Saturday, January 7, 2012

"Are you Amish?" and Other Questions Only Reenactors Must Answer

Once in a while, a reenactor has to enter the real world dressed in period clothing. Sometimes, this happens on purpose--we're going to an event for the day only, so need to show up dressed, and need to stop for gas. Sometimes it's unexpected--you're completely rained out, tear down camp in your 18th century clothes, and retreat to a McDonald's to wring yourself out and change. Sometimes it's just for fun--like the time a group of us walked to a Big Lots to buy sparklers. (You'd think we would have had enough fun with explosives given all the black powder we'd already burned. But no.)

Regardless, you get some funny looks. And sometimes some interesting questions. Clare at Magpie Makes reminded me of this with her recent post on translating a love of 18th century to modern clothing--because sometimes you don't *want* to be accosted on the street with odd looks. Below, a quick primer for how to answer common assumptions:

1) "Are you Amish?" Where I live and reenact, there actually are plenty of Amish communities, so this isn't such an outlandish question. Except for how bright, patterned, and even revealing our clothes are in comparison to the Amish. And the fact that the Amish are conscientious abstainers from military the fact that many of the guys are wearing what are pretty clearly military uniforms makes it sort of funny. My personal favorite response: "Yes, but we're a militant sect of Amish bent on bringing the simple life to the rest of you."

2) "North or South?" This may be an appropriate question for Civil War reenactors (though I'm sure you get tired of answering it--and isn't the blue vs. grey thing enough to at least begin to answer that question for many of the gentlemen?). However, for us Revolutionary War folks, I find it sufficient to simply answer, "Yes."

3) "Civil War, right?" Again, a predicament only for those of us not involved in Civil War reenactment. As a Rev War person, I tend to fall back on, "Oh, dear, no, nothing civil about us. In fact, we're revolting."

4) "Are you a pirate?" Thank goodness this has died down a little since the height of popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Depp, Bloom, Knightley, Bruckheimer--I harbor a slight grudge against all of you, and everyone else involved. Admittedly, sometimes it's not an off comparison. Some of us do look, perhaps, a little pirate-y at times. However, when I was playing with my friends' baby and chatting with her older sister on a blanket, all of us wearing our "lady clothes," all I could muster in response was a blank stare. The fearsome Captain Babypants replied, "Arrrrr."

5) "Are you in a play?" "Well, actually, ah...yes. Yes, I'm in a play." Sometimes it's better just to keep things simple.

In reality, this is usually a great chance to do some free publicity for the event--I take the time to explain who we are and what we're doing and give a quick rundown of the event vitals--when we're open and if admission's charged. I think a few people have ended up coming by because they stopped to ask!


Unknown said...

I just died laughing!I can just imagine how many questions like this you get!

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Love it! Revolting beats civil every time xo

Isis said...


Funnily enough the Amish question have been asked in my society too, which is a bit weird as there are no Amish in Sweden...

Krafty Girl said...

Too funny! We just started reenacting, and we have gotten some of those same comments or questions. A friend of mine got asked if he was part of a wedding. We were dressed in the War of 1812 costumes and he was dressed like a British Soldier.

A big group of us went to an Ikea after going to an event, and we got the strangest looks when they saw us in our 1812 clothing. It is quite fun!

Sarah said...

I've had the Amish one said to me alot, but nothing about the Civil War (which is kind of ironic because I do live in TN, and near some battlesites).

However, I thought most people knew that Revolutionary War people dressed differently then Victorian/Civil War. It's not hard to figure out people!

I did one time have a little boy think I was a princess. :) Since I am a huge Disney fan (Belle is my favorite) I really appericated this comment.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, all! Krafty--I haven't gotten "in a wedding" before, and Sarah, I only *wish* I'd heard "are you a princess"!

Sarah--as crazy as it is, I think some people just see long gowns and wool uniforms and think "old-timey"--no real concept of time periods by dress. I've been at events with oodles of British redcoats running around and had people who had been there all day *still* ask "North or South?" Gah!

M'lady said...

When I went to the jane austen festival in Bath (UK) I had to take the bus into the asked was we being filmed for the TV...although mainly got asked by people if they could take photo's. And as we were dressed up when were at the pump rooms got asked by tourists if we could serve them. lol! They thought we were staff!