Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More from Williamsburg: Real Fashion

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Susan reports:

Most of the time when we see examples of historic dress, it's in a picture or on a museum mannequin behind protective glass.  But whatever the era, clothes are never meant to stand still, or even languish on a hanger.  They need someone to wear them to make them come alive.  They need to move with the wearer, emphasising this feature or masking that one, and as the wearer adds his or her own personal touches and accessories, the clothes become them.  That's 

But with fragile antique textiles, that's also almost impossible to achieve.  One of the things I love most about watching the interpreters in the streets and shops of Colonial Williamsburg  is seeing how well they wear their replica clothing.  They're fashion plates in action.  

The seductive sway of a lady's petticoats over her hoops becomes apparent as she walks, and the well-designed practicality of a gentleman's coat is easy to see when the gentleman's on his horse. This is all due to CW's amazing Costume Design Center, a group as dedicated to research and accuracy as they are to creating beautiful clothing.  

But the wearers themselves make the real difference.  The gentleman (interpreter Scott Greene) on horseback here is portraying His Excellency the Right Honorable John Earl of Dunmore, His Majesty's Governor of Virginia (remember his carriage, here and here?) Even dressed casually for a day of surveying his colonial holdings, by his posture and the ease with which he rides he reflects every bit of the privilege and authority that his elegant clothing represents.  

The mantua-maker's apprentice (interpreter Sarah Woodyard, last seen at the TNHG having a sack gown fit to her) is here wearing a gown of her own creation.  But from the ribbon on her cap to her coral beads to her fanciful lace apron, she would also be showing the latest styles to her customers, and with luck tempt them to buy more, too.  It would certainly have worked with me!


nightsmusic said...

I want to work there! *sigh*

I still think at times I was born in the wrong era.

What beautiful work.


Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Theo, I want to work there, too.

And yes, I often feel I was born in the wrong era with you –– until I think of antibiotics and other advantages to the present.

But those 18th c. clothes are so gorgeous...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Thank you so much, Susan! I've been enjoying all of the recent posts on clothing. You NHGs really are bringing alive so many of my nerdy history child fantasies and, I suspect many others'. What a treat.

becca said...

Love the flowered dress, and love being able to see it in both views. Is it embroidered or a print? Hard to tell from the picture, but the way the design is matched makes me guess its embroidered.

Brooke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brooke said...

I used to work as an apprentice/ journeywoman with the ladies in the Millinery & Mantua-making shop iat CW until last year when my husband and I moved overseas. It is so wonderful to be able to see the work they are doing in the shop and as well as see some of the things that I made while i was there hanging on the pegs behind them!!! Thank you so much for these posts of CW. It allows me to miss and enjoy home at the same time!

The cotton fabric that Sarah's gown is made out of is a printed cotton and is based on an original garment in the CW collection. As of the summer this fabric was for sale at a very reasonable price at the Mary Dickinson Shop in CW!!!

You can see the original gown here at the online e-Museum:

In the Quick Search type:
gown, printed cotton

and the original gown is the one on the left.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Michelle, I'm so glad you're enjoying our CW posts. And yes, if we're going to have NHG fantasies, then you HAVE to know what to wear....*g*

Becca, I agree, that's a fantastic gown. For more info, check out the comment below, plus the link to the original 18th c. gown in the CW collection.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Mantuamaker in Cairo,
Many thanks for your comments and for your links! It's fascinating to hear from you -- I do love the 18th c., but isn't the internet great? *g*

I've also added your blog to our "Blogs We Read" below, but here's the link, too, for anyone else who's interested. I esp. enjoyed your list of "essential" costume books that made the trip with you to Cairo. Every one's a winner.

Two Nerdy History Girls. Design by Pocket