Today was a history day. A local elementary school brought their 5th graders to Wilderness Road Regional Museum for a field trip.
When I first started doing living history, I had no costume and didn’t want to spend a fortune on one. At the time I was spinning a castle style wheel and spun in my stocking feet, so shoes were not an issue. I bought a petticoat and shift from Etsy, later a kerchief, mob cap, and bodice also from Etsy and I was okay with the look as was the venue where I did most of my events. I had gotten a bed gown from Ebay, but it really didn’t fit well and is heavy, so not good in hot weather, so I rarely wore it. Then I joined a local Rev War militia group and my costume needed tweeking. My petticoat was a checkered pattern cotton with a gathered waist (wrong print, fabric, and style), the shift really isn’t quite the right style, the kerchief is the wrong fabric, and the bodice is a no-no. To work on upgrading, I purchased a couple yards of navy linen and made the pleated petticoat, it really feels better than the yards of gathered cotton. Another half yard of natural colored linen was hand hemmed into a proper kerchief. The bedgown was dragged out, adjusted a bit (plus I’ve lost some weight), so it was wearable. A new handmade shift is on order from a sutler, but you can’t see it under my gown and kerchief so I went with the old one today. The other items that needed upgrade are shoes which were ordered, but not available for 60-90 days, so my Berkeley style slipper shoes with rubber soles will have to do for now; and glasses. My glasses are the wrong shape and size and my prescription won’t work in the small round shape that is period correct. I can function without them if I don’t have to drive, operate machinery, or read, so I will just go without. Somewhere along the way at an event, I purchased the flat shallow straw hat that is period correct and adorned it with a handwoven tape.
This morning, all decked out with spindle wheel, baskets of breed samples and ID cards, fiber, wool combs and cards, lucets, box loom, and knitting I set up at the museum in the outdoor kitchen. Also outside of the museum were a militia reenacter with his kit, making mini balls over his fire and firing off his muskets, and a blacksmith. The 4 groups of kids saw a film in the museum, walked over to the old jail, spent time with each of the demonstration stations. The kids were awesome and though the outdoor kitchen was chilly, there were breaks where I could sit in the sun and warm my fingers.
The more I do this, the more I learn from using different equipment to the history and the better I become at drawing in the audience with questions and discussion, not a lecture. The fiber arts are fascinating, the area is ripe with history, and the audience, especially kids are awed when they realize that household linens and goods, as well as clothing were hand spun and hand woven prior to the advent of the spinning and weaving mills, and really how recently in history that was.
What an exciting and delightful experience this has become.