Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pioneer Extravaganza Trek Preparations

Yesterday I had the very unique opportunity of presenting "how to dress like a (trek) pioneer" to some of the descendants of the Martin Handcart Company.  It was quite a pleasure!  I went through my nervous stage beforehand, but mostly I just was excited as it got closer!  I thought I'd jot down here some of what I said for those who missed it, or for those who didn't want to write down the info I had printed on my table signs!

In addition to my blog, my favorite resources for trek:

Mormon Trek (Elizabeth Stewart Clark)

Clothing the Saints (Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s beta)

The Sewing Academy (Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s business)

What I Said:

I got involved with dressing like a pioneer 4 years ago when my kids and I started volunteering at This Is the Place.  One of the first things I did when we started up there was get on line and Google “how to dress like a pioneer.”  I anxiously awaited my 40,000 results.  Do you know what popped up?  Not a lot.  I was rather annoyed.  You mean I’d have to actually do some research?  Someone hasn’t done this for me?  I was disgusted that this might not be as easy as I thought it would be.  So, my blog was born.  I wanted to make it easier for others to know how to dress like a pioneer, and I wanted a way to store my research and share my projects.  

As time went on, I became familiar with Elizabeth Stewart Clark.  I’d say is probably the leading gal on recreating women’s and children’s fashion in the mid-1800s.  She’s got lots of free information as well as patterns for purchase.  Much of my blog is just me making her patterns and linking to her stuff.  You ask, why didn't I find her when I did my original searches?  Well I should have, but the main reason is probably because some of her information is in PDF format and is not as easily searchable. Lucky for you, though, now there is my blog, and I just link to her.

Anyway, before I volunteered at TITP, I loved history, and I loved pioneers.  We have many pioneers in our history.  In fact, we had indirect ancestors (an uncle or 2) in the rescue party!  Because we loved our heritage so much, we joined up with the Sesquicentennial Wagon Train in 1997 near Independence Rock.  We had a great time!

Of course we needed authentic-ish clothing for the trek, but being the cool college kid that I was, I didn’t want to go all-out pioneer.  Who wants to be seen in a bonnet and an ankle-length skirt, I thought.  My mom let me pick out some nice fabric from Mormon Handicraft and she made me a nice 2-piece dress.  She made the bodice long enough so that I could let it hang over my skirt.  There was no way I was going to tuck in my shirt -- especially in a skirt that landed at my true waist!  Who would ever wear clothing at their true waist?  I thought my interpretation of a pioneer was pretty good.

However, when we got on the trail, I noticed my clothing wasn’t quite the same as some of the other people’s -- particularly those who dressed really well -- meaning authentically.  I didn’t quite fit in!  My 1997 interpretation wasn’t quite right for the 1850s.  Hmm.  Imagine that?  I started wishing I’d been more authentic in my clothing so that I could be more stylish.  I couldn’t believe it.

The way you dress on this trek will take you back in time.  It can make you feel differently about yourself and others.  Women:  you will get a feel for what your female ancestors went through in a dress.  Wearing a long dress is not as easy as pants or shorts, or even shorter skirts and dresses, and this is something they dealt with every day, and were used to it.  You will appreciate their inconveniences.  Men:  Your clothing is still rather similar to what it was in the 1850s, but they didn’t wear jeans, t-shirts, or base-ball caps.  You will feel more formal than you probably do now.  I encourage all of you to go all out (well, as much as you are comfortable with and what is practical for the trail) in your pioneer clothing so you can feel more of what your ancestors felt -- so that you can literally walk in their shoes -- at least in their clothes since you’ll be wearing modern shoes.  Don’t worry about our styles today -- aim for the styles of the past and you’ll be surprised at how you feel!

OK, so what are we going to wear on this trek?  Let’s talk some general guidelines:
  • Hats - wide brim - not a baseball hat!!  Straw hat, bonnet - free patterns & links on my blog
  • Sunblock
  • NO denim (cotton, khaki, wool) for men/women
  • NO t-shirts/sweatshirts for men/women
  • Modern shoes
  • Light colors
How about some examples?  We’ll go from easy to more difficult.

Men and Boys - Eli, Brayden, Kelton, Chad, Evan
Clothing very much the same - even similar to today
  • Wide brim hat
  • Long pants - Probably no need to convert these.  
  • Belts/Suspenders - Yes suspenders; belts ok, but no belt loops, but no one is going to really see how you keep your pants up anyway
  • Long sleeved shirts -  Why do you think you want a long sleeved shirt? 
    • Convert a shirt - get one at the DI - on the blog, change buttons, collar, pocket
    • Free pattern for a shirt - neck is in the wrong place.  I have a tutorial on my blog, but I really don’t like the fit, you could try moving the neck forward.
  • Buy patterns - look for a list on my blog - I think I link to Liz’s list, too.
  • Extra mile:  Vest (Waistcoat) - your shirt was your underwear.  Officially it had the collar, but I didn’t know that when I made these.
  • Modern shoes.
Girls - Avery, Sarah, Teenager
  • Girls basically the same no matter what age, just longer hemline.
  • Hat
  • Dress - little girls’ dresses - easy to find patterns at the fabric store
  • Drawers/pantaloons - show, modesty, clean / petticoat (puffy slip) appropriate, but optional
  • Pinafore - very important to keep your dress clean!
  • Shoes - modern
Babies, small children - Abby, Cameron
  • Which one is the boy, which one is the girl?
  • Did you know pioneers dressed their babies the same until they were potty trained?
  • If you want to go with the boys in dresses, just use plaids rather than flowers, or just dress little boys like older boys & men.
  • Use a pinafore!  It will save the dress.
  • Drawers to cover diaper and protect legs
  • Hat - do your best to keep it on
  • Shoes
Women - Blouse/Skirt Woman, me, Mandy, Darlene
  • Bonnet - yes!  
  • Blouse/Skirt - OK option - cheapest and easiest, but not correct.  Directions on my blog on how to make a skirt, then just use a light colored blouse with it.  If you want to get into reenactment later, use the skirt as a petticoat later under a dress.
  • Dress - best option - fabric store patterns are ok (Liz’s guide), reproduction patterns good, or you can make your own.  Liz’s Dressmaker’s Guide.
  • Apron - yes, one per day.  Keeps you clean.  Easy to make, different styles, on my blog.
  • Petticoat/Drawers - yes, wear something under your dress so your dress won’t get stuck between your legs.  A petticoat will also keep it cleaner. (Scrubs/long shorts)
  • Modern shoes.
Any Questions?

How much clothing allowed to bring - a shirt/day for men?  An apron/lady/day, etc.
     2 outfits recomended 1 Required
What are you encouraging for warmth?
     Modern 21st Century Jacket, Coat, hat, gloves rainjacket etc. are fine, most of the daytime will be hot or comfortable without these.

Please feel free to leave me questions on my blog and I will reply.  You can also ask Liz anything and she, too, will reply. In fact, if I don’t know, I usually just ask Liz!


Liz C said...

Wish I could have been there! It sounds like you had fun, and did a great job... huge accomplishment! (And a huge thanks from me for liking what we do well enough to recommend it!!)

Did the kids freak out at the idea of wearing clothing at their actual waist? :)

Chad said...

Emily did a fun and fantastic presentation of Trek Clothing. To Liz Clark: thanks for your influence on all of us. The Martin Company and Rescuer descendants were inspired to dress the part and relieved to know there is information out there now and people to guide them.

From all of us Thanks again Emily and friends.

Lisa said...

Did the pioneers not have collars? I looked on Liz's pattern recommendations, and the ones from the regular companies, McCalls, Simplicity, etc. are all out of print. I did find this one from McCall's,

But it had a collar, and is that not so authentic? I was going to make me a dress for trek, but I didn't want to buy spend $20 on a pattern. If you could let me know if this would be acceptable or if you recommend another pattern. Thanks.


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