Ever wondered what your great grandparents looked like on a day to day basis? What they threw on to go for a horse ride or how long they spent brushing their hat before going out?
You haven't? Oh. (Why'd you have to go and make this harder for me?)
Well, believe it or not, I have. History is another of my favorite things, and my family history has actually become a bit of a hobby for me. I love looking through old photo albums (yes, the ones that make you sneeze), reading through old diaries (100 years makes it public domain, right?) and searching through files for information about my great grandmother's second cousin on my grammy's side.
And, I've actually discovered quite a lot - with help from other cousins. Even a lot of crazy cousin connections to famous people in American history, including Calvin Coolidge, John Paul Jones, and um, one rather infamous person I'd rather not mention (take a guess in the comments!). (If you think such connections are far-fetched, just know that it helps that my Daddy's side of the family has been here since the 1600s. It also helps that they were Quakers, so we have tons of documented records...)
A really fun part that's come with taking up this 'hobby' is that people hear that you like family history, and lo! and behold: "Would you like to have these shoes from great-aunt Jo?" "Hey! I have a trunk full of old clothes - would you like to look through them?"
"My neighbor was trying to figure out what to do with a bunch of antique hats, so I got them for you!"
My favorite 'possession' (although I really just look at it as I'm just the keeper of all these things, not owner), came to me early this year. My aunt handed me a box at our Bible study one night. "Aunt Meredith sent this to me to give to you. She got it from cousin Nancy."
Inside was my great, great grandmother's wedding dress, dating from 1904! It's beautiful, and surprisingly not too delicate. I have practiced great self-denial for 9 months, waiting to put it on for a photoshoot until October 27, which would be my great, great grandparent's 119 wedding anniversary! (I have a picture from their wedding day that I want to replicate, and I'm gonna steal one of my brothers to play our great, great grandfather - but shh! he doesn't know it yet. :) )
I have a treasury of old clothes, and I thought it would be fun to bring them back to life for a day or two. Enter things ranging from one to three generations back! There were way too many for me to wear. Enter my siblings!
We had a lot of fun with the pictures, and though yes, we got hot, it was absolutely worth it!
We have here: our Grammy's baby dress, our Mama's lederhosen, our great-aunt Barbara's lederhosen, and Cecily is wearing Grammy's 8th grade graduation dress dating back to 1960. For Trysten and Tate, in lack of a full outfit for them, we got old hats and styled the outfits around them. Trysten has an old bowler hat from our friend, Coreen.
Here we have another old hat on Tate (and I thought it looked like Gilbert's from Anne of Green Gables, so hence the outfit). It dates back to the early 1900s!
The three big boys are all in Navy attire. Caleb and William have our Grandpa's lieutenant khakis and dress blues. Nathan is in our friend's grandfather's traditional sailor's trousers. Go Navy! Beat Army! *only 10 percent of my readers will get that, but oh well.
And here we have two 1940s outfits. Corrie is wearing our Great Grammy Marjory's jodhpurs, something she saved up her money and bought while she was working in DC so she could go on equestrian excursions around the city. (I have actually worn these for riding, and they are much more comfortable than jeans!) I am in our Grandmama Cathryn's wedding suit. It fit like a glove - as in, a glove I knew I could burst if I breathed to deep or ate too much! But I got used to it, and I know what to wear whenever I need to go on a diet! ;)
And to answer your unspoken question - NO! I am not embarrassed to wear costume or vintage out in public. I enjoy it! We dressed up over the course of two days, and the second day had a chiropractic appointment scheduled for the evening, which meant a trip to Costco as well. Nathan and Tate were still in their vintage clothes, so I slipped into the jodhpurs Corrie had worn the day before to join them and boost their morale. It was fun. :)
Finally, one last thought. Perhaps you're one of the many people who have a hard time being interested in the lists of names and dates that make up history. Well, I think the biggest thing to remember is that all those names are real people, with real, everyday lives like we have.
We have a lot of pictures of the people who originally wore the clothes that we're modeling above, a lot of pictures of seemingly stiff, serious and somber folks. I like to look at those pictures and envision what was going on around them, before during and after the picture.
"We have to sit still how long??" "Charles, stop making that face at me - I'll laugh in the middle of the picture!" "I know Mr. Photographer just got us arranged, but I hear the chickens squawking, can I go check on them?"
"Dad looks so scary when he's not smiling!"
"He better hurry up, Grandmother's falling asleep, and how would that look in the daguerreotype?"
"I bet you can't hold your breath for the whole picture!"
"Mother, can I borrow your amethyst pin?" "Ow! my leg fell asleep!"
And think of how many goofy pictures we would have if photography was a quick and easy thing? There were silly siblings in the 1800s just like my own today, and I imagine there was goofiness galore that never was caught on camera.
So next time you're looking at those black and white photos in that old album, do yourself and them a favor and picture them laughing with relief when the photograph was over.
And since we have the blessing of quick cameras, enjoy the fun photos below that we were able to record - the real time fun of dressing up old time!