A Dear Friend is trying to make sense of what his civilian wardrobe for re-enacting should consist of. Today, I will use a friend's wardrobe as an example to try to shed more light on the topic of a "mix-n-match" wardrobe core that I introduced in "Best Bet Wardrobe for Men and Older Boys". Other postings that might be helpful include: "A Citizen Considers His Wardrobe" and the series, "Do I Know You?"
Before one can discover what garments will be most appropriate, one must first evaluate the types of events, occasions, and tasks he will attend, paying attention to the aspects of life that will affect clothing choices. That’s the subject of an article of it’s own, so I will draw your attention to the pertinent information.
My friend is in his middle years, with a professional class background to call upon, and lives in a temperate climate. His re-enacting season usually lasts from late March through early December. He seldom camps, but does attend events where leisure attire is convenient. He prefers to tailor his portrayal to the event scenario. An average season will see him portray a factory worker, a farm worker, a small town physician, an apothecary, a plantation owner with a medical degree, and a surgeon with the Federal Army medical department.
With such a list one might think my friend is a “clothes horse” to have so many suits of clothing and question how anyone can afford to have clothes for each of those portrayals.
He has created a wardrobe toolbox. Think of it like Legos or trading cards. One has several starter packs to choose from and each “world” has expansion packs that will compliment the starter pack.
My friend’s starter pack consists of 4 shirts (2 white, 1 calico, 1 check), 4 pair of drawers, 6 hankies, 6 pairs of socks, a pair of shoes, a pair of dark blue wool trousers, a wool waistcoat/vest, suspenders/braces and 2 cravats (one green, one black).
His first expansion pack gives him pieces appropriate to working portrayals. It includes a wool over-shirt, a neckerchief, and a soft cap. He has a further expansion pack for cold weather that includes a wool pilot coat, knit comforter, and mitts.
His second expansion pack gives him pieces appropriate to office and professional portrayals. It includes a wool frock coat, a plush top hat, and a pocket watch with a locket fob. His winter expansion pack here includes a wool shawl, leather gloves, and a walking stick.
Just like Legos, separate pieces are available to offer more variety. My friend chose to add a second pair of wool trousers in a cheerful windowpane check, a snazzy silk striped waistcoat, and the Death By Fuchsia cravat. He also added a sporty coat to take his working class portrayals to town or his wealthy portrayals on a casual outing.
Because he avoided pieces that were appropriate for only upper or only lower classes, most of his garments can be worn in the appropriate occasions no matter the “class” he’s portraying.
As he's gown and expanded as a re-enctor/living historian, different garments have become the focus of his core and he's sold off some of his original starter pack to re-invest in solitary pieces he now has the experience to know he'll find more useful.
Start small, build slow, invest in quality rather than quantity, maintain carefully.
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