The long version is, well, long! I've actually been planning a rational dress outfit since 2015. Which, for us, is now three Gettysburgs ago. In 2015 I didn't get much past the planning phase, in 2017 I got it all about half done, and in 2019 I finally finished it all.
|Hooray! It's about time.|
|Explorin'. Don't fall into the crevasse, please; that'll put a damper on the expedition.|
|Alice and I happily climbed on all of the rocks within reach.|
There is in fact not a lot of research out there on rational dress, at least that's readily accessible online. Even my referring to what I made as "rational dress" is probably debatable: you also see references to "reform dress" and of course "Bloomer costume." I saw enough consistency to feel comfortable making the distinction between slimmer-cut trousers that look like men's, that you tend to see more during the 1860s, and the voluminous, gathered trousers of the 1850s - the latter was definitely referred to as "Bloomer" costume, but I'm just calling the later slimmer trousers "rational dress" for convenience. That's my modern shorthand, and I can't say with any certainty if that's accurate to the mid-19thc, or whether those outfits were so uncommon in most areas that there wouldn't have been consistency in what they were called.
I'm not going to do a full writeup here of everything I was able to find on rational dress; I'm going to lean on Robin of SewLoud for that (she hasn't done her rational dress post yet but I will link it when she does). I will direct readers to this (rather old) website, if they want to do some basic reading on the dress reform movement. I will also say that, since it was such a niche costume, there is an enormous amount of variation in photos, and that if you're making it purely for fun, just about anything goes. As an interpreter, you would want to pay much more attention to your persona's location/background/reason for wearing reform dress/etc. (The Oneida community is fascinating, imo. Your silverware was made by free love! Well...sort of.)
But you really do get outfits that run the gamut in photographs, from fairly shapeless but practical looking tunic and trousers, to bodice that wouldn't look out of place with a fashionable outfit, except that it's paired with a short skirt and trousers. And then illustrations and caricatures are a whole 'nother animal!
I will say that, from our collection of Pinterest images, a solid majority if certainly not all do still seem to be wearing corsets. Modern persons who still equate corsets with Oppressed Women might think that women who ditched the long skirts would also throw off their corsets...not necessarily! (They're really not oppressive. I promise.) The four of us that did rational dress this year all chose to fit our rational dress over corsets.
And now, back to your regular programming.
Since it was so long in the making, the exact design of this outfit has gone through a bit of evolution. Originally I wanted to get some hunter green wool and make a much more "riding habit inspired" look, but eventually decided to use some checked wool suiting that I had in the stash.
|Getting the plaids lined up was fun. "Fun."|
|"Women's Emancipation," Harper's New Monthly Magazine, August, 1851|
A side note: I also chose to wear my rational dress over all of my usual mid-19thc undergarments; that is, chemise, drawers, and corset, and made sure to fit the trousers over all that! Since we haven't come across any specific account of "And today I decided to get dressed in my trousers, over this precise underwear" (shockingly, right?), that's entirely conjecture on my part, but it worked just fine. I ended up with a slightly stuffed bum, but once the drawer legs worked themselves down into the trousers it wasn't uncomfortable. Of course we can't know how women chose to deal with the underwear question when dealing with trousers, but I'd venture an educated guess that at least some of them might have just continued wearing what they were used to, and just adding the trousers on top of that. Again, rational dress was a bit of a free-for-all; do what you want!
|"My pant legs are stuffed! It's great!"|
|"WHAT." "Oh nothing, this is definitely not going to end up on the blog, nope."|
Both of the skirts are very simple, just rectangular panels pleated up to a waistband; it's just that one is considerably shorter and less full than the other! I haven't yet had a chance to wear the "normal" skirt yet, but I'll post it when I do.
|Watching the train go by.|
|Good job, Past Me.|
|"Blerg blarg hack...I'M BEING STRANGLED", after leaning down to go under that rock.|
The hat's just a cheapie Amazon wool felt hat that I slightly reshaped, pulled out the weird crappy kinky wire from the brim and replaced it with millinery wire, and added some ribbon. And left an iron-shaped steam mark on the underside of the brim, ahem. It's kept on by an elastic that goes under the hairnet round the back of the head and a pin stuck through the front. I promise it does not just perch there nicely with magic!
|A stiff breeze! Being attacked by bonnet ties. MY OWN BONNET TIES, mind you.|
|These boots are made for...well, you get the idea.|
|Closest to the actual tintype pose.|
|We had decided that since our heads were being clamped in a tintype, we must be dead, you see. Isn't that how the Victorians did it? (No. No, it's not. Go ask Dave of VPS about all those "postmortem" photos and see how well he takes it.)|
|Pictures are serious business.|
|Hello! I can't believe you went all the way down there!|
|Can I climb on this rock? Bet I can.|
|Again, Serious Business.|
|Hello down there!|
|So I'm here, on a rock, in twowsers..|
|This part of the park was in fact swarming with Boy Scouts, who kept getting in our pictures.|
|It's hard to tell the scale of Little Round Top in these pictures if you've never been there, but this one gives you an idea. It may only be "Little", but it's still a decent-sized hill! And large boulders.|