Living History

In Character Part VI: Shoes and Accessories

Any costumer will tell you that the devil–or your character–can be found in the details. Especially when playing the role of a more upper class character (like Lucy) the right accessories can make all the difference.

Lucy’s accessories are still a work in progress. There are many pieces I’m still tweaking, but here are the ones I’m working with right now:

I spent most of last summer trying to find a reasonably priced pair of leather boots with a low heel for this costume. I found tons that were fake leather (not great for summer or hard wear), several with heels (inappropriate for the time period), and almost all of them had zippers running up the inside or the back.

Finally, the combination of needing either a wide width or a half size, combined with price, fit, color, and style meant that I had to sacrifice on something. The Steve Madden TROOPA boots I settled on were the best compromise I could find.

Pros: usually comfortable for all day wear, black, minimal heel, leather, overall style works for the period. They’re mid-calf, which is what I wanted, and have laces. Transitions well from my every day look to my costume. Easy to get in and out of.

Cons: the black dye faded to a greenish color almost immediately. The soles are almost completely smooth, and thus don’t provide a lot of traction when we have mud, snow, or ice in the village. The construction can be questionable according to some of the reviews, but I seem to have a good pair. These have been worn pretty hard over the last year and have held up pretty well. They won’t be able to be resoled. Not available in half sizes, but the 9 wide is just right to wear with any kind of sock (including hand knits), though the calf can get a little tight (but that can be adjusted with the laces). they do have a zipper, and it’s a contrasting color, which I’m not crazy about. However, it’s usually hidden under my skirt.

photo 2Baskets are a must for the ladies of the village. Mine is a thirty-year-old Lonaberger that somehow migrated into my possession from my mom’s basket collection. My favorite part is that it has a clear plastic liner, which has come in handy on more than one occasion.

And what does a lady of 1865 keep in her basket?

Well, pretty much everything. I’ve got a mason jar that acts like a water bottle. I like to bring iced tea or lemonade or sometimes just ice water, and this is a handy way of not spilling it. In the fall/winter, I also carry a little tin with tea bags inside for something warmer.

I work mostly on weekends, when traffic in the village is lighter, so I’ve usually got one or two things to do tucked in there, too. Last summer, I worked on a novel, writing out my manuscript with a dip pen. I hope to finish it this summer, since it was inspired by the village.

Sometimes though, I feel more like reading a book than writing one, and I’m always on the hunt for old books that look period. So far, I haven’t found any copies of anything that was available in 1865 that doesn’t have a modern binding. The current book on rotation is Madame Sans-Gene by E. Lepelletier. This is a novel based on a play from the 1890s; my copy is undated but aesthetically it least it blends in. I’d love to find a copy of Jane Eyre or Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or, for next year, Little Women.

Of course, knitting is necessary. My village project is almost always socks, knit top down on 5 double pointed needles.

Other items I carry: a crocheted reticule, which serves to hide anything modern I might need (like chapstick or my glasses, or my money/ID); a handkerchief (usually embroidered); my pill box (allergies suck); tea tin; watch.

The watch is another thing that isn’t quite period (I believe this example is probably from the 1960s), but the ornate casing makes it look older. The good thing about it is that it winds up. After I had two battery-operated watches croak on me in the space of a year, I decided not to use them any more. I’m still looking for a pocket watch or pendant watch that is appropriate for a lady of the period to carry, but haven’t found anything in my price range yet.

My last two accessories are my earrings and hat. The earrings are just a cheap pair that look old.

The hat came from a 2nd hand store. I replaced the ribbon and added the little metal flower, so this hat goes from reenactment to steampunk with just a change of hat pin. The one I use for the village is a reproduction of a typical hat period of the time.

On the same trip that I acquired the hat, I also found a pair of gloves that are suitable, though these will probably stay with my fall/winter costume. There’s a pair of black mesh ones that I typically use in the summer in the village wardrobe, which are much cooler.

Things I like:

1. My hat. There is a reason I wore it with every outfit at symposium. I learned last year just how important a good hat is for working outside in the village!

2. I think the mason jar was a stroke of genius. It was inspired by a bout of bronchitis that necessitated drinking about 20 cups of tea with honey a day if I wanted to speak without coughing. Total lifesaver.

Things I want to change:

1. I love my boots and am not planning on getting rid of them, but I would like to find a pair that don’t have zippers, but do have better soles.

2. I’d like to get my own mesh/lace gloves for summer. I hate borrowing stuff from wardrobe.

3. I need to make a cozy or something for the mason jar, so that it doesn’t get condensation all over my things.