Dodging the Civil War Reenactment Fashion Police–Victorian Style

Sarah Forbes Bonetta
September 15, 1862
Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery (London)

Civil War Living Historians and Reenactors are extremely serious about their craft.  Hopefully, my watching Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police for several years will pay off.  Yes, I’m sure to make the “Best and the Worst of”  19th Century Civil War Fashion.  However, for the preservation of OUR history, every mishap will be worth the effort.  Bottom-line, the Civil War Reenactment Fashion Police are brutal–in an endearing way, of course–much so like Joan Rivers.

To be a Living Historian, wearing every piece of clothing tied to the time period is paramount–from wearing no makeup to the finest detail on your Victorian brooch.  Whether under or over, all fabric and patterns must align with your Civil War persona.  Unless you have a medical condition, even the shoes must be period correct.  What is one to do about 21st Century eyeglasses with transitional lenses? (Oh dear…)

Portraits of  Free Women of Color during the Civil War era are pretty much nonexistent in the public domain.  Perhaps this will be a learning experience for us all.  As you can tell by my featured photographs thus far, most of the women are dressed in late 19th Century attire.   So, I will have to blend influences from many different sources in order to derive period correct attire for my Georgia Heroine.

19th Century HairnetPurchased fromMerchant in Cumming, Georgia

19th Century Hairnet
Purchased from
Merchant in Cumming, Georgia

When I saw the featured photograph of Sarah Forbes (Bonetta) Davies, a 19th Century woman whose portrait was displayed during the Black Victorians exhibit at the Manchester Art Gallery (Manchester, England), I believed her 1862 headdress and day dress were beautiful.  Therefore, I purchased a 19th century hairnet similar to Sarah’s.  Shhh!  Rumor has it… I’m not to call it a snood.