Trini Tuesday will be back next week, but this week I wanted to share part of my heritage and cultural roots.
As I mentioned yesterday, two of the kids and I worked at a historical fall festival this weekend. It's a working historical farm that is run according to the early 19th century standards used by Pennsylvania Germans (who are also commonly called Pennsylvania Dutch because in German they called themselves deutsch ).
All three of my kids have done apprenticeships at the farm during the summer. All of them enjoy going out there and stepping back in time for the day even though it means wearing strange clothes. My son's costume was given to us by someone who outgrew his old one. I sewed the costumes the girls and I wear. I love that my kids get a chance to learn about their own heritage and what makes it unique and special. I love that they've each been able to see some value in the old ways and see that there are some things that should be included in modern life.
Ok, here I am in my little 19th century PA dutch farmer's wife outfit. Bonnet on head, the blouse is called a short gown and is fastened with straight pins and a drawstring at the waist. That's right, no buttons, zippers or snaps, straight pins. The green scarf around my neck is called a fichu (FEE-shoo) and is basically a modesty garment that also provides a little warmth in cooler months. I have my apron and wooly socks too. It may be hard to see since I'm doing my silly curtsey but the skirt, called a petticoat, only reaches mid-calf length. Although we tend to think of women from the 1800s and earlier as wearing floor-skimming dresses those were really reserved for the women who didn't live on and work on farms. No farm woman wanted her skirt trailing the floor while she milked cows or mucked stalls. And lest I forget, the fabric these garments would have been made from was called linsey-woolsey. It was a blend of linen and wool that was durable but scratchy as you please. Mine is cotton, since linsey-woolsey isn't exactly widely available anymore (I think I'm glad for that).
Under my apron is my pocket. Petticoats didn't have pockets so the ladies wore these fastened around their waists over the shortgown and under the apron. Often they were embroidered with initials or other designs. I left mine plain. Ladies might carry some dried fruits or nuts for snacking, sewing scissors, handkerchiefs, or whatever little items they might need through the day. I hid my decidedly modern cellphone in my pocket on festival day.
The bonnet was an important part of a woman's wardrobe and even girls were expected to wear them. Obviously these weren't going to protect from the sun like a prairie bonnet would. The Pennsylvania Dutch wove rye straw bonnets for that. The simple white bonnets were worn during waking moments as a sign of piety and modesty. Since Scriptures exhort us to 'pray continually' and women were to pray with their heads covered the bonnet was necessary to indicate a practice of constant prayer and remind the wearer that whatever she did was to be done as for the Lord. Hair was to be kept long but not worn loose (that would indicate loose morals AND get in the way in the barn), always neatly tucked inside the bonnet.
It's an odd process donning this whole outfit but as each piece goes on I feel a bit of modernity slip away and I take one more step back in time. Once dressed, I move differently than I would in my jeans, tie dyes, and Birkenstocks. I'm not dainty in it and I doubt anyone would describe the look as becoming but there is a decided practical (not froufrou....good heavens, that might kill me) femininity that takes over. You can see it in the men at the farm too. Ambiguity evaporates as everyone takes on the well defined traditional roles that cloak our 21st century personas.