Monday, March 21, 2011

Historical Costuming vs. Historical Re-Enactment: What's the Difference?

A re-enactor would never be caught dead in modern sunglasses and inaccurate mary jane shoes
I'll be honest with you guys.  This morning I received a forwarded e-mail attacking me and my blog for not being historically accurate enough.  In Mary Spencer's own words, and all capital letters:

"THIS PERSON HAS A POPULAR 'PERIOD FASHION/SEWING' BLOG.  SHE DISPENSES OFTEN TIMES RIDICULOUS AND ERRONEOUS ADVICE, AND MAKES PRONOUNCEMENTS THAT SHOW HER LACK OF EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE WITH 18THC. REENACTING AND IT'S ATTENDANT CLOTHING.  HER KNOWLEDGE OF 18THC. LADIES FASHION IS OFTEN LAUGHABLE.  WHEN SHE MADE THESE GARMENTS FOR ME, SHE DID NOT EVEN KNOWWHAT 'STAYS' WERE!  SHE WANTED TO BONE THE 17THC. JACKET, EVEN THOUGH I EXPLAINED REPEATEDLY THAT IT WOULD BE WORN OVER 'STAYS', AND HAD TO BE MADE ACCORDINGLY.  SHE DIDN'T 'GET IT', WHICH DID CONCERN ME.  SHE PORTRAYS HERSELF AS AN EXPERT, AND GETS 'PIQUED' WHEN QUESTIONED ABOUT ANYTHING."


Aside from being hurtful and untrue, this does bring up a very good point.  What is the difference between historical costuming and historical re-enactment?

I am not a re-enactor.  I never have been.  It's not that I am not interested in history, but more that where I live I do not have any opportunity for 18th century re-enactment.  We do have Civil War groups, but I'm just not that into it, sorry!

An Edwardian lady, a soldier, and a cowgirl, all at one vaguely themed "Music Man" picnic in Alameda, CA
Costumers - Who We Are (at least out here in the West)
What we *do* have in my part of the world is a large and vibrant community of open-minded people who love to dress up in costume and dance.  These same people like to ride their bicycles around San Francisco wearing Steampunk clothing, like to play "urban golf" on the streets of Berkeley in 1920s and 30s sporting togs, like to invade historic landmarks for impromptu picnics.  Costume is always "admired but not required."

These people are costumers.  I am a costumer.  We are those who like to dress up in fashions of the past for fun.  We do it because it feels good to wear these clothes, because it's fun to make them, fun to learn about the history of dress in a hands-on way.  Some of us like to be theatrical, some more historically accurate, and some of us even don't give a care at all whether it's accurate or not, we just like it!

My good friend Clint put a lot of research and time into making his Elizabethan tailor's costume, but in the end it's about having fun, not about counting stitches.
Re-enactors
Historical re-enactors, however, have within their very definition a responsibility to accurately portray history in everything they do, from the pots and pans they cook in, right down to the dead-head buttons on their coats, and the buckles on their shoes.  Re-enactors who sew almost always do so by hand, and try to specifically re-create the sewing methods and techniques that were used in the time period they are portraying, not just the overall look of a finished piece.  I have nothing but the highest respect and awe for this community of people.

I Am Not An Expert...nor will I ever be
But I'm not one of them.  And that's okay.  This blog started because I didn't know what the heck I was doing.  Through the last two years I have taught myself about 18th century costuming, and other periods as well, and done so by reading books, looking at historic patterns, studying museum garments, talking to people more knowledgeable than myself, and above all sewing.  These are the very same methods by which re-enactors become "educated," but the difference is in our motivations.

When I was making this costume, I was told publicly that clearly I knew nothing about 18th c. costume.  The jacket is scaled from a Janet Arnold pattern, the stomacher based on one in the KCI, the skirt is walking length, and the shoes are Fugawee.  All of these things I have learned about or learned to do since I started this blog in 2009.
Those of you who are re-enactors and read this blog, I hope you know that is has never been intended to be a source of historical accuracy for re-enactors.  I try to be accurate - I flatline, I scale historical patterns, I study textiles, trims, and construction methods, but I don't always get it right, and sometimes I don't care if it's right.  I want that dress to fit and look the part, whether the seams are hand sewn or not.

I will never apologize for learning as I go, and for sharing my successes, my failures, my discoveries, and my frustrations with you.


Very Sincerely,

Lauren R
American Duchess Blogger
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88 comments:

  1. Amen.

    In the year+ that I’ve been following you, it has always seemed extremely clear that I’m following your learning processes, and it’s been a lot of fun.

    I’m glad that you were able to write such an eloquent response to someone who is clearly just trying to stir up drama.

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  2. Thank you Rae. There's been some pressure from various sides about historical accuracy and whatnot lately, since this blog has somehow gotten popular-ish. I felt it was a good time to clear the air. Thank you for following my silly dress projects!

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  3. Pish posh! I AM and reenactor, and a proud stitch-counter! Almost everything I make is as accurate as possible, and I very, very, very rarely cut corners. BUT! I love this blog! You do beautiful work and it is inspiring. I've learned from you! Haters gonna hate.

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  4. Well as one who Loves to learn about many different things....I did come across a quote (sorta) about seamstresses back in the day, which is "each seamstress has their own technique on how to sew and construct a garment, it's as individual as the person wearing said garment" I've been at this (18th c) for about 6 months now, and as far as I'm concerned, its about following the basic silhouette, everything else is up to interpretation.
    If you look at how many actual garments survived as opposed to how many people were alive back then, you get the idea that there were different styles back then than just what is available to look at today.

    What irritates me is the so called Reenactment Nazi's that critizes others works. Even museum curators get it wrong. I'm no expert, but I've seen alot of extant garments that were said to be one thing but are in fact another if you follow the criteria given in books, and other historical data.

    I think Lauren does a great job at having fun with history and that's how you learn. Keep up the good work Lauren! You've done a fantastic job.

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  5. I do have a degree in fashion design and have worked in the industry for a while now. Although I do have that training and experience, and I consider myself Great at what I do, (modest aren't I? lol), I know I still have a lot more to learn.

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  6. Goodness, that was vitriolic. Perhaps it's the week for it- I just got a very nast comment of my own. For the first time, but still.

    I have always felt that you make it very clear that you don't know everything about fashion history and that this is a learning experience for you. As it is, I am sure, for most of us. One can always learn more.

    By the by, several descriptions of extant jackets and gowns describes added boning, despite the fact the they were worn over stays. :)

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  7. Katy, that is a great quote, and so true! I love seeing the garments that are atypical. The one that comes to mind is the block-printed caraco in the V&A that has the funky back construction, no seams on the sleeve heads. It's a perfect illustration of this. I know I construct stays too modernly, and I use metal grommets and plastic zip ties for boning. I wear tank tops under my corsets, and sometimes wear argyle socks under my petticoats. The silhouette is important to me, as you say, not particularly what's on underneath. This doesn't mean I'm going to go and insult re-enactors who do wear all the proper stuff. More power to them!

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  8. This sounds like the same person that you had trouble with in the past (judging from the 17th c jacket comment). I would just ignore it. I think if anyone has any questions about your accuracy or costuming experience they can just read your blog and realize its about the pretty/ fun things and trial/error... and if they have questions on accuracy they should take the time to research it! I wouldn't take anything else this person has to say personally. Even if they are sending this information to other people. I think the people that follow your blog and facebook know who you are and what you are about ....and I like what you are about!

    P.S. I know that 18th century "period accurate" shoes were not made in a manufacturing facility...but I dont care.. I WANT THEM! ...so ahem...whenever they are ready please :)

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  9. FashionK, hahaha, just a little longer on the shoes! I more than anybody am anxious to start this little business going :-).

    You're right, just ignore it, and most of the time I do. I have a little battle in my mind when I think about posting about this on-going saga on facebook or here on the blog. I don't want to use this space to complain, but I do want to use the blog to talk about relevant issues, in this case the difference between costuming and re-enacting, because the lines are blurry. That being said, these are *my* definitions, based on what I've picked up over the years.

    As for taking things personally, it's hard not to. I'm trying to start or run a business and it's being slammed by this woman. I'm glad you all can see through it and still support me, though! THANK YOU a million times over!!

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  10. I'm all for historical accuracy, but I think I would kill myself if I had to hand sew a pair of stays!lol

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  11. You are such an inspiration!!!:)

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  12. Lauren: I would probably take it personally too :( Just know that the vast majority that read your blog don't think that you are doing anything wrong...

    @katy rose: I'm right there with you on the hand sewn stays! I give people crazy major props that do it!!! wish I had the patience.

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  13. Huzzah for Tweed Ride, "period-esque" balls, costumed picnics and all the other we-just-wanna-dress-up-and-have-fun events we have! And giant kudos to those of a more serious bent who take the time and effort to accurately portray historical eras for reenactments; I love to see what they do but I don't want to do it myself!

    Lauren, you've always made it clear that you do this for fun and that it's a learning process. You've never made claims to total accuracy, and in fact go to great pains to point out where you've used modern materials/techniques to avoid confusion. Anyone who claims to be mislead or lied to in any way is clearly an idiot. You are an inspiration to costumers on both sides of the fence and I know you'll continue to make amazing things despite the fact that one woman who has clearly proved herself insane to multiple people is insisting on pursuing her ridiculous vendetta. Also, you have giant costume cojones for taking on commissions and the attendant risks ;)

    Now if anyone needs me, I'll be over here in my character shoes, stays and sunglasses :P

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  14. Lauren, you are a wonderful and talented person. Your blog is full of win, I look forward to reading it every time you post something new and I'm not even into the 18th century. :) Keep doing what you are doing and ignore those who were not brought up to have kind hearts or open minds. <3 P.S. love the pic of Clint. :)

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  16. I think a lot of people would be surprised about how little "stitch nazis" really know themselves. It has more than once made me think about abandoning reenacting. Is it really that important that one person's inside seams are hand-stitched? Not really.

    I think deep down stitch nazis are afraid of not being considered "the best" and put others down because they put in so much effort to be "perfect" but other people look better and seem happier.

    Don't let it bother you.

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  17. I hand-sew every inch of my garments and spend as much time researching as possible to make them period correct. Do I expect anyone else to do so? No!! That would be insane! The purpose of my garments is to be used in an educational manner specifically on said sewing techniques.
    Using previous time periods for inspiration in making a garment at any level of sewing and accuracy is valid with so many other purposes. You aren't devaluing the garment (or the time period) by using modern techniques. I could go on for hours about my opinion on this matter, but you get the idea. Keep it up! You will always be a source of inspiration.

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  18. Well said!! Sewing for fun and/or accuracy requires practice and patience. Something you writer seems to have forgotten.
    You just keep on doing what you do, it's wonderful!

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  19. Preach it, Laruen! :) I think very few of us here on the historical blogging front can claim to be total experts... Because in the end, none of us lived back then so we don't really know exactly what it was like! Even the best of the best, like ColeV with all her BEAUTIFUL accurate gowns, can only go off the information we have and the fashion plates we can see.
    It's different in the case of Farb, where they are claiming to be totally, 100% accurate and are demonstrating that to the general uneducated public. But you (and at this point, I am not either!) are not a reenactor. This is for FUN and we are all learning together. :) Just because you choose to be cost (like your super affordable shoes which I am totally gonna order) and time (machine sewing!) effective does not mean you are making anything "the wrong way."

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  20. Thank you guys so much. I don't put these posts up to garner supportive comments, but I appreciate each and every one of them. These are issues that are important in our community, and I love the discussions that get going!

    Christina, you and I should wear big-ass sunglasses to Dickens some year just to get a rise, lol <3

    P.S., ColeV you rock my world! I can't tell you how giddy I am that you read my blog!

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  21. Robin, I hope Clint doesn't mind that I posted that photo. It's one of my favorites of him, hahah <3

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  22. I adore your blog. For exactly what it is!

    Something I couldn't help thinking earlier today is... "isn't it nice to be thought of so often? isn't it nice to be so important to someone's life that they would write to you so often & with such kind words?" At which point I dissolved into uncontrollable laughter & almost ran over my fingers with my 1920's Singer.

    BTW, there are many MANY 17th c. bodices, jackets, gowns, etc (whatever you want to call them) that were boned. Many of them had the corset/stays built right in, others had a few bones so as to make the body not ride up... many had cardboard(ish) stiffening, others were unboned. So... pffft! Whatever!

    I'm keeping an eye out for the shoes! Pretty shoes... want.

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  23. Way to go Lauren! I love your stuff and I'm sorry for a person who's to miserable to appreciate what you do. It's been so great looking at all the thing's you've made, I too love dressing up and I wish in my little area I had more places to show it off. Keep up the good work!

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  24. Gail, only if the person writing to you actually likes you and isn't trying to destroy you, hahaha. On the other hand, hearing from you guys on Facebook and in blog comments always makes me happy :-).

    Stays, lol, Gail you said it best. The idea that I don't know what stays are is kindof silly. I wanted to put a couple piece of boning in the jacket to keep the edges straight and the jacket laying smoothly over the stays. Anybody who sews will know that just because you're wearing a corset doesn't mean your clothing will automatically lay smoothly over it, and anybody who has ever looked at extant examples of clothing will see that there are stays on every seam in the garment itself, particularly Victorian clothing, and if it's 17th c., as you say, sometimes entire bodices were fully boned, as is the case with the tissue bodice at Bath.

    But statements like she made, about the stays, just tie in with the stitch nazi handbook - a stitch nazi *thinks* they know everything there is to know about historical clothing, when that in itself is a fallacy, as so eloquently stated by many of you who have commented. <3

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  25. As someone who came upon your blog only a week ago, and very happily looked through your work, and is also a historical costumer and likes to obsess over details, I think what you do is lovely. If anyone else has an issue, than they can go elsewhere. Everyone can choose there own level of accuracy, but in the end, its all for the joy of creation.

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  26. Oh, honey, SOD 'EM. What I've seen of your stuff is fabulous (was just introduced to your blog/FB last week by a re-enactor who loves you). I understand the whole costumer vs. re-enactor--20 year theatre vet specializing in Shakespeare here--KEEP IT GOING! (And feel free to send the Stitch Nazi my way. I LOOOOOOVE playing whack-a-troll!)

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  27. I've been reading your blog for about a year. I love it.
    I do commend reenactors for keeping history alive, but I'm a costumer at heart too. The color, silouette, and type of fabric is what's most important to me. For Pete's sake, I wear my summer petal pushers under my skirts instead of propper pantiloons.
    Its unfortunate that people think its okay to say nasty things about others. Really, when is it necessary to pound someone into the ground because you have a personal problem with their methods? There is absolutely NO occasion to gossip and flame anyone. Constructive suggestions for future improvement or a civil discussion with just the other person is always appropriate. But the public spewing of poisonus bad will and name calling is just wrong.

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  28. hahaha, whack-a-troll, love it! Blogs are interesting things. Did anybody see Abby's presentation about costume bloggers, at Williamsburg last week? We, the bloggers, are here to document our projects. Some of us want to talk about issues, or ask questions, or just show pictures of pretty clothes. We as a whole are changing the costuming community I think in a really good way, but people have to remember that we are bloggers, and most of us are not experts. I'm definitely not an expert. Even more awesome is that there ARE experts among us who are writing blogs - ColeV, Abby, Two Nerdy History Girls, Katy Rose, a great many more of you who have degrees in history of dress, or fashion degrees, and really make this community an international online salon that is accessible to all level of interest. Brava to everyone who contributes!

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  29. I <3 your blog! Don't give a second thought to that person's comment. Your costumes are very beautiful and inspirational!

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  30. Here, here! I hate the way Costume Nazis (aka Thread Nazis) treat people who either are still learning, and don't feel the need to be historically correct. I was so embarressed after talking my friend into coming to Costume College with me last year and promising no one would criticize what she was wearing. She has no desire to be historically correct but likes to make the gowns. When someone came up to her and criticized her pageboy hair with a bustle gown, I and others were floored. And later someone else criticized something else she was wearing. This is a learning situation, people! We all started there. I'm trying to gently guide her but if she doesn't want to be more historically correct, that's her decision, not someone else's. I'm just happy that she likes to play dress-up with me.
    Val

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  31. Sounds like she who must not be named is at it again!.. Your site has a role to play Lauren, don't let her get you down, but making a distinction between reenacting and costuming is a good move on your part. So many new to the reenacting hobby are lacking in experience and can't tell the difference between a costume blog and one devoted to historical accuracy, often not as much fun or as visually pleasing. The best part of all of this is that SHE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED is a total FARB.. and looked upon with disdain by all those who know her, so don't take anything she says to heart. Hallie

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  32. I wonder if it was written by the same person who recently posted on my blog that I am "a ridiculous and unimaginative woman." I've been a re-enactor and we do have 18th century groups out here, but sometimes I just don't want to be a colonist. I am professionally a costumer so I know how at times the overall look is more important than whether it was stitched by hand or not. Regardless of how one feels, it's never acceptable to be vitriolic towards others.

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  33. Time Travels, I'm really sorry to hear that your friend was snarked on. That can end a person's costuming hobby before it even starts, and it's the absolutely WORST when I see it happen at faires. It happened to my best friend and it was quite a blow! In regards to your friend's pageboy haircut, though, clearly the person who commented on it has not seen the painting "Memories/Du lawn tennis" by Fernand Khnopff, dated 1889.

    http://www.expo-khnopff.be/def/fr/Afbeeldingen/H2.jpg

    Hallie, I am honored to have you support, as I know you are a stickler! You keep me on my historically correct toes! Your input it always valuable :-)

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  34. Thank you, Lauren! I'll share that link with her.
    Val

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  35. Bravo! Well said, everyone! Hang in there, Lauren, and thank you for encouraging all of us who are just starting out with our costuming and historical fashion obsessions. Seriously, why do people have to be so mean!?

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  36. Olympe, I just saw the comment on the post. How odd, but at this point I really wouldn't be surprised if it was her. She probably hates you for not immediately cancelling your stays commission after she sent you her vat of poison in that e-mail. I thought your post was delightful :-)

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  37. Yeah, that person clearly has terrible issues, and it's sad how she exposes her insecurities and emotional problems to all the world. We all know you rock, and I personally hope you rock on with the blog forever. ::throws the horns::

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  38. I shall continue to rock the blog, or die trying, hahaaha

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  39. For seriously? Could someone offer the poor woman who's spreading this junk a stick to get her panties out of their death-hold bunch? Dang.

    Lauren, I love your work. It's inspiring and beautiful. You've never made any claims that your way is the only way, or that you don't have any questions. Anyone who claims to know it all...clearly doesn't. We're all still learning, because there's so much to learn. It's this kind of horrid attitude that has driven people out of reenacting--I have dear friends who came back to the hobby tentatively after being ridiculed for having the wrong clothes and calling it quits. That should never happen.

    And as a reenactor...you know what? I have some fab pics of myself in a handsewn gown and a pair of sunglasses to top them off. :P And many reenactors actually do stop at "good enough"--we may joke about the three-foot rule, but I sew most of my interior seams by machine and take other shortcuts. We're there for a myriad reasons--dead-on clothing authenticity isn't always the front runner, losing out for some people to interest in camp life, martial techniques, or even period-accurate cooking. It's supposed to be fun. When it stops being fun, you're doing something wrong.

    Cranky lady is clearly doing something wrong, and I bet she's not having nearly as much fun as the rest of us.

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  40. Hello, I have been reading your blog and LOVE it! I happen to be Time Traveling in Costume Val's friend, who was the recipient of two snarky comments in one day. I am saving the artwork you linked above, and will print it. The next time someone says something, I will whip out the pic and tell them where to go! FYI, I just went to Tombstone in a beautiful 1870s gown. what did I wear underneath? Jeans and zip up boots!

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  41. Since we're 'fessing up here, I wear cotton pj bottoms under my gowns. LOL!
    Lauren, I too love your blog, and love to learn all the time.
    Val

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  42. Not to mention, that anyone who's typing in ALLCAPS!!!!111!!!! are pretty much insane and needs to be removed from their key board ASAP.

    Another one who loves your work, here! I'm always learning, myself, and I love that all sorts of people with all sorts of knowledge (and sometimes lack thereof) can participate in the group I belong to.

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  43. Jeans and zip up boots, HOW COULD YOU!!!??? haha, just kidding. The last time I wore 18th c., I had on argyle socks and obnoxious plaid slippers with pom-poms on the toes. No rational reason why, just couldn't be bothered, hahaha.

    Rowenna, what is the three foot rule? And I totally agree, if it stops being fun you're doing something wrong. Time for a new hobby, lol

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  44. My 18th c stays now have gussets between the tabs....Much more comfy! My next pair will be made with the gussets. I wear long johns under my garb.

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  45. Oh, also, Emmaline, you could direct future snarks to page 318 of the Kyoto Costume Institute's "Fashion" book, which features a 2 page spread closeup of the painting showing the bobbed hair, and if they don't know which book you are referring to you can laugh and walk away <3

    Madame B, most of what this lady writes is in all caps, hahaha. EXTRA EMPHASIS!!!

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  46. The lady in question said to me "What's up with your hair?" then later compared me to Amanda Price in Lost in Austen.

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  47. Oh, it's really one of the drawbacks of putting yourself out there publicly, isn't it? People think they know you and make all kinds of silly assumptions. If they can't see that your blog is *your* experience and that you honor us by sharing your experience with us well, pfffft on them. As Aviatrix1879 says above, just rock on and do what you love to do!

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  48. Katy, even that is historically accurate, at least for the 17th c. :-) There's that technology rule - the "if the technology didn't exist, then it can't be used" thing, so if staymakers were adding gussets to stays in the 17th c. then common sense tells us that it was probably also done in the 18th c. This is the one:

    http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l6qnk9MES91qcyzqio1_400.jpg

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  49. Lauren--LOL, we joke sometimes that, if you can't tell it's wrong at three feet (or ten feet...depending :P), then it's fine :)

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  50. Hahaha, we have a similar saying that goes "it'll never be noticed on a gallopin' horse." :-)

    AllThingsVintage - you definitely have a point there. I guess it's just part of "public life," and I don't mean to say I don't want to be gainsaid, or that I can't handle comments. As more of you read this blog, or join the FB fan page, I feel compelled to post more, be more accurate or more thorough, because I don't want to let anybody down. People who purposefully try to destroy my life because I refused to work on a project with them? Thaaaat's a little different...

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  51. Anyone who reads this blog must see the title is American Duchess - if you don't know that there are not actual Duchesses in America then you will not "get it" that this is a costumer blog, not a re-enactor blog. I teach fashion history but when I dress up I am a costumer, not a re-enactor. Carry on with your great work Lauren. I can't wait for the shoes.

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  52. Agnes, I am glad you got the irony in the name! Yes, you are so right <3

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  53. Yup...Those were the stays that I use to support my hip gusset decision. Its nice to have proof for the Stitch Nazi's so you can rub it in! LOL. It also helps since I hate binding the tabs, makes my fingers sore.

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  54. Lauren,

    I love keeping up with your blog and fb. I always look forward to what will be next. You are an inspiration to many. keep up the good work!

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  55. Dear Lauren,
    Good answer! Go get 'em!

    So good to see so many write responses of sympathy and support.

    Keep up the great work; we appreciate your costumes, your products, and your spunk.

    Very best,
    Natalie

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  56. I am a historical entertainer. That means I use history to educate and entertain. My garments are not 100% historically accurate. I use a polyester blend when it "looks right". I am not into sewing by hand. My garments are used to set the tone, educate and entertain. I have enjoyed your articles and have learned from your posts. Keep up the good work and don't let the negative comments get you down. I just had a gentleman inform me that in my brand new business commercial, my pockets were visible. I informed the gentleman that if my pocket was under my clothing, as was usual, I could not educate folks about the item. There will always be those individual who are desperate to prove they know more than everyone else. Just be pleased that when you wake up tomorrow, you are not one of them! LOL! I am.

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  57. We have a saying in our costuming group: DBAD - Don't be Dick. (Followed closely by "Don't let the Drama Llama spit on you.") Sadly, it seems like everyone runs into a Stitch Nazi at some point in their costuming lifetime, but someone who is systematically trying to destroy your business is another thing entirely. Hold your head high, though - your stuff is lovely and it is nice to see someone who admits that they are learning and doesn't take themselves too seriously.

    FYI - I often wear jeans and warm boots under my costumes in early spring and fall - it is MN. It gets cold up here!
    -Laura

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  58. Also, as Gail and others have said, the original stitch-Nazi who complained that her 17th century bodice was being boned even though it was going to be worn over stays (as if that was the only thing done in the 17th century) didn't really know *her* costume history. In fact, according to Janet Arnold, the words "bodice" and "stays" could occasionally be used interchangeably, as in "Terms used by Taylors" in _The Academy of Armory and Blazon (Book III)_ from 1688: "In a WOMAN'S GOWN there are these several parts, as The STAYES, which is the body of the gown before the sleeves are put to or covered with the outward stuff ... COVERING the Bodies or Stays, is the laying the outside stuff upon it. ... WAISTCOAT is the outside of a Gown without either stays or bodies fastened to it".

    Also, according to _An Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Costume_ (originally printed in 1876) by James Robinson Planche, "'A pair of bodies' is mentioned in the fifteenth century, and the modern word 'bodice' is evidently derived from it. ... The coxcombs of the seventeenth century wore bodices, as the dandies now wear stays: 'He'll have an attractive lace, and whalebone bodies, for the better grace.' _Notes from Black Fryers_, 1617."

    The very first 17th century gown (ca. 1660-5) on page 21 of _Patterns of Fashion_ book 1, is of an ivory silk bodice that is mounted on a stiff, boned "corset" lining made of linen. When I visited the Costume Museum at Bath many years ago, the oldest gown in their collection was a wonderful silver taffeta gown from the same period (1660s) with the fully-boned stays built into the bodice lining, making a separate pair of stays superfluous.

    In later years it seems to have become the standard to wear your (not fully-boned) garments over a separate pair of stays, but the 17th century looks to have been a kind of anomaly in that respect! Perhaps the person was really thinking "18th century" instead of "17th century"? Anyway, I am both a costumer and a historical re-enactor, and your putting some boning in the 17th century bodice -- even if it was going to be worn over stays -- is perfectly correct in both worlds!

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  59. Well said! Here Here!
    It's all about having fun and putting a bit of our individual personality into a 3D image.
    Keep up the fun with your blog. I've enjoyed reading it for quite a while now.

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  60. South Bay, you said it! And there are the references to back it, very informative and well-put. Thank you!

    Once again you are all amazing, and I thank you so much for your support. I'm also glad to see that so many have something to say on this subject, because we can all learn from each other, and all DO on a regular basis, evidenced by South Lady's comment :-)

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  61. And just for the cherry on top, she doesn't know the correct usage of "its" and "it's"!

    I agree with the other commenters; don't let the trolls get you down!

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  62. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who has all their teeth has no business claiming 100% historical authenticity. Period.

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  63. Funny, but that letter manages to do the exact opposite to what it intended. Karma, I suppose.

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  64. Good for you Lauren. I find your creations very inspiring. For me, your blog is what it's all about - learning from each other. Sounds like the know-it-all needs to lighten up and have a bit more fun!

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  65. Haters gonna hate, my friend. Back in the early days of costume websites, even before there were dress diaries, I learned this first hand when I began putting my personal views and opinions online. I still remember the first nastygram I got from a well known owner of a historical pattern company who took umbrage with my critique of Elizabethan Costuming For The Years 1550-1580 by Winter & Savoy.

    You're a highly visible blogger, and you're also very upfront about your motivations for costuming. I think there's no mystery about what you do and what motivates you to do it... And it's going to piss off people who feel their way is the only way. But I say, keep it up. :)

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  66. So many comments I gave up reading them all but lovely things :) "Her indoors" is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum! Regardless of what inspired you to write this however it was most interesting-I've never been a re-enactor and it is not veryu common here, mostly meieval and renaissance stuff in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) but I have nothing to do with them. I'm a costumier, with a theatrical background so I am about as scumworthy as you can get in the world of accurate! hehehe. That's why I love your blog and what you do, Miss Lauren, because you are on a journey of inquiry like the rest of us and are not pretending to be at the destination yet! :)
    On a differnt topic, I am in England and off to Bath in a few days so any particular things you want me to peer at in the museum there, just say. I also bought THE most exquisite piece of dupion silk embroidered in Elizabethan style strawberry vines. So pretty! I love it so much I got a tattoo baseed on the pattern just yesterday! Now how historicaly inaccurate is that! LOL!

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  67. I'm so glad I took the time to read these comments and see some of you are in MN. I sometimes feel like the only person here who still likes playing dress up.

    I only found your blog a week ago, but I love it. It gives me ideas for my own costumes.

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  68. Thank you guys so much. I'm just going to ignore her (yes, I know this person all too well and she's been on a crusade to destroy me since I refused to sew for her), and hope she goes away, if that's at all possible. For everybody, just sew and do what you love!!!

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  69. MrsC, get as many photos of every thing you possibly can in Bath! We need to live vicariously through you :-D

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  70. Lauren...your blog and FB page are an inspiration to a beginner like myself! I have enjoyed following your projects, and look forward to reading many more.

    Although my favourite era is Regency/Napoleonic, I hope to branch out and try others later as I gain in experience and confidence.

    Keep up the good work, girl...X

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  71. I agree with everyone. This person is just a hater. Hopefully, she'll find someone else to hate on. I, personally, love your blog (and your new shoe line). I have been sewing costumes for about 12 years, and you are an inspiration to me.

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  72. Lauren, I've been going to Civil War reenactments for over a dozen years now (I live in GA). I try my hardest to portray an overall accurate representation of the era, but here's my thing: 1. It's a HOBBY. We REGISTER and PAY MONEY to participate (Gas is expensive!!!) I have noticed over the years that when a person is newly interested in the hobby but hasn't had much experience, they will get things "wrong". I have seen the "thread nazis" verbally tear them apart and the result is that they don't want to come do it anymore. It ceases to be fun. I learned how to sew in order to have more of a say in what costumes I wear. I'm not a professional seamstress, but I'm getting there and like you have always shown and posted here, I learn from my experiences. Your projects are BEAUTIFUL and take up valuable time and you have a lot of people who love you and support your talents!!!! I don't hand sew my clothes because I have 4 kids and 2 full time jobs and fit the HOBBY in where I can. The public doesn't seem to be bothered by my machine sewn seams (that they can't see), as they are mostly interested in my group and the huge cannon that's being fired. lol I appreciate the reenactors who are so dedicated as to be as accurate as possible and I'll admit that I'm slightly jealous that they have all the time and money to do so. I agree with Pat P- I must fall between categories as a "historical entertainer". When we go to reenactments we have a fun time and meet a lot of cool people and learn something about history. I think that's the most important thing and the rest can fall where it may. :)
    Keep up what you are doing, girl! You are a great inspiration to more people than you will probably ever realize! :) Hugs.

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  73. PS, I just re-read my comment and realized that I started a numbered response and then just abandoned it to go off on my tangent! LOL Sorry. Bottom line: MS is crazy; you are wonderful and not crazy (at least not in a bad way); we love you. That is all. :)

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  74. Hi Lauren, you shouldn't bother what some weard "experts" think or write of you - your blog is wonderfull and very useful for those who just begin to learn about 18th century and costume as myself. It is full of inspiration and fun, and you are a lovely person, I admire you very much, I'd wish I knew as much about the subject as you do! The "experts" can go and... have fun with themselves :D

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  75. Thank you! You're all right, this is a hobby, it's for fun. It doesn't mean we don't get obsessive about history. History is why I costume! Hobbyist are often the most informed people because we love what we do so much. Anyway, I'm not going to let An Historical Lady bother me anymore. She can go sit in a corner and seethe about how much she hates me, but I know I have the support of all you wonderful people, and I will never stop sewing!

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  76. My goodness, people can be such fuss buckets! lol! Laura, I find your work to be lovely and well-made - I greatly appreciate your costuming aesthetics and skill. The individual who wrote that email about you obviously did not have the knowledge themselves to recognize the difference between a costumiere and a re-enactor - :)

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  77. You know I am with you -- sometimes I like to be historically accurate, and sometimes I just want to be a pretty, pretty princess. I think the key is to be clear in your motives, and to cite your sources (eg I read it in Janet Arnold, or I saw it on an extant garment, or what I've read in Janet Arnold tells me it was done X way but I'm going to do it Y way because I want to!). And, to do whatever the hell you want to do! It's your life, your blog, your sewing, etc. F 'em if they can't handle it.

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  78. "Vivre to that and an eclair for both of us!" as Mrs Miggins would say. I've never thought that you claimed to be a re-enactor and I see that it's no one else's business how you work when you're open and honest about and when you are so damn generous with sharing what you learn with the rest of us!

    I think I can guess who may be the originator of that email from the comments on there and previous posts on her and I say that individual has a bee in her proverbial bonnet and needs to get over it. Such malice does indeed pique me!

    Keep going, Lauren, 'cause I for one am enjoying the ride.

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  79. I just wrote a comment but don't know if it went through or not (darn computer!) but just wanted to say keep up with the good work! Let those who wish to be miserable be miserable and reveal themselves to the world as the mean, rotten, miserable people they are. The stuff you make is beautiful and amazing and inspiring.

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  80. I want to say that as a reenactor AND someone that enjoys your blog and creations, I am not concerned that everything is made by hand, just where you can see it and I want it to look correct from the outside. I cannot imagine that this hobby would be enjoyable if I were fastidious about having everything perfect. In trying to get a feel for the history of garments that I should wear for my persona, I have been given more conflicting advice from self-professed experts that I am just going to find a middle ground and have fun. Please continue to write about your passion! I for one do not believe that you would ever not know what stays were, that must be a boldfaced lie...:)

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  81. It's all about honesty, intention, and context. Employing the colloquial nonspecific "you" for the sake of example...

    If you're doing costumed interpretation at a historic site, then you're presenting yourself as part of a museum exhibit, and the visitors have a right to expect that the material culture draped on your body is just as carefully researched and carefully reproduced as the furniture, carriage, blacksmith shop, etc. Accuracy - to some degree or another - is genuinely important when people are being educated about history by your in/and your clothing.

    If you're going to dances or costuming events or fancy dress picnics, then you can do whatever you want. You can be just as accurate as the most rigid standards any museum could impose....or, like Kendra said, you can just be a pretty, pretty princess. Steampunk, pirate, cartoon character, and hilarious interpretation are also perfectly reasonable choices. Seeing Trystan's sushi-printed Victorian gown remains one of my favorite memories from the first Costume College I attended.

    The various approaches to creating and wearing clothing that in some way relates to things people used to wear or might have worn...well, obviously there are many, many approaches. They aren't all appropriate in every context, but there is absolutely no reason to disparage a costumer who creates for the sake of making beautiful costumes, for failing to meet standards that have nothing to do with her.

    It's like going to a museum, peering at a Renoir for a while, and then pursing your lips disapprovingly while tut-tutting about how it's an improperly structured research paper. I mean...what? It's obviously not a research paper and no one was claiming it was a research paper. And in the case of these (and other) comments by this person....clearly she's missing 17 or 18 other key points as well.

    Honestly, given that I'm doing my undergraduate thesis project on reproducing historical clothing via painstaking and exhaustive research, I obviously feel very strongly about historical accuracy. When someone is claiming historical accuracy, or is in a context which makes claims of historical accuracy. I also firmly believe in everyone's right to have pretty pretty princess dresses, and in general to manage their hobbies as they please.

    Though I will say that I've found that historically accurate underclothing consistently seems to work better than modern substitutes, and that 90% of the time, synthetic fabrics are 90% composed of brimstone and torture. So sometimes accuracy can have its own rewards. :D

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  82. FARBs,stitch Nazis, thread counters, all miss the point. Re-enacting is living history to learn, to share, to experience. Those people are always so egotistical that they can't be wrong. (I loved the time I was told my Napoleonic pants were "not tight enough" by someone who should have recognized them as coveralls worn over uniform pants!

    Just keep up the good work, you are appreciated.

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  83. If it's any consolation, the nasty commenter is currently selling elastic-waisted "petticoats" in her "Antique store."

    And as to your accuracy, considering the fact that nationally respected, prestigious Colonial History sites are constantly updating their standards on what is "appropriate" and "accurate," one can safely say that the only truly accurate approach to historical sewing is one of adaptability and an earnest willingness to learn.

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  84. Thank you to those of you continuing to comment on this post. You will notice that I have changed the anonymity of the person to reflect her real name. I have done this because she has gone ahead and written my full name and blog name on her blog, in yet another attempt to defame me. I'm so tired of this. Please go away now, Mary Spencer.

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  85. I stumbled across your blog while doing some extra-curricular poking around about 18th century costume. I have not read all the comments, but I think your answer to the Defamatic Lady is excellent. I trust she does her stitching by rushlight huddled next to an open fire in between trips to the outhouse. I have very much enjoyed looking around your blog, and will undoubtedly return.

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  86. I want to give this post a hug. My opinion is that costuming is for fun. If someone decides to slave over an elaborate, completely historically accurate costume, she should -- as long as it gives her pleasure to do so. If someone else decides to go the historically accurate route and ends up hating it, there is no reason for her to continue.

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