July 16, 2012

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Still In Fashion

When Jean Warren’s friend moved to Connecticut, she left one dress behind. “This dress needs to stay in Missouri,” she told Jean. In the 1850s, a woman on the Kansas-Missouri border wore that dress daily. The friend, Constance, had found the dress in a Weston antique shop on the border.

Jean, who can sew any pattern into a dress, cannot turn a dress into a pattern. She found a pattern drafter, Heidi Marsh, who drafted the “Constance Dress” pattern, and the two women began working together. For hours, they sat in front of old clothes in museums and took notes, researching old cuts and fabrics.

Now, both women sell period-clothing pattern lines at James Country Mercantile, an outlet Jean and her husband, Del, started in 1986 in Liberty. James Country Mercantile, one of about 125 companies that makes period clothes and equipment in the country, was Del’s idea.

Del grew up hunting and muzzle-loading and wanted a historical guns business. Del drove to reenactments and served as an on-site gun repairman. Today, he and Jean run the shop largely themselves, apart from two part-time employees.

Jean says their outlet, specializing in equipment from about 1750 to 1900, which spans at least seven U.S. wars, is doing remarkably well. Jean says she’s amazed at customers’ loyalty to their products. “Nothing that we sell is a necessity,” she says. “You don’t have to reenact. You have to eat.”


July 16, 2012

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