On Saturday, I was up in Lowell, MA for the Northeastern Region of the CSA’s symposium, where I presented a paper that is the foundation for my thesis. My presentation was about…us!
I’m so happy to say that “Being In Two Places at Once: The Paradox of Authenticity of the Historical Costumer Subculture” was really well received by the academic community. In my paper, I explored the historical costumer subculture against the paradigm of postmodern fashion theory, raising questions about accuracy versus authenticity. I couldn’t have done it without all the lovely costumers who so kindly allowed me to use their photographs to illustrate my points…THANK YOU to all of you!
For those who are curious, here is my abstract:
Historical costumers belong to a postmodern subculture comprised of those who engage in the research and creation of historical dress and identify with others who do the same, culminating in various end results such as reenactment, living history, or a simple promenade. Historical costuming is based on two fundamental principals: the imitation of historical fashion and the reconciliation between the present and the past. In their attempt to dress in the style and manner of a bygone era, are historical costumers able to fully replicate the fashion of another time, or does authenticity evade them regardless of their efforts to master it?
Using historical costumers’ self-published websites and blogs, the nature of the subculture is studied against the social and psychological paradigm of postmodern culture. From the construction of the costume to the wearing of the creation, the choices historical costumers make regarding historically accurate materials and construction methods will yield a costume that falls on varying points of the scale between simulation (a faithful copy), and simulacra (a copy for which there is no original). Historical costumers as a subculture have not yet been fully studied in academia, and this research serves to open avenues of research on the subculture, including social perceptions of beauty, aesthetics, and taste; the possible influence historical costuming can have on contemporary mainstream fashion; and how the research performed by historical costumers can have incredible academic value.
Historical costumers toe the line between artificially immersing themselves in a moment in time that is not their own and living in the postmodern present, where the ephemeral quality of fashion can exist across all eras.
I’ll be presenting the same paper this weekend at the LIM College symposium. If you are near New York City, I’m scheduled to present on Saturday afternoon.