17. April 2022 · Comments Off on Dressing the Part – Again · Categories: Book Event, Domestic

I am back to doing in-person book events again, after almost two years of practically nothing. Seriously, for all of 2021, I did two book events and one craft fair, which – to add insult to injury – resulted in sales so meagre that the sales tax reported and paid to the state amounted to about $15 bucks. With the end of the covid sort-of-epidemic trailing off, and the quiet death (at least in Texas) of mask and social distancing mandates, and people actually getting out of their homes and going to live events, big events like Folkfest and the upcoming Lone Star Book Festival in Seguin are back to something approximating normal.

Which is such a relief for me, although since these events are mostly outdoors, the matter of being comfortable in a historic costume does come up. Some of my Victorian and Edwardian outfits are polyester fabric, and as such are hideously uncomfortable in the heat. I’m not even going to chance wearing one of them at the Sequin event, which will be entirely out of doors and late in May. Last year, I wore a cotton dress with an apron over it, in the style of a WWI Red Cross nurse, which was comfortable enough, but this year it’s going to be a two-day thing (just as FolkFest was) which means two different outfits suitable for the out-of-doors in a Texas spring. I went with a long skirt and Edwardian-style cotton shirtwaist for both days, with the required underpinnings, which are all cotton.

I was asked several times if it wasn’t terribly uncomfortable, in such clothing, Just about all the women reenactors were also wearing long dresses were asked the same question, to which the answer was – no, not really. The other ladies were wearing loose cotton dresses, although I was the only one who was also layering a corset and a petticoat over the shift undergarment. I had only the one shift, which meant putting it through the wash after the first day, before wearing it again. So in preparation for more summer events, I’m making another shirtwaist – in cotton, of course, and two of those late Victorian undergarments called ‘combinations’ – a one-piece version of underwear combining a shift top and knee-length bloomers. One has to wear a shift or combinations under a corset, as corsets, with the metal busk and bones, can’t really be washed. In the old days, it seems that corsets were worn, and worn and worn until they were in shreds – the layer of shift underneath and corset-cover over were to preserve the corset and keep it relatively clean as long as possible. I don’t mind wearing one, by the way – they’re really not that uncomfortable for the generously-busted, they eliminate the discomfort of bra straps digging into your shoulders and it does wonders for posture.


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