KB Inglee (guest blogger)
KB is an historical interepreter at Greenbank Mill and Philips Farm in Delaware which is the setting for her children's book Farmer's Daughter, Miller's Son. You can reach KB at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clothes make the man. OK in this case woman.
I have returned from three days in 1804 where I served as cook for the Corp of Discovery for 21 middle school kids. I spent the whole time in smoked and sweat soaked period clothing. The smell no longer washes out. Lewis and Clark probably never ate as well as we did, though I am sure they smelled worse.
I am still in the early stages of being a published writer with a kids' book and few short stories out there, I agonize over what to wear to book signings and literary parties. One of my friends mentioned her writer's outfit, so I bought a jacket with early American farm scenes on it and a long black dress to wear under it. If I need "regular clothes" I just go to my closet and there it is waiting for me. I never wear it to my own signings.
When I started writing historical fiction a friend and Civil War re-enactor said I had to wear the clothes in order to understand the world in which my work is set.
I was writing about the 1890s, but I made myself a Civil War Quaker Woman outfit out of a tan bed sheet. No hoops, no bows, no fashionable drop shoulders. With long stockings, tight ankle boots and a hat with a feather, I had a complete outfit. Oh, yeah, no corset.
I did feel different when I put it on. The three petticoats tangled around my legs as I walked and I was forever tripping over the floor length skirt. Ah, hoops keep that from happening. I wrote two short stories about Civil War re-enacting and one about a woman who took up spying to get her sons through the war safely.
While wearing my 1860s duds I wandered into a living history museum that presented 1790 to 1830 and stayed to volunteer. I needed a new suit of clothes, this time more comfortable and serviceable. Everything pinned or tied shut. My petticoat (we call it a skirt these days) came to my ankles, not the floor. Even the shoes were more comfortable. I wrote two short stories set in the early republic and three set in a living history museum. One of them was turned into a murder mystery evening as a fund raiser for the museum.
My main interest is still the 1890s, so I made what I call Emily suits, one of aqua satin and one a dark red gabardine skirt with white shirtwaist. I will wear one of these when my novel is published.
I have just made myself a Lewis and Clark period dress with the high waist and a straight skirt. It's a gray striped cotton satin. My book is set in 1816, so it is perfect to wear to my own book signings. People notice. I have yet to write the stories that go with it but I can feel the ideas bubbling up when I put it on.