Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Future as a Farb - Sewing Mid 19th Century Trousers

Among my varied interests, sewing my own garments for living history events or Civil War reenactments has proven challenging and rewarding. It is not just creating a garment that looks similar to that worn in the distant past. To honor history, it is necessary to study originals, research historically acute patterns and fabrics, duplicate the construction methods and recreate a fit that is as close to authentic as possible. Those who eschew authenticity are considered FARBS.  To those who aspire to authenticity, a FARB sends the wrong message to those who attend reenactments or living history villages because visitors believe what they see is what was.

My husband has been a student of mid 19th Century costume and material culture for more than 30 years. He is a talented tailor who has reproduced exact replicas of several federal and Confederate military uniforms – all hand sewn. As one who came to this hobby in my late 40’s, I’ve been blessed to have his experience, resources, and 19th Century eye to help me. Learning to recreate historically correct clothing and accessories is a journey. It is not possible to start out with all of the needed knowledge and wardrobe. My own progress has, because of my excellent resources, developed quickly.

That being said, for our current roles as sutlers, or vendors of merchandise at re-enactments, I am embracing Farby Civil War era cross dressing to enable me to portray a wet plate photographer in much greater comfort for some future events. When I portray a Civil War era woman, it is necessary to don multiple layers of personal linens including a corset, petticoats, drawers, chemise, cage crinoline, a jewel neck long sleeved dress, white collar and under sleeves or cuffs, over the knee cotton stockings, ankle boots, a mousy brown long haired wig to disguise my 21st Century fire red hair, and a bonnet. I can assure you that it is not all that comfortable in 90- degree temperatures. It is even less pleasant while using a traveling dark room in a tent with the fumes of ether wafting in the enclosed space.

So, I am in the process of sewing a pair of mid 19th Century black linen men’s Classic Plain-Cut Summer Trousers using Sandra Altman’s Past Patterns template 014. While much of the construction can be sewn using a machine, as sewing machines were readily available at the time, the finishing must be done by hand – including the buttonholes on the button fly front. (And….I’ve never embraced even button fly jeans because they are cumbersome and not friendly for manicured nails) Todd located a shirt of the appropriate size that he’d hand sewn years ago and never wore. He also had a linen vest cut but never sewn that I will soon be re-working to fit me.  All I’ll need to buy….a newsboy’s cap from Dirty Billy – on a future trip to Gettysburg.

My only concern….being featured in one of Joey Gee’s showcase pictorials on Facebook titled: Return to the Plant of the Farb, Part Deux!

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