I’ve made a lot of dresses over the years. My first dress was a lime green jumper that I made in my Jr. High Home Economics class. I took sewing in high school too, and there I made a much fancier blue sundress with ties at the shoulders. I went on to make small dresses for my daughters when they were young, and then even smaller dresses for their dolls as they got older. My most recent sewing accomplishment is a blue and white checked Civil War era day dress, complete with pagoda sleeves and gold trim. I wore it last weekend at the Fresno Civil War Reenactment where we lived as if in another century for three days.
Of course all of the ladies who reenact wear dresses, but most of the public observers who attend do not. But I hope that the girls that we spoke with got glimpse of what they were missing. When a lady wears a lovely dress, I think she finds herself more inclined to sit straighter, walk more gracefully and feel over all more elegant and refined.
The first day of the reenactment was a field trip day for local school children. As we walked between the different education stations, the youngest girls would look and point and exclaim to their friends, “It looks like they’re floating!” when hoop-skirted ladies would glide by. A group of teenage girls dressed all alike in camouflage army fatigues came up to me and my friend as we walked down the main street. They all wanted to know where we got our dresses, and each one wanted to be in a photo with us. My friend remarked after the girls had walked on, “Deep down, they would rather be wearing dresses.”
While a group of us were sitting in camp, three teenage girls came up to ask us questions. They also wanted to know where we got our dresses. When I told the girls that I made my dress, one of them looked surprised and said, “I don’t even own a dress.” My dear friend, who has been reenacting for years sharing her vision of southern gentil womanhood with many girls, said, “But wouldn’t you like to?”
Will the girls we met this weekend remember the ladies in the fancy dresses? Did we inspire them, even a little bit, to be graceful, beautiful and feminine? I hope we did.