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Whatever Shall I Wear? A Guide to Assembling a Woman's Basic 18th C. Wardrobe Paperback – August 21, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mara Riley is a tailor and seamstress of 17th, 18th and 19th century garments, including stays and men’s garments. She has a B.A. in History from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, VA. She is a member of several reenacting groups in the Washington, D.C. area, and has attended workshops in the area and throughout the middle colonies whenever possible. She lives in Maryland with her husband Kevin, two dogs, and an increasingly large fabric stash.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 50 pages
  • Publisher: Graphics/Fine Arts Press (August 21, 2002)
  • ISBN-10: 0963815873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0963815873
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 8.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #717,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on August 29, 2006
Mara Riley does a great job correcting some mistaken ideas about Rev War era clothing. Short but packed with detail, this little guide will provide the re-enactor with accurate ideas for assembling an authentic outfit. For example, sleeveless "bodices" and "mob caps", until recently standard items in the re-enactor's wardrobe, were not generally worn at that time. Illustrations of various hats, gowns, jackets, petticoats, cloaks, shoes, stockings. Extremely valuable, up-to-date, carefully documented info.
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This is an excellent book for costume enthusiasts or re-enactors, on how to dress properly for the mid to late 1700s. The book itself is not very thick, and it has a paper cover, so that it appears almost like a brochure, but don't let that deter you--the content is first-rate! You'll find plenty of information about everyday costume from the 18th century. The book dispels a couple of re-enacting myths, as well. Each chapter is filled with drawings that skillfully illustrate the subject matter (i.e.: hats, or jackets, or stockings). It has already become one of my staple books on costuming; I keep it out while I'm sewing, for frequent referral.

I have but one complaint: there is no mention made of pocket hoops, false rumps, panniers, or skirt supports of any kind! I find this a huge omission given the time period covered. Granted, the book is aimed at re-enactors, and your average farmer's wife probably wouldn't go around wearing panniers while milking the goats. But she might wear pocket hoops on a trip into town, to church, or to any social event. Yet there's no mention of these items, and that is a chapter I sorely missed.

Great book, excellent information, and other than the absence of panniers and pocket hoops, it's a wonderful education on how to dress for the 1700s.
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If you are just beginning an 18th c. impression, this is the best book out there! It has everything needed to keep you going in the right direction.
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This is a nice compliment to Costume Close-Up, especially if you need to see the not-so-fancy side of 18th century women's clothing after looking at page photos of the very elaborate detail in the higher fashions presented in that book. I learned a couple things about the hats that I was totally unaware of before, as I design hats of the period and need to be sure not to make mistakes of time period style in doing so. I also like that this book leans toward suiting some of the learning needs of women who have signed up to (or want to sign up to) portray camp followers with Revolutionary War re-enactment groups. Some helpful info about 18th century fabrics included - an aspect I found is considered important in the living history community. The price for the book is reasonable too. It's a paperback-bound book so I'll take care to keep it dry and clean.
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I just finished reading my copy and it answered many of my questions on how to dress properly for reenacting the American Revolution. It is a thin book with large size pages, packed with information and drawings. It focuses on everyday clothing. The large size of the pages is great because it allows you to really focus on the details in the drawings which are very well done and informative. As a newbie to reenacting and a rather good seamstress this is on my list of must haves when beginning along with Fitting and Proper and Tidings from the 18th century. In no way though do you have to sew for this book to be of extreme value to you. Like a previous review indicates there is not mention of hoops, rumps or any skirt supports. But the book is geared toward setting up your basics and training your eye to what is correct. Also I would venture that the ladies following the armies (British or American) for protection may have tossed their supports for comfort and practicality on the move.
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The book is a very good primer for starting out either 18thc. re-enacting or costuming. while it does not have photographs, the pictures are very clear and helpful.
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Very good for the REV war re-enactor, But not for the upper-crust colonial lady. Had some good basics though. Although I do not agree with her on the availability of paisley. I think it would have been used then. Check with wikipedia.
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This is a fabulous source for those interested in period clothing. I wish I had gotten this instructional book before I had started shopping for fabric for my American Revolution and Civil War attire. It will be one of my standby sources for helping others.
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