Costume at ILHF/TORM

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harmanhay2
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Costume at ILHF/TORM

Postby harmanhay2 » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:26 am

I've been granted a last minute chance to exhibit at ILHF in October for the first time. Earlier this year I was at the ILHF and at TORM as a first-time visitor, and looking around I had a lot of questions.

Costume making is not exactly a unique skill, so help me to offer something that is useful and interesting to visitors in October. I'd appreciate anything you have to say on any of the following subjects!

    - I think I saw a lot of men at the two fairs, but most of the other costumers seemed to have all women's clothes with the odd token jacket here and there. Is there a shortage of provision of men's costume, or are they getting it from other sources?

    - Popular periods: Is costume interest sharply concentrated in certain areas of history, or is it broader? What periods should I be careful not to neglect - and are some a turn-off (Edwardian, for example)?

    - Class: my uneducated impression is that there are a lot more lower/middle class characters in living history, but I saw multiple offerings of fancy, colourful upper class clothing. Is everyone making their own lower class stuff and buying the upper class stuff? Are the silks needed - is there too much of this? Do we need more good quality lower/middle class stuff?

    - Many make their own clothing, but are there *individual garments* that many prefer to invest in? What are they? Do people prefer to buy the boring stuff (eg underwear, smocks) or the hard stuff (eg corsetry, tailoring), or something else?

    - Which re-enactors are likely to spend the most money/effort on clothing?

    - What do you think about the quality of the clothing currently on offer?

    - Is there general satisfaction with the costume offerings, or is something missing? Is there something that people have trouble finding, some garment/period that everyone's afraid to try? Is there a surplus of something that no-one really needs?


Thank you very much for your help!


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Bespoke costume: http://www.harmanhay.co.uk

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Postby sally » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:40 am

My general feeling is that a lot of costumers showcase their 'shiniest' pieces at the fairs, using them as much as set dressing as anything else. However, most of the costumers that I know will make male, female, rich, poor and middling, according to the specific commission between themselves and their customer.

Regarding off the peg items though, I personally really like to see excellently made thoroughly researched garments in accurate lower class colours available to new re-enactors at events, I know a lot of newbies go to the fairs with a mentor all eager to complete their first outfits, and its very easy for them to be tempted by that pillar box red doublet or a fetching but implausibly turquoise kirtle. I think there is always room for more starter kit supported by a file of the source material that can be used to really inform the buyers choice.

Thats not to say that any status or period should not be well represented, the best fairs are the ones where a re-enactor from any period can be sure to find something of interest, plus of course, re-enactors arent the only customers, you will get larpers, museum people, visiting locals and theatre/film wardrobe and prop people all shopping at them, so there isnt any reason to leave out an aspect of your existing portfolio of work :D



harmanhay2
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Postby harmanhay2 » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:59 am

Thank you for your reply Sally, very useful - one further question then.

I'm in the bespoke bring-your-shiny-stuff-and-take-orders category. So my issue is to differentiate myself and my work from the other shinies.

What makes a good stall for the bespoke clothier? Is it pretty much about bringing random, colourful shiny things to impress, even if they're of unlikely periods - are people confident in asking for what they want if they don't see it - or is there something more we could be doing with these kinds of stands?


Lovely wool stockings by the way, you sent me a fantastic pair a few months ago, I was very impressed!

Cathy


Costume making tutorials: http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com

Bespoke costume: http://www.harmanhay.co.uk

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sally
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Postby sally » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:11 am

I would say, if you do multiple period work, make it clear in your display what eras you cover. Some buyers will walk round and only come for a chat if they think you do the periods they are interested in, and might not realise that you do other thngs than on display, so have some diversity.

Glad the socks went down well :D



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Jackie Phillips
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Postby Jackie Phillips » Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:07 pm

harmanhay2 wrote:but most of the other costumers seemed to have all women's clothes with the odd token jacket here and there. Is there a shortage of provision of men's costume, or are they getting it from other sources?


I'm not sure quite who you are meaning - I trade at both fayres as a costumer and know the other costumers reasonably well and can think of no one who only has one gender or the other available.

However, I'm not putting you off concentrating on men's clothing if you think that is the way to go.

It seems to me that costumers at the ILHF either cover multi-period or one specific period (myself, Shadowlight and Jaki Lake all do medieval for example). There's now a Victorian specialist listed, and Farthingales do a lot of Regency and either side, but that still gives a huge range not covered specifically.

We don't seem to get a lot of Civil War era re-enactors visiting, they are well catered for at TORM, but possibly they don't visit because no one specialises in their period, in fact uniforms in general are not well covered.

I would suggest that you do what you like to make, try to cover a range and bring lots of pictures of stuff you've made before. I found that if I didn't have what I was asked for at one fair, I made sure I had it at the next - always a learning curve and all that.

I am right in thinking you're the lady from Your Wardrobe Unlocked aren't I?

Jackie


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Postby Tuppence » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:59 pm

If you're looking for an area that isn't catered for, then you're likely to be unlucky, because there really isn't one.


It's a fatal mistake to assume that something isn't available because it isn't on display.


If only because there are annoying types like me around who cover every date imaginable (too easily bored :lol: ).


Likewise, don't assume that because the dressier stuff is displayed, that the lower level stuff isn't available.
Incidentally, that's not true at least as far as torm goes that lower level stuff isn't displayed - there's always something lower class on my stall, although the periods vary, ususally depending on what I have about at the time.
In fact, I can think of at least three other prominent traders who do so too, so I'm not sure how you missed them.


I'm also confused by your comments regarding men's clothing vs women's clothing - at least regarding torm (have only been to nlhf once, years ago, and as a punter).
Again, using my own stall as an example, I often have more male clothing than female on display, although it's been more balanced the last few times. And again, it's not remotely just me that does that. I can't think of any costumers who don't do a fairly even mix of men's and women's clothing.


As far as which re-enactors spend most money, you can't split that by time period at all. They are out there, and they usually shop by reputation and recommendation.


Many groups (if not most) will take newer members around tha markets, and again, it tends to be done by recommendation and past experience.


Which is not to say that it's not do-able, but it does take several years to establish a presence.


There is no period that everyone's afraid to try, although some people do specialise. As I already said, there are people like me who do every period already.


People who make their own stuff tend to make their own stuff full stop. They either do so because they enjoy it, including the challenge, or because cash is an issue.


The ACW people tend not to do markets, because they either buy from the states, or at their own shows. And uniforms in general are very well covered at torm (at least three makers that jump to mind - not including ecw, and apologies if I've forgotten any).


And obviously, there are a lot of re-enactors who still don't go to either market.



Best way to sell to re-enactors, and to know what re-enactors want = be a re-enactor.


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harmanhay2
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Postby harmanhay2 » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:59 am

Thank you very much, both Deborah and Jackie! This is exactly what I needed to know.

"Am I nuts or was there no men's costume?"
"Yes, you're nuts, there was plenty." :lol:

Thank you!! It was quite a while ago now. I only went to each market once, and it's all pretty overwhelming the first time, so I needed the eyes of regular visitors!

What you said makes a lot more sense.

Yes, that's right Jackie, I'm from Your Wardrobe Unlock'd. We've got about a 65% American membership, and my contact with re-enactment and costuming has been almost exclusively with Americans (I travel a lot), so paradoxically I find I know relatively little about the market right here around me. Interesting to try to define differences, although I don't know either broadly enough to draw any definitive conclusions.

Best wishes, and I look forward to meeting you both (again?)

Cathy


Costume making tutorials: http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com

Bespoke costume: http://www.harmanhay.co.uk

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Postby GOK » Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:15 am

Cathy, it's lovely to see you here! If you're going to be at ILHF, then I look forward to going even more if it gives me the chance to finally meet you in the flesh (I promise not to drool over your creations!)!

Personally, I prefer the ILHF, simply because I find more of interest to me there (as a living historian as opposed to a re-enactor), but Jackie is right, there doesn't seem to be much clothing there for ECW.

Lower status stuff is what really floats my boat! I think you can hide a lot behind shinies (not that you would!), but it's the plainer clothing which, IMO, really shows whether something is well-made and in period-correct fabrics and colours (or as close as it's possible to get these days). Possibly this is one reason a lot of people (including myself) make their own because to buy it would be so expensive, due to the handsewing and fitting involved.

In your shoes, I'd have a range of classes/eras catered for: perhaps high and low status examples of chemise/shirt, doublet, breeches/hose, gown/petticote/bodice, stays, undies, coifs etc. And since most periods are covered to a greater or lesser degree, I'd go with what I really love to make but have a photographic portfolio available for people to browse through (I'm guessing you will anyway).

Good luck - I look forward to seeing what you come up with!



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Postby Tuppence » Tue Aug 25, 2009 12:11 pm

My knowledge of US re-enactment is limited to customers and the odd friend, (and lots of people I've 'met' on the net) but based on my own experience there doesn't seem to be any middle ground - it's either a bit pants, with a lot of wang, or absolutely excellent, and would put many people here to shame.

There's a lot more middling stuff here (though of course, we still have the excellent and the wang :lol: ).

And you're right - the first time I went to the market I was in complete shell shock (and bearing in mind I'd only been re-enacting for about 6 months...). Fortunately I then had a more general introduction working for somebody else.

The reason I only do one market is simple - to do both and maintain the same standards would kill me! I already did torm, so decision was easy really.


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Jackie Phillips
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Postby Jackie Phillips » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:03 pm

harmanhay2 wrote: I find I know relatively little about the market right here around me.


Then you've got a big, but probably great fun learning curve in front of you.

harmanhay2 wrote:and I look forward to meeting you both (again?)


Likewise.

Jackie


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Jackie Phillips
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Postby Jackie Phillips » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:07 pm

GOK wrote:Lower status stuff is what really floats my boat!


I'm starting to get really quite excited about the availability of good fabrics. I've got a small amount of Stuart Peachey's undyed handwoven wool that will be handmade into a doublet by the ILHF. Similarly Bernie is now stocking a range of dyed in the yarn wools that are going to make a beautifully lower status range of medieval clothes.

Jackie


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Postby GOK » Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:03 am

Jackie Phillips wrote:
I'm starting to get really quite excited about the availability of good fabrics. I've got a small amount of Stuart Peachey's undyed handwoven wool that will be handmade into a doublet by the ILHF. Similarly Bernie is now stocking a range of dyed in the yarn wools that are going to make a beautifully lower status range of medieval clothes.

Jackie


I've just ordered some new samples from Bernie - can't wait for them to arrive. I'm planning to get some of Stuart's cloth too (for me!) but at the moment, I'm doing so much work in our 17th century garden, plus working on client orders that I don't actually have time to make myself more kit anyway! Story of my life! :roll:



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Postby Tuppence » Wed Aug 26, 2009 10:59 am

But good fabric isn't a new thing.

There have been companies around for well over a decade that will weave to archaeological specs.


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Postby GOK » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:25 am

Tuppence wrote:But good fabric isn't a new thing.


I know - I've been making historical clothing for over 30 years! It's really cool however, that there seem to be more and more 'authentic' fabrics coming onto the market of late.

There have been companies around for well over a decade that will weave to archaeological specs.


Longer than that, but they've always been relatively expensive. My clients may be very discerning but even they don't always want to fork out several hundred pounds for a doublet (for example)!



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Postby Shadowcat » Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:06 pm

I've been working with costume since 1967, and "good" fabrics have always been available, but at a price. Even now fabric can still cost a fortune. A recent customer was prepared to pay £250.00 (yes, that's two hundred and fifty pounds) per metre for a waistcoat fabric. He got it cheaper, but I am terrified of cutting it!!

S.



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Postby harmanhay2 » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:51 pm

Shadowcat - you may know this one already, but "myladyswardrobe" told me a trick for dealing with cutting OMGexpensive fabrics - start by making a tiny snip or two in the selvedge. Then you've officially made the first cut, and the rest gets a bit easier to face!!

Looking forward to meeting you Gok! I do have a little lower class stuff to show off, I can borrow some off a former client... only problem is, they decided they couldn't afford handsewn eyelets, so it's Tudor clothing with dull metal eyelets. Hey ho... I should make something else, quick, that does have them, just to prove I can do it!


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Postby Dathi » Wed Aug 26, 2009 4:12 pm

Tuppence wrote:But good fabric isn't a new thing.

There have been companies around for well over a decade that will weave to archaeological specs.


Links? Pretty please..:-) BTW I'll try and remember to email you before the end of another year!



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Jackie Phillips
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Postby Jackie Phillips » Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:55 pm

Perhaps I should have said affordability rather than availability. At (I think) £15 a metre for Bernie's new stuff, it's in the price range of a lot more people.

Jackie


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Postby harmanhay2 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:04 am

Bernie?


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Postby The Iron Dwarf » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:37 am

bernie the bolt, one of the regular traders at lots of events


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Postby harmanhay2 » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:48 am

Thank you!


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Bespoke costume: http://www.harmanhay.co.uk

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Postby Shadowcat » Thu Aug 27, 2009 9:09 am

The Iron Dwarf wrote:bernie the bolt, one of the regular traders at lots of events


Cathy

You really should use my Links page more often - details are there!!

S.

http://www.suziclarke.co.uk/links.php



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Postby Elenna DeVargr » Fri Sep 04, 2009 4:38 pm

Sadly I've only been to three reenactment markets and saw lots of pretty clothes but not much in lower class garments but at the time I had little chance to stop and chat to anyone. I've been making historical clothing for nearly fourteen years, started out clothing myself and my children in saxon kit (Regia Anglorum). Then jumped to the 15th century finding my niche as a 'seasoned' seamstress ( I was called by Rosa Mundi). Now I make clothing on a larger scale, yet most if not all is low to middling class and military i.e. arming doublets, padded jacks and arming hose. I have had a few requests for 'posh' kit but I find it more rewarding when you dress a newbie out and his clothes are as authentic as they can get. I only use 100% wool, linen and silk (very rarely). I hand stitch every garment, even the jacks :roll: I must be mad! My suppliers are in Leeds and wouldn't know what a reenactor was if you stood in front of them shook your sword and wore lots of metal while showing them several photos of you at Bosworth, it gets difficult when you are trying to describe what fabric you need but they tend to get the idea soon enough especially when I bombard them with swatches of fabric. Never advertised or traded openly as word gets around about what I make. I hope to get to the next reenactment market and have time to talk to people especially other seamstresses. Hopefully I'll be at Blore Heath with Buckinghams so if any of you want to say hello, I'll appreciate it :D



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Postby Drachelis » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:44 am

Some costumiers suc as myself also cater for the fantasy market as well as historical. I try to display a wide range of my work - both authentic and other - it is not only re-enactors who come to buy at the markets - Larpers and those wanting sumptuous kit for the venice carnival , also brides wanting a historically themed wedding ( they may not always want totally authentic.Good quality woolen houppelands nd linen kirtles do hang on my rails but, like mot other folk, I use the bling to display.

Cherry
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