I've been learning counter duties this week...of the 2,000+ employees who work at CW, some 800 are costumed to a certain extent. Full-time interpreters might have six shirts, five breeches/petticoats, stockings, jackets, coats, jumps, stays, weskits, shoes and other accessories like hats, pins, buckles. People with more than one interpretive role or with a dirty job might have more clothes, part-timers or special-event interpreters might have less. Some people, like the guy who plays Thomas Jefferson, have several dozen complete outfits, spanning several decades.
And when those clothes get dirty, they come to me. I separate them into bags for hot and cold water, dry-cleaning, extra dirty or sooty (this is where clothes worn while firing cannons go), any special requests or clothes with hazardous materials on them. They get scanned into the computer and sent off to the cleaners. When they come back, they get scanned back into the building (each item has a barcode on it), and then the laundry team checks it all over and fixes anything major Normally I am fixing, but today I was checking. After each garment is lovingly mended--or not, as some carry tags marked "Distressed--Do Not Repair" which is hysterical to me for some reason--they are put alphabetically onto a rolling rack, and eventually transferred onto a drycleaner's rail, where they await the return of their interpreter. I'm not sqeamish about handling dirty laundry--hello, wardrobe--but the action of hanging hundreds of pieces of period clothing onto a rail is killing me. My right shoulder especially is sore. And I'm completely worn out from remembering all the steps needed to get everything organised for two different cleaning companies all the while being constantly interrupted by interpreters stopping by to pick up their clothes.
But I have had the opportunity, finally, to meet some of the people I've been repairing clothes for, and it's been interesting to see if my image of them meets up with what they actually look like. Usually, not. Period shirts, for example, are huge, so I always picture these guys as bigger than they really are. And I cornered the militia captain when he came in to retrieve his regimentals: he said he would put me on the list to join the evening military programs, so if he remembers, I'll be doing that. All my deep thoughts and ponderings finally boiled down to "screw it! I wanna march." Although, after the workout I've had today, I don't know if I'll be capable of it.