I may be forging a career in literary studies, but my second calling has always been historic fashion and period costume reproduction. As a special treat to coordinate with the additional re-enactors in town for Under the Redcoat, the CW Costume Design Center put together several one-off programs. The first was a one-on-one costume clinic at the CDC, to which I ambitiously carried a basket-full of in-progress garments. Of course, we only found the time to chat about one (a blue flowered quarter-back gown copied from Janet Arnold), but the time spent was tremendously helpful, and I’m so grateful CW thought to offer such a unique opportunity.
The second CDC program we attended was an afternoon lecture by Brenda Rosseau (CDC director) and Tom Hammond (supervisor of research and design), which addressed the CDC’s approach to reproducing extant garments and how these reproductions are used to complement historic area programming and other CW initiatives. Highlights discussed in detail included a gorgeous embroidered yellow “court suit” (the production process was unbelievably complicated, as you can imagine!)
and the reproduction of a Chinese painted silk from a gown in the CW collection. The latter was made for artist-in-residence Mamie Gummer’s visit in May, and Brenda described the years of laborious attempts to replicate successfully the original stunning painted design. Their solution – a most unconventionally modern one in the costuming world! – worked incredibly well, and from even a foot away, you could not tell the difference between that and a truly painted textile!