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reenacting clothes

reenactor | Posted in General Discussion on

I tried this a few minutes ago and I don’t think I got anywhere.  65 and still can’t follow directions  I guess.  I am not only new to this site but this the first time I have ever logged onto such a “board”

As you can tell by my name I am a reenactor  –18th Century  and I make clothing for this time period  for myself, my family and a few friends.  The patterns  for this period are often complicated  and the producers (using old garments truly from the period  from museums)  make assumptions  that everyone is an accomplished seamstress or tailor and would just “know to do certain things.  The garments are often short waisted  so it is critical  that one make up the bodice at the very least in appropriate weight muslin  before you cut your “good ”  material .  My question here is does anyone have a good source  for silk-linen,  or cotton  in heavier weights? (We can only natural fibers since polys would melt and stick to the skin  if heated  around a fire  which we use at our reenactments).   We live in Northern Illinois  near Chicago.   I am looking primarily for some Millend or outlet stores that sell fabric,  trims,  cotton or silk laces  and  finer light weight linen  for modest pieces (a thin scarf that goes across the neck and shoulders.  (think Martha Washington’s neck piece)  I am also looking for a fairly large volume of silk or good quality ,  many colors,  cotton embroidery (no neon’s  or poly) thread since  my husband has decided he wants a “court coat”  and it will take thousand of yards of thread and trim  to make it and the waistcoat.  Buttons are also another desire  since they are hard to find  that look old and since we use 24 to 36  per coat  you can see where that becomes a very expensive factor.

You would be amazed at the clothing that the original perople had  and at the work that went into them. Believe me creating them again is a passion of mine.   Thanks so much for any suggestions  and if I can help anyone with the construction of these clothes I am willing to  get intouch.  Thanks so much.


  1. mimi | | #1

    I have ordered from http://www.Dharmatrading.com, http://www.nancysnotions.com and http://www.emmaonesock.com for linen and cotton fabrics.  They are all reputable and have very nice fabrics.


    1. reenactor | | #2

      Thank you  SO much for responding so quickly.  I can see why my friends like message boards so much.  --Such great helpful people who are willing to share information.  Do you do reenacting  or did you just happen to know because of your use of these fabrics?  I'd love to get in touch with others who make period clothing.

      Thanks again for getting back to me.  Hope we can "chat again"


      1. mimi | | #7

        reenactor:  I have made a period costume for our town's Colonial Weekend, which we hold every May.  That was about twenty years ago when there weren't many patterns available.

        I have made a lot of trips to Civil War battlefields and have learned that most reenactors prefer wool for trousers and skirts and claim that it is cooler than synthetics.  Go figure!


        1. reenactor | | #8

          go figure is right  but wool wicks away the moisture  better than cotton.  This past weekend  we pretty much had on cotton and we were soaked all the way through with a heat index of 110 degrees.  Personally I am thinking long and hard about silk chemises---. At least they would dry more quickly.  Thanks for getting back--why are you doing reenacting anymore?



          1. mimi | | #10

            I don't re-enact because I'm a kindergarten teacher, and don't have the time or energy anymore.  Maybe when I retire!

            Some other fabric web sites:  http://www.purrfection.com (cottons), http://www.candlelightvalley, http://www.mjmtrim.com, http://www.silkbaron.com.


          2. reenactor | | #12

            It's wonderful to do.  But truly  it can take over your life.  We have just made so many friends and our "family"  has encrease 10 fold.  I  have been doing it in one way or another  all my life starting out at Mount Vernon as a teenager but our daughter--then 13  got me into it and finally my husband very reluctantly got involved  but now has more clothes than I do.  I have a full time job-also sell Pampered Chef,  sew for people, friends and clients, and still look forward to weekend in our canvas home.  (Notice I said nothing about cleaning house though.  And I am getting to retire from my full time job.  Uncle Sam is going to give me back some of the money I have paid him for 52 years.  Hope you will join us in the 1750's someday.  Libby

  2. user-60627 | | #3

    You might try the Denver Fabrics website (its denverfabrics.com).  Currently they have a white linen special going on that might be what you are looking for, they always have some kind of special going on,  lots of natural fibers and they swatch. 

    Actually, I would think finding the fabrics would be not too hard (especially with the 'net), but finding the right trims would be just about impossible.  Most of the lace and ribbons they had then for trims just aren't available today.  That said, there is a lady here in Longmont who travels around to the sewing shows who is selling off her late mother's enormous stash of trims.  It seems her mother travelled through Europe frequently from about the 60's on and would scrounge around and buy up stashes of ribbon and trims whereever she found them.  Most of the stuff I have seen are from the 20's-50's,  the name is Elsie's Exquisites (not sure if I spelled the second word correctly).  I think she used to have a website, so maybe Google can help.

    For the cotton laces, you might try the heirloom places like Martha Pullen.  I also ran into a gentleman at the sewing show here in Denver in January who had literally piles of beautiful heirloom cotton laces.  For $1/yd.  He had no website, but was currently travelling around the various shows.  His stuff came from Europe. 

    Also too, check out the better upholstery fabric stores (even Calico Corners).  A lot of fine upholstery fabric is jacquard weave and/or embroidered and lots is natural fiber.   Upholstery silks for windows come in huge widths (huge for silk).  I see lots of stuff in the local Calico Corners that I want to make clothes out of.  And upholstery stores are certainly used to people ordering huges quantities of fabrics.

    I gather you are probably on the east coast somewhere if you are doing 18th century,  have you been able to maybe go to Philadelphia or (even better) New York?

    1. reenactor | | #4

      Thanks again for the information,  I wish I had  known how easy this is.  I wish I knew something outstanding to share but perhaps the time will come when I can dash off an answer with the speed you did.  I am going to look in finding Calico Corners   but I know we don't have them around here.  We are lucky to have a JoAnne and a Walmart.  There is a Hancock about 30 miles away  and recently I found a Hobbie Lobby,  but also 45 miles away,  which surprisingly carried a fairly decent amount of fabric.  Like you said seeing the fabric  is aways best  and if I don't know exactly what the content is I can get a little amount and then go outside  and do the burn test.  All natural  will give me dust and ash  and poly  will simply melt into a puddle.  If my clothes caught fire and I was in poly--that puddle would be shrinking around my skin causing third degree burns.  One friend in our reenactment  did't watch what she bought  since she found the bolt of fabric in a pile  that was marked all Cotton--someone must have laid it down  rather than replacing it  and she was buying several piece  at the same time and checked several  and sure enough they were 100% cotton  so she stopped checking. Long story short she is fortunately recovering from her large amount of 2nd and 3rd  burns  but is lucky to be alive. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL--Many of us do a burn test even if it says 100% cotton.  Amazing what you can find.  Even a little is too much  when it comes to fire--while cotton burns, its ash falls away  while poly melts to your skin.

      We live about 80 miles south of Chicago  and you might be surprised at the amount of settlement that had occured generally in this area--while we didn't take part in the Revolution  we did do fur trade and grew most of the wheat for New Orleans and even France by 1725.  (Your fact for the day). I haven't been to Philadelphia or New York since I was a teenager--about the time of the  Revolution.  However I do go to Williamsburg about one a year  but can only buy so much at a timeand I never seem to buy what I ultimately end up needing. 

      I will try to find the web site for Elsie's and will look for the the shows you mentioned.  Do you know where I might find a listing for them.  This is the first I have heard of them?  Thanks for all the help and ideas.


      1. mainestitcher | | #5

        I emailed you privately.The reenactors I deal with sometimes use unholstery fabric. (sometimes, actual old curtains.) There will be vendors at the reenactments who will be able to supply you with trim. You might get catalogs from Solo Slide, Banasch's, and other tailoring supply companies. That may be a source for a better price on plain metal buttons.Be cautious about relying on the label. There's nothing to stop an employee from using that old cardboard bolt to wind new fabric onto, especially if she rationalizes,"Hey, it's all $2 a yard, anyway."

  3. stampncraftah | | #6

    Last fall I made a Hoopenladen (something I'd never heard of, let alone, SEEN!, and I'm not even sure about the spelling!) as the wedding garb for the husband-to-be of a dear friend who's deeply involved in CSA.  Whew...what a long sentence!

    Anyway. it turned out really well, considering it was such an unusual garmet and the pattern was unfamiliar and different..  We used a deep red/burgandy velvet, and it was fully lined.  He wore it over a blue slubby silk shirt, which I also made, and matching 'tights' (don't know where they came from!).  I don't know if the fabrics were 'period', but they were Sally's choice and she did get them from a source that provides period fabrics.  She had her dress made from the velvet and trimmed in the blue (and fortunately for me she delegated that to someone else). 

    As a special suprise gift to her, I took some of the left-over red velvet and made her a simple draw-string bag to carry, lining it with the blue slubby silk.  To decorate the bag I made some simple rouched flowers out of scraps of the velvet and scattered some little blue and white French knots around.  It was very pretty, and looked much like I pictured it.

    Unfortunately I missed the wedding, after driving around the block for over an HOUR, looking for a place to park (!) so I never got to see him and his bride in their wedding finery!

    --ann in New Hampshah

    1. reenactor | | #9

      Wow!  what a bummer!  But certainly someone took pictures  if not the couple themselves.  CSA  patterns are a lot more available and I know that many of the modern commpanies make them too and actually from what I understand they are pretty "correct"  I would love to get my hands on some good quality cotton velvet   but we have such limited sources here in the little town we live in  and I absolutely hate to drive into Chicago  even htough we have lived near it for 20 years.  That is why I am looking for sources  in the surrounding area.  I hear there are good sources  on line sources  and I intend to check out the ones that you all have recommended but I would prefer to see what I am buying  since I am often ordering 5 yards of each fabric.  The outfit you made sounds like is was so handsome. 

      Thanks for getting back and sharing.  Libby

      1. stampncraftah | | #17

        When I woke up this morning my very first thought (well, my second thought after my TGIF chant) was that I realized I posted my friend, Sally has been involved in CSA for years, but what I did was transpose letters, pretty much like I do every day at work (which is why I do the TGIF thing); she's been active in SCA, which stands for Society for Creative Anachronism,  explained on their web page as "an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe".  Don't know if there is a CSA reenactment group.

        I think I have some pictures of the Hoopenladen after I finished it; if there is any interest, and if I can figure out how or where, I could post one, if anybody is interested in seeing it on a hanger on the back of my closet door.

        Libby, I believe Sally ordered her fabric from someone in Canada (we're in New England).  It's quite possible her source attended some of the 'functions' as a vendor/participant, and/or came highly recommended by others in the group.

        --ann in New Hampshah




        1. reenactor | | #18

          Dear Anne

          I have often gotten fabric from events  but we only go to them sporatically  and I am in need of things as I sew.  I  did find some great fabric at Hobby Lobby  to make the court coat and breeches and some pretty nice fabric at Hancock fabrics for the waist coat,  although the nearest store is closing.   So for the outfit ( fabric wise)I am pretty set except I  would really like to find some gold trim  to accent it.  I also found a great silk and cotton blend   at Hancock  to make my husband's coat  court coat and am anxious to get started  on it  but I have several  things to do before starting on it--Like make him a protype one in linen  as the silk  was $25 a yard--thank goodness for 25% off.  The linen I have had for awhile.  The two are almost the same color and it may be that I will do the embroidery on the linen and then applica it onto the silk--either that or cut out the coat and then embroider on any left overs  and then fit the pieces onto the front of the coat. (all historically correct) With the Hancock nearest by closing I got some pretty good deals on treads and buttons.  .As Isaid I have to finish the paying jobs first  before I start on the "labor of love"  which sounds like the outfit that you made.  If you don't mind me asking what is the going rate for say a man's fancy coat  back east.  I get between $125 and  $200 depending on who is paying for the supplies and how much they are and how much work is envolved.--also if it is the first coat that I have made for the customer.  As for my husband's outfit--well think winning the lottery  for what I would have to charge  since the entire front of the coat is completely embrooidered  with silk and metallic thread and thousands of hours will be needed to do since it is all done by hand.  Hopefully it will be museum quality when I am done.

          Well,  must close--Tomorrow it is back to work--only 30 more days till I retire from my 8 to 5 job--and get back to doing the thing that I love--being creative.





          1. mimi | | #23

            Libby-I was looking for patterns last night on the web and came accross several new (to me) historical costume patterns.  The web site is http://www.thesewingplace.com go down the list on the left side of the page and click on pappterns by designer.  There is a whole list of pattern companies, some of which are perfect for you.

            Happy hunting!


          2. reenactor | | #24

            thanks for the new site,  I am going to try it right now.  Libby

  4. sewchris703 | | #11

    Have you tried the Costume Manifesto website?  http://www.costumes.org   They are a wealth of information for all periods of fashion history, patterns,  sources, etc.  I've used them to research Biblical costumes. renfaires, and now barbarian clothing for my 8yo.  My dressmaking business specializes in historical and ethnic clothing.  And I'm just now starting to get into goth, anime related, and roll-playing clothing.



    1. reenactor | | #13

      Dear Chris,

      You are doing what I plan to do once I retire  in 5 weeks  but after I get my house cleaned and organized  (going to have the largest garage sale in history according to my husband.)  I have been sewing professionally,  if you want to call it that for sometime  but mostly for friends and family. Costuming is a passion of mine and I have made many costumes for our local theatre and or course Halloween with kids and grand kids.  (That was easy because of the available materials  but in re-enacting we have to use natural fibers because of the fire hazzard.)

       Once the house is organized then I will go into production (custom work only).  I love to embroidery and many of the men's coats I make have personalized embroidery on them  but I also use trims to add to it.  That is why I am looking for a reasonably priced source for all kind of things.  I do use a machine  for hidden seams  but for anything that is seen I hand sew  which seems to be becoming more and more rare. Last weekend at our re-enactment here we actually had a class where we taught "younf girls to sew  but we had as many ladies as we did young girls--most had never had a hand needle in their fingers before--hard for me to imagine since I grew up sewing and tearing out seams that didn't  show "the best that you can do"

      I am presently working on a coat for my husband--hey I have to sew for him sometime and he has been patient  while I did everyone else's stuff.  The original coat was a plain linen frock coat  but the other day he presented me with a picture of a court coat he had found on line that has the whole front embroidered with flowers, "lace"(hand made) and metallic channels.  I figure $500 and 2000 hours-mostly hand work.  It will be a big project and so I will probably frame it on a large "stretcher framewe used to use to dry lace cuttons and just embroidery a second skin so to speak.  Should be interesting.

      Keep in touch--love to share ideas with you.


      1. sewchris703 | | #14

        I got into the historical costuming through my sister.  I'm not a reenactor.  One of my sister's co-workers is.  Her and her husband do the English War of the Roses (1471).  They head a mercenary company called the Red Company.  Their fellow reenactors loved their costomes so much, they started their own company called Historic Enterprises  http://historicenterprises.com  I started doing contract sewing for them.  They follow the SCA guidelines for sewing.  Only machine buttonholes and rolled hemming on the serger (instead of hand-made buttonholes and hand-rolled edges) show on the outside.  We do machine blindhemming and inside stitching is done on the serger and sewing machine.  Embroidery is alson done by commerical embroidery machines.  Otherwise, the clothing would become cost prohibitive.  The fabrics we use are wool, linen, and cotton.   The brocaded fabrics are home dec fabrics.  Most of the fabric is bought either in the NY garment district or the LA garment district.  The buttons are made by them out of pewter.


  5. glynis | | #15

    I don't do 18 th century but I do 11 th and some earlier. Along the lines of the middle ages. Love to know if you find sources for the silk and cotton I would like to do some court garb.

    1. reenactor | | #16

      The silk is available through special order  but at the present is very costly.  If I can't find a good source  I will just use my % off coupons  but I don't get them very often.  However at least I can  see what I should be getting.  The trims and buttons and laces are my biggest  challenge.  There is an Amish store called Youders in Shipsahwanny Indiana--just south of Rt 80 to the Ohio side of Indiana.  They have wonderful fabric--not tons of it  but great quality and they have lots of wools and even some silks--however it is about 4 hours from here.  There is an out let-mill end store somewhere in the western Chicago area and I am trying to find the name of it since I understand they have great fabric selections for the things I want.  If I find out anything I'll let you know.  I am not exactly sure how to E Mail you  except through this board  but I'll keep you and everyone else I have heard from in mind and post the info.  Thanks for getting back to me.  Libby

      1. glynis | | #19

        thanks  I keep looking around here too. glynis

        1. ixs | | #20

          Nice to hear about all you reenactors sewing so diligently.   I used to visit reenactments for the picture possibilities.  I classify myself as a serious amateur seamstress and photographer and would love to "do" an old/wild west outfit, although we don't have horses anymore.  I collect antique clothing, hats, and shoes as old as I can afford as works of art and try to go to the Kent State Museum in Kent, OH when they have wonderful exhibitions of old clothing. 

          But traveling gives one the opportunity to explore vast areas of the country where one can stumble on treasures.   I have gone to Yoder's in Shipshewana for 35 years; there is/was a store in Middlebury, IN that sells to the Amish/Mennonites called Gohn Bros. that is very unique and reminds one of an old-fashioned dry goods store.   Hope it's still there.....

          There used to be a store outside of Gettysburg that sold yard goods that were suitable for reenacting (I think Civil War but not sure of other periods) that had lots of "stuff."   Don't know much more about it and don't even know if it exists any more. 

          I would love to see pics of reenactment garments if anyone has the time. 

          1. reenactor | | #21

            we sew/re-enactors just love our clothes.  I personally love to look at the older clothes and have seen some actual gowns from Skittifield's (England)  that date from the mid 18th century.  Talk about impressed.  One of merchants ( Turkey Roost Traders is setting up a personal museum  for these clothes and she also makes clothes  but is wonderful about sharing information about her aquired clothing  but not thte source of her own fabric.  (Like I would be any competition to her--I wish--.  I have a few photos of mine  but haven't figured out how to scan them into the computer.  If you can send me an address  I would be happy to send you photo copies.

            Thanks for getting back--I will try to find out about the store you mentioned in Indiana.  Libby

          2. ixs | | #22

            I might have misspoken; the one fabric store was outside of Gettysburg, PA, that sold reenactment fabric, although I haven't been there in some time. 

            Yoder's in Shipshewana is a mall with a dry goods store, grocery, and hardware.  It is really a neat place to shop, as it sells to the Amish.   But Shipshewana has turned into a (what I call) "cutesy" place with lots of souvenir shops.  It used to be very interesting 30+ years ago if you were curious about the Amish lifestyle. 

            And Gohn Bros. is in Middlebury, IN, as of the last time I went there (too many years ago), and it looks almost like an old dry goods store that just sells mostly "plain goods." 

            Neat places, all. 

  6. Kilroywashere | | #25

    I'm a former member of the SCA, so some sources that I have found useful for costuming:

    Woolens, and occasional odd fabrics such as cotton velvet at ohmigawsh cheap prices are available from Pendelton woolen mills seconds store in Washougal, Washington.  It just depends what they have in at the time.  No fabric website, but you can call

    Greenberg and hammer in New York for corsetry supplies - stays, busks, etc. 

    If you are 80 miles from Chicago, Vogue Fabrics often has some fairly cheaply priced silks.  Another place for mail order cheap silks is Thai silks of...  I think it is Mountainview CA. 

    If you go back to Williamsburg, run up to one of the G-Street fabrics near DC, I believe there is one in Alexandria. 

    1. reenactor | | #26

      Thanks for information.  Is the  ohmigawsh  an e mail address or the name of the store.?  I would love to go to Alexandria again--I grew up there--when it was a little town.  Now it goes on for miles.  If I get a chance I will certainly take a look  for it.  If it is on G Street  that means it should be "downtown"  I guess.


      Why aren't you in SCA  anymore--If you want to move forward in time  ours is lots of fun  and we have less pecking order.  Thanks again.  Libby

      1. mimi | | #27

        If you can get there, I would highly recommend G Street Fabrics too!  There are about 4 of them, Rockville and Alexandria are two I can think of off the top of my head.  I have shopped at the Rockville store many times and am always looking for an excuse to go back:) They have a fabulous woolens department!  If you e-mail them with a specific request they will send you samples and you can order through the mail.  Their website does not take orders, unfortunately; the inventory of the store is too vast for that.


        This might be right up your alley: LM 111, 1860's day dress by laughing moon mercantile.

        Edited 7/29/2006 8:22 pm ET by mimi

        1. reenactor | | #28

          Dear Mimi


          Small world--my brother lives in Rockville Maryland--good excuse for visit.  Our time period is about 1730  to 1760  but I always love to look at old clothes.  Where do you live?  There is going to be a great conference in Piqua Ohio in March  on sewing and hsitorical clothing  if you like the 1700 time period--they cover everything up to 1812.  I can get you or anyone else more information if you like.



          1. mimi | | #29

            We are in Delaware.  When I was growing up in the 'burbs of Philadelphia, there were lots of Revolutionary war reenactors and events.  My husband and I would go to Valley Forge and Brandywine River NP to study.


          2. reenactor | | #30

            We have a revolutionary war event here in the Spring.  Small but lots of fun--You and your husband should plan a trip to the Chicago area--we are about 70 miles south.  You could come out and stay with us--see the event-- and then see Chicago.  Might as well make the trip worthwhile.  Seriously we have lots of visitors and have enlarged our "family"  greatly--all the kids are grown and we have a  big house--hey--I even have my own sewing room (in the process of organizing AGAIN)  before getting back to custom sewing--only 23 more days till I retire from the office job. and can work on my own passions.  Deleware is a nice area  although I havent been there in about40 years--lots more people I imagine.  Being at Valley forge must be awsome.  Thanks for the update. 

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