The Civilian Side
Reenacting organizations generally
define individual membership as being part of one of the many small military
portrayal units like ours. Civilian Reenactors, those portraying a
non-military historic role, typically belong to a military reenacting unit
to facilitate their activities. We are no exception.
Our Civilian impression members
work hard at portraying Americans of this critical time in history. These
are the people at home supporting, writing to, sending new socks to, serving as
nurses or laundresses for, and yearning for the return of, the men in the Army.
They were also men who worked in and around the armies. Some of
our civilian living historians go to great lengths in research and activity to portray these complex, very
personal, and vital characters from our history. Some of the women even
take to riding horses sidesaddle to complete their impression and augment our
equestrian living history efforts.
We believe there is no
point in pretending that you are “portraying” people of the Civil War era unless
you make an honest attempt to look and act as accurately as possible. While none
of us will ever be completely authentic we can strive to continue improving our
impressions. Our unit is blessed with some very knowledgeable members.
consult with them before purchasing anything. It can save you LOTS of money in
the long run. For more information about women's Side Saddle activities,
see the Victorian
Ladies Aside web site.
- A well-fitting corset. While not all women in the era
wore corsets, NONE of them wore a bra. There are ready made corsets
available. A custom made corset made to your own measurements and figure type
provides maximum comfort and the best fit.
- 1-2 chemises
- 1-2 pair of drawers (length should be below the knee but
NOT full length).
- A corded petticoat or work-width hoop
- A regular petticoat or underskirt
- 1-2 pairs of stockings, black, white or cream colored
- 1-2 everyday or “work” dresses (matching bodice and
skirt) in woven checks, plaids, stripes or period correct prints. Trim, if
any, should be minimal and understated.
- Cotton dresses should preferably be gathered bodice,
although fitted cotton bodices are allowed. NO pagoda sleeves in cotton
dresses. Preferred sleeve styles are bishop, coat and “balloon”.
- A white blouse/skirt combinations borrowed from
someone else will be acceptable until you can buy or make your own dress.
NEVER buy or make a white blouse/skirt combination garment.
- No visible modern underpinnings are allowed (e.g. wear
drawers if you wear a hoop).
- A period reproduction pair of shoes, or modern boots
that will realistically pass (equestrian “paddock boots” are a good option).
- 1-2 plain white cotton collars or neckerchiefs
- Warm outerwear for winter events – capes/cloaks
- Apron in period-appropriate fabric, preferably “pinner”
style. (Apron need not match the dress).
- Correct period hairstyle – center part, no bangs, hair
confined at or below the nape of the neck. Hair nets, if worn, must be of
correct materials and worn appropriately. No reenactor “snoods”.
- Period eyeglasses or modern contact lenses are
permitted. Any jewelry and accessories should be simple or none at all.
AVOID: cameos with obviously modern looking subjects, such as the “ponytail
- PROHIBITED: visible modern make-up, modern hairstyles,
bangs, or loose hair, painted fingernails, nylons or visible socks, modern
eyeglasses, sunglasses of any kind, zippers, Velcro, plastic buttons or
jewelry, wristwatches, stud or post earrings, obviously synthetic fabrics.
Yes, some men in the hobby portray civilians part or full time! There
were private contractors selling to the army, newspaper reporters and sketch
artists, doctors and clergymen, politicians, local town and farm people, and
numerous others among and around the armies at all times.
A man's basic set of clothing can be obtained from reputable suppliers for
about the same cost as a uniform:
- Hat with round brim and round crown - wool felt in various colors (no
modern styles!) or straw for summer.
- Top coat of either Saque or Frock style
- Waist Coat with shawl collar
- Trousers with suspenders
- Cotton pullover shirts with banded or fold over collar.
- Cotton or wool long under drawers and undershirts
- Knit cotton or wool socks in solid colors (no bands or ribs)
- Shoes of simple brogan or other civilian styles. Riding boots work
- Miscellaneous person items (wallet, money, pipe & tobbaco, period eyeglasses,
pocket knife, handkerchief, etc)
- While boys clothes sometimes showed a military influence,
complete child-sized uniforms and accoutrements are prohibited until boys are
both old enough and ABLE to portray a combatant. This includes
Drummers, Fifers, and Buglers who may have been as young as 11.
- Little boys under the age of 5 or 6 would have worn dresses,
or short trousers and shirtsleeves. After age 6, full adult length trousers
- Waistcoats (vests) for older boys are encouraged, but not
- Civilian patterned sack coats or short Eton type jackets
should be worn by young boys. As they get older, the clothing is the same as
for an adult male. See notes below.
- Boys should have their hair parted on the side.
- Girl’s dresses should fasten in the back and with either high necked or boat neck styles, with long or short sleeves. By the
time a girl gets old enough to wear a front closing dress, she should be
wearing stays or a corset.
- Drawers should be worn under all dresses. Full length
drawers should be worn by young girls.
- Girl’s skirt lengths should get progressively longer as
they get older starting at just below the knee for very young girls to just
above the ankle for a teenage girl.
- Girl’s hair should be parted in the middle.
- All Infants should wear gowns.
- Modern/disposable diapers are allowed as long as they
are concealed under a cloth diaper.
- Modern infant accessories (baby bottles, etc.) should be
kept out of sight.
- Authentic reproduction children’s shoes are expensive.
If reproduction footwear for children is not possible economically, they
should at least be wearing a style which approximates a period style.
Equestrian paddock boots are a good approximation and used shoes can often be
found in local tack shops or on ebay.
- No modern toys allowed in the camp area. If a favorite
modern toy is necessary for the child to bring with them, it MUST be kept out of sight
and hearing in the tent at all times.