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Posted By: Ted Wagner on: 06/14/2002 14:00:27 CDT
Subject: RE: Civilians & The Signal Corps - Guidelines

Message Detail:
I'd like to append and add to what Chip wrote.

Photographs may not necessarily help in determining what a lady telegrapher would have worn. I'm sure they are out there, but remember, portraits were portraits. The nature of portraits is that you go GET your photos taken...that being said, you probably wore the best you had...and, THAT being said, if you wore the best you had, that may or may NOT reflect your work clothing.

However, remember, it's not until the past 20 years that we see "work casual". As a standard, most "professional" jobs have required professional dress....have for many many eons and centuries. i.e., the work dictates the clothing worn + the common practicies and social norms of the time.

Example. A lineman wore a hat and workcoat, etc. Did he wear a frock coat with velvet lapels? Probably not. He probably wore an inexpensive hat, a simple sack coat, etc. You'll see a good photo of some USMT fellows sitting around. Several of frock coats, nearly all have boots (to substitute, wear artillery boots as you can easily purchase those). I'm recalling from memory but you'll note some have a necktie or cravat of some sort. Some have a vest, some don't....etc.

Common sense does prevail as in all cases. Because some (emphasize the word "some" here) photographs were staged (portraits or field photography), more than likely they had some fore-knowledge and would have dressed for the occasion (same worn out bit about specticles....it was a matter of vanity to have your photo taken with your specticles on). Back to my schpeil here.

If you're out in the field, as in some photographs, you dress for your position in the workplace...but, you're not going to trash your sunday best top-hat, you're going to trash the one that's a bit old or perhaps a second hand one. Likewise, you may have trousers that would have been cheaper than some fancy tailored wool ones.

Or, likewise, if your impression is of a gent who is temporarily away from his telegraph OFFICE (as we know more permanent offices were established when there was no need for a field office), you might indeed be wearing fancy duds. (note, see the photo of Stager in the field with his telegraphers).

I guess my message is this...you probably don't want to wear dirty second-hand looking clothing. You CAN wear a sack coat, just make sure it's clean and doesn't look like you are a farmer (you are a telegrapher).

For women, same applies. What did they WANT to wear as it applies to their work position? Telegraphers were paid well. And, remember, folks back then DID like to show off (why do you see bow-ties with humungous polka-dots? ;-)

What if a lady is starting out and all she has is a camp dress? So! Who cares!? Wear it with the knowledge that you should work towards something better later. If you see a guy walking around with a clipboard saying "tsk tsk tsk" under his breath, make sure you steer him toward the telegrpaph wire just high enough to take off his hat! The person is too anal retentive and needs to be taken down a notch.

Seriously, if you don't think you have everything, no biggie! Work towards it. We all realize that we have lives, etc.... You can't have everything and everything perfect. If that were the case, our hobby (reenacting) would be a hell of a lot smaller than what it is.

But, the bottom line is don't dodge the bullet if asked. Tell it the way it is. If I'm wearing a sack coat and someone asks about it, I tell them. I have a frock coat, and men would have worn that in my position, but I'm not wearing it now because I'm HOT! ;-)

Ted

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