Now that you have begun the process of getting connected with a living history group or museum ( you can read that post HERE) it is now time to begin working on what you are going to wear and need. This really will range on what decade you are doing, whether it is event based or something more continuous, and the weather. When I start to plan for a new ensemble for living history, I really like to use a checklist. This way I can keep track of what I have, what I need, and what I need to buy or make.
I have taken my basic checklist and updated it to include explanations to help guide you as you begin your planning. The expanded and detailed outline is below, but you can also download the PDF copy (link below the checklist) to make your own notes. I highly recommend printing it out and writing all over it. If you are making items, staple fabric samples on the pages so you can see everything in one place.
Living History Garment Checklist
Do I have the proper type and number of clothing?
Below is a list of just about anything you would need for an historical look. Do you need to have everything listed? NO! But it is a great place to start and see what are your first priorities to purchase, make, or what you already may have.
See notes* as needed.
Under Petticoat ______
Hoop or Corded Petticoat
(if applicable to era) ______
Over Petticoat _____
|Shoes and Accessories||Stockings *_____
Garters (if pre elastic) ____
|Gown – Choose based on need/event||Work Gown _____
Ball/Evening Gown ______
|Weather Appropriate Outerwear||Heartwarmer/Sontag _____
Pelisse/ Redingote* _____
Mantle * _______
*Corset – While I am a firm believer in wearing a corset as it gives the proper shape, I know that many may choose to skip one. This is a personal choice, but be aware that many museums and living history group may require or encourage a corset. Regency style fashion is more forgivable in this area as a corset was not always worn during the time period. A properly fit corset should not be painful and does not need to be laced tightly. They are not meant as waist reducers but rather to create the proper shape for the decade.
*Drawers – Again, another personal choice. If I wear drawers it is usually when I am in a large hoop…just for sake of one less thing to fiddle with in the bathroom. Just make sure you wear a privacy petticoat underneath your hoop and over your drawers.
*Stockings – Many veteran reeanactors have come up with various creative ways to keep their legs warm or cool based on the weather. Black leggings for warmth or thin high knit stockings…whatever you pick make sure that it is preferably black, tan, or white to be accurate. No bare legs and nothing colorful…although red can be sometimes worn as wool stockings for the winter.
*Pelisse/Redingote – Regency time period only
*Mantle – 1850-1870’s time period only.
If I have a gown, does it fit the style of the time period?
Think neckline, waistline, sleeve length, gown shape, etc.
Are my pieces made of the appropriate materials?
Cotton, Silk, Wool, Linen…. NO POLYESTER!!!!! If you are creating items for your own personal hobby and/or you do not need to be historically accurate, then feel free to use any fabric that you fancy! Otherwise, natural fibers must be used.
Do I have the proper hairstyle and hair color?
A simple research will yield plenty of options for a variety of hair lengths. Just be cautious of modern touches such as bangs (unless doing Regency era then curled bangs are appropriate)…simply twist and pin back. As for hair color, it doesn’t need to be your natural color, but should be a natural color. Again, this mainly is for those looking to be as historically accurate as possible.
If my hair is in a modern cut, do I have the proper cap to cover it?
Ok….so this is sort of a pet peeve of mine. Short hair is totally fine! In fact, if you are doing Regency era, short hair was fairly common. Research portraits to see styling options as needed. But for all other decades, long hair was just the norm. If you have a bob or even shorter, research decade appropriate indoor caps to discover the right look and style. Twisting and pinning your hair as needed, will provide a base for straight pins to secure the cap even if you have short hair. Snoods are not an accurate cover for a short hairstyle, unless completely opaque…and again, please make sure you are using them in the right decade. Mob caps should only be in the 18thcentury with exception to early Regency fashion. Also, use simple bobby pins and ribbons…no scrunchies!
Do I have the right type of accessories?
Focus on weather, main tasks, modesty, if you need to carry items etc.
Am I free of modern makeup, nail polish, perfumes, modern eyewear, and modern conveniences?
No zippers, elastic…unless you are post 1860’s.
When purchasing a gown, does the maker advertise as historically accurate?
Feel free to inquire into patterns and sources used as well as construction techniques.
If I am sewing my own pieces, have I used patterns that are drawn from original garments? Are the materials in an appropriate pattern and color?
There are quite a few posts apart of this membership that discuss these various aspects, so feel free to browse them at your convenience.
Download your own copy:
I hope this helps guide you towards getting your historically accurate wardrobe into gear. Keep a look out for upcoming and past posts that will also give more information and guidance. And as always, feel free to reach out to me anytime if you have any questions or need clarification!