“Won’t I/she/he get hot?” is a frequently heard question when a new Youth Volunteer
comes to me to discuss reproduction historic clothing, and the answer is “Yes, but this is how people dressed back then.”
On February 11, our Youth Experience Coordinator, Sarah Morin, called the 30 youth who were added to our Youth Volunteer program for 2011, joining 70 or so returning boys and girls. Not all Youth Volunteers take on a first-person, reproduction-historic-clothing-wearing role, but that’s what drew many of them to the program in the first place, and sometime in March or April, they’ll show up for an appointment in Historic Clothing.
We start with the basics: “This is how you would have dressed in 1836 or 1816.” (Youth will have to wait and see if there will be “first person” roles in 1863 for them.) Many of them are surprised at the different layers that were worn, especially by girls, but I assure them that “they” wore even more.
Boys have to have a shirt, waistcoat (optional for 1816), neckerchief and trousers, and girls have a petticoat, dress, apron, and daycap. They all have to wear hats or bonnets outside, long stockings and shoes that look right for the time period, even though their 1816 and 1836 counterparts may have gone barefoot all summer.
All of them get to choose from our selection of as-accurate-as-possible fabrics. It’s always interesting watching to see if the accompanying adult guides or tries to guide the youth’s choices. After that, girls have to choose their dress, apron and daycap style, while the boys are ready to pay and hit the road. Finally, laden with fabric, patterns, instructions and notions (including rope for the girl’s corded petticoats), they head out, followed by parents who may be dreading or anticipating sewing for their youth or hurrying home to call down the “approved sewist” list to find someone to do it for them. “Don’t forget to pre-shrink your fabric,” I call. “Good sewing!”
When the outfit has been approved for sewing accuracy and is modeled for fitting approval, it’s all worth it. Anna, Sarah, Jake or Sam “is approved to work in Prairietown or Lenapehoeking