This is my historical costuming resolution for 2018. YOU DO YOU.
I'm a self-proclaimed historical COSTUMER.
I've been a re-en-actor, dressing in HA clothes and doing demo dances for the public in historic houses/museums. I've been a costumer, dressing in close to HA clothes and going to private events or public events in costume. Historically costumed, I've been to fancy private houses, to fancy public houses, and everything in between: I've done demo dances for historic hours tours, I've been an extra in TV/film, I've been asked if I'm Amish, if I'm Victorian, if I'm in a play, or going to the Renn Faire, or if I work for Colonial Williamsburg, I've been photographed and featured on websites, in promotional videos, marketing materials, in newspapers, and in magazines, complimented by well-known politicians and more,and almost always in as-HA-as-possible historical costume. That's all great, but what matters is, I do this historical costuming hobby because it's F-U-N.
I'm not saying this stuff above to claim some sort of fame - if it were about that, I'd list and share and mention every time "I was noticed" in this hobby - I'd tell you all about the who and the what and the why, but none of that matters. What matters is that this is my JAM, it's me. I'm appreciative of each and every moment in this hobby, the private ones and the public ones, because to me, that's what it's all about, the fun. It's a way to enjoy myself, to express myself and to BE myself: I love to sew and I love historic fashion. I'm being me. Historical costumed me is me.
In this our costuming and re-enacting world, I'm tired of drama, of being told to let mean girl behavior slide because 'we all need to get along.' I'd LIKE to all get along, but we don't NEED to all get along. And there's a difference. I'm not willing anymore to sit down and be silent when my friends are treated poorly, or when I am treated poorly. To ridicule someone in public or in private, online or not, who is taking part in this historical costuming hobby (or cosplay, or re-enacting) or to pick apart their attempts to join in this hobby simply because it's "not HA enough", or they used a zipper or faux fabrics, or safety pins or the look is 'off' or whatever - I'm sorry, there's NO excuse for that sort of mean girl behavior. We all started with zippers, and it's totally ok if you use them now (I personally safety pin myself into my costumes often because it's not seen and it doesn't matter to me). And if you somehow skipped the zipper phase, you're not special and allowed to push your own standards on others. If someone is asking how to be more HA, great, share away, but please do it in love and kindness. Anything else I've found is or becomes unacceptable behavior. You do this to help others learn about HA fashion? Great, share away, in kindness and when they ASK for help. You graduated with a masters in this? Great! I have one too, just in business, not in theatre/art/fashion/costuming/sewing. I do this for fun, many of you do this for fun or WANT to do this, but are too afraid to join in. I learned how to hand and machine sew from my mother, who is a professional quilter, and I am self taught since and have also learned from other historical costumers too, over the years. Please know, Your standards are not my standards. My standards are not your standards. Their standards are not your standards. Historical standards are not THE standards - we have a limited view into what they did in the past and sure, we research and confirm and learn things, but that doesn't mean that it matters or applies to everyone taking part in this hobby, to each her (or his) own.
Historical costuming is my hobby. It's a way to be creative, to sew, to dream, to plan, to dress up in fun clothes, to try different materials and methods, to learn, to grow, to enjoy life. To have fun myself, with my family and with friends, with others who like to do this and even at times with the public. I do a lot of research, I pour over fashion plates and portraits and extant garments. I like using materials that are close to what they had back then, I like to get the look close to what I see in the fashion plates and the portraits, and later the photographs. And I'm a SILK ADDICT, so yeah, I use that stuff A LOT. But the reality is, we often don't have the same materials, we don't have the same fabric or weaves, and we don't have the complete picture of what they did back then, because we only have snapshots and little windows into the past. I love to hand sew! I started young, with quilting as a child, but I don't do this full time. And I adore my sewing machine. I do both hand and machine sewing. And I have a small business that I do for fun and to help support my hobby, and because business is fun to me. I limit myself in historical costuming by my budget, time constraints, skill, other interests, family commitments, business, my career choices and so much more - by my choice. Yes, I like to be HA, but I'm not asking how to be so. I do my own research or ask for HA opinions when wanted. My standards are not your standards, they are mine only. I do me. You do you.
I stress again, this hobby is all about fun, for me, for my friends, for many others. If you're in this for fame, and you're miserable because you're not noticed or because someone else gets noticed, then we're probably not a good costumer friendship match. I'm happy for others successes and I'm here cheering you on! And there are many others who feel that way too! If you want to be invited to events to feel good that you're popular, but you have no intention of ever going or you only go to turn up your nose at things, or you're a bad guest to the hostess or other guests, we're simply not going to gel. And that's ok. Private(and public) events take a lot of time and effort, and my 1-2 costume private events a year I'm space limited. In the past, I've invited folks to be nice or to include or not make waves, but that's a thing of the past. No more. Personally I'm done rewarding or ignoring bad behavior. I'm resolved to take back my enjoyment in this hobby. I hope you join me.
And like so many of you out there, I'm an introvert. An extroverted introvert, but an introvert non-theless. For someone who likes to dress up and have fun, I'm a fairly private person. Sharing my costumes and sewing adventures online doesn't come natural to me. Sharing this here is definitely a huge step for me. There is no secret club, at least not one I'm in - I've just been doing this awhile, and so have others and we've all gotten to know each other over time. Many of us poured out our lives together, the good and the bad, on venues like Live Journal, and we bonded over a shared love of historic fashion and empathy over life's struggles. I know some wonderful folks in costuming, those are the people I'm going to surround myself with, along with new costumer friends, folks who believe as I do, who do this for fun and who I become friends with over time.
A dear costumer friend passed away two years ago yesterday, who had the kindest and most welcoming heart of any costumer I know. She knew her HA and did it spot on, and yet still welcomed me to my first private fancy costumed evening (late 18th century Twelfth Night) with open arms and a welcoming heart, even as I stepped in, with my faux taffeta late 18th century pocket hoop gown, an early attempt at HA. That didn't stop her from encouraging the beginner that I was in historic fashion. Let's take a page from her book and treat each other with kindness always. I do me. You do you.