Stumbling into History

I spent my entire life hating history. Science was always my passion – it was my favorite subject in school, it was my major in college, and it paved the way for my careers. History, on the other hand, was boring. It seemed like a blur of names, dates, and places that I could never keep straight. The only time it made sense was when it was woven into a work of fiction – TV shows, novels, etc. As a kid, I’d play Little House on the Prairie with my siblings (I was usually Mary). But that was the extent of my historical pursuits…until many years later when we bought a 100-year-old house.

As we settled into our new old home, I couldn’t help thinking about all the families that lived there before us. What was life like for them? How did they survive summer without air conditioning? What meals did they cook in the kitchen? Did their kids slide down the banister like mine? What type of clothes did the original homeowners wear? That’s when I started searching Pinterest for late Edwardian fashion and before I knew it, I found myself falling down a new rabbit hole.

I don’t know what you heard, but whatever it is, [Hamilton] started it!

Once I heard Hamilton: An American Musical, I was hooked. Like many “Hamilfans,” I first memorized all the lyrics, then began delving deeper to learn more about the actual people and the lives they lived. Library visits turned up not just biographies, but also books about life in colonial America. I couldn’t get enough! The more I learned about the tiny details of the people and their daily lives, the more I retained and the more I wanted to know.

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One of many Hamilton-inspired library hauls

Fast-forward a couple years. My kids are also fully into Hamilton and we’re planning a family vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. As we researched our destination, I found photos of people wearing costumes while visiting there. Then I discovered that you can rent costumes at Williamsburg – what fun! But the rental costumes looked rather disappointing. Knowing I could sew them myself, I began researching historical costuming. And researching and researching…

Next thing I know, it’s 3 weeks until our departure and I’m surrounded by a stack of historically accurate clothing patterns and bolts of linen and cotton fabrics. I spent every spare moment (and then some) furiously trying to sew complete 18th century costumes for my entire family. In the end, some outfits were unfinished, others didn’t fit right, but the completed outfits turned out way better than the rental costumes (if I do say so myself!), the kids were happy, and I found myself smitten with a new love.

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The start of my costuming endeavors. Aren’t they cute?

A few months later, I visited a local historic site and discovered that one of my friends volunteered there. She encouraged me – and my kids – to wear our costumes to their next event. She also commissioned me to sew some garments for her family. That little encounter is where some simple family fun (Hamilton sing-alongs and vacation cosplay) shifted into something that could educate and inspire our community…and more.

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Our first event in full costume

I never intended to go down this path. Like I said, I’m a scientist through and through. But one thing led to another and here I am – loving the little details of history and excited to share what I’m learning!

 

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