Civilians in the Gallant 3rd Michigan Infantry!

Q: Why should I reenact as a civilian woman?
A: Most women that decide to reenact are seeking to portray what home life was like during the civil war period. They seek to be a picture of the hopes and fears that those women faced every day and how they sought to support their men even while at home. Spectators are highly interested in the fashions of that day, how they were achieved, the comfort of the undergarments, and all those things that were very different from our modern clothing. There is so much to teach and learn here that can be best shown by our civilian ladies.

Q: What roles do women play?
A: There are many roles and activities at reenactments that are geared toward civilian women. We have a wonderful Ladies Aid Society that comes to many of the major events. This gives our patriotic women a chance to serve the soldiers goodies after the battles. There are also events such as tea parties, lessons on etiquette, and fashion shows. Many military units have civilian cooks, who usually are wives or mothers of the unit's soldiers. There were women during the war who ran their husband's farms or businesses, or who dedicated themselves to supporting the soldiers through sewing uniforms and providing basic needs.

Q: What will a civilian woman's outfit cost me?
A: If you are new to reenacting we recommend talking to someone very knowledgeable in the clothing of that time period before buying anything. However these are some starting estimates according to the price of our local sutlers.

2 Dresses $150 each
Corset $75-$100
Shoes $50
Hoop skirt $50
Drawers, Chemise, Petticoat $100
Total $600

It is very easy to spend more than this if you are looking for very accurate pieces or a lot of accessories, which is why we call this a starting price list. There are also ways to supplement these costs through doing some of your own sewing or purchasing used. Make sure you do check any items you are interested in with a knowledgable unit member before purchasing, or take the time to do your own research. This will prevent you from investing your time or money in an item you later find is not appropriate.

Q: Do I need a corset? What are other undergarment options?
A: Unless you are portraying a working woman of some kind, you probably will need a hoop and corset. Contrary to public opinion, corsets were typically worn loose enough to breathe easily, although still tight enough to support the heavy dresses of the time. They extend the wear of your dresses by preventing extra strain while also holding you upright. Many reenactors actually find them quite comfortable when worn properly.

Hoop skirts were a bit more of a fashion item, helping to achieve the preferred silhouette of the period. They can be highly impractical as well as a fire hazard. Although we recommend purchasing a hoop at some point for dress occasions or if you are portraying a younger woman, there are other options as well. You can substitute a few simple petticoats or even a corded petticoat to give you the appearance of a fuller skirt.

Some of the other undergarment pieces you should consider are over-petticoats (large enough to go over the hoop to minimize the effect of hoop lines), under-petticoats (worn under the hoop for modesty), Split crotch drawers (not only are these more accurate than seamed drawers, they also allow you to use the loo without completely undressing), and chemises (to be worn under the corset in order to prevent dirty corsets or stained clothing).

Q: What are there for children's activities?
A: We have children's units where the young men reenact their own battles using wooden rifles and pistols. You have a choice between our Union 1st Washington and the Confederate VMI. This usually keeps the boys happy, as they are not allowed onto the battlefield when the men are in battle until they are 12. The young ladies are welcome at any activity their mothers attend.

Q: Is there a need for civilian men reenactors?
A: Yes. Not all men were soldiers and many supported both the war efforts and other civilians, during that time. It was impractical and not desirable for all men to fight. Older men were often not suitable for the rigors of war, and could benefit their side best by being a producer or using business knowledge.

Q: Can you reenact both civilian and military?
A: Most reenactors enjoy participating in the battles, so the civilian men are definitely under-represented. A few like to dress civilian, then change to military clothing during a battle and help out their regiment if it is short on soldiers. You can do both if desired, but it is challenging since you need to be able to change clothing, know the military commands, and afford a second set of clothing.

Q: What are the benefits of being a civilian man?
A: The practical part of men being civilians is that they are able to help care for items in the camp during the battles. Being a modern photographer dressed up as a civilian works well, and allows for great photo opportunities.

You are also allowed to spend more time with your children, escorting the ladies, and there is much more freedom in choosing what you would like to wear, and what you would like to do. You are able to teach others about non-military life during those times.

For more information, please Contact Us!

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