Christa Hanson and Daniel Holmberg demonstrate what a well-off couple would be wearing during the days of the fur trade at Fort Langley. This year, for the first time, there will be a old-time fashion show at Brigade Days. Photo supplied

An undercover look at old time fashion during Brigade Days in Fort Langley

It’s all about layers. And hats.

A corset helps when you wear a woolen dress with multiple layers of underclothes and the other accessories of a 1800s-era woman, Christa Hanson has discovered.

“The corset actually supports the layers,” Hanson said.

“I thought it was going to be a lot heavier.”

Hanson will dress up for the audience at “Fur Trade Fashions” for Brigade Days in Fort Langley.

On Sunday, Aug. 6 at 12:30 p.m. Hanson and Daniel Holmberg will reveal what lies beneath the formal fashion of the fur trade era.

Hanson said it will be “family friendly,” because the underclothes of the day preatty much cover everything.

“We’ll probably have more on than most of the audience,” she said.

People had fewer outfits back then, so the cover-up approach to underclothes had the practical benefit of reducing the amount of washing required.

When Hanson isn’t portraying a character from the early days of the fur trade in B.C., her hot-weather fashion choice usually involves shorts and a tank top, an outfit that would be considered “especially scandalous” in an era when the sight of a woman’s bare ankle was shocking, she said.

Back then, wearing less, even during the summer heat, was not an option.

For instance, both women and men were expected to wear hats, no matter what the temperature.

“It would be considered very rude to be out in public without your head covered,” Hanson said.

Holmberg has concluded that both genders had reason to use ”fainting couches” that were supposedly designed to prevent collapse in hot weather.

The demonstration will show how the number of layers increased as you climb up the social scale from the poor to people of higher social standing.

“All the way from working class to fine ladies.”

The presentation will be followed by a fashion catwalk show by other historical re-enactors at the fort.

“A lot of what people want to see (at the historic Fort) is the fashions,” Hanson said.

“We’re hoping to make it a regular thing.”

The Fort’s annual Brigade Day celebration runs Aug. 5 to 7 this year.

Each B.C. Day weekend the event re-creates the 1850s fur brigade that travelled down the river to Fort Langley every year.

Furs and other goods that had been traded to the Hudson’s Bay Company throughout the year from indigenous trading partners would be prepared for shipping to England.

After their visit, the fur traders would returned to their posts with trade goods and supplies for the coming year.

Admission to the fort at 23433 Mavis Ave. is free to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday.

Visitors can see laundry done by hand with a washboard and ringer, enjoy folk songs and stories and mingle with re-enactors demonstrating the old-time arts of sewing, laundry, weapons, blacksmithing and cooking.

It ends with a bagpipe procession down to the Fraser River shore, to witness a re-enactment of the arrival of the fur brigades.

Paddlers of a dozen canoes and a replica York boat will travel from Hope to Fort Langley where they traditionally unloaded their cargo of furs and barrels.

Following their arrival, a plaque will be unveiled recognizing fur trader and explorer Simon Fraser as a person of national historic significance.

  • Full Schedule
  • SATURDAY August 5

10 a.m. Flag-raising Procession

All day: Pig Roast Demonstration

11 a.m. Historic Weapons Demonstration

12:30 p.m. Chinook Jargon

1 p.m. Trapping Techniques

2 p.m. Farm & Garden Tour

2:30 p.m. Historic Weapons Demonstration

3 p.m. Washer Women

4 p.m. Voyageurs

4:45 p.m. Flag Lowering

  • SUNDAY AUGUST 6

10 a.m. Flag-raising Procession

11 a.m. Weapons Demonstration

12 p.m. Washer Women

12:30 p.m. Fur Trade Fashions

1:30 p.m. Trapping Techniques

2 p.m. Farm and Garden

2:30 p.m. Fort Feats of Strength

3:30 p.m. Weapons Demonstration

4 p.m. Chinook Jargon

4:45 p.m. Closing time at the Trading Post

  • MONDAY AUGUST 7

10 a.m. Flag-raising Procession

11 a.m. Weapons Demonstration

11:30 a.m. Washer Women

12 p.m. Chinook Jargon

12:30 p.m. Bagpipe Procession from Fort to Marina Park

1 p.m. Arrival of the Fur Brigades

1:30 p.m. Procession from Marina Park to James Douglas Statue

3 p.m. Weapons Demonstration

4 p.m. Farm and Garden

4:45 p.m. Closing time at the Trading Post

 

Christa Hanson, Nette Plant and Daniel Holmberg rehearse the art of old-school layering for a Brigade Days fashion show. Photo supplied

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