Thursday, June 6, 2019

Heritage Village Civil War Weekend


A few weeks ago we attended Heritage Village Civil War weekend. This event is normally held in July but this year they held it in May. I took the kids out for the day on Saturday and I had the opportunity to wear my newly remade blue dress. It was a hot day and the kids were cranky and hungry and sweaty by the end of it, but I think they all had a great time. My oldest son was happy to hang around the blacksmith and was able to make a few little projects, my 10 year old was thrilled to have the chance to take his drum out on the field and the girls packed two baskets of dollies and toys to bring and set up their own little imaginary worlds on the reproduction quilt a dear friend made for Anne when she was a baby. Benjamin bought a wooden rifle and so was utterly content. Judah lazed about in the shade. 😁
Eating a non-period-correct bag of chips at lunch time. :D

Sweet Anne. Yes,  her glasses are definitely modern but this is a time where
modern need comes before period appearance. Eventually we will get period frames!

My little drummer boy!
It was hot. I had conflicting feelings about this event after it was over. I just. . .I don't know. I was surprised to see the numbers of spectators and reenactors drastically down. It seemed very quiet and empty compared to previous years. Nothing wrong with a smaller event at all, but this isn't normally a small event and it seems interest was really lacking this year. And that's how events die. I don't want this event to die. It's a wonderful, amazing historic site and hosts a lot of really cool events throughout the year. Civil War weekend is just one of them, but still, it was shocking to me to see the difference this year compared to when I have gone before.





I didn't like dressing. I don't like wearing these clothes like I used to. I don't like wearing a corset. I don't like feeling restricted in my movement. I don't like wearing shoes and long socks. I don't like doing my hair this way. I don't like how I feel about myself when I wear these clothes. I feel like how I look does not represent how I feel. This never used to be an issue with me. I used to love wearing corsets and all the petticoats and such. Hell, I even had a weird year a long time ago where I WORE A CORSET EVERY FREAKING DAY. Oh my gosh. I'm glad that is in the past. . .anyway. I just felt off. So, that affected my enjoyment of the event.




The past few years it's just been slow for me, in regards to the hobby. I don't know if this is because I am burnt out on living history or because I am changing. I've really questioned why I used to do this, why I continue to do this (although on a much smaller scale than previously) and why I may or may not want to continue doing this. I used to get so much satisfaction and joy from researching all the time, sewing lots of pretty clothes and dressing my kids in cute outfits. I liked camping and cooking over a fire. I liked the people I met and spending time with old and new friends (and I still do). And now, I just feel like it's overdone, blah, and not as enjoyable as it used to be. A little bit of eventing does it for me now. Back in the day I'd get post event blues and as soon as one event was over I'd be anxiously planning for the next. Now, I am relieved when an event is over and there aren't any more coming up for a long time. I look back and see myself 10 or 12 years ago and think. . .that was shallow. I was shallow. I wasted so much time, physical energy and mental energy on something that is a fricking hobby. I didn't develop my mind at all because I was too busy developing my impression.



What is wrong with me? Maybe nothing? My priories are different now. There is so much more to life than reenacting. I always knew that, of course. . .but now, all that time I used to spend getting ready for events I am spending living normal life and there just isn't time left over like there used to be. And if there is, I want to spend it in other ways. For that reason, I've made almost no new reenacting clothes for anyone for a long time and I haven't really researched much at all lately. Now, true, I have been really pursuing the history of the first wave of feminism in the US and am yes, actually excited about making a reform dress for myself sometime soon but that's it.

I  made this boy size RD2 type jacket for Malachi earlier
this year - February I think? - but never blogged about it.
It won't fit him much longer! He wears it often. I think he was the only child
in school this year to wear a Civil War jacket to graduation day. 😁

Malachi at 4th grade graduation a few weeks ago! Congratulations to him and all his
awesome classmates! They are a great group of energetic kids. 

Rosie playing her bird whistle, lil Anne and myself. And yes, I was totally over the event
by this point. :D
 Dang, I didn't mean for this post to be so depressing. 😂 I guess I've just really been thinking lately about which direction I want to take with my living history stuff. More and more I send the boys with their dad if they want to go to an event and I do something else. Or if I go out, I go only for a day and then spend the following weeks wondering why I didn't like it as much as I would have a few years ago. I wonder why I have had a dress length of pretty silk for a ball gown for the past few  years and have aboslutely zero desire to actually make it into a ball gown and if I actually did make the dress, have zero desire to go to a ball. Why it takes me weeks of mentally building up to making a simple garment (like a pair of drawers for one of the girls) before I actually take the plunge and cut and sew something that takes two hours, at most, to actually make. I don't have this problem with modern sewing, just historic stuff in general and 1860's in particular. 😞


Then I think, you know what, there is absolutely nothing wrong with how I feel about reenacting. I used to feel this way about church, and was able, over the course of some years, to identify and accept my preferences as authentic to myself, instead of feeling I needed to force myself to continue doing things and going places I really did not wish to do or be at. Reenacting is similar. I don't need to force myself to keep doing things and going places. There is nothing wrong with finding different ways to spend time, or different hobbies to find fulfillment in. Not reenacting as much as I used to doesn't make me a bad person. It doesn't make me less of a person. Sewing one new historic dress in a span of a year isn't less worthy than sewing a dozen ones during one season. Feeling unfulfilled in reenacting isn't a sign that something is wrong with me; it's a sign that I need to focus more on what does fulfill me.

I get a lot of people telling me "Oh, you need to start getting out to events more" or "I'd love to see you start sewing more historic stuff again" or "you used to make so much and I loved reading about your projects!" and I feel guilty I haven't done that and feel obligated to those people - to internet strangers! - to go to events and make historic projects, simply so I have something that is interesting, to those people, who are strangers, to post on my blog and other social media. Oh my gosh, how wrong is that mindset?! It's awful!
Of course, there are always arguments I can make in favor of continuing to reenact regulary: it's great for the kids, it presents history in a way that spectators can physically engage in and respond to, it honors our ancestors, it gives us opportunities to research cool things, it gives us the chance to develop cool skills, it is a great way to meet people with a similar passion for history, and, often, it can be quite fun!
I didn't mean to write such a lengthy post - I'm sorry! I guess I'm just thinking and typing my thoughts as they come instead of writing a more impersonal post. I try to avoid putting too much personal stuff in my posts but, well, this is what is affecting what this whole blog is about - historic sewing - so I felt I needed to at least explain my thoughts about that right now! 😁

May all blessings of late spring be abundant to you and those you love.

Much love,
Sarah

18 comments:

  1. It sounds like you need a break from the ACW stuff. I think of ACW reenactment as being similar to the SCA. What my husband and I do is more first person stuff, so there is the acting and improvisational aspect along with the dressing up. I don't feel as obligated to make new clothes as I do to do research, but that is me.

    As a creative person, I find that I focus intently on something then I put it aside for awhile. I painted for two years instead of sewing, now I am sewing again, and not painting. Lately, I've been thinking about gardening and doing some writing again.

    What I'm trying to say is that it seems normal to me that you want to do something else. Or at least that you want to pick and choose which events you attend.

    As for this particular event being less attended than in the past, it's probably due to the change of date. I've noticed that whenever an event changes it's date or the venue, attendance falls off at first.

    I enjoy reading your blog(s), I was charmed by your reference to "Little Women" the other day, Jo Marsh was my favorite as a child.

    However, as a creative person, I've found that I will focus on

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    1. Ahh yes that is true about the date change probably contributing to the lower numbers of people at the event. I hadn't thought about that! I'm sure that did affect the attendance!

      Research definitely appeals to me more, now, too than making new garments. I've been having a lot of fun researching reform dress as I have time and each new little nugget of information puts a bit of fuel on the dwindling fire :D. I do think the ACW community is a lot like the SCA, although I do think the SCA is more lenient and less judgy (at least my experience with it back in IL)

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  2. You do you <3 it's ok if you shift into a different focus, a different hobby. And it's ok if you shift back (or not) in a different season. I love looking at your historical sewing, but you are so much more than that as a person. Starting with mama to 6!

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  3. You are not the only one! My parents were reenactors when i was younger. As life happened outside of the reenacting, we had less time to attend events and eventually my parents left the hobby. I returned to reenacting almost four years ago as an adult, thinking it would be a great opportunity to share the information from my research. I love the research aspect and feel I would continue that even if i wasn't reenacting. I am struggling with it right now because burnout is a real thing. We don't have many "big" events here. They are mostly single day events that might have a half dozen of our club members show up and that is it. And because I hold a board position, I usually feel obligated to be there no matter what. This has certainly put me in a funk. As much as I adore the Civil War, I want to start researching and participating in other eras. I keep telling myself to do what makes you happy and keeps you feeling creative.

    Ms. B

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    1. Ugh, I think feeling obligated often really takes the joy out of doing something, most of the time! I guess there is a satisfaction out of doing a duty but yeah, I understand why that would definitely lead to a funk. I've been looking more into other eras too, but still haven't acted upon (most of) them.

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  4. There was an old Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic that I think would fit you. The author talk about how it takes 7 years to become an expert on anything and how theres a societal expectation that when youve become an expert you stay there. But you dont have to! You can start the process with a new interest! And that that will lead to a more fulfilling life by exploring as many interests as you can. Any hobby requires work. What makes it a hobby is that it doesnt FEEL like work. When it starts feeling like work its only an obligation.

    Have you tried regular camping? Optional living history? But that can involve cooking and telling stories around a fire, being with friends and family in nature, but no required activities.

    And early feminism is cool! My first non-inflammatory introduction to it was in the Louisa May Alcott book Eight Cousins and rational dress was one of the aspects of how the main character was raised.

    And as regards the corset, I went through a similar problem with finding clothing items i had loved being a burden in my mid to late 20s. Now in my early 30s Im reexploring what dressing up could look and feel like and most of it is 1910s or 1920s due to comfort and ease. I miss the self that thought hoops and stays were no problem, but I love the new me as well. Youll find your groove.

    One thing i do want to add is your comment about only developing your persona and not yourself. Be kind to your past self. It led you to become the woman you are today, and most of the world will be unkind for you. No learning is wasted, and your choices were made that were correct for the you-you-were.

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    1. Thank you so much for your positive words. Eight Cousins is a great book, and I am going to check it out again from my library to reread it (its probably been at least 20 years since I've read it!)

      And yes, regular camping is awesome! I enjoy the slow pace of it without the pressure to be dressed a certain way or putting on a show for the public. We are lucky to have some beautiful local state parks with great camping facilities around here.

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  5. https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/2012-09-02 The comic in question.

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  6. Random internet stranger here who has followed your blog for years after stumbling upon it doing research for my own civil war costume to be worn to gigs with Dance Discovery.

    I feel you on the burnout. Embrace it! I read an article a while back (can't find it for the life of me!) that suggests new experiences increase brain activity which makes us happier which is why traveling can be a good way to recharge. Basically, burnout is because those particular brain pathways are worn out so you don't get dopamine from them anymore.
    Time for something new!

    (I'm currently going through a church burnout myself. There are so many more uplifting things I can do on a Sunday morning.)

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    1. There are! Although I mainly spend my Sunday mornings at home while my kids go to whatever church they chose to, if they want. It's nice to have a little bit of peace and quiet and work a bit in the garden or just do some uplifting reading or meditation.

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  7. Do what gives you bliss. You owe internet strangers nothing. I admire your sewing talent, but I understand priorities change.

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  8. Don't feel bad about changing interests; it's perfectly normal. Keep reenacting if the kids enjoy it, but just keep it minimal and manageable. Personally I love reading about your modern sewing so I don't mind at all if you get away from historical sewing. Best wishes <3

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  9. You're not alone, and your feelings are valid. People can change. I stepped away from reenacting after 14 years, because I found that (where I live) it'd become too commercialized and focused on making pop culture references. I stepped away from costuming last year (six years later) because now the historical costuming realms have become all about name dropping. It's been a relief to sew for myself and not the faceless judgey interned hordes. I hope you find the same meditative peace, whatever you choose to do.

    And all that said, our old theater standby is Zenni Optical for round frames - they're not perfect, but they've got some very nicely inexpensive round frames.

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    1. Zenni is great! I buy almost all the kids glasses from them but hadn't thought to look there for passable period-ish frames. I will definitely check that out!

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  10. I've been reading your blog for a looooong time, and your life has changed a lot in that time. You haven't solicited Random Internet Stranger Life Observations here, but I'm going to lob some your way on the off chance that it brings you any degree of peace in your current frustration with this particular hobby.

    Honestly, I believe you have a lot of mental baggage surrounding reenacting the 1860s. I think that it became inextricably connected to your marriage, and the negativity surrounding that aspect of your life. You used the hobby as a form of escapism, and when you didn't need it for that purpose anymore, it simply became a burdensome and painful reminder of someone that you used to be.

    You aren't tied to reenacting, or the 1860s, or any other aspect of your past or present interests. Nothing about this blog, dressmaking, corsets, or the Civil War defines you in any way. Sometimes, we outgrow things that used to fit. That applies to clothes, people, and hobbies.

    This is my own ignorant opinion, of course, and I do apologize if it's expressed in a way that is too direct or rude. You've spoken from the heart in this post, and it's hard not to respond in kind! I hope that you find a good mental equilibrium about this, and that you continue to share your creativity here in whatever form it takes. I've always loved your historic sewing, but mostly, I just appreciate your voice as a writer, and the way that you express yourself.

    I hope things become clearer for you, whatever path you take!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I do think there is a lot of truth in what you shared. Yes, the hobby was certainly a form of escapism - its definitely not the only reason I reenacted but once I married it quickly became the main thing my husband and I could connect over; we honestly had little else in common. Although, thinking back to my teenage years, the hobby may have been a form of escapism as I was unhappy in my life and felt very restricted by the conservative community/church community I was living in and interacting with. This was a way to express myself outside of those boundaries.

      Now, of course, I don't need to use it for that. And it's mentally draining to try to plan for an event most of the time. Maybe that's a good thing. It means I am happy and well satisfied in my normal life and don't need to "escape" anything (although a break from the kids is nice once in a while! :D)

      I hope that as the years go by I stay involved in some way, but for reasons that are better than the ones I used to have.

      Thank you so much for your response!

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Thank you for your lovely thoughts!