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Women’s Clothing at Colonial Michilimackinac

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Getting ready for the day in the 18th Century was a bit different from what we are used to today. Historic Interpreter LeeAnn shows us the stepsby-step of getting dressed for a lady at Colonial Michilimackinac in the 1770s.

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    1. val Fletcher

      @AND ANDREY ISN’T HERE Thank you. That was bugging me! I try not to be petty but DANG people need to read or something! Today I saw Illinois spelled :Illinoise”….and just had to SMH.

  1. B B

    I work as an interpretor in the same time period as she does (in canada though) and I can vouch for the fact that your body adjusts itself much better temperature wise than you would think. The clothes are uncomfortable for the first few days but that’s it! After a while you actually start feeling uncomfortable not having a stay (or corset) on during the work day.. And sometimes we actually start feeling cold after we change out into modern clothing at the end of the day because of being so used to our interpretor uniforms

    1. Rcamels30

      Cooper Vint the same thing! Most women in the 18th century did not “tight lace,” meaning they did not try to make their waists extremely tiny, as is so often portrayed. Some women did, of course, however that was usually limited to a small portion of the aristocracy. The average working woman would have worn the stays as shown in this video, which aren’t uncomfortable! Their main purpose, as I stated, was NOT to decrease the waist, but rather to support the bust and provide structure for the exterior garments. In essence, it is and 18th century bra!

    1. shockvaluecola

      buttons are in evidence from at least the mid-middle ages! but the problem is your clothes needed to cope with pregnancy and the return of your figure without you needing new clothes — you could only afford one or two sets to begin with unless you were very wealthy. so buttons aren’t really good for that the way pins are.

    2. Alexis T

      I know too, a lot of womens clothes we ment to be worn during pregnancy too, and are unable to keep buying new clothes. So when it is pinned, you have the ability to grow without needing a new jacket.

    3. E Davis

      Just adding my two cents as someone who sews: making buttonholes without a sewing machine is time consuming & hard! I don’t blame them for just pinning to tying their clothes shut instead 🙂

    4. Daniel Valencia

      In the Middle Ages you had what was called “the sumptuary laws” which defined who can wear what depending on your status and wealth. It was during this time that garments became more fitting to the body with the invention of the button/ buttonhole. Back then only royalty and nobility could use buttons and button holes and actually the number of buttons were a distinguished mark of your status well up to the early 18th century. However It was only in the middle ages and up to the renaissance that it was actually really enforced by law. Things started to shift and by the 18th century everyone had the same cut essentially, the only thing that would differentiate class would be the materials used in clothing as well as the embellishments. But Even a working class man/ woman could have a huge amount of buttons and button holes on their garments without repercussions. It did of course take more money and time. With women’s clothing however even the Queen of France would pin close her bodice’s to her stays for practicality, the stomacher would be pined as well sometimes. This was done as to not include buttons that disrupt the overall design of the gown. So pins weren’t just used by one class. It depends on the garment. Like Redingotes were fastened with buttons at the front while a robe a la francaise might be pined close. Remember that even monarchs wore the same cut of chemise or undershirt as peasants. Theirs was cleaned with blueing dye to keep it white and was probably very well sewn with the best fabrics and lots of ruffles….more than the common man could afford.

    1. Mackinac State Historic Parks

      : Since the sleeves on this style of jacket are well-fitted, I use the string to keep my shift sleeve from getting bunched up. It works like a dream. I loop the string through my shift sleeve, hold the string in my hand and then put on the jacket. No bunches. Pro tip.

  2. Allegory of Wolves

    I’ve been a reenactor here in Germany myself, for the medieval time periods, though. Loads of fun! 🙂
    I also love to sew and make old costumes. I’ve been looking at especially 17th century clothing lately, thinking about attempting to make such a costume. However, I’ve noticed how lots of pieces of the garments in 17th and 18th century clothing are pinned together with straight pins, as you have done here for your working dress.
    Perhaps I’ll rather opt to use hooks instead (no matter if that’s historically accurate or not), because I’m worried about pricking myself with the pins if they slip halfway out of the fabric. Now, does that happen? Do the pins ever come loose, or do you sometimes lose them entirely, when moving about in these clothes a lot?
    In 17th century clothing, I’ve also seen the pins being pinned directly into the stays, to keep the gown, which is worn over them, in place. While stays are somewhat stiff, you can still bend in them a bit, and I’d imagine the pins would not stay in place properly then. What’s your experience with this?

    1. shockvaluecola

      it helped when you were used to pinning your clothing. as a comparison, zippers can get stuck, and if they’re on a jacket you have to feed them in and line them up properly — a woman from the 18th century would probably struggle with zippered clothing, but we can handle them because we’ve been doing them from the age of 3 or 4. likewise, women were wearing long skirts and pinned jackets from the age of 3 or 4, so they were good at placement and didn’t need to lift skirts to walk most of the time. it would be very uncommon to prick yourself with jacket pins, since you tucked the point in toward the stays, which were too thick to be jabbed through.

    2. Allegory of Wolves

      Interesting! Thank you for the reply! 🙂 So it does actually happen, that the pins sometimes move, bend, fall out or prick you. I was really wondering, because I can’t imagine them all staying in place, when someone, for exapmle, has to work really hard in their clothes, no matter how careful the pins might be placed (though I’m sure that helps). Now I imagine all the maids or farmers wives of old yelling: “Darn, it happened again!” throughout the day. XD

    3. SKat Foster

      I volunteer in clothing like this. I sometimes pin my shortgown or jacket closed and often wear an apron with a bib that is pinned to my clothing. I have occasionally lost or bent pins. I’ve only rarely jabbed myself when one moved out of place. You learn to place the pins carefully.

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