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Thread: The Necessity Of A Vest?

  1. #11
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    I don't wear vests because I reenact in the south and am overweight and sweat a lot. But think of the 1860's: Inefficient indoor heating, lots and lots of time outside and exposure to the elements, wind, rain, and cold, thin men without the natural insulation we chubby reenactors and whales both have. Vests were practical. A way to layer up like we still do, but with much more time in the elements on a daily basis.

    Phil McBride
    The Alamo rifles

  2. #12
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    Here are two images taken at what must have been period nudist colonies:
    nudists1.jpg

    nudists2.jpg

    The whole "shirts-as-underwear" thing is an exaggerated overstatement; an etiquette book may generally refer to proper company or more formal situations. Just because construction workers today will take their shirts off while working doesn't mean that's how they show up for dinner at the Waldorf. Just as then, there were casual situations where people did without jackets/vests, and didn't send everyone running for their nearest fainting couch.
    Marc A. Hermann.
    The Daybreak B'hoys.
    Liberty Rifles - Hardtack Society.
    Oliver Tilden Camp No. 26, SUVCW.

    Descendant of Pvt. E. Hermann, 45th PA Militia - Capt. Wm. K. and Lt. Geo. W. Hopkins, 7th PA Reserves - Pvt. Jos. A. Weckerly, 72nd PA Infantry - Pvt. Thos. Will, 21st PA Cavalry.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by IrishRifles View Post
    Other than maybe for a ball or some other formal event, is a vest a necessary requirement to a Confederate uniform?
    In answer to your original question, I would not think a vest necessary in the same way that jackets, trousers and hats are necessary. You can soldier on just fine without it. If you were a field officer it would undoubtedly be in your wardrobe.

    Dan
    Last edited by Daniel Limb; 10-28-2012 at 05:35 PM. Reason: quote

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bear Flagger View Post
    Following regulations is nice when the longest walk in the weekend is from sutlers row to camp. On day 2 of a week long march coat buttons become questionable.
    I'm talking about the actual war, not a reenactment weekend. I'm not exactly talking regulations either. My point is, no one can conclusively state that every single soldier, in every single army, would have automatically thrown away every since bit of excess clothing and equipment when they got tired or their packs seemed too heavy. An army of 80,000 men is an army of 80,000 individuals, no two of them alike. Some most certainly would have thrown stuff away. BUT others would not. Some may have felt two buttons on a vest was too heavy, but I find that to be an over-exaggeration based on no documented evidence.

    As I stated, there is documentation of stuff being discarded on the march. I cited the Federal army on the march to Chancellorsville as an example. Lots of overcoats thrown away, but how do you explain the regimental records in the National Archives that have lists of names showing who checked what into storage that spring prior to Gettysburg? From what I've seen, lots of men turned in overcoats as they were expected to. In turn, they were re-issued those overcoats again in the fall.

    Using this as a baseline example, we can make an educated assumption that, while some men probably threw vests away, others, probably most, did not. My contention was that a vest, being a private purchase, thereby a personal item, might have been worth keeping due to the financial investment made in it, or because it was a gift from a wife at home, thereby representing a keepsake, something worth the slight extra weight to carry. Throw the playing cards and the checkers and chess pieces away? I would. BUT... another soldier, a might not.

    Nobody can state, especially without any documentation to come to a reasonable comparison, that every single soldier would done exactly what a reenactor 150 years later thinks they would have done.
    Bill Carey

  5. #15

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    An overcoat I would throw away, a vest I wouldn't. The overcoat is pretty much single purpose and it's heavy. The vest, however, is both an article of clothing and an extra set of pockets - pockets which are pretty easy to get at even when you have your traps on. It doesn't weigh down your knapsack, because you can carry it by wearing it. They're not that warm when you don't button them. It's also a reminder that you are a civilian for whom the war is a deadly interuption, not a regular who wants to soldier for 30 years. When the armies stripped down for spring campaigning, the men sent things home that they wanted but didn't want to carry. I'm sure any number of vests were mailed home in April, and, maybe, written for again in October.
    Rob Weaver
    Pine River Boys, Co I, 7th Wisconsin
    "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
    -Si Klegg and His Pard Shorty

  6. #16
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    It was not the shirt that was considered "underwear",but the suspenders,much like stocking garters for women,i imagine.

  7. #17

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    You will find reference to the improprieties of exposing your shirt sleeves/suspenders/vest without a coat in polite company in period etiquette manuals. A Google search will turn up a few that are accessible online.
    Mike Seemann.

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bear Flagger View Post
    All the photographs linked to are all early war. The waistcoat will be thrown to the side of the road right after the overcoat.
    Disagree that all the photos linked were early war.

    Right...no waistcoats while on active campaign. Guess they put a waistcoat on this poor fellow after he died, top row third from left...

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...3/PP/resource/

    Or this guy, far right

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...3/PP/resource/

    Or this poor fellow (closest to camera), KIA in May 1864

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012647847/resource/

    Kyle M. Stetz

  9. #19
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    Let us keep in mind the stratified social structure of the period. What was improper for a certain class may well have been the common practice of another (and the reason that the former chose not to follow the latter's practice, as a clear sign of demarcation). There is also the setting: A great difference between a clerk and a manual laborer/factory worker as to how many layers one might wear. Same goes for some soldiers, partly dependent upon their prewar status.
    Bernard Biederman
    30th OVI
    Co. B

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by flattop32355 View Post
    Let us keep in mind the stratified social structure of the period. What was improper for a certain class may well have been the common practice of another (and the reason that the former chose not to follow the latter's practice, as a clear sign of demarcation). There is also the setting: A great difference between a clerk and a manual laborer/factory worker as to how many layers one might wear. Same goes for some soldiers, partly dependent upon their prewar status.
    I tend to disagree with this a bit. You find waistcoats worn by men of all social classes and by all occupations.

    Let's again look at some photos:
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cwpb.04151/?co=cwp

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...em/2004664286/

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...em/2008680496/

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...em/2004664275/

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...em/2004664283/

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collecti...2003006526/PP/

    I would consider all these men photographed as laborers. There are tons of images of "gentlemen" not in the laboring class, but both wear waistcoats. The waistcoat, in my opinion, was standard menswear for the mid-19th century. Now the difference you would find between the classes is WHAT material the waistcoat is made from. You probably wouldn't have found a laborer wearing a nice silk waitcoat in a blacksmith shop etc. There was a discussion some years back about laborers wearing nice pleated front shirts, and this kind of goes along with this discussion. We THINK today in reenactorland that a pleated shirt is for a dandy or "gentlemen," but there are multiple images of laborers wearing pleated front shirts. Again, the difference might be what the shirt is made of. Remember too, at the time of the war the ready-made clothing industry was in full swing, and it was becoming less expensive to go into a store and buy a shirt of waistcoat off the shelf.

    Back to the original question: would Confederates be wearing waistcoats in the field? Yes, some did. Did all Confeds wear waiscoats? No. Did some soldiers discard clothing and equipment on the march? Yes, we have evidence of that. Does every soldier make the same discision on what he personally wears and discards? No.

    Again,my two cents...

    Kyle M. Stetz

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