Basic Civilian Information

In this section, we will offer help with "period dress", camp equipment and many other topics.   If you have any questions you would like answered please feel free to email those questions and we will try to get them answered for you as best we can.


Clothing Items Defined


Wrapper 19th Century type of housecoat, worn in the morning before dressing for the day.  You could prepare breakfast and do your dishes in your wrapper.


Work Dress Looser fitting dress with a less full skirt, worn with petticoats or corded petticoat but not hoops.  Worn to do daily chores and strongly suggested for open fire cooking.  A work dress was usually made from a very sturdy cotton.


Day Dress Form fitting, full skirted dress worn with hoops and a corset, leaving no exposed skin below the neck or above the wrist.  The day dress is what you wear to go to shopping, go visiting or strolling and for most other activities during the day.  A day dress can be constructed of fabrics including, cotton, wool, linen and silk.


Ball Gown Form fitting, full skirted dress worn with hoops and a corset.  Worn in the evening to a ball or dance.   Not acceptable for daytime wear.  Usually constructed of silk, moiré or some other fine fabric.



Underpinnings is the 19th century term for underwear.  It includes everything worn under the outer dress.  Here we will list most items worn in the 19th century, however, while you are building your wardrobe some things will be more important than others. 


Corset A figure shaping article containing metal stays or boning worn before the invention of the bra.  The corset is extremely important in achieving the desired appearance in 19th century clothing. 


Hoops/Cage Crinoline Hoops are petticoats with boning and cages are strips of boning contructed to resemble a cage with a waist belt.  They are important if you plan to wear a day dress, tea dress or ball gown as they hold the dress out in a "bell" shape.


Drawers Drawers are the basic undergarment, usually made of cotton or linen.  They are constructed like two tubes on a waistband and are open down the legs.  Once you begin to wear these, you will understand the purpose of this construction.


Petticoats Petticoats are worn under the dress for two different reasons.  The "under the hoop" or privacy petticoat is just that, for privacy.  With the hoops holding the dress out you want something to cover you underneath.

"Over the hoop" petticoats help the dress stand out but also cover the stiffness of the hoop.  You do not want the rings to show through your skirt.


Shoes can be an expensive part of your wardrobe when you purchase authentic ones.  Authentic shoes are the best for the look, however a basic lace-up ankle boot in black or brown with a low heel will usually work.  You should avoid high heeled boots as ladies would not have worn them in this time period and they can also be a hindrance or a danger to you in a camp situation.


Your "Kitchen" Set up

Most of us Civilians are responsible for feeding and caring for families while we are in camp and so we need to find good ways to do so in an authentic 19th century way (or else find a good way to camouflage it when we cannot!).  This is where I would love to get your suggestions for ways that you have found to bring modern necessity and authentic practices together.  

Do you have photos of your camp set up?  Do you have a good solution for covering the cooler while still keeping it convenient?

Our camp at Brickhouse

Sutlers carry great wooden boxes of all sizes, including wooden cooler boxes that can hide all kinds of things.  You can even make these boxes yourself to suit your particular needs.    Canvas covers can also be made to cover coolers or drink coolers.



Dishes and cutlery are things to consider for your camp appearance.  Flea markets are a good source for these items.  You do not want to spend a fortune on things that are constantly at risk of being broken.  (If you were at the Spotsylvania event through the storm a few years back you understand!) 

Here are some examples of what you can use:


Ironstone has been in use for hundreds of years and is a good choice for camp
Transferware Transferware has been in existance since the late 18th century.  There are a variety of patterns including "Blue Willow" which are appropriate


Cutlery is another topic entirely.  You will want to stay away from stainless as this was not in existance in our time period.  There are a few choices of cutlery that are appropriate.  Old silverplate is always a good choice as well as wooden handled cutlery.  You can find old silverplate at flea markets and yard sales (usually very reasonable since no one wants to polish!).  You can also find appropriate cutlery at many sutlers as well as online auction sites.  There was also cutlery with gutta percha handles but they are more rare and should not be used in camp.


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