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Traveling With a Hoop and Two Daughters....

How does a lady traverse the highways and byways of Southern California enroute to the Civil War event du jour, several hours away, and manage to arrive at a decent hour, in neat and proper dress, without damage to one’s horseless carriage?  Do you dress before the event and drive in the finery?  Do you spoil the illusion by dragging your “costume” in and change at the event?

The most important thing to remember when traveling in a Civil War ensemble is that the corset boning snugs you into your seat, falsely giving you that wonderful, secure feeling of a seatbelt.  By the time you get dressed at home, make it down the stairs, out the front door, stuff the whole concoction into the car door, struggle to tug 20 yards of fabric underneath the steering wheel, then go through the trial of trying to grab the skirt and shut the door without the hem trailing along the freeway, you have accomplished a minor miracle to merely GET inside the car!

Is one still expected to drive? And horrors, truly period correct people DON’T wear sunglasses!  But I digress, this is the safety portion!  It is easy to fail to buckle the belt with the corset on, and it will “feel” like it is on. Watch for this small detail that really helps one get around safely.

Driving with a corset on makes you sit bolt upright, your mobility is limited and while you are driving your familiar-second-nature car, suddenly it is from a completely different angle and perspective.  This will throw you off.  To keep the E-Ticket going, the first turn of the steering wheel grabs the skirt and hoop, twisting it onward and upward in whatever direction the wheel is turning and readjustment is necessary.  Trying to navigate the hoop, the skirt and petticoats and actually back out of the driveway, while it pokes the steering wheel and obscures the gears, adds to the challenge in this little melodrama.

Half way down the street it all tends to settle, as long as you sit up straight and don’t move anything but your neck and eyeballs. The kids watch me now to make sure I buckle up (and probably for a good laugh!) And we won't even talk about that horrid little instrument of torture commonly referred to as a cell phone, ringing obstinately, and of course, falling on the seat out of reach next to you, while you are driving diligently and carefully in this garb, ramrod straight.

How do you determine whether to drive in this tortured position or to dress at an event?

Experience has had us make decisions based on time, and whether it is a living history event for the day, or one that we will stay at. When we travel to a one-day event and have to spend more than an hour in the car, I dress at home in my underclothing including: chemise, drawers, petticoat, socks, shoes, do my hair up and then put a huge shirt on over the whole thing and button it up to maintain modesty.

It takes on a rather sari-like appearance (not to be confused with a sorry-like appearance - both inevitably apply!) Fellow corseted older daughter Krista dawns the same ensemble. Corset-free youngest daughter Emily dresses 100% except for her hoop. We then load the back of the car with our dresses and hoops and plan a "stopping place" to robe minutes from the event. This enables us to arrive looking cool and collected, illusion in tact, these are not mere “costumes” these are our clothes!  Before we leave, we double check the back to make sure we have all bodices, hoops and LOTS of "a girl's best friend" (safety pins), then we take off!

Do imagine me popping into Juice It Up in this ensemble and ordering a  double shot of wheat grass and an ACAI smoothie with extra vitamins and energy, but I digress! It is when I walk into Starbucks like this that the girls really squirm! However, I still have on 3 times the clothing most moderns wear in the dead of winter, NONE of my body parts are showing, yet it is ALL underthings and I feel self conscious. And that is just the potty stop along the way.

We then find our restroom of choice, with Starbucks always being our first choice.  They are phenomenal with large CLEAN bathrooms to dress in and generally a nice hanger on the back of your door to hold the dress and hoop. Extra caffeine is always good (especially after wheatgrass!) We have gotten dressing down to a science.  Krista dresses first, and gets Emily's hoop on while I button my bodice. Then, my generous "dressing servant," Krista the Wonder Daughter, helps me finish dressing (1st the hoop, bodice, then skirt) while Emily excitedly mills around and sings Civil War songs or has some child-like way of making noise and breaking concentration (as when Krista is pinning something and trying not to stick me and I am trying to be really still so when she pokes me, perhaps I won't bleed all over the dress!) All of my Civil War clothes are DNA samples because I believe FIRMLY in using "a girl's best friend," and think that actually putting a button on a skirt means the outfit is completely done.... can it ever be?  So after a few jabs with the safety pins, we are done!

Believe it or not, we are down to where we can do this in 5 minutes, for all 3 of us which is quite short considering the amount of work it is! And it is such a joy to glide OUT of the bathroom, all three of us Baughn girls, and have the people gasp in delight at our transformation from ragamuffin-undie-girls to glamorous hooped Civil War women!!

Then we glide to the car and do that whole “stuff all the hoopskirts in thing described above” times three! Ahh, the little details of the hobby!

If it weren't for humor - and the ridiculous sight we must make - we might have to quit!

But only if Starbucks goes out of business.....which seems rather unlikely.