UW News

December 1, 2010

Vintage visions: Sporting elegant bygone fashions, just for fun

UW News

Marjorie Reeves models two of her 1860s dresses--one for everyday and one a ball gown.

Marjorie Reeves models two of her 1860s dresses--one for everyday and one a ball gown.

Most of us have fantasized about living in another time period, but a couple of members of the UW community have taken that one step further. Loveday Conquest, a professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, and Marjorie Reeves, an administrative specialist in JISAO, spend some of their free time wearing vintage clothing and attending events meant to evoke another time.

Theyre members of Somewhere in Time Unlimited, a group with the mission of  “having events that bring out the most enjoyable aspects of past eras.” Imagine attending a Tudor family reunion, a Victorian tea, a World War II USO party or a Titanic survivors ball.  These are just some of the events that have been on the groups dance card.

“I have lots of vintage clothing and some historical costumes and was looking for an opportunity to wear them,” is how Conquest explained her interest in the group, which she joined 20 years ago.

Reeves got involved more recently through her interest in Civil War re-enactment. “Preservation of history is my interest, and these ladies [Somewhere in Time members] — their knowledge of period clothing is astounding,” she said.

If the name Somewhere in Time sounds familiar, thats because its the title of a 1980 movie starring Christopher Reeve as a man so obsessed with a woman (Jane Seymour) that he travels back in time to find her. The Somewhere in Time group got started when one couple who was interested in costuming rented the DAR house on Capitol Hill and staged a Viennese ball for all of their costuming friends.

“Apparently it was a great success, and everyone had such a good time that they said gee, couldnt we find a way to do stuff like this more often, on a more organized basis so we wouldnt have to rely on our friends to put on private parties,” Conquest said.

There are now about 100 households involved in the group, which stages a wide variety of events each year. Their next one, slated for January, is a Tudor family reunion, which includes a dinner and period-appropriate entertainment. It will be held in a church that has a big Gothic hall.

In addition to its own events, the group also takes advantage of what it calls “dress-up opportunities,” or “DUOPS.” If, for example, a theater company is staging a period play, some members of the group might get tickets and just show up in clothing from the period of the play. And at times other groups invite Somewhere in Time members to be part of their events. At the Snohomish historic homes tour, for example, members show up in period dress, talk to tourists and have their photos taken.

Loveday Conquest and her husband, Fred Kleinschmidt, enjoy a 'Titanic Survivors Ball.'

Loveday Conquest and her husband, Fred Kleinschmidt, enjoy a "Titanic Survivors Ball."

“People from these other groups feel we add color to their events,” Conquest said. She said the group is especially in demand these days because there are so many centennials in the area.

But isnt it a little strange to show up at a public event in costume? Reeves said not. “We enjoy the attention because people are very interested in what were wearing and they come and talk to us,” she said.

Some members of the group do extensive research on particular periods and share their knowledge with others. When an event is scheduled, there are always classes to prepare people who will be attending. There are also sewing circles where people either make or assemble outfits.

“It seems like each member has a specialty, then we get together and share,” Reeves said.

“Value Village and Goodwill are great sources for some of us,” Conquest added. “I dont sew, but I know how to assemble appropriate outfits.”

When the two were asked about their favorite eras, Reeves answer was immediate: Her interest in the Civil War means the 1860s are her overriding interest. Conquest had a much harder time choosing.

“If I had to pick one, I would go for World War I,” she said. “Hemlines no longer dragged on the ground, there were a lot of clever tunics with pockets. I have a lot of Edwardian walking suits, and one thing I like is that in the winter I can actually wear them on a daily basis. So theyre very practical with sturdy boots.”

But she added that she also loves the 1930s, 1940s and even the 1950s. “Nipped-in waists, petticoats, lots of fabric and three-quarter sleeves,” she said with a smile.

Somewhere in Time members usually dress up for festive occasions, but solemn events can sometimes call for costumes too. Recently one of their active members, known as “Linda of London,” died. She had hosted a British radio hour and often dressed as Queen Victoria, so many of the groups members attended her funeral in Victorian mourning costumes.

“Her family and friends were pleased because they felt that she would really have loved that,” Conquest said.

But really, why get dressed up in clothes from another era?

“They make me feel like a lady,” Reeves said. “Theres an elegance in those historical periods that we just dont have anymore.”

For more information on Somewhere in Time Unlimited, go to their website.