Thursday, November 15, 2012

Curling My Hair

Have I mentioned that I’ll do almost anything for history? This month I’ve done something that I never thought I’d do. I curled my hair. I know most American females try this at some point, but I never had. I’ve seen a curling iron, my grandmother owned curlers… ya.

Strawbery Banke has a special program during the month of November for schools that might not have enough money for normal field trips, and for schools particularly learning about harvest holidays. For this program I have taken on almost all the available roles, including a new-to-me role in the parlor of the Governor’s Mansion. Way back when I started at Strawbery Banke in the ‘90s I also worked the Thanksgiving program, and I also got a new role. I played Lizzie Sullivan, the Irish maid stationed in the kitchen helping groups of school kids learn about Mottoes and put together charity baskets. This year Lizzie is going to make another appearance, but not until December (so stay tuned!)

The new role is a front-of-the-house role, I am playing Susan Goodwin Dewey, the youngest child of Governor Ichabod Goodwin and Sarah Parker Rice Goodwin. Susan is recently married to a naval officer and living at home with her father the former governor, her mother, a few other sisters, some nephews and nieces, and the 4 servants. When given the new role I knew I would not have time to do justice to a full formal Victorian outfit, so I asked for a museum owned outfit, and luckily they had a lovely one that mostly fit me. The day I tried it on I was discussing accessories with the head of Role-Players and she said that I should curl my hair. Curl. My. Hair.

I looked through my Victorian costume books and photo books, I looked at fashion plates and decided that yes, it would be better if I curled my hair. My hair has a little wave to it, but only a bit of a curl if my hair is short. My hair is not short at the moment, it is fairly long, and heavy, it is not at all curly at this length. My first step in figuring out how to curl my hair was to put a desperate call out on Facebook. I have awesome friends who suggested sleeping in paper curls or rag curls. So first I tried to wet down my hair and sleep with little strips of paper in my hair. I wore a knitted hat over top and it was not too bad, but I did not part my hair beforehand, and they turned out more frizzy than curly. The next time I tried it I used scraps of rags and a spray bottle that was half water and half setting lotion. When I took the rags out the next morning I had long loose curls that I looped around a bun. Not too bad for my second try!

Half rags half curls
Spikey paper curls
Then came the Monday I was to appear as Mrs. Dewey. I put in the rag curls the night before, put them all under a 1940s style turban I’d made so I could sleep without worrying about them. Monday morning I borrowed My niece’s hairdryer since they were still wet, and tried to heat set the curls. Got into all the dress layers (we are required to dress at home before driving to work) and had a fairly uncomfortable drive to work. I was blasting the heat to try to dry the curls some more, and taking out a few of the rags while cruising down the highway, all while stuffed in a corset bustle skirts in my driver’s seat. Really not my favorite way to drive. I appeared at our morning meeting with the front of my head still in rags, but the back all curls. I’m afraid I might have distracted most of my fellow museum workers as I took out the rest of the rags, but I did have a fairly presentable hairdo by the time the kids showed up to talk Thanksgiving with Mrs. Dewey!
Me as Mrs. Dewey, with really curly hair.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

End of the Reenacting Season

I’ve been trying to think of things to say about the end of this reenacting season and not finding any real pearls of wisdom. But I thought I’d share my mundane thoughts, hope you’ll forgive me.

My reenacting season really starts at Military History Fest in February in Chicago. We’ve been heading out there for 8 years now and we have friends that we only get to see once a year. We also get to show off all our different eras, shop, teach, and meet cool new people who do what we do. It is not the same convention it was in the early years, but it is still a nice vacation into history in the middle of the second-most-oppressive month of the year. This past year I debuted a little 1920s bathing outfit I made up with Help from this American Duchess tutorial I wish I had pictures, but none of them came out. We’ll have to try again next year.

In the spring we brought out a new 12th Century reenactment. Which both fun but overshadowed because I had just started at Strawbery Banke Museum. I love volunteering and creating a reenactment from scratch, but being paid to create historical personas within historical settings was too big a draw. I’m not sure when we’ll get to pull out the 12th Century stuff again, we do not have definitely plans for next year yet, but I hope we do get to pull it out at least once during the upcoming year.

Other than that there was a little WWII work, and since then I’ve picked up 2 more dresses and a bunch more accessories. I’ll show them to you as soon as I remember to take some photos, I promise. There was also a nice trip to Delaware to meet up with other people that do first person stuff.

The era that has taken up most of my energies for the past few years barely made it out of the storage bins this year. Our Landsknecht Guild had one spring event at a college where they were holding a Medieval Conference, one summer event at a small Renaissance faire (a town fundraiser) and our annual appearance at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire’s fall show. My relationship with this show is so complicated I usually avoid talking about it, but I don’t want to leave it out either.

CT Faire is where Stephen and I put most of our energies for so many years, running the cast entertainments from 2001 to 2007. By the end of ’07 things needed to change, and in 2009 we formed Das Geld Fahnlein as a way to continue to do Renaissance history and contribute to the faire, but in a way that felt better. When at the faire I rarely venture outside of the encampment, mostly because I am conflict averse, and over anxious, but I have fun in our little world, teaching about the life of the wandering soldier and the frau that look after the soldiers. We cook, we mend, we laugh, teach, fight (pretend) and even nap on occasion. This year was different, we were a smaller group. Of the five founding members, only Stephen was there most of the time, real life got in the way for most of us. I was only able to make it two weekends, and one of those weekends, faire was cancelled on Sunday. The whole thing felt strange, I had trouble getting excited about being there. I’m not giving up on it over one iffy faire, but I think we’ve got some work to do to re-vitalize the unit.

Is there anything else in store for the rest of the year? I’ve got a few things coming up through the museum, but I’m going to save my museum stuff for its own post.
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