Colonial fashion show brings local historical figures to life

Apr 15, 2023

From Lincoln Hill to Fearing Hill, from Mackie’s Bridge to Gault Road, the American Revolution lives on in Wareham. The namesakes of all four places are local historical figures: Rufus Lincoln, Israel Fearing, Andrew Mackie and John Galt. 

These historic personalities came to life — and worked the runway — during “Wearing Wareham,” a Revolutionary War-era fashion show and reenactment, at the High School on Saturday, April 15. 

The event was hosted by the Wareham Minutemen and Militia, and sponsored in part by the Wareham Cultural Council. 

“I think sometimes we take local history for granted,” said Wayne Oliveira, who portrayed Israel Fearing. “We have so much history here.”

The event educated the public not only about the lives of Wareham’s Revolutionary War veterans, but the clothes they wore at the time. 

Reenactors explained each piece of the colonial-era costume. The women wore petticoats, stays and scarves, while the men wore waistcoats, frock coats and breeches. Only men’s clothing had buttons. Women had to use pins as fasteners. 

Presenters Claire Smith and Cathy Potter welcomed Wareham’s local legends to the stage and explained their outfits, as well as their connection to the town. 

Edward Bumpus, for instance, was the moderator at Wareham’s first Town Meeting in 1739. His house still stands today on Main Street, across from Gateway Plaza.

Bumpus, portrayed by Carey Johnson, wore a long red waistcoat and carried a musket, a wooden canteen, a cartridge box, a leather hunting bag, a bayonet and a hatchet. 

Each reenactor wore a different style of colonial couture, representing their role in society. Blacksmith Nathan Bassett, portrayed by Dean Rantz, wore a loose shirt, a leather apron and a linen cap. Lieutenant Josiah Smith, portrayed by Howard Smith (no relation) wore a blue and white regimental coat with 44 pewter buttons.

The presentation concluded with an educational skit and story highlighting the experience of poor women during the Revolutionary War. Outgoing Town Clerk Michele Bissonnette and Anne Lopes donned dirt-covered clothes and trotted across the stage barefoot to play a laundress and a camp follower, respectively. The two told a story of hardship, with a bit of gallows humor sprinkled in. 

The Rehoboth 13th Regiment and the Fairhaven Village Militia assisted the Minutemen during the presentation. 

Fairhaven Village Militia member Amy Sylvia said that she has wanted to participate in a historic fashion show for a long time.

“It’s just fun getting the information out there to the public,” Sylvia said. “Maybe it makes people start thinking about their own personal history and where they come from.”

Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside, who attended in modern dress, hoped that video of the event could be shown in Wareham schools. 

“Local history is really important,” Whiteside said. “Not everyone has been in Wareham seven generations. To know that the town was a contributor to the founding of the country is interesting.”