Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Are You Fashionable?

I’ve decided that I’m not really cut out for high fashion, no matter what time period. I’m not a modern fancy-dress person. And I’m certainly not drawn to those roles that would require me to be fashionable. I bet that no matter what time you are looking at, there were frumpy folks, practical folks, folks who did not care what their neighbors thought, folks who would prefer if their clothes did not show off every little stain that might come their way.

This is visible in reenacting and costume circles to a smaller extent. There are some folks that only make elaborate clothes, no matter what age they are portraying, and there are some folks that will only put on the simplest of outfits whether attending a cook-fire or a ball. Last year I encountered a woman in the most fantastic Asian silk wrap, but she was still frumpy in it, and I imagine she is frumpy in her modern clothes too, no matter how much she paid for them.

In my modern life, I like to be dressed formal but not fancy. I prefer to wear slacks (not jeans) with sweaters (not blouses). I think I look silly in cocktail dresses, but don’t like to appear in public in sweatpants. This translates into my historical personas too. I prefer wool to silk, but it must fit well and have good lines. I like to look neat, but not froofy. I think that is why I love my 1770s dress, it is wool of a lovely purple color, no trim. My WWI outfit, right now, is composed of a wool skirt and a flannel top; with a practical hat on my head I feel ready for the market.

Does your modern clothing sensibility have bearing on your historical clothing?


  1. Yeah, me neither! (fashionable) Besides, I'd rather be doing something, and the something I prefer is cooking, and so...well, do it in a fancy gown? NO! Then in my "real" life world, practicality and comfort are key, from pants (only) to shirts to comfy shoes. (yeah, I don't even own a pair of heels...and when I did, because I had an office job, they were only about an inch high...sacre bleu!) So, yep, it's the commoner's life for me, and I couldn't be happier with my lot in life. HUZZAH!

  2. Given the amount of time and energy I put into hand-sewing my HR clothes, I much prefer garments that are easy to wear, but that flatter my figure and allow me to showcase my research and skill set. I am a bit shy, am still relatively new in the SCA (compared to the people who brought me in), and have only recently decided What My Name Is, so name/face recognition is limited outside my local group and closest friends, but word got around to me that my attention to styling and detail had earned me the nickname "Picture Perfect" (or "You look like you just stepped out of a market day painting!") within the Kingdom costumers' circle. This is really affirming, and although my wardrobe is not expansive, my aim for each new garment/outfit is to be as close to accurate as possible, keeping in mind realistic limitations (budget, available materials and tools, technical aptitude, etc.).

  3. I'm somewhere in between in both worlds. I prize accuracy above fashion, so I'd much prefer handsewing a very simple gown to machine-sewing a very fancy one with all sorts of trims. On the other hand, once I have a simple dress I don't feel much need to make another one, and I get really psyched about the idea of trying to make some of the fashion plates I translate. I guess I'd say that I'm into the middle class. I want to explore options and be able to branch out in either direction - make a plain morning/work/tub dress for one occasion, and a more fashionable evening dress for another.

    In modern dress, I'm the same. I like to be comfortable and I'll wear the same pair of sweats over and over if I'm not going out. At the same time, dressing up is hugely fun for me and I love putting together a good outfit for a party or night out, and putting on makeup. In general, modernly and historically, I like well-made clothes that fit me, in my colors, with a minimal amount of trim.

  4. From a male perspective - -
    On my modern life I am a t-shirt and jeans kinda guy...and I absolutely abhor modern men's suits. I hate 'em with a passion. The whole feel of the fabric seems wrong and the style is, I don't know, just not ME...and the fit feels constricting. Never had a suit I liked.
    As for my 1860's persona:
    I have four sets of clothing: I have work clothes for when I am at a farm, I have everyday wear where I can travel to town with my wife or visit a friend, I have my Sunday Best for church and parties (including Christmas), and I have a set of light linen clothing to relax on the hot summer days. I have hats to go with each set of clothing also.
    In this post( you can see me in three of the four sets (I'm the one usually holding a carpet bag).
    My friend Dave is wearing a summer linen suit of clothes similar to what I have.
    It's taken me nearly ten years to get all of my clothing - I have a new waistcoat on the way, by the way - but I can fit in to virtually any early 1860's scenario.
    Ha! I spend infinitely more money on my period clothing than my modern clothing put together! If I could work my way I would dress period four out of five days. Seriously.
    Ahhh...maybe one day...

  5. Lol, Since I moved alone to New Hampshire over 15 years ago and started to restore an 18thc. house that was the pits, I have worn nothing but "shlumpadumpa" clothing every day of my life; paint stained and 'holey' sweats, ragg wool socks, and even polar fleece tops, every one with a broken zipper, and now held closed with yes, I am ashamed to say---SAFETY PINS!! I look like what my neighbor once called me; "the poor little match girl" 24/7!!! There simply was (and is) no money for new clothes, and I had no need for them in my new life. I still had and have some of what I call my "Chicago clothes"---years and years old dresses, shoes, skirts, etc., and most are classics and still stylish, but I have occasion to wear them only rarely.
    In reenacting, I of course have "camp wear"---the everyday petticoats and bed gowns and caps most often worn at events BUT I also am fortunate to have 2 pretty spectacular 18thc. gowns for "dress up", and I confess I love every opportunity to step into my fahionable period fantasy world, if only for a day! I often joke that these are by far the nicest and newest clothing I have. While my 21st c. wardrobe is decidedly shabby-but-fit-for-life-in-an-old-18thc.-house, I get to feel like a princess when I wear my period gowns!
    Like my buddy Ken, I have spent far more over past years on period clothing than on anything I probably REALLY ahem, NEED---
    So, I'll be at the Colonial Twelfth Night ball this weekend in my silk, 18thc. BEST, loving it, and feeling pretty before turning into a pumpkin once more! Someone who once saw me daily here at home when I had my shop and was working on the house, and then when I went out to do an antique show once made the comment, "Wow! It's you! You clean up nicely!"

  6. Wow! I guess I should have known that a subject like fashion would get so many thoughtful responses. Thank you so much everyone for sharing your thoughts on modern and historical personal fashion.