I still vividly recall one of the first lessons taught in my very first high school drama class. It was that actors who wear their costumes and stage make-up outside the theater are considered rank amateurs. Apparently, being called an, "amateur," is about the lowest insult an actor could ever receive.
That lesson always stayed with me, and when I took up historical reenacting I applied it there as well. Yes, I'm aware of the fact that historical reenactors don't like to be put in the same category as theatrical actors, but there are a few similarities--the biggest one being that both professions typically wear clothing that one wouldn't ordinarily wear out on the street. And, just as with theatrical actors, there is a time and place where wearing historical attire is appropriate, and there is a time and place where it is not.
If you're in Tombstone, or at an Old West festival, by all means wear your period attire. Even if you're not there to perform, if the venue allows or encourages visitors to wear period clothing go for it. Even when I wasn't a member of a reenactment group, if it is a special event weekend in Tombstone, and I was there signing my books, I would wear period clothing if I was in the mood for it. However, if I had plans to go someplace else after an event was over I'd have a change of clothes with me and put on modern attire before going to a non-period venue. Even if I thought I'd be going straight home afterward I'd still bring a change of clothes with me just in case. Likewise, if I'm having a book signing at a non-western venue, such as a Barnes & Nobel bookstore, I typically wear modern western wear.
This past weekend I attended the Tucson Festival of Books. It was my first time there, and it's a huge event. There are, literally, hundreds of authors there, and just about every book genre you can imagine is represented. Being a non-western event I left my period clothing a home, however both days I spotted folks from the steampunk convention I'd attended the weekend before walking around in their steampunk costumes. They were not exhibitors at this event, and their outfits drew raised eyebrows from the folks I was sharing my tent with. They simply didn't understand why these people were in costume, and they thought they looked, "silly," to say the least.
Granted, the steampunk crowd are not historical reenactors, however wearing those outfits outside the proper venue made them look like amateurs, especially to those who had no idea what steampunk is. That's why those of us who take historic clothing seriously should treat our period garments with respect and not wear them outside the proper venues. Otherwise our period attire turns into clown costumes.
My thought for the day.