This past Saturday I had a chance to travel to the 1700s French & Indian War at Ft. Dobbs near Statesville, NC. Friends of mine are reenactors who planned to attend the War for Empire weekend with their Dragonfly Traders tent. Lorraine offered to outfit me.
I’ve been to living history events before, but always as a visitor. This time I got to don period attire and walk around in the 18th century. It was SUCH fun!
I think the main difference is that I got more of a look behind the scenes into the life of a reenactor and while I realize it’s not for everyone, I definitely get the appeal! These folks aren’t just putting on a show for a weekend, they actually live as if it were the 1700s for several days. Well, mostly.
Many of them sleep on cots or pallets in their tents. They eat food cooked over open fires (see frying chicken in a spider above). There were woodworkers, seamstresses, a stone cutter, women doing laundry, a shoe maker, and soldiers conducting drills and demonstrating artillery. The camp was abuzz with activity! And there I was, walking among them like I belonged.
Which is just how I felt. I hadn’t anticipated the sense of community among the reenactors (although I should have!). These are people who are passionate about history and want to get it right.
As someone who reads and writes historical fiction, it was like stepping into a book. It was a heady experience and one I hope I’ll get to try again.
So, I know the #1 question is, what did I wear? Here’s an overview of my mostly accurate period attire. (No stays is the main departure–I stuck with my modern undergarments! The stays would go on OVER the shift.)
- Don a shift. The idea here is two-fold. The garment next to the skin protects your clothing from sweat (and would have been washed more often) plus it’s soft and comfortable (like REALLY comfortable!).
- Add pockets. Women’s clothing didn’t have pockets so these flat pouches with slits were tied on under skirts which also had access slits. The trick is to not stick your hand in there and miss the pocket!
- Add a skirt and a short gown. The skirt tied front to back AND back to front so it fits really well. The short gown is the jacket or shirt that is pinned closed. No buttons or snaps, although you might have had hooks and eyes.
- Top it off with an apron to keep your clothes a smidge cleaner.
- Fichus were worn over the shoulders and neck area for modesty and to protect skin from the sun. Pale was in. Hair was tucked into a cap with a ribbon to keep it in place and the flat, straw hat was pinned over it all. Works almost as well as sunglasses and you don’t have to fuss with your hair!