While at an event the other day, I was surprised by some reactions that I received from other members of the group we were participating with when we announced that we would leave the event directly at its completion to go shopping in the centre of town during late night shopping. The questions, responses (verbally and facially of horror and fear) and answers did sit in my mind and perplex me a lot and yes I know I think far too much (its a bad habit).
This has lead me to finally come to a new understanding and put into words who I am and why I undertake this 'strange' hobby.
I see myself as a progressive living historian. I am not a costumer, I call my garments clothing or attire. Personally, I believe that calling them costumes devalues them and changes the mindset I have when wearing them. I normally dress hours before an event. I drive to events in my garments, drop in the shops on the way and will often go shopping or out for dinner or drinks after events. Even now when typing this (at 8pm), I am still dressed in my 1850s attire that I put on this morning for a non event day at the black powder range. When I got home I went garden shopping and then came home to play with my chickens and plant seeds. If I did not have to worry about image and employment at work, I would probably dress in period attire every day (and I often do during holidays) and I do sleep in my chemises (they are the most comfortable sleepwear, I also plan to start work on some nightgowns very soon). When dressed in period attire I feel at my most beautiful. As little girls often say 'look a princess!'.
Most of my friends are horrified that I happily catch the bus to events, that I can walk through the city centre and not care about what others think and that I am happy to be dressed in period attire without being around other people. Almost everyone else I know only dresses at the last possible moment before an event. Most dress at events and cart around piles of containers and often forget or misplace items. They rush back to the change room or their home to strip their clothing off as fast as they can. Finally, they worry that friends or acquaintances might see them.
Please do not think that I am making any negative connotations here. There is nothing wrong with either my or their actions. Everyone is entitled to do as they wish with their lives (within respect and legal limitations). What perplexed me most was trying to understand spending the time and money that is required to participate in this type of hobby to then avoid wearing and enjoying the fruits of our labour. I have never though of this as being a hobby for people that are worried about their image or impression. I have always seen it as being similar to any other alternative life style. For example my husband used to be a punk (bondage pants, leather, patches, tartan) and I used to be a kinder goth as a teen and then a mix of rock, vintage and rockabilly. In a way, I am also used to being different from when I was a 6ft tall white woman living in China. Cameras and people staring do not bother me.
I hope that this new understanding and musings will help me to be more considerate and understanding when with others who are not as comfortable. I also find that I have a sense of sympathy for them. It makes me feel sad to imagine feeling in loving historical clothing while also being scared and embarrassed of my hobby. This has made me even more grateful that I am able to live my life, dreams and desires to a large extent without any negative feelings or connotations. I am also grateful that when I do go out in period attire I have only ever had positive feedback from the people that I have met and that I have the opportunity to use my hobby to meet lots of wonderful new people.
Ps. I am hoping to start some cooking experiments soon using period recipes from publications including the local Adelaide newspapers. I am very excited to be expanding my historical experiences and undertakings.