My name is Kass McGann, owner and founder of Reconstructing History.
Reconstructing History has been online since August 1997. So some of you may have heard my name before. Some of you have no idea who I am. So let me tell you a little story…
In the early 90s, a friend introduced me to her quasi-medieval group. You could be from any time or place you wanted. I had been researching my family’s genealogy at the time, so I chose to be from Ireland.
But when I asked people what Irish people wore in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, they told me: “Oh, just dress English but wear more green.”
For the girl who cut a hole in her brand new BarbieTM Dream House “because real people don’t go in through the roof!” this was an unacceptable answer. I mean, we’re talking about a country famous for Aran sweaters and Donegal tweed! Surely someone knew what the Irish wore.
First thing I did was obtain a copy of Mairead Dunlevy’s Dress in Ireland. I devoured it. Then I sought all the articles and books it referenced, driving my librarian friends crazy. These included books by McClintock and Walker as well as articles by Lucas and Henshall among others. I was starting to form an idea about what the Irish wore at the end of Elizabeth’s reign at least. But I didn’t have quite enough information to make clothing to wear to these events. (Little did I know that no one else went through the kind of crazed Odyssey that I did just to attend my first event!)
It turns out, it didn’t matter. I was hooked! I’d found my calling. Within months I was at the National Museum of Ireland, getting my hands dirty with the dust of 3000 year old textiles. Soon after that, the Museum started forwarding enquires about Irish historical dress to me “because you know more about them than we do” quoth the curator at the time.
In the intervening years, I’ve lectured on the subject of historical clothing in Ireland, England, the US and Australia. I’ve published articles on specific items of historic dress as well as how-to guides for reenactors. I’ve spent days in the basements and backrooms of museums, and months studying the technology that went into making clothing and trying to replicate it as best as I can. Unlike many costume historians who describe what clothing of a certain period looks like, I seek to understand how it is made. I do this by going the nth degree with my reconstructions so that I can truly understand the whys and wherefores of period clothing construction and how it is different from clothing production today.
Founded in August 1997, Reconstructing History is one woman’s dream to bring information on historic clothing to the public and make this data available worldwide. During the past nine years, our method for achieving this goal has changed. From selling replica clothing to sharing information on extant garments to writing instructions for beginners and posting dress diaries, Reconstructing History has grown and evolved. We hope with each change, we have helped more people understand historic clothing and able to reconstruct their own.
In Autumn 2003, Reconstructing History moved into a new phase of its existence. It was then that we launched a line of dressmaker patterns geared towards re-enactors and makers of replica clothing. These patterns are exacting in historical detail and include copious notes of interest to the re-enactor and clothing historian. Our goal was that they will also be easy to use and the directions simple to follow, even for the beginning tailor. From the feedback we have received in the three years since then, we believe we have achieved those ends.
Reconstructing History exists first and foremost to study historical clothing. This is why we can guarantee the historical accuracy of all our products. Although produced modernly, our clothing and accoutrements are as period appropriate as possible and we wouldn’t sell them to you otherwise.