I’ve had a busy few weeks away from my computer! My daughter and I enjoyed a girls only trip to Disney World. My Nikon camera has needed some TLC for a while so I rented a Sony a7iii for the trip which convinced me to make the jump to mirrorless and buy it outright at the end of our vacation. That means I had a good, working camera to take a few quick snaps at an historical event the week we got home.
Locust Grove hosted author and actress, Sarah Vowell for a discussion on her book Lafayette and the Somewhat United States along with a dinner to commemorate Lafayette’s 1825 visit to Louisville as part of his national tour. Unfortunately, I was too busy in the historic home to see Sarah Vowell, but I heard much laughter drifting over from her talk, had a lovely view of the outdoor candlelit dinner, and I always love a chance to hang out with some of my favorite costumed interpreters. As I said earlier, it also gave me a chance to try out my new camera in the often tricky light of the often dark historic home.
We seem to average at least one event a year where the interpreters have a chance to step out of our normal timeframe of 1816. It’s often a fun opportunity to step into a new role or new clothes from time to time and it can also help everything stay fresh and enjoyable for everyone. It’s also one of the very rare times when the normally strict costuming guidelines might be relaxed a little.
Interpreters playing primary roles at these “out of time” events usually make, purchase, or borrow a new outfit that would fall in line with the normal costume standards of the program, only for the new year being portrayed. If the special event only requires a very small number of interpreters or if the year is drastically out of our norm, then the program may revolve around a reduced cast dressed appropriately for the new time period.
However, there are times when a larger cast is needed to make the event a success and this is when the guidelines may be a little softer than usual. For the most part, the costumed interpreter program at Locust Grove is a volunteer effort. Not only do interpreters volunteer their time for meetings, rehearsals, and events, in most cases, they also provide their own historically accurate clothing. Some sew their own outfits and others pay to have clothes made according the costuming standards of the program. For some, it can be a fun chance to make something new while other cast members may not want to pay for materials or labor to have an outfit made that they may only wear once, which is understandable.
In cases where the one time event is somewhat close to 1816 and it also requires a larger cast, we relax the standards in an effort to keep it affordable for our volunteer interpreters. What usually happens is the most important roles are costumed to the new time period as much as possible. Supporting cast members wear their approved 1816 clothing modified as much as they can be with the understanding that it’s not going to be perfect. So for a woman going from 1816 to 1825, she might add an extra petticoat and lower the sash on her gown. It’s not going to produce an accurate 1825 look, but it is usually enough to blend in while most eyes are on the appropriately dressed members of the cast who may be in the spotlight more than everyone else.
In a perfect world, we would have the funding to dress everyone down to historically accurate buttons at every event as our interpreters work quite hard to be as accurate as possible. However, this compromise does work on the rare occasions we need it to.
Feel free to follow The Past in Focus on Facebook for updates or my Instagram for my portrait work along with some of the photos from my recent Disney trip and additional images of Hannah and Brandon that I will be sharing over the next few weeks!