Historical Costumes by Esther Stouten
A lifelong passion
Once upon along ago there was this little girl that loved playing dress up and visiting museums, castles and old houses. A terribly peculiar girl; a dreamer, a fairy, a gypsy, a witch and sometimes a little diva . Although she'd be right in front of you, she could feel miles or rather eons away.
Flipping through the pages of my childhood photoalbums I see a girl who always loved playing dress up. Most of my outfits had been made by my mother. Whom I thought, could do magic with her sewing machine. Making me every outfit I desired, turning me into whomever I wanted to be. I loved playing a princess in a pretty dress but also pretended to be Ivanhoe or Robin Hood. The costume I most vividly and lovingly remember is the Madame du Pompadour outfit she made for me when I was in kindergarten. Looking back on it was a fairly simple costume with a skirt, a lace cape and a paper parasol but to me it was a dream come true, truly magical. The next year she made me a clowns outfit. Which was, in all honesty a bit of a let down, but I did learn that what you wear can make you feel a certain way. Then there was this year in primary school that all the girls in my class came as a princesses and I, to great dismay of my mother, wanted to go as a witch. She ofcourse let me. Things were different the following year, when I wanted to go as Mata Hari. Being the innocent ten year old that I was, I got the part that she was a beautiful famous dancer but didn't understand the exotic part. She talked me down to a 50's rock'n'roll girl but that did take quite some effort.
As young as I was I've always had a fascination for bygone era's; Madame du Pompadour, Mata Hari, the 50's rock'n'roll girl. So I loved going to museums I found it very interesting to see historical everyday items and paintings were you could see the clothing. As much as I loved going to museums, I loved going to castles and old houses and old towns even more. I imagined myself being a resident of the place in past times. Wondering what tales the walls would tell if they could speak, wondering what live was like when it was build.
Eventually I outgrew playing dress up and I started reading historical and historical fantasy novels, most of them where about the middle ages. Stories about Ronja, the Robbersdaughter, Joan of Arc, Betrand du Guesclin and Lady of Avalon. In 1997 my then boyfriend, now husband, took me to my first event. At first I was sceptical and I said that I would only go if I had a nice dress to wear. So he made me one with the help of his mother. After that first event I was hooked. Living history seamlessly combined my interest in history with the love of costumes and doing research. At that first event I got a lot of information from a lot of friendly people and I made my first dress in March/April the following year. After that I've never really stopped. Looking back on it, my first dresses weren't really that great and I was aware of it but it didn't stop me. I just wanted to make each costume a little better than the previous one. A little bit more authentic, a little more documented and/or a little more technically challenging. That is what has been driving me the last twenty years, I have learned a lot but there is still so much to learn.
And I still believe there is magic in creating and wearing costumes.