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 Many events are annual so even if an events schedule is outdated there is a good chance the event will be taking place again.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. :)

1 comment:

  1. This is helpful, thank you! I've always thought it would be fun to get into these sorts of events, but it's hard to find things in my area. (It's not very popular.) I do like the idea of starting my own events though! Lots of people who don't wear historical or vintage clothing on a daily basis would still love to try it for a special event, so I may have to do some planning....


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