View Full Version : Women Day Dress Fashions

07-29-2007, 05:37 PM
My wife has become interested with the hobby/lifestyle I have loved all these years. But I must say I am ignorant as to women’s fashion and clothing. Where might I find some good research material on women’s clothing? Particularly what she would need in the way of under garments and other extras to field a day dress of that time. Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you again,

07-29-2007, 08:59 PM
Here's some places to start:










07-29-2007, 10:18 PM
Where are you and is she a Confederate supporter or Union? What social class does she wish to portray?

07-30-2007, 05:23 AM
Dear Sir:

In addition to the resources and questions of the ladies above:

1. Before buying a dress, she should seriously consider purchasing a well made corset. No matter where you are, Kay Gnagy (Originals by Kay among the websites that Ms. Topping recommended) can make her a well made, lightweight, comfortable corset. Despite the stereotype of Mammy with her foot pulling the corset strings, in our time period women did not tightlace to the point of pain. A well made custom corset (not one off the shelf) made FOR her particular measurements will run you about $100 and is one of the best buys in reenacting. Corsets and underpinnings should be bought before the dress, because the dress measurements need to be made over the corset. If she has a dress made over modern underwear, when she gets a corset, the dress will always fit badly over it.

2. Does she sew and does she have a sewing machine? This will help you cut the costs considerably, even if she only makes her chemises, drawers and petticoats (which can be made by a sewing novice). If she is a talented needlewoman, and is within driving distance, the Genteel Arts Academy in Gettysburg holds classes where she can learn how to make her dresses, as well as much of your clothing (shirts, drawers, civliian coats, etc.)

3. An invaluable resource, and a terrific reference is Juanita Leisch's book "Who Wore What" published by Stackpole publishing. It costs about $30 and is an analysis of what women wore what clothing -- by age, by class and to some extent by the different periods of the war. In order to write it the author literally assembled tens of thousands of CDVs to determine the "common, everyday, acceptable" for women of different ages and classes. Very important so that she has an idea of where to spend her clothing money in order to get the most "bang for her buck."

4. Does she use the computer? If not, perhaps you could teach her? There will be many questions that she will have as she is startnig out and it would be wonderful to be able to talk directly with her. Certainly you're welcome to relay our questions and thoughts to her, but she may have more initmate questions about how to fit or wear some of these items that she may not want to have the entire reenactor internet audience listening to. Let me assure you that if she has questions about how to fit or wear her corset, that there are many military reenactors who look forward to, and enjoy sitting in on those discussions. If she is able to PM different people, she may feel more comfortable asking those questions in a less public venue, and without having to involve you -- if that's a possibility.

5. Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart Clark has a website -- Ms. Topping included it among the links above, which gives a lot of information and help to a woman just starting out, including sewing advice, free patterns for underpinnings to download, etc.

6. If your wife does sew, she should be forwarned that all historic patterns are not equal. Period Impressions, for example, is notorious for leaving out some of the needed pieces to construct the item -- or for having differently sized pieces mixed in -- so the bodice is the right size, but the sleeves are for three sizes smaller. Past Patterns are well made, thorough and have good, detailed instructions. Ditto for Homespun Patterns. I've heard good things about Laughing Moon patterns, though I've not used them myself. Sad to say, only buy Galla Rock patterns if you are at an event where they set up and you can walk away with it. I paid for a pattern from them at the Corinth event in 2005. They had sold out of it at the event, but promised to mail it directly when they got home. Despite numerous emails and phone calls over the past two years, I have still to receive it.

7. Another issue is having an in-person mentor -- someone she can go to fabric stores with (easy to buy a fabric that a new reenactor thinks looks "old timey" only to find out at your first event in your new dress that you spent days sewing that it's entirely wrong and you need to start in on a second dress immediately). Someone who can help her with measurements, making things, etc. Mrs. Bethke is heading in that direction with her questions -- if we know where she is in the country, the chances are excellent there is someone not too far away who would be willing to get together with her in person and answer some of these questions as well.

My two cents,
Karin Timour
Period Knitting -- Socks, Sleeping Hats, Balaclavas
Come see me at September Storm -- I'll have the sock line out.
Atlantic Guard Soldiers' Aid Society
Email: Ktimour@aol.com