Friday, April 10, 2015

Living history vs. living herstory...

I love my new hobby: historical re-enactment is fun and educational for participant and audience alike. However, for the sake of authenticity the women are expected to stay in the shade, both literally and figuratively, whilst the men undertake battles of foote and other more glory-getting activities. I am reminded that then, as now, women were healers and hearth-warmers in the main, rather than providers or explorers, or any of the gamut of options open to men, but denied to women.

I have spent some time in the last two years acting as a housewife due to difficulty in acquiring full-time employment. It wasn't easy in parts: feeling beholden for shelter; focusing on laundry and cooking when my best skills lie in other domains. But, it wasn't unpleasant either. I enjoyed my spouse-to-be coming home to find dinner ready to plate, a drink waiting and me in some hastily donned 'outdoor' clothes, perfume and lipstick, rather than the pj's I had been wearing minutes before.

As much as returning to ancient roles and fulfilling expected stereotypes can be an act of removal, taking oneself outside the normal routine, for many, many women globally their contemporary roles remain much the same as they would have been for centuries past.

I enjoy the dressing up in unfamiliar garb, often created with my own hands - and, for the sake of accuracy, with minimal modern intervention: hand-stitched out of natural fabrics available in the chosen time period. However, as much as I take pleasure in assuming a temporary alternative identity, I still feel somewhat ashamed, worried for my neo-feminist/equalist credentials, to admit that I enjoy the sitting and sewing, the quiet and the calm. I like that there is someone who cares for me and is ready to protect me. I don't want to be wearing hot and heavy armour, but I feel as if I ought to want to.

I am lucky to be able to 'pretend' to like these so-called feminine activities under the guise of being true to character, when, in reality, I really do prefer to craft and create, be cared for, be the quintessential lady.

For those of you interested in living history interpretation as careerist or hobbyist, I can recommend the links below for information and resources.

Authenticity vs. practicality

For those wanting a bit more science and a bit more whimsy in their historical costume play...

Clothing design
This blog provides a wealth of practical project suggestions and tips on completing work in efficient and authentic ways:

Those interested in a specific era, such as 15th century medieval European_fashion can find plenty of detail on this well-researched wikipedia entry that forms part of a wider database of historical fashions that start here: - at the bottom of which there is a useful table of the linked pages:

Fabric samples
Free swatches can be exceptionally useful when experimenting with costumes - don't purchase expensive cloth that turns out to be too hard to pull thread through or too stiff to allow easy movement.

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