There's always something new in the Margaret Hunter shop in Colonial Williamsburg. This time what's new isn't a gown or hat, but a new apprentice tailor. Michael McCarty. left, joined the staff in August as a member of Colonial Williamsburg's historic trades program. Already a skilled modern costumer, he is now learning the craft of a tailor in much the same way as his 18th century counterparts would have done, using only traditional methods, materials, and tools.
Under the expert guidance of tailor Mark Hutter, Michael is beginning with relatively simple projects. (He is taking Mark's measurements, right, the way a Georgian tailor would measure his customer.) Most recently Michael has completed several men's linen shirts. His next project will be a sleeved waistcoat (we'd think of it as a light jacket), made from the striped worsted wool on the counter beside him. The body of the waistcoat will be lined with wool flannel or fustian, with the sleeves lined with linen. He's planning red-and-white striped death's head buttons to match, too.
In the Nerdy History Girl equivalent to red-carpet interrogation, I can also report what Michael was wearing today: a linen shirt, waistcoat, and nightcap. His breeches were white sheepskin leather, in a style much like theseof buckskin. Around his throat was a blue printed cotton kerchief, patterned with a resist print and imported from India, exactly as an 18th c. apprentice with an eye for fashion would have worn.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.