Re: costume event-goers who insist on arguing with other attendees about the costume that they are wearing, right at that moment
I have met a number of the species of hyper-vigilant, hyper-critical costume-event-attendees.   I have worked at Lacis – the Lace Shop and Museum in Berkeley, part time  since last fall.  At Lacis we have a column by Miss Manners (aka the succinct and hilarious Judith Martin) posted on the wall in the staff kitchen. The article is about the rudeness of a stranger approaching another guest at the event and verbally lambasting her outfit. The reader had gone to a costume/historical event and was shocked by this other person’s level of audacity and rudeness regarding her costume. Said reader had screwed up her courage to put together an outfit to the best of her ability and to go to one of these events, although she knew No One at the event.
I call hyper-critical people, such as this reader encountered, Lemon Ladies. Some call them the costume police. I like Lemon Ladies because that is what one of my classmates called the rather difficult-to-deal-with staff members at school in the Registrar’s department who always looked as if the world was not to their taste.  If there was a thought balloon over their head, it would most likely be filled with variations of the word “Euuew.”
Lemon Ladies seem to enjoy (1) confrontation (2) criticism and (3) arguing, in or out of character. They seem to quickly fall out of character at events in which the attendees are attempting to be in character  (Renaissance Faire, Dickens, PEERS events – I’ve seen this in many settings, sadly.)
Finally, they are people who would rather be Right than be Happy. And they want EVERYONE TO KNOW IT. Now,  you and I both know, when one argues about who is Right about a subjective topic, all we end up with is who is Left standing there, tolerating a sharp environment of hostility, when we still disagree, minutes or hours or days later. Sigh.
What an utter waste of time! One could be dancing, or singing, or sewing, or watching a perfectly good baseball game, DVD,  theatrical production; or writing a letter  to a dear friend on a piece of paper art; or polishing the silver jewelry; or researching a costume or article; or writing a letter to one’s congressperson; or protesting a military action; or brushing one’s pet cat or doing the ironing, or babysitting for a neighbor or making cookies! SHEESH!
I go to costume/historical events to Have Fun. When it stops being fun, if I am under no obligation to anyone else present– to my hostess/host or if I need to share a ride with someone — then I leave. Period.
I also use the strategy of taking along a posse of other fun-loving, good-natured people! If I don’t, then there is a risk that I may end up as this reader did in the Miss Manners article.
The Response:  Miss Manners indicated that it is appropriate in Any historical Era to be offended by a stranger who critiques the bejeebus out of your clothing, in public, which is to say in front of other human beings, and to respond accordingly.  She relays to the readder that One might say in response– in a detached way if possible — “You have Offended my Honor” and turn away from the offending individual, as if he or she did not exist.
I learned about costuming by shopping for found objects at thrift stores. I’ve only recently learned about pattern drafting and pattern re-sizing. It’s a COSTUME. It’s there to clothe me for the duration of the event. It’s not supposed to be “correct”, although the research is fun. The creation of the costume, I have found, is actually more fun than wearing it. So when I find FUN events to attend, I put together my posse. This is my approach.
My mantra is: “It Doesn’t have to be Perfect. It has to be DONE. DONE IS GOOD.”   Yes, that means that sometimes I’m pinning things at the last moment, which is ALSO HISTORICALLY CORRECT!   And so is using fake hair.
My little sub group of costumers talks about this all the time. We chat on and on about it, as well as being supportive of Any Creative Effort that we each make – that is the Goal. To be creative, in whatever way we can fit that into our crazy lives!
Okay.  I’m putting my little blog-sized soapbox away.  Carry on.

5 thoughts on “the Lemon Lady dilemma”

  • By Amy Osterholm - Reply

    The consultant’s credo applies, with a little editing, to the Done is Good theory of costuming, which I wholeheartedly applaud: Don’t get it right, get it written.
    Or, Maybe it’s so-so, it’s sewn!

  • By Elise McFarland - Reply

    So, would it be appropriate to announce that my honor has been offended and demand a duel at dawn? Or would it be better just to slap the person then and there ; )?

    When you see an all-out brawl at an historical event that is entirely composed of a group of well dressed ladies, you’ll know I started it.

  • By Danine Cozzens - Reply

    Oh, yes, I remember that column of Miss Manners. We thought at the time it appeared, how sad for reinactment to gain notice in such a negative way. And have we seen bad manners… aiee! And how to mitigate without committing rudeness ourselves… oy!

    It is not only poor contemporary manners, but shockingly bad form for the eras we seek to evoke. True Victorian ladies not only aged their Worths for a year, so as not to appear too fashion forward, but they did not comment on the gowns of others. One could comment on general looks or health, but saying, “What a charming cap you have” would be a sign of low breeding, indirectly implying that one’s caps were not invariably charming. Asking after the pattern or the dressmaker, even lower. Offhand I’d gauge this to apply roughly from Jane Austen through Edith Wharton; someone who actually knows what they are talking about could refine.

  • By Joe Paulino - Reply

    “Perfect” is the enemy of very, very good.

  • By The Cheap Chick - Reply

    Well said! Life is too short to being picking of the nits. Also? My favorite sewing? Is together – as in, sewn together and not in pieces 🙂

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