While the strokes were gathering, fires were stoked around a topic that still has people talking including myself with this blog post. The ban on "flowers on hats" is part of the re-enactor clothing guidelines for reenactors attending the events surrounding the arrival of the Hermione to the East Coast.
Welcoming events are planned as it arrives in port and reenactors are encouraged to attend and greet the ship. The clothing guidelines for those attending have fired up many a thread and comment on the aforementioned and yes, banned in Boston, flowers.
Full disclosure, I know the event organizer and have great respect for the work that was entailed in creating the guidelines in question. For those unfamiliar with the topic, you can read them here.
What is it about clothing standards that make people lose their minds? I don't know.
Why did the "flowers" create such a flurry? I don't know.
What I do know is that in 1780 America was still at war. Imports had slowed to a trickle, advertisements of goods had dwindled and were very limited in the newspapers. Battles were still being fought in the south, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles etc were still at risk. Was fashion top of mind? I don't know.
I don't know how fashion information was being disseminated. If at all? The source of many English fashion prints were the Almanacks imported from England and the Ladies Magazine. During the war the Almanacks were supplanted by American versions. Was the Ladies Magazine made available during the war? I don't know.
I do know that the tradition in England of decorating hats with ribbons was still flourishing in their versions of fashion prints in 1779.
|Detail from "Two Ladies in the Dress of 1779", England|
I do know flowers on hats began to be seen regularly in the French "Gallerie des Mode" fashion prints. This print also from 1779 shows flowers blooming all over, right out of the top of her head! Were these prints coming in to our ports? I don't know.
|Gallerie des Modes, 1779, France|
But notice in the English print above, the shape of the hat's decorations is reflective of the French version, but the English left off the flowers.
I have actually made the hat in the French print above. It looks awesome and in the right context can be a terrific piece of fashion history when worn with a gown and accessories of the same time period and level of fashionability. (not sure if that is a word!)
Is my hat appropriate for Boston, in 1780, to commemorate a particular historical event? It is documented with the French fashion plate. It is the right time period. The flowers are even vintage!
Maybe yes, but also more likely no. This is Boston, we were conservative. Still are.
Is it better to err on the side of conservative choices, when the I don't knows far outweigh the knows? When you have many other fashion choices? Especially when asked to do so?
If you want to go high fashion what is wrong with using the English version of that hat?
We can all find things to criticize in any set of standards or guidelines. They are created to set up left and right boundaries. Staying between the lines so to speak and in a specific historic context limit individual expression to some extent. Not a bad thing when you have no idea or control of who is coming to your event and their understanding of the 18th century and how to represent it.
I do know what I am wearing to this event. My ultra conservative pre-war brown silk damask gown, a fine cap and a lovely silk hat with nary a flower blooming on the brim.
My thanks to the event organizers and standard writers for putting in all the time and effort you have done already and will be doing in the near future to bring this event to Boston and the other port cities.
Vive la France!