An American of both Scottish and Irish heritage, Jacquie Habenicht attended her first Highland games in July of 2000 – the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in North Carolina, an event which still exists today. Even 23 years later, she still recalls the emotions that she felt that weekend.
“I had this strange feeling of being at home listening to the bagpipes, surrounded by so much Scottish and Celtic culture,” she says, noting that Celtic music was of particular interest to her.
Habenicht continued to attend Highland games, along with her husband, in the years that followed. At first, the couple purchased on-theme clothing to wear. Eventually, however, Habenicht wanted to make her own.
“I noticed that there were plenty of options for men with multiple kilt vendors. They also had all the accessories available. There were very few, if any, ladies’ clothing vendors.”
With the help of both her mother and her mother-in-law, Habenicht took up sewing.
“I wanted to learn how to make my own clothing, not only for games, but for everyday wear. After a few lessons, and a lot of trial by error, I began to make dresses and other garments.”
Fellow festival attendees were impressed by the dresses – so much so that some even asked Habenicht to make clothing items for them.
“As more people asked us to make them either ladies’ garments or leather goods, it blossomed into a business. We were asked to come to games, and we started to grow exponentially. We have never really had a mandate other than to make quality goods.”
As it turned out, “trial and error” was destined to be a running theme with Scottish Leather & Lassie Wear (now called Time-Period Clothing).
“We had to figure out how to make this work into our busy schedules, how to make it profitable, and what items were selling,” explains Habenicht. “The other difficult component is that each event has a different feel to it and sometimes a different crowd depending on the location. The types of items we have for sale continue to fluctuate based on the market, what people want to buy and what costume items they need to complete the outfit they are working on.”
For example, the popularity of the show Outlander led to increased interest in 18th Century clothing for women. The interest in that particular style has yet to wane, and thus Time-Period Clothing continues to work on 18th Century pieces to sell at upcoming events.
“While we do design some of our own goods, we also use styles from the past to create garments.”
On top of Time-Period Clothing, Habenicht has another, regular full-time job. As a result, her main challenge is coming up with enough hours to dedicate to her craft.
“I am the sole person purchasing materials, designing certain aspects of our goods, cutting, stitching, selling, scheduling events, and doing the accounting. It takes a huge amount of effort to want to put so much time into a business. Having the time to promote events, promote your items, and work on having more of a social media presence is a lot of work and I do not always get to that.”
Time-Period Clothing reaches many of its clients through Highland games in the United States, as well as online. Its best-selling pieces of clothing include chemises, bodices, and Irish overdresses. Many of these products would traditionally be made from linen, but Habenicht leans toward using cotton. “We decided to go with a lighter weight fabric that is also easy to wash. Here in the southeastern U.S., it can be hot and muggy, so having something that is easy to wash was important to me.”
Her dedication pays off when she runs into people wearing her clothing at Highland games or when she gets positive feedback and repeat customers. She doesn’t see any major changes to the business in the near future. Down the road, however, “we will have to decide how we want to continue the business. It could go into a growth mode, or possibly reduce our travel and sell more online structure.”
For now, Habenicht is happy to see people wearing her garments – whether it’s for a Celtic festival, a Renaissance fair or just for fun.