Civilian Reenacting on a Budget
by Luann Mason©1999
The cost of uniforms and equipment for a military reenactor can be quite staggering. By the time a family has paid for a full uniform, brogans, leathers, and rifle, there is often little discretionary income left over for
other family members who may wish to participate in reenactment events as civilians.
However, a little money, wisely spent, can still yield a top-notch civilian impression. If you're willing to learn to sew your own clothing, the cash outlay for a rank beginner's full civilian kit can be under $100. While this may not result in a "top of the line" civilian impression, it is still quite serviceable, and more than passably historically accurate.
- 10 yards white muslin at 99 cents a yard (JoAnn Fabrics, regular price).
This will make a petticoat (3 yards), a chemise (2.5 yards), a pair of drawers (2 yards), 2 or 3 collars (1/2 yard), and provide bodice lining for your first dress (2 yards)
- 7 yards woven cotton solid, stripe, check or period appropriate print at $2 per yard
This will make a work dress (JoAnn Fabrics or Wal Mart, sale rack. Not everything they have is appropriate, but I've yet to walk out of Wal Mart empty handed when fabric shopping. When in doubt, pick a small check or solid color cotton fabric in a "reasonable" hue.)
- 3 yards woven cotton solid, stripe, check or period appropriate print at $2 per yard
This will make a waist apron or pinner apron (JoAnn Fabrics or Wal Mart, sale rack)
- 2 yards woven cotton solid, stripe, check or period appropriate print at $2 per yard
For a slatted or corded sun bonnet (JoAnn Fabrics or Wal Mart, sale rack)
- 1 pair ankle high boots in brown or black, usually $15 (either PayLess Shoe Source or Wal Mart)
You want plain (undecorated), relatively square toe, smooth sole, and small heel, 1" or less.
If possible, try not to have the "speed lace" type hooks.
- 1 pair white cotton stockings $6.50 (available at sutlers)
- 1 gathered bodice pattern from Past Patterns $18 (available from various sutlers, via mail order, or on the web at www.pastpatterns.com)
- 1 2/3 yards solid, check or stripe wool for shawl $4.50 - $10.00 (check remnant bins)
- 1 reproduction brooch from Abraham's Lady: $5
- 1 small carrying basket (craft store) $5
- 1 white ironstone plate $1 (thrift store)
- 1 set silver plate eating utensils in period appropriate plain pattern $3 (thrift store)
- 1 teacup $3 (thrift store)
- 1 yard huck toweling $3.50 (Fabric Depot or most larger fabric stores)
Use to wrap plate, cup and utensils in, clean up, etc. You might want a yard or two more as it shrinks quite a bit and you will find many, many uses for toweling.
Edited and reprinted with permission. This article originally
ran in "Rally Cry", Newsletter of the 4th Virginia Infantry, Company F, September 1999 edition.
Visit the 4th Virginia Infantry at: 4th Virginia Civilians