Marriage of history and design

A Greencastle couple sells authentic trims, ribbos and accessories for uniforms and furnishings from the 17th through 20th centu

A Greencastle couple sells authentic trims, ribbos and accessories for uniforms and furnishings from the 17th through 20th centu

November 22, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - A framed sales slip, dated Sept. 19, 1994, for $7.60 for six yards of jute webbing hangs in the studio of Wooded Hamlet Designs - a testament to the success of the highly specialized mom-and-pop-venture that is the livelihood of Mary and Kenneth Wagner.

Their shop at 4044 Coseytown Road sells authentic trims, ribbons and accouterments for uniforms, fashions and furnishings from the 17th through 20th centuries.

"We cover a stretch of more than 400 years," Ken Wagner, 45, said.

Customers include museums and historic sites - Colonial Williamsburg, Va., Old Sturbridge Village and Mystic Seaport. They sell to re-enactors from the French and Indian Wars to World War II, clothing and furniture designers, costume makers, crafts persons and Hollywood movie producers. Their trims and ribbons have appeared in such films as "Last of the Mohicans," "The Patriot," and most recently, "Gods and Generals," which was filmed mainly in Washington County.


"People hear about us word-of-mouth or online," said Mary, 43.

"Ours is the only shop in the country where you can get authentic reproductive trim," her husband said.

The shop specializes in ribbons, trims, webbing and braids all made from natural fibers.

The couple buys wool from England, linen from Ireland, silk from the Far East and jute from the Middle East.

Two years ago, they traveled to England to visit with some of their wool suppliers. "We went in one mill that has been in continuous operation since the 18th century. It made uniforms for British soldiers who fought in the American Revolution," he said.

The Wagners spent years researching the authenticity of clothing, uniforms, furnishings, draperies and upholstery to hone their expertise.

Some people have kept uniforms of family members or bits and pieces of them for generations and they have become treasure troves of authenticity for the Wagners. The Wagners also have an extensive collection of artifacts and clothing.

"It takes constant research," Ken said. "It takes years looking at authentic clothes," his wife said.

A check of the bookshelves in their studio gives a hint of the extent of the couple's research. Their shelves are piled high with titles like, "American Needlework," "Two Centuries of Costumes in America," "Costume History and Style," "The Splendor of Ribbons" and "Sewing Tools and Trinkets."

The Wagners have sewn and fashioned uniforms for themselves and others that are authentic down to a clasp on a piece of underwear.

Both were in the upholstery and furniture business in the Westminster, Md., area before they met. Mary and her brother had taken over their father's upholstery business and Ken was restoring antique furniture.

A love of history was another common bond.

Both have become active re-enactors, from pre-Colonial to the Revolution and the Civil War.

The Wagners have been in the business full time for 10 years. They operated in their home for eight years, "in the bedroom, kitchen and living room," Mary said.

They built a new workshop behind the garage two years ago.

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