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comments by Rick Obermeyer

in 19th Century Seminole Men`s Clothing
Rick Obermeyer ~ Editor

Complete Index to Articles in 19th Century Seminole Men's Clothing

"Quality or state of having the appearance of truth or reality" is what that two dollar word means. It's a consideration for every old style Seminole hobbyist or re-enactor. A reenactor trying to put together the appearance of an old-style Seminole can be aiming at anything from a rough simulation to as accurate a portrayal as possible. How near or how far he gets to that goal depends on his research, his skills, and his own feelings about either making extra effort or being willing to tolerate convenient short cuts. What he winds up with on his way can vary from a little bump to a wild detour.

A little bump is something that is not historically accurate, but which makes no difference to most reeactors or to any casual observer. A little bump would be using a sewing machine instead of hand sewing everything. Or, if hand sewn, using polyester thread instead of cotton or silk thread, or using plastic buttons instead of mother of pearl or metal military buttons. A little bump would be using synthetic blends instead of 100% cotton or wool, or using commercially tanned buckskin instead of braintanned. These are things which might keep your items from being museum quality, but which certainly wouldn't keep them from being perfectly good enough for any reenactments. Me, I have no embarrassment about stringing my own neck beads on unwaxed dental floss.

Something that's a noticeable anachronism would be bigger than a little bump, but could still be tolerable. Let's call it a chughole. Examples would be using aluminum instead of real silver for headbands and gorgets, or using blue pony beads in place of cobalt Russian cuts. Using modern commercially made woven accent strips to conveniently represent fingerwoven garters and sashes would certainly not be historically accurate, but would be good enough for a beginning reenactor. I, myself, use a long shirt made by a Seminole in 1985 with my old-style outfit. There are definite differences in construction between it and an authentic oldstyle long shirt, and it has a band of patchwork no early 19th century piece would have, but I like the idea that I'm using a genuine Seminole piece to build my Seminole outfit. Some of these chugholes are necessary alternatives... the reenactor may not be able to locate real mother of pearl, or know how to do fingerweaving, or be able to afford a string of fifty Russian cobalt cut beads at $3 apiece. A chughole ls a substitution that reasonably resembles the real thing. It's "good enough."

"A little rough" would be something like veering off onto the shoulder of a road. It's not where you want to be, but you're still headed in the right general direction. What's happening isn't historically accurate at all, but the wearer is either a beginner who's off to a simple start, or is making an honest mistake, or is merely striving for an overall effect. Kneelength leather fringed boots, or beaded headbands, or highly creative face painting might help the reenactor look "Indian" while not really being accurately Seminole. An old friend who is very serious about accuracy in his reenactments used to wear a hawk claw around his neck. I once expressed to him my doubts that Seminoles or Creeks ever wore dead animal parts (other than feathers). He pointed out that a hawk claw is a potent symbol to many other North American Indians (true) and that, anyway, there is nothing to show that Seminoles did NOT wear them. What satisfied my friend was, to me, being "a little rough." Another example would be the very fine pair of fingerwoven garters I once saw tied around buckskin leggings, instead of around cloth ones.

Something completely out of place on an old-style Seminole outfit would be a wild detour. There's no telling what Indian, if any, the reenactor wound up being. Some decorate their turbans with a lot of pins, something they've obviously taken a lot of care and trouble to do, and something no Creek or Seminole is ever known to have done. I've seen some things worn by reenactors that would be out of place in ANY 19th century Indian representation. My favorite example is the yellow nylon chiffon scarf I once saw on a re-enactor's neck. Nineteenth century nylon? Why not also a necktie and a baseball cap?

Many reenactors are satisfied that they look Seminole well enough... according to their conception of what old-style Seminoles looked like. Others are more interested in historical accuracy, but are frustrated by the scarcity' of resources and guidelines. These simple how-to's hope to remedy part of that problem. They have been put together by hobbyists who experienced the same frustrations, and who are happy to share what they've learned to make it easier for others to join them.

As the hobbyist does more research and becomes more knowledgeable, it will be easier for him to stay on the road, smooth out the chugholes, and minimize the bumps. He'll often be pleasantly surprised at how little extra trouble that is. I know somebody who, with some advice from friends, constructed a turkey feather fan-and made an excellent piece with a lot less difficulty than he anticipated. The progressing reenactor will learn to cut thinner thongs when he makes his moccasins and to lace them more closely. He may even be able to find cotton thread for that hand sewing. If he does decide to wear some dead animal parts or to paint his face in some way, he'll do so with more surety, and with more respect from his fellow reenactors.

Complete Index to Articles in 19th Century Seminole Men's Clothing

Contributed by Rick Obermeyer E-mail:
From the book 19th Century Seminole Mens Clothing
© 1991-2000 Sherwood F. Obermeyer Jr., 2124 Miscindy Place, Orlando, FL 32806

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