In April of 2015 I made a full mid-1910s outfit. I found it so comfortable to wear for the Anzac Day photoshoot that I left it on for the rest of the day, and quite spontaneously, did a bit of living history research by cleaning my house while wearing it.
The mid-1910s outfit was just as comfortable for housecleaning as it was for the photoshoot, and I gained some really interesting insights into what it’s like to live in a longline corset and stockings and a full skirt and blouse, plus heels.
Based on that day, I began thinking about the idea of doing a longer, more involved mid-1910s living history research project. The more I looked into it, the more I realised that there is a huge gap in non-combat focused WWI living history, especially from a female perspective. There are WWI reenactment groups, mainly based around men as soldiers, but some of which include women as nurses etc., but almost no-one has done WWI home-front living history. There are people living in the American Civil War era, and the late Victorian. There have been Edwardian houses, and Edwardian farms, WWI combat projects, and WWII home-front projects, but no WWI home-front projects. This is really a pity, as it’s such a fascinating period in history: a real transition between the historical world and the modern in terms of technology, and living styles.
For the last year I’ve been doing research on life in Wellington in the 1914-1918 period, with the goal of doing a full living-history experience focused on that period.
I decided on a fortnight as a good starting point for my project: long enough to really experience the period, but short enough that I can fund it myself, without having to apply for research grants. Two weeks is a good trial length, and if it goes well, I may attempt to do a significantly longer, and more involved, project.
So, from July 4th to July 18th this year I’ll be spending a fortnight in 1916: attempting to dress, eat, and live as much like a middle class Wellington housewife would have in the winter of 1916 as it is possible for me to do (within the constraints of my actual life, my house, and my desire to not completely derail my husband’s life!).
I won’t be able to do a perfect recreation of life in 1916, but the project should still provide a significant base for understanding everyday life in the period, and for pursuing further living history research.
I’ll be blogging more about the practicalities of the project, my intentions, and my research so far in the coming days. Plus, I’ll answer all the questions I’ve already been asked, and the ones I’m sure you have.
It should be exciting!