It was a good day for us at the Magnificent Seven Convention– our presentation “The Victorian West: How the West Was Worn” appeared to have been well received and we feel good. The audience was amazing and had many good questions- it was a real back and forth discussion. We even had people who had traveled all the way from Indonesia- amazing! 🙂 We have been flogging this event for the past month in our blog in anticipation but we always get excited before giving a presentation. Giving public presentations always excites us because it gives us an opportunity to physically interact with our public, talk about the historical basis for our creations, and gather new ideas for future designs.
So, why are we doing this? Well, first and foremost, it’s about the history- history is the basis for what we do and it has always been a passion for us. It was a deep interest in history that initially got us into this business, and it informs everything we do. It’s proven to be a continual learning process; one is always learning new things and anyone who says that they “know it all” is either lying or simply ignorant. New facts are constantly emerging that challenge our ideals and perceptions and we have changed along with it.
Unfortunately, over the years we have also witnessed a lot of misinformation and mythology that has been stated as historical fact. We have witnessed some pretty incredible claims that are truly cringeworthy (or simply amusing after a few drinks). While we may wish to clear up the misinformation out there, we are also realize that it’s a near-impossible task so what we attempt to do is to encourage people to question and gather information on their own from reliable sources; it’s often easier than one would think and with the development of the internet over the past 30 years, it’s never been easier.
At the same time, we are also motivated by our experiences creating costumes for the entertainment industry. Often we are asked: “Why are those costumes not historically accurate in the movie XYZ?” In response, we usually say that costumes are intended to help advance the story and enhance the characters. While this may seem to be a cop-out, it really isn’t. Often, what looks good to the naked eye looks absolutely horrible on film; lenses and film react to colors differently under different types of light and adjustments may need to be made so that a costume looks better on film. Also, historical accuracy may be sacrificed, or at least reduced, due to budgetary and time constraints, changes in scripts and actors, or simply because the director thinks that something that’s not historically accurate looks better.
While one could easily spend their time criticizing the costumes in various films on the basis that they lack historical accuracy, in the end this is self-defeating and accomplishes nothing. In the end, film and television productions are about making money and doing whatever it takes to achieve that end. To put it more bluntly, we’re being paid to do a job and the director is the boss so we ultimately have to follow their wishes. In the end, if you want historical accuracy, read a book or watch a documentary (although that’s often no guarantee of historical accuracy).
But don’t get us wrong, we have a deep love for historical accuracy and it does gall us to no end when some things are done wrong but ultimately, all we can do is hold our noses and move on. However, if you ask us what we think, we will not lie either.
So, in our presentation, we present an historical overview of the history of costume in the West during the late 19th Century and combine it with comparing and contrasting costume as seen in film and television versus what actually existed, using our private museum collection of clothing, both original antiques and B-Western. In assembling the presentation, we systematically examined a lot of original photographs and illustrations and consulted a number of primary and secondary sources and we have to admit that the process was very instructive. We believe that we achieved our goal but we now want to expand upon it so we will be doing further research and incorporating it into future presentations.
It’s our sincerest hope that we have provided some good information for people to take away with them and serve as a springboard for expanding their own knowledge.
In closing, we would like to thank the Magnificent Seven Convention and it’s entire staff for inviting us to come and speak and providing a wonderful experience. The facilities were top-notch and our requirements were provided for in a timely manner. We look forward to returning in the future.