My First Living History Event

Well, we made it back from our first Mid-Century Living History Event in Perryville, KY with little more than a few bug bites and a bad case of exhaustion.  We couldn't get the camera out much, because of the very strict "no modern stuff showing" rule.  So, this is the only real picture I could sneak in of the two of us (my husband couldn't go because he was a volunteer at this year's Ichthus Festival.)
No, that's not our tent... we aren't THAT good yet.  And...erm....actually, those aren't our gowns, yeah, we TOTALLY felt like the new kids in town.  Jane's gown was loaned to us by one of the reenactors, and as we were leaving the event, the very kind lady that loaned it out to us told us that we could keep it.  I'm not sure if that was because she is very kind, or if it was because the hem was 4 inches deep in mud and there were lemonade stains down the front.... I'm guessing it was a little of both.  As I said in my last post, Beverly Simpson graciously loaned me the gown I got to wear.  It wasn't as hot as I thought it would be.  All of those layers were natural fibers like cotton and it breathed nicely, especially with the hoop underneath.  I had to do quite a lot of fitting to get the dress to fit me though.  Beverly is a tall lady, and I am, well, not.  I had to hem the bottom of the skirt about 4 inches, and tuck in the top of the skirt about 2 inches.  Then, I had to create several tucks along the bodice and at the shoulders in order to get a good fit.  Over-all, I think I wore it nicely.

Jane and I got our picture taken in the exact same way that a person of the mid-1800's would have.  Most people know of these photos as "Tin Types," but the official term would be "Ferrotype" photography.  The image came out a bit light, so it is hard to see in the picture above.  What do you think?  Could we pass as an antique???  It makes me think of one of my favorite 19th century photographers, Julia Margeret Cameron.  I positively love her photographs. maybe not as good as Julia Margeret Cameron's...but, anyway...

The photographer and I were a bit worried about capturing Jane on film.  The exposure time on an antique Ferrotype camera is anywhere from 4 to 6 seconds...this isn't your modern day digital, mind you.  And any movement made while the lens is open causes a blurred image.  She's quite the squirmy one.  And we didn't want her to end up with 2 heads.  But, I was the proudest mama ever, because all the photographer had to say was if she stood very, very still, see might get to see the rabbit that lives inside the camera box. 
She didn't move a muscle...poor gullible thing...

I wanted to show you how I did my hair.  It was BEAUTIFUL at the beginning of the day.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before the event, so what you are seeing now is the wilted, exhausted after sorry.  I used rats (similar to my friend Natalie's tutorial here) to make the sides stick out a bit.  But my favorite part of the hairstyle was the braided bun at the back.

I bet you are wondering if I liked Living History...right?...yeah, I know you are, soooo, here goes my long winded rant. 

Did I like it? The answer is Yes.
Would I do it again?  Not until I have my own equipment and my own gown.

You see, not only did I feel like the new kid in town, but I also felt a bit homeless and alone.  The other reenactors were VERY nice.  They let us sit down with them, eat with them, talk with them, etc...but we didn't have any place to call our own, and I'm sure you guys and gals can relate to needing your own space carved out somewhere in which to go and relax, take a nap, read a good book, get some piece and quiet.  Right?  Am I the only one that feels this way? 
Reenacting equipment is quite elaborate, and expensive.  I mean, these people didn't just have a simple canvas tent and sleeping bag, they had the tents, canopies, REAL antique beds, tables, chairs, dishes, lamps, cooking equipment, blankets, boxes, food, etc., etc...  They set up little homes.  Everything was historically accurate.  All that to say, it might be a while before I can afford to have all of that collected. 
Until then, I might go for a day trip somewhere, once I get my own gown made.  Even though I was grateful to be lent a very pretty gown, I've never liked wearing hand-me-downs.  My husband can go into a Goodwill or second hand store and come out with an arm-load of clothes.  I cringe at the thought of entering one of those places.... don't get me wrong, I'm not looking down on people that do shop there.  I certainly could benefit from saving some money at a second hand store.  It's just one of those strange, idiosyncrasies I have...I don't like wearing other people's clothing. (sorry...back to the point of this post now.)

One other thing about Living History that I think I might need to work, scratch that, I KNOW I need to work on this...  is making a first person impression.  Basically, that means I have to come up with a 'story' about who I am as a person in the 1860's, and then when I'm at the event, I have to 'act' like I really am that person living 150 years ago.  Sheesh... I really am bad at improv.  I thought I had it all down in my head, and then when another reenactor would strike up a conversation with me, I would just freeze!  It was so hard for me to think about a response that was period appropriate. 
 For example: One of the gentlemen there asked me if I had family there looking to buy horses(it was a horse trading/buying this is a purely fictitious question he is asking me.)  I sputtered and ummed and stumbled over my words, because my brain was thinking: "No...why would I need a horse. And does it look like I have family here?"  But, no, that is not what I was supposed to say.  What I should have said was "No sir.  I've recently come from the city to visit a dear friend, who happens to be here buying horses."  So...what did I do....I said nothing, and turned about 5 shades of red, and angelic Beverly came to my rescue.  Wow, I'm awkward!

I know I'm not making this sound like I enjoyed myself, but truly, I did.  I met several very nice families while I was there, and when I left I wished there had been more time to meet more of them.  My daughter had a blast playing with all of the other children there.  I absolutely adored dressing up.  I loved the history behind it.  I was fascinated by the camps and homes set up amongst the trees and fields.  I enjoyed watching people carry on life as they would have in the 19th century. 

God willing, Living History will be something I do again.  As tired as I was at the end of the day, and as much as I embarrassed myself, I liked it very much.  One day I will look back on my first event as a reenactor and laugh.  I will eventually learn how to be comfortable in my own skin, it's just going to take a little time...


Persuaded said…
Oh Jenni, you looked absolutely lovely! You really do have "the look," I think.

And I so completely know what you mean about the difficulties of reenacting alone. I am a single mom and I just don't think I could manage all of the paraphernalia and such that is needed to really participate in the hobby. My son wants to do reenacting sooo badly though. I told him that when he is old enough to handle all of the stuff like managing the tent, fires etc. we can do it, but I just can't do it on my own. I do think we are going to do some day trips this summer though... and I am really looking forward to it!

Thanks so much for sharing... I adored this post!
Sarah Jane said…
First, I cannot really believe that this was your very first 1860's event! You look *fantastic* and even thought your gown was a loaner, it fits you great and you look perfect! Your alterations did the trick. :)

Your tin type/ferrotype looks wonderful too. You definitely have the elusive "Look"! I love how you did your hair. That is one of my favorite styles to do although my hair is a bit short now to do it nicely. . .you really pulled it off well.

I can very much sympathize with having no home of your own. I felt that way when I first started out too. But you do not really need much gear to start out with. In fact, I find the less I take the easier it is on me to set up/tear down and the more fun I have. An A-frame tent is quick and easy to set up and all you really need is a place to sleep, whether it be quilts spread on the ground or a frame bed. We've done both. Mrs. Clark has a good article about camping and the very few things you really *need* to bring along.

2 people can set up an A frame tent in 10 or 15 minutes. You don't need a fire unless you plan to cook, or heat water, or if it is cold and you need it for warmth. David and I have really gone minimalist this year and it is so, so much easier!

I'm glad you had a great time! It sounds like a very fun event!
Jenni said…
Thank you ladies!

Dianne, Your son would LOVE reenacting. It won't be long before he will be able to help with building a fire and setting up. Is he in Boy Scouts?? They could teach him a lot about fire making and camping.

Sarah Jane, I am glad to know that it can be done with very little. The people there had sooooo much! Do you do a 1st person impression when you reenact? And do you know of any books or workshops that could help me learn how to do it better? This particular group of reenactors were VERY serious about it.
Sarah Jane said…
There was an awesome article on 1st Person by Linda Trent in our units newsletter a few months ago. It was a reprint so I do not know where the article originally appeared. :(

I usually do not do strict 1st person, but try to portray myself as I would be if I lived in the 1860's. . .I would really like to get into this more though. We usually go to the mainstream "battle and ball" type events. I think the one you went to was an immersion event? Definitely one of the higher-end ones! Lucky you! :)
Anonymous said…
Jenni you look wonderful! My family does mountain man rondezvous, the only thing we regret is that we didn't find it sooner !!
Persuaded,,,,, don't wait, do it now. The memories of our tent blowing us across the field with the wind as we tried to set up and my husband sat with his cast on his leg in 2006 we'll never forget! The memories are worth the struggles.
The A-frame/ wedge tents are simple to set up and at our camps, there is always someone willing to lend a hand for a few minutes.

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