Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding Out About Costuming & Living History Events

In today's post I will try to answer some frequently asked questions about costuming and living history event.
  • How do you find about historical costuming and living history events? 
  • How did you start getting involved with them?
  • Is there a website or message board that lists up coming events?  
  • Are there any living history or costuming events taking place in my area?
Rebels and Redcoats at Old Strubridge Village, 2013
A while ago I received an email from a lovely reader asking how I find out about historical costuming, living history, and re-enactment type events. The simplest and most honest answer is word of mouth. Now of course I realize this is not very helpful to newbies in the living history/costuming community or to those looking to attend the occasional dress up event. Sorry!

But please allowing me to explain. I've been involved with living history/reenacting for close to 15 years now. Because of the groups I'm a part of and the connections I've made with people over the years, I mostly find out about events through word of mouth. Cori and I often receive invites to different types of events through friends. But I have to admit that some of them we simply stumble across! The Downton Abbey event we went to last January I learned about from a co-worker who had heard about it on the radio while driving to work. Random, I know! The Roaring 20s Lawn Party is another good example of an event we stumbled across. I found out about that through an invite from a friend on Facebook. It's now an annual event!

Roaring 20s Lawn Party
Battle for the Airfield WWII event in Stow, Mass
As you become more involved with living history and/or costuming, you will discover what a small world it really is! Everyone knows someone somewhere. The best advice I can give is to make connections and stay in touch! I can't begin to tell you how much I treasure the friends I've made over the years. There are many people who I never would have met had it not been for our mutual interest in history or fashion. Some of these dear friends I only get to see a few times a year at such events but that makes our time together even more wonderful.

I don't know of any specific message boards on the web but many re-enacting groups have websites and will post a list of events they plan to attend. Many events are annual so even if an events schedule is outdated there is a good chance the event will be taking place again. There are a lot of great 18th and early 19th century events that take place in the Boston area. Here's a couple of links to check out.

The British Brigade - The BB is made up of various British and American re-enacting groups that portray soldiers, etc. from the time of the American Revolution. There are strict rules rules and regulations for joining and authenticity. However, you will find on their website a list of groups involved -many of whom are always on the look out for new members - as well as a schedule of history events.
Brigade of the American Revolution - Very similar organization to the BB and well worth checking out.
The Hive -A talented and dedicated group of individuals with a focus on details! Check out their site for a list of sewing workshops and Hive sponsored events.
Mass Costumers and Vintage Dancers - Lots of fun costume events and dances. I believe many of these are open to the public.
For vintage/swing dance related events check out the Facebook page Greater Boston Vintage Society as well as Boston Swing Central.The Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island in another good one.

Try an Internet search for living history or costume events and "your state". There seem to be a lot of costume events on the West Coast. Check out the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild, or the Costumers Guild West. There is also Costume College which I have never gone to but hope to some day. For the East coast there is the Dress U Conference. The Millinery Through Time conference at Colonial Williamsburg, which is actually a series of lectures and workshops but there will be plenty of opportunities to dress up too. For those interested in WWII, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Penn. hosts a huge WWII airshow each year.

Another tip would be to check out various websites for museums or historic houses and sites in your area because they often host special events. The site Discover New England has a list of living history museums that may offer costumers the opportunity to dress up. Just keep in mind that some historic sites may frown on visitors coming in costume so it might be worth a quick email to the site prior to your visit to avoid unnecessary disappointment.

Don't be afraid to ask around! Bloggers are good people to ask. :) I bet if all the costume bloggers I know got together, we could put together one heck of an events list!! (Would anyone be interested in helping me put one together?)

Can't find an event in your area? Get a group of friends together for a Victorian era picnic or croquet match in the park. Get dolled up in your best vintage attire and go out for lunch or dinner at your favorite restaurant. Create your own costume or vintage adventure! The possibilities are endless!

War of 1812 event at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum - Photo by Kris Jarrett
On the film set at the Saranac Laboratory Museum for a documentary on George Washington Carver - Read about my experience here.
That's all I can think of right now.  Hope that helps get you started. As always, feel free to contact me with your questions. :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Battle for the Airfield - WWII event in Stow, Mass.

Tanks and trucks and planes oh my! This is a long over due post but here it is as promised. Back in early October, Cori and I along with our good friend Erin attended a WWII event. This is an annual event held each year at the Colling Foundation in Stow, Mass. The event is called the Battle for the Airfield, you can read a description of the event here. There are also video clips on YouTube.

Warning! Lots of photos in this post!

Erin and I in front of a German tank. Photo by Will Ritcher of Itinerant Dispatches Images 
Photo by Will Ritcher of Itinerant Dispatches Images 
The Collings Foundation is home to a landmark collection of military vehicles and aircraft from WWI to Vietnam as well as antique cars. The collection spans almost 80 years of aviation history. Many of the planes, including their B-17G Flying Fortress and B-24J Liberator, can be seen at public at airshows and events across the United States. These WWII bombers actually traveled to my home town when I was a little kid. I can remember sitting out at the very end of the airport run way watching them fly in and land. What a site! The sound of those big planes is something I will always remember.

The aircraft that took part in the Battle for the Airfield were a Boeing PT-17 Stearman, used as a trainer,  and a German Fiesler Fi-156 Storch. Many of the military vehicles at the event belong to the Collings Foundation but some are owned by individuals or reenacting groups.

Tanks and trucks and planes oh my!
Can you tell these are American? :)
The "LoLo" was one of the planes on display inside the hanger.

We had the chance to talk with a member of a very unique group of living historians. I don't remember the specific group, I think he might have been part of the 82nd Airborne 2508. I say unique because these guys, unlike most guys who portray WWII paratroops, actually make live jumps from a WWII era C-47. They mostly perform at air shows and other big WWII events. Many are former military and all of them must be jump certified.

We watched a short video about the C-47 known as Whiskey 7 which will be taking part in the 70th anniversary of D-Day this June. Members of the Liberty Jump Team are working to raise enough funds to send the plane back to Normandy. They will participate in the 70th D-Day anniversary commemorations by jumping over the original D-Day drop zones. Talk about the ultimate living history experience! To find out more check out the site Return to Normandy.

Watching a short video about U.S Paratroopers and the Whiskey 7
And of course we had to take some fun photos. And by 'we' I mean Erin and I as Cori was off being a social butterfly. :) At least four different reenacting groups tried to recruit him including one of the German tank units. As the only sailor present at an otherwise all Army event he was quite noticeable. Later in the afternoon he got to 'play" on one of the US tanks. He was like a kid a candy store.

Want to know something that gets re-enactors really excited? Buttons. Yes, buttons. Cori's chambray shirt had white buttons when he bought it but after doing some research discovered that WWII area chambray shirts had black 2 hole buttons. We found some at out local fabric store and changed them. A couple of the army guys, who also portray sailors at some events, went nuts over them! I love this hobby! :)

Can I join your tank crew?
I told Erin to pick a vehicle to stand next to and she picked the one with the 50 cal. That's my girl! :)

WWII staff car
I think these are my favorite photos of the day. One in color and one made to look more 1940s.

And one nice close up to end the day!

Out fit details
Cori - Dixie cup hat, chambray shirt, and dungarees all Navy surplus
Erin - Dress from Ebay, hat thrifted, fur cape from yard sale
Me - WAVE skirt from Ebay, shoes from Etsy, coat Morning Glorious Vintage, sweater and hat thrifted

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Looking Back at 2013 - Also a Belated Blog Birthday!

2013 was an exciting year. Lots of sewing projects, traveling, and adventures to be sure. I've already posted a recap of my sewing projects from 2013 which you can read about in this post.

It's hard to believe I've only been blogging for two years. January 3rd was my two year blogging birthday! Hooray! In honor of my blog birthday I decided to put together a little recap of blogging news and some of my posts that received a lot of attention in the last year. It's been fun for me to look back. I hope you enjoy too. :) I have some really fun posts planned for this year so I hope you will continue to follow along.

Awards, Events, Special Announcements in 2013


  • A crazy month! It was my friend Erin's wedding and also the month that Cori and I had to move out of our apartment. I really miss that place and all the closet space! 
  • Not much in the way of events although I did manage to spend one day at Fort Ticonderoga working in their shoe shop. 
  • I also got together with Rebbecca of A Fashionable Frolick to continue working on our18th century shoes with Mr. Walker. (See Rebbecca's post here.)
Working on my shoes at Fort Ti. Photo by Driftingfocus Photography

  • Went to a WWII event in Stow, Mass. - More photo to come!
  • Photo shoot with Cori - More photo to come! 
This is just a sneak peak at the event. I have lots more photos to share.

Popular Blog Posts for 2013
    My research posts have been popular as well. I didn't write as many this year so my recap includes those from 2012 as well as 2013. 

    Sunday, January 12, 2014

    Figured Silk Shoes

    One of my very first blog posts was about 18th century shoes, (see Trending - 18th Century Shoes) not surprising as I had recently attend a workshop on making 18th century shoes. Since that workshop I've spent a lot of time looking at images of 1750-1780 era shoes. I've been saving images of shoes that I have found with a similar figured silk design. Some of the silk looks like little diamonds, on others the pattern looks more like stars. I'm amazed at how many pairs I've come across and in so many different colors too.

    A close up look at the silk here shows the figured silk pattern to be more star shape then diamond. You can see too that these shoes are lined in linen instead of leather. They also have an extra insole of linen. Another thing I really like about this pair shoes, aside from the color and pattern, is the dog leg stitching used to reenforce the area where the uppers and vamp are sewn together. In earlier shoes you would see this covered with binding. It's interesting that the maker decided to use white thread. It would appear that this was done at the same time the binding was added.

    LACMAC M.67.8.129a-b
    Examples of the dog leg binding detail on earlier shoes. Oh and check out all those TINY stitches around the heels! The green pair are dated 1730–55 while the yellow brocade, according to the MET, are dated to 1760–80. I think they look more 1730s/40s with the chunky heel and silver embroidery.

    MET 2009.300.1412a, b
    MET 2009.300.4132
    This 1780s pair from the MET has the same treatment as the blue pair above.

    MET 2009.300.4749a, b
    The shoe binding is not only decorative but helps give strength to the seams of the fabric uppers of the shoes. Again the mis-matched thread which convinces me that this step was in fact done at the same time the bidding was added. Why change threads colors when you already have some in your needle? Also why pay for a separate color thread? We modern seamstresses like to have everything match. Today thread is (relatively) cheap but that was not necessarily the case in the 18th century. I'm sure there would have been an additional cost if the wearer really wanted that thread to match the fabric of her shoes. It's neat to see this on more then one pair of shoes.

    MET 2009.300.4749a, b
    Here are two more pairs of shoes with similar fabric from the 1780s/90s. Both are from the Russian Shoe Museum. These sky blue figured silk shoes from are French with an Italian style heel. The pink pair, also with an Italian heel are listed at being from Great Britain. Note again the thread color. No dog legs binding here, as it has fallen out of fashion by this time.

    Russian Shoe Museum id 1134
    Russian Shoe Museum - Great Britain. c 1790s

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    Some Engagement Photos!

    At last, I have some engagement photos to share with you all! Cori and I have been engaged since last January but didn't get around to having photos done until this fall. It was a very chilly October day, especially with the wind off the lake. I'm so glad I had my fur cape. A HUGE thank you to Cori's mom for taking these! Sadly, I can't share the locations of our photo shoot because its all private property. We had to get special permission to take the photos, and on top of that I can only share some of them. I can say though, that it's a place Cori spent a lot of time at when he was younger and it's one of the first places he took me to when we started dating. So needless to say its special to both of us. We actually considered one spot as a location for our wedding but logistically there was no way to make it work.

    Anyway, on to the photos!

    Check out Cori's amazing 1940s pinstripe suit from Morning Glorious Vintage! It's 3 separate pieces and royal blue with little white pinstripes. This is the one I mentioned he bought when we went to the Roaring 20s Lawn Party back in July. We couldn't believe how well it fit, it was as though the suit were made just for him. He is planning to wear it for our wedding which will be a 1940s theme. How perfect is that?

    I love my little black dress from Wildfell Hall Vintage. What I thought were little side drapes on the dress turned out to be pockets! That was a nice little surprise. :) It's hard to see in the pictures but the waist area is trimmed with red, blue, and green sequins in a flower design. My shoes came from Honey Talk Vintage. The shop had an awesome 50% off sale this fall. I've worn them a couple times now and they are super comfortable!

    Photo - Honey Talk Vintage
    Photo - Wildfell Hall Vintage
    We also had the chance to visit will a family friend who graciously allowed us to take a few photos with his antique cars. One of which was a dark green 1930s REO Speed Wagon. So cool!

    The 1930s REO Speed Wagon!
    Suit - Morning Glorious Vintage
    Hat - Gift
    Tie - Thrifted

    Shoes - Honey Talk Vintage
    Fur wrap - Gift

    Wednesday, January 1, 2014

    Happy New Year!

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