Sunday, March 15, 2015

Michigan History Told Through Fashion: 17th Century Through the 20th Century

In teaching history, we live in unique times. The way we present the past these days is so much more interesting than the way it was done years ago, and I can proudly say that I have participated in such formerly uncommon methods as reenactments, cemetery walks, living history presentations, and even Night at the Museum events for the kids.
Yep - history is no longer the boring lecture it once was.
It's come to life!
And now I have had the honor and privilege to take part in another style of history lesson: teaching the history of Michigan through the clothing of our ancestors by way of a period fashion show.
The Historical Society of Michigan put on a "local history conference" recently, and to help promote local history, my friend Lynn Anderson put together and hosted something she called "Loosening the Laces: The History of Michigan Told Through Fashion." As she advertised it: From the French Voyageurs, Woodland Indians, and Colonials to the Civil War, Victorian, and Edwardian Ages to the decades of the 20th century, Michigan’s long and diverse past will unfold like never before.
Stepping into the waiting area, it was great seeing nearly 500 years of history right before my eyes; from the 1600s through the mid-1900s, from pioneers & voyageurs to WWII soldiers and was great to see so many time periods all in one room! President Lincoln was there, as was Amelia Bloomer, Senator Jacob Howard, a farming couple (hmmm...who could that be?), and so many others who were snatched right out of the history books.
As you have probably correctly guessed, I had my camera with me and took quite a few posed photos of the, ahem, fashion models while we were waiting to be called out onto the runway.
Hope you enjoy them:
A mid-1600s fur trapper

Early 1700s trappers with a woodland Northern Cree Indian (from north of Lake Superior).

The Ste. Claire Voyageurs - 1700s. This is an amazing group of reenactors (including those in the above photos as well) who represent some of the earliest settlers of Michigan. Their camps are filled with hands on activities as well as the showing of everyday life during the mid-1600s through the 1700s.

Mid-1700s showing the French and Indian War period.

Later 18th century: 1770s/1780s. Shown here in colonial clothing, Carolyn is also a Civil War reenactor. Like me, colonial-era reenacting is relatively new to her, but I believe she has been doing a fine job.

Revolutionary War soldiers

War of 1812 - Regency: Detroit's "coming of age" era

Wearing the latest early 1850s style by Amelia Bloomer.
During the summer of 1851, the nation was seized by a "bloomer craze." The Bloomer also became a symbol of women's rights in the early 1850s. Crowds gathered to not only hear the women's radical words, but also to see their scandalous dress. However, after three years, fearing that the new dress was drawing attention away from the suffragist cause, many of these women returned to corsets, long skirts, and more conventional forms of dress.

Michigan Farmers from rural Erin Township:
Larissa and I found we had quite a bit of attention paid to us as a farm couple, for we represented the everyday people of 1860 - the greater majority of the population - and patrons were genuinely interested in not only our "work" clothes, but our lives as farmers as well.

Lovely Civil War-era ladies wearing some of the more "conventional forms of middle to upper class dress" of the early 1860s.

Michigan Senator Jacob Howard - the man who helped to champion the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery.

President and Mrs. Lincoln: After speaking with this couple, you do feel as if you just spent time in the company of our 16th President and his wife.

Union Civil War soldiers: That's my son, Rob, on the right, and "perpetual private" Fred DeNault on the left.

The lovely ladies of the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting unit. In fact, the last seven photos you have just seen above are 21st Michigan members. Yeah...we're pretty diversified - I'm pretty proud of the unit I belong to!

Turn-of-the-20th Century: "Come Josephine in my flying machine!"

Titanic-era American Girl Dolls come to life! These little ones look perfect for 1912!

Soldiers from the Great War: Many military reenactors are jumping from Civil War to WWII, but not these guys! They stopped off in 1917!

Flappers from the 1920s

Girls with Guns....or in this case, a flapper girl with a gun!

1920s - early 1930s: The end of the flapper era and entering the more serious time of the Great Depression.

Early 1930s: If she's not already, I'm sure the young lady here on the right will soon be a 'swing kid' and listen to Benny Goodman music on the phonograph.

“V” for VICTORY!
American Armed Forces of World War II

Meet my mom in 1944. Well, she's not really my mom, but she could have been!

All the day long, whether rain or shine
She's a part of the assembly line
There's something true about –
red, white, and blue about
Rosie, ~*brrrrrrrrrrr*~ the riveter

Representing America's finest from WWII going back to the Revolutionary War. I thought it looked terrific seeing two centuries of military just hanging out and talking. you are!

After the fashion show was over, the attendees had the opportunity to meet and mingle with the reenactors to learn more about the fashions, eras, and groups represented. That was one of the best parts, for we as reenactors and living historians live to share our historical knowledge.
And it really was a wonderful chance to “meet” Michigan’s history in "person" (pun intended).
The Hostess with the Most-ess: Lynn Anderson put the entire time-line fashion show together and did a remarkable job in doing so. Thank you, Lynn, for showing our past in this unique way! It was great fun being amongst all that history!

So much history in such a small space!

See you next time in time...



Jessica Marie said...

I've always loved Civil War era dresses and I always wanted one. Some day!

CDerka said...

Thanks SO much for the Colonial Farming Tools! It was really helpful! I'll show my friends this blog, I bet it will help them too! If you have a reply, please reply on my blog, (MouseEars: Disney Blog just for Kids) or email me.
Thanks again!