St. Lawrence County Historical Association Civil War Weekend (July 28-29th, 2012)
In addition to the military encampment hosted by the 2nd Michigan, Co E Reenactment Unit and the battle reenactment itself, both of which will be covered in separate blog entries, the Civil War Weekend presented by the St. Lawrence County Historical Association of Massena, NY (SLCHA) also included vendors (sutlers) of period clothing and miscellaneous items Civil War reenactor interest, hands-on displays of period armaments, chair re-caning demonstrations, a fashion show titled “The Many Layers of a 19th Century Woman”, and many other ‘educational’ components. Hopefully, the following images will provide a bit of the flavour (Canadian spelling :-)) of the day.
The folks of the Marine Corps League, St Lawrence County Detachment 408 were running the canteen and insisted that I needed nourishment while watching the fashion show!
The Fashion show was one of the highlights of the pavilion-based activities but definitely not the only one. Some of the toys of the Victorian Toys display caught my attention and I even got a few tops to spin properly. It was fun to watch this young lady in her hoop skirt tossing the rings to youngsters.
Over in another corner of the pavilion, a spinning wheel was a’spinnin’.
At the caning demonstration, I was rather impressed by how quickly Robin Duncan could work her fingers while re-caning a chair. Perhaps my interest in this particular activity came from the fact that the caning in my canoe seat finally gave way the last time that I had it out in the water.
In addition to the men in uniforms, the ladies in the encampment were dressed in period clothing which added a great deal to the feeling of being in a different period of time.
Hats or something equivalent had to be worn by the ladies when out in public. Whether this was a bonnet or a crocheted affair didn’t seem to make a difference as long as the hair was covered in some way or the other. Fascinators were all the rage in Ottawa last year when royalty (Will and Kate) landed in Ottawa to participate in Canada Day celebrations. I don’t know if fascinators would be acceptable in the ‘head cover” category in American fashion in the 19th century.
Generally speaking, the showing of bare skin was frowned upon except in children. Sun-tanned skin was not fashionable in the 19th century.
The hour glass figure was the shape of the day and, to obtain this shape, corsets were combined with flared hoop skirts. Post the Civil War years, the
Paved roads were not a common feature of the 19th century fashion world so skirts would often be raised a bit to keep them out of the mud and fashionable boots were often a necessity.
The MC for the fashion show provided a great deal of information about the types of material, the intricacy of the trim on each of the skirts and did a nice job in her role as MC. I could try to describe her outfit but would likely get that all wrong so please just enjoy viewing her wonderful 2 piece ensemble of dress and matching jacket.
In the 1850’s, trim would be added by hand and therefore rather time consuming and labour intensive. Materials of high fashion would tend to be lighter cottons, linens and silks while the heavier fabrics and woolens would be more common for day-to-day wear with heavier fabrics being used in winter months and lighter fabrics used in warmer months. An apron would be a common feature for most times of the day.
A quick review: Let’s take a look. A petticoat or two, camisoles, corsets, bloomers, chemises, crinolines, open style metal hoop, sloping shoulders small waist, hour glass figure, light-weight pagoda sleeves, and above all of that a dress and an apron over a pair of fashionable boots.
I probably got something wrong in the above list of the “many layers of a 19th century woman” but the next one is a lot easier. It’s a wrap!
As soon as the fashion show was over, another section of the pavilion got rather busy. Not sure where the ladies went, but unlike the fashion show, the armaments display was predominately a male thing :-).
While some of the men were at the gun section, others may have been at the sutler’s tents looking at a new uniform for themselves or a new dress for their belle.
Every battle has those who become casualties – some die, some are injured. At today’s reenactment, the E company’s surgeon was ready for all problems that were treatable!
What you might ask do all of these reenactors do when not reliving the Civil War. I don’t know but they didn’t all come in horse drawn carriages … :-).
If interested in 1860’s vintage construction and life, take a look at my recent post of the Upper Canada Village a bit upstream from Massena on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River.