Period Attire
Notes From Various Quarters

By George Rollow


Much has been written, and more has been said, about the Texas Revolution. Some of that concerns the clothing worn, and worn out, during that period and place. Due to the various ways that I, as a reŽnactor / living historian, teach Texas history, I have come to realize that I need at least two full outfits.

Several authors have commented specifically that the Texian forces wore clothing that was in poor repair. Contemporary accounts include a number of letters from officers begging for clothing, along with almost every other kind of supplies. This would indicate that I would need a torn, patched, "lived-in and used-up" style of attire. On the other hand, for some of the events I participate in, the public does not have the close-up ability to ask questions, and would not understand the historic context of tattered clothing. At a parade or as a Color Guard, it might be more historically accurate to be in a patched, torn outfit, but the occasion makes it less appropriate. At a reenactment, timeline event, or living history encampment, the reverse is true; I try to take advantage of the public's ability to be educated rather than merely entertained in those contexts. I see the necessity for being able to "dress for the occasion" as well as "dress for the audience".

Thus the need for at least two full outfits. One needs to be a well-maintained outfit for Color Guard, parades, and similar social events. This would mean, for me, top hat, tailcoat, and all accoutrements clean and in good order, everything "looking good". The other (which I am getting started on) is the "been in the field for months" look for reenacting and "serious" history teaching. This outfit will be my frayed shirt, patched jacket, and repaired equipment impression.

There are several pieces of equipment that may be used for both. These include my rifle as well as its associated gear, knives, and much of the camp gear when setting up a full camp. These items also comprise the greater part of my monetary investment in the hobby. This decision is primarily practical, as I have a limited budget to work with.

Both of these impressions will require careful choices when it comes to new or replacement items, as well as their repair and maintenance. I need to ask myself questions like, "Which impression is this for, or is it for more than one? Will this fit this impression? Will it make the impression more appropriate? How will it affect the accuracy? If this item does double duty, how will it affect each impression?" These are the types of questions I should have been asking all along, but I had to learn to do so.

I have had friends in the living history hobby at both ends of the spectrum. There are those who would not attend an event because the clothing or music was not advertised as "period accurate". The best example of this was the gent who would not attend a ball because the hall had electric lights and indoor plumbing! I have also encountered those who wish to portray history as it "should have been", with clean pressed shirts and fancy attire. As for me, I intend to have two main Texas Rev impressions, both somewhere between these two extremesÖ right where most of my friends are. I may expand my selection later, but for now, "two good impressions" is my goal.

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