Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thoughts on 19th century things

Now that my wedding dress is done and I'm in the middle of writing thank you notes, cleaning up my house, trying to plan our honeymoon trip, and finishing the painting from before Christmas...I think it's time for some new work clothes.

I've had plenty of time to think about the things I do and do not like or agree with.  While my views on the lack of historically appropriate clothing by and large in Columbia have not changed and I certainly do not mean that everyone associated fits into that category, I have not done my part to help the matter.  I think I tried to do too much at once and in the end discovered a few things to make my agenda more do-able.  Change has to happen slowly; perhaps trying to make clothing appropriate for an "upper middle class" English or French woman was too ambitious and the people around me were not ready.  Perhaps fashions inspired by Empress Sissi were mentioned too soon for the park.  They need to be broken in gradually.

I still maintain that the park does need to make a clear cut time limit and a much more concise mission statement of what they are intending to portray.  I do believe that the portrayal of a Gold Rush era town would imply that clothing should be kept before about 1859.  I also still believe that there should be a wide variety of styles, social classes, and that not all women who worked were dirt poor wearing sack dresses.  Women had quite a lot of power, though they may not have realized it and the modern world has forgotten it.  That's one of the main lessons I took away from my Introduction to Historical Analysis class with Prof. Katz: social and gender rules of the 19th century do not necessarily work in Gold Rush California.

I've decided to strike a compromise with the state of California though.  They seem to imply that women would not have had money for nice dresses or things if they were working or living in the area.  As such, that would mean that for some unknown reason they would have been cut off from any and all literature or examples of popular dress on the Eastern seaboard of the United States and the rest of the world.  This would require women to wear fashions that were "out of date."  As such I will be creating a new dress to adhere with these new guidelines.  I shall limit my fashion interests for work to the period of 1838-1850, leaving at the least a 2 year fashion lag with the date of 1852 that my boss goes with.  I'm not saying that this would be unreasonable or improbable for real women of the Gold Rush, but I do not think it was the only option for clothing.  I will be being more conservative in my fashion choices from now on and striving for the most accurate representation that I can manage despite the fact that I still maintain that it is easier to work in a blouse and a full skirt than a regular dress.

And for now, on to the research...

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