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DaveGink
07-27-2006, 03:31 PM
Hi guys,

Fresh Fish question:

I just received a brand new sack coat and trousers. Needless to say they look and feel brand new and I'd like to find a way to quickly give them a more used appearance. What do you guys do to "break them in". Any secret tips and techniques?

Also, they are itchy as all get-out. Anyway to soften them up at least a little?

Lastly, on a good-fitting sack coat, where does the bottom button sit in conjunction to your belly button? I'm wondering if this coat is a little short as the bottom button sits just above my belly button (by about a half inch).

Thanks!!
Dave

MStuart
07-27-2006, 03:53 PM
Dave:

I've found the best way to take off the "new" is to wear 'em. If you don't want to show up at your next event looking like you just came from the quartermaster, wear the new uniform around the house, do yard work or mow the lawn in them (of course, this'll get you strange looks from the neighbors) but the best way to get the new off (IMHO) is to get them worn, dirty, sweat in them and get the fabric used. Perspiration, the fabric getting worn and stretched by having them on, will take the stiff out of them quickly. A little fresh air and being worn will make them look just that...worn.

Mark

Ephraim_Zook
07-27-2006, 04:15 PM
Hello, Dave,

Welcome to the wonderful world of...

"Also, they are itchy as all get-out. Anyway to soften them up at least a little?" Get a pair of period drawers. They'll insulate your skin from the wool.

"Lastly, on a good-fitting sack coat, where does the bottom button sit in conjunction to your belly button? I'm wondering if this coat is a little short as the bottom button sits just above my belly button (by about a half inch)." You've probably heard the old army adage that uniforms come in two sizes -- "two" big and "two" small. I wouldn't lose much sleep over the fit. If you can get it on yourself and button it, and you don't look like you are wearing a sausage casing or a potato sack, it's the right size. :-)

jademonkey
07-27-2006, 04:44 PM
Dave,

To echo Mark's comment above - to make your uniform look lived-in, wear it. Please, do not, under any circumstances, walk through mud puddles, apply mud to your sleeves etc. They wouldn't have done this, and when you do it, it looks like a brand new uniform with mud applied to it. Remember, they were issued these things new as well, so depending on the scenario, new and clean is appropriate. As far as size goes, the fatigue blouse was issued in 4 standard sizes, so to have it be ill-fitting can also be appropriate. I wear a size 4 blouse, which fits me in the chest but is too short in the arms.

Good luck, Garrett

tompritchett
07-27-2006, 05:30 PM
Use your coat as a pillow for a few nights and sleep in the pants. Will definitely get an authentic worn look to them.

Just my 2 cents.

Rob
07-27-2006, 07:33 PM
1. Wear it out in the rain.

2. Stand downwind from a road-construction site while they're digging up the pavement. (Preferably while the uniform is still wet from standing out in the rain.)

Rob Weaver
07-27-2006, 09:02 PM
The best way to break it in is wear it. A fatigue coat makes a dandy spring or fall jacket. Unfortunately, it's neither spring nor fall right now. I would be cautious about getting it wet. Wool shrinks, and often reenactor garments are not preshrunk. That button that's near your navel will rise toward your breastbone in no time!

God forbid anybody in the army ever drew a new uniform! I got a new coat and trousers about 6-7 years ago, and I was treated like dirt at the first event I at which I wore them! Eventually the unit commander figured out that I'd been reenacting since he was in first grade or so, and he lightened up. Veteran soldiers, and units, got new suits of clothing. Even the shot-up Iron Brigade had new duds in the spring of '64! So don't judge your comrade if his uniform looks right out of the box. Here endeth my catechism.

Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers

Regular3
07-28-2006, 07:15 AM
God forbid anybody in the army ever drew a new uniform! I got a new coat and trousers about 6-7 years ago, and I was treated like dirt at the first event I at which I wore them! ..(snip).. Veteran soldiers, and units, got new suits of clothing. Even the shot-up Iron Brigade had new duds in the spring of '64! So don't judge your comrade if his uniform looks right out of the box. Here endeth my catechism.

Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers
Thank you. I bought a pair of trousers last fall but the first chance I got to wear them was this spring at Gaines' Mill, and the ribbing I took was unreal. You'd think nobody ever had to replace anything in this hobby.

Which brings to mind the other question about cleaning buttons and other brass items and the best way to "age" them. When I see that question my answer is always "Do you want to look like you're in the 1860s, or like you're wearing stuff that's 140 years old?"

The original boys did not take pride in being dirty and ragged - A most common complaint was having to 'make do' with worn-out shoes and clothing - So I don't know why some reenactors think we should try to look like we just spent two months in the trenches of Petersburg or Vicksburg.

kodyharrell
07-28-2006, 11:50 AM
I think Darrell is right about the aging of uniforms. Back when soldiers got their uniforms, they were new, so why should they look worn out in todays reenactments? They are new just like the original soldiers' were.-Kody

DaveGink
07-28-2006, 03:19 PM
Some great information here, thanks everyone!!

JMByrnes
07-28-2006, 03:56 PM
Dave,

If you want the material to look like you're wearing it like a soldier would have everyday I would suggest you hang the trousers and coat outside and let the weather work on them. The sun will begin to fade the material making it look like theirs would have. The rain and wind will also begin to break down the material the longer you keep them hanging. Also, when you get to an event find some dirt and rub some onto your coat and trousers. Sure soldiers got new uniforms from time to time, but they also marked 20+ miles in one day on dirt roads, and you can bet those uniforms didn't stay clean long regardless of how new they were. Somebody asked why do some reenactors look like they spent 2 months in the trenches at Petersburg, and the simple answer is because they spent 2 months in the trenches at Petersburg. Soldiering is a dirty job, and most of the time the only cleaning they could do was with water in a creek.

Read first hand accounts from soldiers and pay attention to the passages that talk about the conditions they lived in, and let that guide how dirty or how clean your uniform should be. But remember their uniform wasn't sitting in a chest in your basement like yours was.

Rob Weaver
08-01-2006, 06:46 AM
Mention has been made of cleaning buttons. If you'd like this as an activity whilst enduring the interminable boredom of camp: First, make up a small amount of thick paste from campfire ashes and water. Using a damp rag, dab it on a button and begin rubbing gently, for a long time. You may want to find a button board from somewhere first. After removing the oxidation in this fashion, polish with vinegar, again rubbed for a long time on each button. This does work, and avoids the "overshined" look of modern brass cleaners. However it is dull, time-consuming and messy. You'll discover the real reason 4-button frocks became popular - only 4 buttons!

Sgt. Rob Weaver
Pine River Boys
Co I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteers