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The Fireside Chats at Fort Boonesborough State Park 2014

Photos by Jim & Kathy Cummings

The first Fireside Chat for 2014 was a lecture “Undressing the Historical Lady” by Maggie Waterman Roberts. Roberts has long been a costumer, and her interest in clothing and fashion has been a lifetime passion. She recently spent a summer internship at Colonial Williamsburg. In her performance she mixes humor, and both 18th century and 21st century references. She talks about fashion from the aspect of both time periods. There is no difference in a woman being passionate about her clothing in either or any era.

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She opened while wearing her woolen mitts and bonnet over her cap. And it wasn’t just clothing that she touched on. A woman always wore a cap unless she “dressed her hair” with powder and pomades. For this special evening she admits doing both.

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While removing her mitts she also talked about fabrics. Although wool, linen and silk were common 18th century fabrics she has first hand knowledge of each and when is the best time of year to wear them.

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In addition to a full house of visitors to hear the chat there were folks in the upper level and Roberts did not fail to include them as she looked up to make sure they could all hear.

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It was a mixed crowd and we were not only surprised to see the number of gentlemen in the audience but in the question and answer portion of the program the men had as many questions as the women. There were also re-enactors in the crowd dressed in period dress who especially seemed to enjoy her lecture.

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Each layer (and there were many in the 18th century) was taken off, discussed and examined. Construction, sewing styles, patterns and material were discussed along with many misconceptions about why clothing developed as it did.

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She spent an appropriate amount of time discussing stays and support items in the 18th century. She debunked the myths that 19th century ladies fainted because their stays or corsets were too tight. They may have fainted from the heat but not because of their clothing. Children were put into stays early on to help them walk sooner. She lamented the fact that we no longer wear stays in our modern world since they are such a comfortable means of support.

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Her talk covered other areas of 18th century life too. Bathing, washing clothes, changing clothes and the amount of time spent in clothing a family was another topic of interest.

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After getting down to her shift Roberts donned an 18th century dressing gown while she moved on to discuss stockings, garters and shoes. Just like today an 18th century woman might have many shoes, made of various materials. Leather, wool, satin in many colors were available to the ladies. “Men, on the other hand, quipped Roberts” could have leather, leather or leather.”

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Young ladies in the audience were interested in her cap and hair so Roberts obligingly unpinned the cap and a few false curls to explain how she had dressed her hair.

It was a pleasant evening in the blockhouse at Fort Boonesborough. And the first chat of 2016 was a good one. To contact Roberts check out her blog at http://undressinghistorical.blogspot.com

The chats continue with 3 more performances. February 13 with Daniel Boone, February 20 with General George Rogers Clark and February 27 with David VanMeter - the Frontier Surveyor. Check the Fort Boonesborough Living History site for details on reservations for future chats.

Link to other fireside chats from

See more past Fireside Chats at www.fortboonesboroughlivinghistory.org

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