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Recommended Vendors

Women's Clothing: Dresses & General ClothingOuterwear & Shawls | Bonnets & Headgear | Footwear | Cage Crinolines & Corded Petticoats | Other Underpinnings | JewelryParasolsOther Accessories | ToiletriesWomen's Patterns

Men's Clothing: Frock Coats | Sack Coats | Trowsers | Waistcoats | Shirts | Headgear | Footwear
Suspenders | Men's Accessories | Drawers | Socks & Other Knitted Goods

Children's Items: General Children's Clothing | Children's Patterns | Toys & Schoolbooks

Personal Items & Material Culture: Carpetbags | Trunks | Plates, Glasses, Cutlery and Other Tablewear | Reproduction Bottles | Stationery, Reproduction Books, Product Labels, and Reproduction Newspapers | Furniture and Bedding | Miscellaneous Gear

Children's Items:

Children's Clothing:

  • Originals by Kay (Kay Gnagey) also produces very attractive and accurate children's clothing to order and sometimes has ready mades. She frequently has tiny child sized corded petticoats in stock.

 

Children's Patterns:

  • Elizabeth Stewart Clark focuses on patterns for infants; boys to age six; girls to age 12-14; and dressmaking instructional books for the 12-20 crowd, as well as adult women.

Toys & Schoolbooks:

  • Ragged Soldier Sutlery (Mike & Virginia Mescher) (VA) carries a wide variety of toys and games from the period and also carries slates and slate pencils for period school work.

 

Women's Clothing: Dresses & General Women's Clothing:

  • Originals By Kay - Kay Gnagey has an excellent eye for period color combinations and trim. Basic prices are fairly low as they don't include hand finishing, which is extra, but you can save money by doing this yourself. Does great muslin fittings for quite low prices.
  • Anna Allen (http://www.thegracefullady.com/) - Long distance muslin fittings for custom orders work beautifully.  She does period-correct work, a good deal of hand finishing, and is always on time with her orders.

  • The Civil War Lady - Joy Melcher. Great gathered-bodice work dresses, plus very nice sheers. Often has lovely ball dresses in silk as well. Turn around time on custom gowns is 10 days to 2 weeks.
  • Somewear in Time - Barbara Brouillard
    76 Steinwehr Ave
    Gettysburg, VA   17325
    Phone. . .(717) 337-2143

    (no website at this time) Does very good custom work, including hand finishing. Ready-mades still have a few problems, but most are from an earlier stage in the business. As these are replaced, they should be better.

Millinery:

Buckram-covered silk & sheer bonnets:

Straw Bonnets:

Bonnet patterns:

Bonnet making supplies:

Ribbons: (see ribbon, under fabrics section of general items page)


Slat and Corded Bonnets:

Ladies Footwear:

  • Robert Land http://www.robertlandhistoricshoes.com
    The most accurate reproduction women’s footwear to be had. He sells through his website, as well as several sutlers in Gettysburg, including Abraham’s Lady.

  • Fugawee
    The Fugawee "Victoria" and "Rose" boots are very good value for money. While not the quality of the above custom shoe makers, they meet standards and are a good starter shoe commonly available "off the rack" in a variety of sizes. As well as ordering via their website, they can also be bought via Heirloom Emporium and Abraham's Lady.


  • Mattamore Harness (Tom Mattamore)
    Website currently doesn't show any women's shoes but he does a very nice oxford based on an original and will do custom orders.

Underpinnings:

Corsetry:

  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Makes a variety of corset models, specializes in gusseted corsets which are comfortable and the most common in our era
  • The Civil War Lady (Joy Melcher)
    Although we cannot advocate ready-made corsets as your first choice, since a custom fitted corset is always the wisest choice, Civil War Lady does make custom corsets, and for those just getting started or “testing the waters”, she also has ready-made corsets in stock.


Collars, Cuffs and Undersleeves:

  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Carries a variety of very nicely done collars, cuffs and undersleeves in myriad documented patterns, including some items that you don't see elsewhere. Sometimes has knit and crocheted undersleeves.
  • Anna Allen www.thegracefullady.com
    Excellent collars, cuffs and undersleeves both plain and fancy, to custom-order

 

Chemises, Drawers & Petticoats (top quality)

  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Makes a variety of chemises based on originals in her collection, including a very pretty model with pintucks on the front, as well as and drawers, including nice warm canton flannel ones. Has ready-made woolen winter underpetticoats that are very nice too
  • Most of the high quality dressmakers recommended on this page will make a variety of underpinnings to order

 

Chemises, Drawers & Petticoats (budget)

Chemises, drawers and under and over the hoop petti-coats are items that are easy to make on one's own and are also areas where you can economize by buying less expensive readymades that are serviceable.  Because you are usually shopping in a sutlery that will have good things as well as the not-so-accurate, be sure to take someone with you whose research you trust.

  • James Country Mercantile (http://www.jamescountry.com/)
    Has quite decent cheap drawers and chemises, in both white cotton and unbleached muslin. The latter is less authentic. They are worth patronizing among the general interest sutlers as they also produce the high-authenticity Homespun Patterns and a variety of items that are higher on the authenticity scale than the average.
  • Heirloom Emporium  http://www.heirloomemporium.com/
    Cindy Hopes carries a wide range of items, including good, high-authenticity items for reenactors as well as tourist stuff for spectators. Underpinnings are usually quite good. In addition to budget priced items she also carries some top of the line items including corded petticoats by Lynne Gaither. She also sometimes has flannel underpetticoats.
  • Elizabeth Stewart Clark
    For do-it-yourself-ers, her website has several FREE patterns on it, infants, children, women, and dolls, as well as instruction books.

Cage Crinolines:

Cage crinoline kit from Needle and Thread
  • Wooded Hamlet Designs Based on an original in their collection, this is the most accurate reproduction we have seen.  You also have the option of having the creators of the kit make the cage for you, at an extra charge.
  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey) Carries a kit, or will do cages to order

Mrs. Flemming, who sells her cages via Mrs. Christen's Miscellanea http://home.earthlink.net/%7Egchristen/


Corded Petticoats:

Ladies Accessories:

Miscellaneous Accessories:

  • Mrs. Christen's Miscellanea http://home.earthlink.net/%7Egchristen/ 
    Excellent pinner aprons, and a variety of other useful items such as bonnet pins, etc.
  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Fans and a variety of other accessories. At events, also carries high quality stockings.
  • Abraham's Lady http://www.abrahamslady.com/
    Carries a wide variety of useful accessories, including some antique jewelry, fans, gloves, stockings and other basic items. Quality can vary from the very best to standard sutler row, so shop carefully.

Antique and Reproduction Jewelry:

  • James River Emporium (Betty Loba)
    No website, but look for her at events. Has gorgeous original jewelry and also a variety of other antique items.
  • Mac’s Sutlery
    Bill "Mac" MacIntosh usually has a very nice assortment of original jewelry. Mac has no website, but is found at many events
  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey). Has some original items on her website and a wider selection at events
  • Somewear in Time, Gettysburg shop, carries Beth Miller Hall’s reproduction jewelry.  No website, but the shop is located at 141 Steinwehr Ave in Gettysburg.
  • Lucy Cadwallader
    Excellent reproduction hairwork jewelry. Her web site shows examples of her work. She will do custom work as well. She creates for various time periods, so be sure to let her know what you want.


Parasols:

  • Marta Vincent -- does an excellent job at recovering original parasol frames that have lost their covers and are therefore suitable for reenacting Her husband Henry repairs parasol frames and makes very nice bonnet stands.
  • Mrs. Christen's Miscellanea http://home.earthlink.net/%7Egchristen/  -- Their supplier Mr. Flemming, makes accurate reproduction folding parasols. The wood on the sticks can bea bit rough and worth sanding and varnishing or painting however, but this is THE best option for those who hesitate to use an original.

Toiletries:

  • The Ragged Soldier Sutlery (Mike & Virginia Mescher) carries a wide variety of colognes of the era including Carmelite Water, Hungary Water, Florida Water, etc. Virginia's new book on period cosmetics and toiletries is particularly worth buying and available from them at events or online.
  • The Arabia Museum: has chemically analyzed and reproduced two colognes from residue found at the bottom of perfume bottles on this steamboat that sunk in the Mississippi in 1856.

Hair Supplies:

  • Hairpieces: Heirloom Emporium http://www.heirloomemporium.com/  carries a good selection of hairpieces suitable for reenacting. Abraham's Lady carries some hairpieces too. Also, check your local wig shop. You WILL need to compare hairpieces to your hair in good light, so we would hesitate to recommend that you buy these through the mail or online.
  • Hairpins: Faux tortoiseshell hairpins can be obtained at events from Heirloom Emporium. They are also available at Sally Beauty Supply and online at HairBoutique.com.  Metal hairpins may be found online at http://plainlydressed.bravepages.com/headcoveringfile.html .  About the only difference between the appearance of these and a period hairpin is that these are not japanned.
  • Antique Haircombs: Betty Loba's James River Emporium, or eBay. If you buy online, be aware that you should know what you are looking for.  Many sellers will call things “Civil War era” when they are not.
  • Pomade: You needn't buy pomade as there are a number of period recipes available, many of which are mentioned in the book on toiletries that may be found at www.raggedsoldier.com .  In addition, although not listed on their website, Cornier Clothiers (http://www.cornerclothiers.com/) has an excellent reproduction pomade sold in an authentic style container as well.

Outerwear:

Coats, Paletots, Mantles, Etc:

  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Often has a good selection of outerwear in a variety of styles, including items based on patterns in Godeys and Petersons that are generally not being reproduced by others. Also does silk mantles and other under-represented items.

Woven Shawls:

  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Has modern Indian paisley shawls available on her website that are a good approximation of period woven paisley shawls.
  • Abraham's Lady http://www.abrahamslady.com/
    Often has period woven paisley shawls that are not in museum condition yet sturdy enough to be used CAREFULLY for reenacting. Also sometimes has vintage, non-antique woolen shawls of the right dimensions for our period. (e.g. ca. 60 in square or 60x180 rectangular to be doubled)

Sontags & Knitted and Crocheted Shawls:

  • Originals By Kay (Kay Gnagey)
    Re-seller for a mother and daughter team of period knitters who offer shawls, sontags and other items.
  • S&S Sutlery, http://www.ss-sutler.com/
    Debbie Sheads does beautiful knitting and generally has a good assortment of period-correct hand-knitted sontags.
  • Colleen Formby, AGSAS member who does commission work on various women’s knitted items, and also sometimes sells through Somewear in Time, in Gettysburg
  • Do it yourself option:
    Visit the Meschers’ site at www.raggedsoldier.com, and click on “needlework, novelties, and necessities” for free period patterns, that have been interpreted for a modern knitter, but for accuracy’s sake, have stayed with the period size of needles and thread.
  • CWNeedleworkers yahoo group: Excellent group, with the goal of discussing and reproducing period knitted and crocheted items (along with other needlework items) in a period-correct manner.

 

The majority of the dressmakers overlap in their offerings.  We have posted what we believe to be some of the best of what they have to offer.

Elizabeth Stewart Clark wrote a great post on the Authentic Campaigner website, which sums up the issue of women’s clothing.  We repeat it here with her kind permission: 

 

Adventures in Women’s Underwear

Or

What a Man Needs to Know about Dressing a Woman

By Elizabeth Stewart Clark

It is a typical scenario: a man comfortable in military impressions meets a nice woman. They fall in love, or at least deep like. He wishes to interest her in his fascinating hobby, and suggests she attend an event or two. She agrees, and he sets about finding some clothes for her to wear. That should be pretty easy, right? After all, she just needs a dress.

That’s rather like saying a military impression just needs some sort of gun. Any gun, really. Squirt gun, Mauser, Jiminy Cricket rifle—a gun is a gun, isn’t it?

The reality is, creating a functional, accurate woman’s wardrobe for the mid-century is a multi-step process, and should command just as much research and attention as creating an accurate military impression. This brief article serves as an overview only, but includes the basics of what to look for, and why.

From the Skin Out
A woman’s wardrobe is a system that works from the skin out. Fully dressed for a day or work or pleasure, the average working class woman (to be paired with an average private soldier, socially) will don:

  • Chemise: a white cotton undergarment with a wide neckline, short sleeves, and mid-thigh to knee length hem, cut full in the body.
  • Stockings: knee or above-knee length, natural fibers.
  • Garters: knit or elastic garters to support stockings; garters may be worn below or above the knee as a matter of personal preference.
  • Shoes: shoe or boot style appropriate for women.
  • Corset: the supportive undergarment, firming the torso and supporting the breasts. This needs to be custom-fit to her figure, and should not be purchased “off the rack”.
  • Drawers: white cotton, mid-calf hem, split crutch seam, full in the body.
  • Petticoat: mid-calf hem, moderately full-gathered (90” to 120” or so) on a fitted band.
  • Skirt support: small to moderate cage or hoop (85” to 115”), ending at mid-calf and set on a fitted waistband. [note..these sizes may change depending on your body structure and height]
  • Underskirts: one to three full-gathered (150” to 180”) underskirts give loft to the dress and soften any hoop lines. (These are often well-starched.)
  • Dress: for the working class, typically a wool or printed cotton with a fitted bodice, bishop or shaped coat sleeves, high neckline, full skirts set onto the bodice. Dresses do need customized fitting, and are difficult to purchase off the rack.
  • White Accessories & Protective Accessories: white collar and cuff or undersleeve basted into the dress to protect it from body oil and grime. Neckerchiefs may be used for an active working impression (such as farming, cleaning, factory-work, etc). Half-aprons ending in a band at the waist, or pinner aprons with a pinned-up bib, are vital if there is work to be done. Remember, dresses are not so easily laundered as undergarments and accessory pieces. A functional mid-century wardrobe might have a total of three dresses, but seven or more sets of undergarments and accessory items.
  • Headwear: a sunbonnet, fashion bonnet, or warm winter hood, depending on environmental requirements.
  • Wrap: a large wool shawl with fringed hems all around is a very basic outer wrap for any wardrobe.


Additional outer and undergarments may be required for cold weather.

Every garment should be made in 100% natural fibers (silk, wool, cotton, or linen.) White cotton is very common for everyday undergarments, with the addition of wool flannel for cold weather undergarments.

The wardrobe items should be acquired or made in the order listed above. Dresses come after all undergarments, as the dressmaker (whether at home or hired) needs to take measurements over all the underlayers for the most accurate fit. Indeed, reputable historic dressmakers will not usually make a bodice over an uncorseted figure.

What To Look For
Only a few highly-accurate women’s clothing makers attend events. The individualized nature of female clothing mid-century makes stocking accurate clothing fairly complex. Do Not Send Your Beloved To Merchant Row In Person or On-Line Without An Experienced Female Mentor.Doing so is a sure plan for spending a great deal of money on a great deal of useless farb, as the majority of merchants at non-juried-vendor events do not carry accurate items.

Becoming an educated customer is vital, and the best way to do that is to follow the same process you used as a military person: view as many original garments and images as possible, and look for merchants who replicate those items as closely as possible. If a merchant advertises that they replicate garments, and has pictures of originals and their goods, evaluate the two very closely for consistency; some wishing to sell to history-heavy markets tout their “based on originals” status, but fail utterly in the execution, while others do a truly superb job.

Beware any merchant using the following key words and characteristics:

  • Machine gauged skirts (this is not possible, mechanically)
  • Poly-cotton for easy care
  • Wool blend
  • Artificial silk
  • “Zouave” dress or “Garibaldi” dress, particularly if done in cotton prints
  • Dresses with less than 150” in the skirt circumference
  • Belts in cotton
  • Blouses for women
  • Tuck-in white bodices
  • Low-cost items with lace—it is sure to be polyester/nylon
  • Colored lace
  • Skirts sold un-hemmed
  • Only bust and waist measurements are requested
  • Drawstrings
  • Cotton print bodices separate from cotton print skirts
  • Solid-color cotton garments
  • Zippers, Velcro, or snaps at any point
  • Tent-grommets at back lacing closures
  • Images of the makers that look like “reenactors” rather than The Original Cast.

What To Budget
Women’s clothing requires a good amount of time. If you are buying ready-made or custom-sewn clothing, you can expect to pay for skilled labor rates on every item. If budget is a large concern, you or your beloved need to consider learning a few basic sewing skills, and making at least a portion of the wardrobe at home—undergarments such as chemise, drawers, and petticoats, are an ideal way to learn historic sewing.

The average prices listed here are taken from the current listings of merchants whom I consider to have a high degree of accuracy and quality, with good-value pricing. Home sewing prices include a national-average cost for fabric allowances and patterns. See the Resource list at the end of the article for pattern companies.

Chemises: $40-$70 each. Need not be custom cut in most cases and generally safe to purchase ready-made. If made at home with a purchased historic pattern, allow $25 for the first chemise, and $5 each after that.

Drawers: $40-$65 each. Some degree of customization is necessary to accommodate individual body depth and inseam length. If made at home with a purchased historic pattern, allow $25 for the first pair of drawers, and $5 each after that.

Corset: $100-$200. This is a highly individual garment, and needs to be custom cut and fit. It is very possible to learn to fit and construct a corset at home if you and your beloved are so inclined; see the Resource section for educational helps.

Petticoats and Underskirts: $40-$80 each. These may need some slight customization, mostly in a fitted waistband measurements and length adjustment to suit her figure, but they can generally be safely purchase ready-made. Keep in mind that a full outfit needs one petticoat and one or more underskirts. Petticoats and underskirts do not require a purchased pattern (see the Resource section for free pattern options), and can be made at home for under $10 each.

Skirt Support: cage crinolines and hoops, ready-made, run between $85 and $300. Along with the corset, this is another investment piece. Kits are available in the $70-$200 range, and patterns plus supplies will generally run around $60-$80.

Dress: $150-$300 in labor, depending on the complexity of fitting and style demands, plus additional fabric costs.

Accessories: $20-$30 for collars, cuffs, and undersleeves (each piece; most dressmakers give a small discount on matched sets); aprons in the $30-$50 range. Made at home, allow $20 for the first set of white accessories, $6 thereafter; $15 for the first apron, $5 thereafter.

Headwear: $40-$60 sunbonnets; $110-$200 completed fashion bonnets; $60-$100 fashion bonnet blanks and semi-finished bonnets; $100-$200 winter hoods. Sunbonnets and winter hoods can be made very inexpensively ($5-$20) at home with purchased patterns or free on-line instructional materials.

Wraps: a simple shawl can be made by those without sewing experience for the cost of two yards of wool fabric.

Shoes: accurate repro shoes run between $80 and $150.

Stockings: $6-$10 per pair

Garters: $8-$20 per pair

All told, if you are purchasing every garment from a highly-accurate merchant or seamstress, you’ll spend between $1070 and $1750 on a wardrobe for a weekend-long event (three sets chemise/drawers, one set petticoats, skirt support, corset, accessories, dress, outerwear).

Blending specific purchases and homemade items, you’ll spend between $400 and $650.

The more home-sewn items you’re willing to undertake, the lower the total can go—as low as $150 with careful planning.

What If She Hates It?
Yes, there is that possibility. Not every woman finds living history fascinating. There’s nothing wrong with having a separate hobby from your significant other—just be prepared for her to take up something with equal time and budget factors to your chosen obsession/hobby. If you have children, and wish this to be a family hobby, plan to adopt a citizen’s impression for at least a portion of your event weekends; otherwise, many women find their portion of the hobby to be Regular Life, Less Convenient, and you may encounter vast resistance.

If there is any doubt in your mind that she will love the hobby, it is best to wait on acquiring a wardrobe. Instead, find a citizen-oriented group to take her under wing, and fit her out for an event or two from the loaner wardrobe box. (Be sure the citizen’s group is as focused on accuracy as your own group! After the work and expense of putting together an accurate military impression, don’t spoil it by stepping out with someone dressed in borrowed farbery.) Loaner clothing will not fit so well as her own wardrobe, but it’s a great way to get started, allowing her the fun of dressing out and getting to know people, with a much smaller budget outlay right at the first.

Most citizens’ groups are happy to provide mentoring, and many have between-event sewing days and other activities designed to help your beloved create many of her own wardrobe items, even if she has no background in sewing.

Women’s Wardrobe Resources
Pattern Lines for Home or Hired Sewing


Discussion Forums & Educational Opportunities

Additionally, many dressmakers will teach sewing classes.

And yes, this is the short, glossy overview. Women’s clothing encompasses a huge range and variety (we have no “uniform” to speak of!). There is something accurate for every personality and personal budget, but the undertaking is not a small one. Your beloved deserves as much consideration in her own things as you do in yours. Don’t fail her with farb.