Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Not-so-fancy Dress

Costumes are great conversation starters.

“Oo, that’s so clever!”
“Love the fabric; where’d you get it?”
“Okay, I give up. What the expletive deleted are you supposed to be?”

When you venture into the world of reenacting, those friendly conversations can take a sudden and ugly shift from helpful hints about keeping your pinner apron in place to screaming debates about how long to soak metal buttons in urine in order to achieve an authentic patina.

No, I’m not kidding.

I fall on the less-hardcore end of the historical garb spectrum, mostly due to a lack of funding and closet space. While I’d certainly consider donating an extraneous organ or two for something like this:

most of the stuff in my costume closet comes straight from vintage Vogue and McCall patterns. No biggie, since my appearance isn’t that important. I spend most of my reenactment time chatting to kids who are fascinated by my spinning wheel, while their parents are giggling and taking videos of my husband as he quietly picks out Stairway to Heaven on his six-string banjo.

Hey, we’re volunteers. We get paid in smiles.

Though I haven’t done scads of research, I have learned a few things about practical wear of historical garb.

1.    Polyester petticoats look pretty, but will stick to your legs and make you sweat like a horse. Stick with cotton.
2.   Gravel pathways and cute little high-heeled shoes do not mix, unless you enjoy accenting your outfit with ACE bandages. If you have to hoof it, and your skirts are long enough, tennis shoes are your friends.
3.  Boots first, then corset.
4.  Drink lots of water, even if you’re wearing All The Layers and have to get dern near nekkid every thirty minutes just to go to the can. If your clothes are made well, they’ll absorb moisture before you even realize that you’re sweating, and you’ll dehydrate and faceplant into the dirt before you can say, “Ah declay-uh!”
5.  Don’t dunk your apron strings in the Porta-Potty.

Even if your garb is more evocative than accurate, it should make you happy. Anybody who wants to complain can go pee on their buttons. Happy Hallowe’en!

When she's not taking part in reenactments, Audrey Lintner likes to spend her time playing with her kid, spinning or knitting from her giant fiber stash, baking All The Things, and drinking coffee. When she gets ten minutes together, she'll post a new column as the Procraftinator.


  1. Reenactments don't sound quite as inviting as they did before I read your post, Audrey. The word "corset" was enough to make me take the dream off my bucket list.

    1. Oh, but a corset can be your best friend! Especially if your upstairs happens to be on the generous side. A good fit and sensible lacing practices are the keys to comfort. :)

  2. Fun column, Audrey. I'm sure your immersion into period reenactments adds realism to your stories. I've been to one reenactment of the Revolutionary War. Those folks are serious. I think it would be fun if one writes period historicals. I can't think of a better way to get it right. Me? I'll stick to present day crime fiction.

    1. What? You'd pass up the chance to eat hardtack? ;)

  3. What a fun post. I used to visit a fort in Omaha NE where reenactors would would fill the fort one Saturday a month. I really enjoyed visiting, especially since I could drive home to go to the potty. No peeing on buttons for me.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you! Fortunately, not all of them are the result of personal experience. :)

  5. I love Connor Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, Indiana, northeast of Indianapolis. This is a fabulous (and revealing) post, Audrey.


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