Tea With Sarah: Historical Dresses, Living History, & Photography

Good afternoon, it’s time for tea!

This weekend I’m at a Civil War Re-enactment in Moorpark, California, so I thought it would be a great time to answer a couple of those fun and often asked questions that I hear during living history presentations.

If you were able to join us “live” at the McGuire Home in Civilian Town, you’d likely find the weather a bit chilly today, but plenty of hot tea and ginger cookies!

And – by the way – Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m actually wearing a green dress today, but it was blue dress when we did a tea photo shoot a couple events ago… (And in honor of the occasion, Irish harp music CDs are on sale in our store.)

How Many Layers Of Historical Clothes Are You Wearing?

Short answer: 5

Long answer: Underpinnings, Corset, Petticoats, Hoop, Outer Dress/Gown (Stockings and ladies’ boots, but I don’t think those count for clothing layers.)

And today a shawl and cape since it’s “California cold.”

The follow-up question is typically “aren’t you hot in all those layers?” In the summer, the answer is “yes, but the underclothes are all cotton so that helps.” Today the answer is “I’m cold, so I’m happy to wearing lots of layers.”

Another follow-up question is: “Did you make your own Civil War clothes?” Answer: “Yes, all the underpinnings, corset, and petticoats. The outer garments I’m wearing now were purchased from a shop in Gettysburg, but I have a new dress on the cutting table at home!”

How long have you been doing Civil War living history?

This is my sixth year. My mom and I started going to events together and four years ago we started our own living history group: McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia to help share the history of the Shenandoah Valley, homefront, and medical history.

And we just updated our web-pages for living history. Be sure to check it out!

At the last few events, my youngest brother has tagged along, usually working with cavalrymen at the events. This weekend he is hoping to put his horsemanship skills to the test and ride as a Union cavalryman – weather and muddy-field conditions permitting! The McGuires fully expect their pantry (read: cookie jar) to be raided by this young rider and his blue-clad comrades! Watched our social media pages for photos…

Have you done living history? Or attended events as a spectator?

So, Are You A Photographer?

If you’ve followed Gazette665 on Facebook for a while, you’ve probably noticed albums of photos from living history events. No, I’m not a professional photographer. Amateur at best.

However, I love my camera and it helps me see living history events and historical perspective differently. I prefer to take photos of individuals – military or civilian – when they are busy with a historical activity or “fighting.” (Don’t worry – all re-enactors at these events sign photo release forms.) That’s when folks have a most natural expression.

Also, I like to take photos of stuff. Like lanterns, water buckets, saddle pads, sewing baskets, etc. etc.

Why these photos? It’s hard to explain. I just like details and watching human expressions. I guess it’s a “writer thing.” And I’ve had some story ideas from watching a “skirmish” through my camera lens.

Take a peek at some photos from previous events (click on images to view larger) and I’ll share some shots from this weekend in the coming week on Facebook.

Are YOU a photographer?

And that’s all for this weekend… Thanks for coming for tea! Be sure to come again on March 31 and don’t forget to add your comments (and new questions) below. Hey, it’s Women’s History Month – that might make some interesting questions?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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