Petticoat Junction" and Sister Two hands her pieces one at a time and provides assistance. Narrator Friend describes duplicates and variations of the pieces and passes them around the audience at the same time. Sister One then emerges from behind the screen, fully dressed.

It's perfect for situations that require complete modesty.

sbl
09-11-2006, 04:28 PM
Dear Anna Worden,

I've seen a few programs like this myself. I think it's better from the undergarments up.

I've linked to a couple of shows found on the "net"


"Ivan Sayers Fashion Show" (1890-1900 era)

http://gaiapix.smugmug.com/gallery/572606

Funny one in the Czech Republic...

http://www.texasrangers.cz/trc-cz/galerie/2006/ball/bal_p2.jpg

http://www.texasrangers.cz/trc-cz/galerie/2006/ball/bal_p3.jpg

http://www.texasrangers.cz/trc-cz/galerie/2006/ball/bal_p4.jpg

Not a public show but hoop period in Russia...

Костюмы: Руна, 2006.

http://rpg.nsk.ru/costumes/runa/thumb1.php

MrsArmstrong
09-12-2006, 10:04 AM
What I have done at an event where there was going to be sporatic groups coming through the civilian area (not the company street!) is by hanging a selection of clothing on my clothesline. Along with some clothing in the laundry basket by the tubs for washing.

This allowed people to ask about the clothing, they were able to examine any item and I would talk about the different pieces. What they were, how they were worn and how some were cleaned as in airing, brushing, spot cleaning or washing.

No one needed to disrobe or hoist their skirts. I found that there was a lot of interest in how they were cleaned and the hands on washing of the clothes that people enjoyed. The fact that they were washing my underpinnings didn't faze anyone but when one little girl asked what the square of white cloth was and I said a man's handkerchief she made a face and went after something else.

Hanging clothing on a line in a particular order would also be a way to interpret in what order clothing would go on without saying a word.
I think because the clothing was not on a person people felt more compfortable in touching the items and asking about them. It was like stopping by to visit while I was doing my laundry. It seemed to invite more questions instead of a display or talk.

It worked for me. Susan Armstrong

MissMaggie
09-12-2006, 01:24 PM
I've been a model for a fashion show where I've gotten dressed from the underpinnings out. The show was being held in a tent that had three sides and then the open side of the tent was along a tree line and road so it wasn't like I was being seen from miles away, it was also nice that it wasn't a road any military men were likely to walk down! But I disrobed down to my chemise, drawers, stockings, shoes, and corset in my tent and then walked to the other tent in a wrapper. I did not at any time feel immodest, I was more concerned that my underpinnings were not accurate enough since I was a last moment fill in. My dad on the other hand has a problem with me walking around our house in my underpinnings (even if I'm in everything but the dress!), I won't even get into the lecture I got when I ran out to my car quick while in everything but the dress. Now this would all be another matter if I knew reenactor guys were going to be coming or had the chance of walking by......

catspjamas
09-13-2006, 07:30 AM
I won't even get into the lecture I got when I ran out to my car quick while in everything but the dress. Now this would all be another matter if I knew reenactor guys were going to be coming or had the chance of walking by......

I've done that, but I felt as I was running around in my underwear, even though I was more dressed then when I'm in a t-shirt & shorts!

Cats