Reenactments – Ladies are Welcome!
If I asked “What happens at a reenactment?” you would probably talk about the battle scenarios, the shooting, etc. And you would be right – but only partially right.
A Civil War reenactment is a Living History event. The battle scenario is a part of the event. But there is much more. For example, the reenactment at Cedar Rapids (which was on the grounds of Seminole Valley Farm Museum) had the following sessions as part of the event: Battalion Drill, Artillery Demo, Music by Bob Welch, Meet Mr. Lincoln, Ladies Tea & Letters from Home, Mail Call and Field Hospital Demo. These were some of the events scheduled on the first day in addition to the actual battle reenactment. Oh, and don’t forget… they had a Saturday Night Dance.
So, as you consider the wide-ranging activities it is easy to see that Ladies are Welcome at Reenactments. A number of women dress up as reenactors and participate in the battles. Many others come in their old-timey dresses and enjoy the many activities at the reenactment.
By the way, I attended the Ladies Tea and enjoyed a detailed discussion of Ladies Fashion. (And NO, I was not the only guy there.) Most of this was new for me and I found it very fascinating. Did you know that most women wore corsets and the rigid portion of the corset was typically made of whalebone or steel? Did you know that silk dresses were cleaned by taking apart the dress and cleaning the pieces – then sewing it back together?
Also, did you know that women might wear up to 7 petticoats under their dress? When the war started the need for bandages grew. Many women participated in bandage drives by removing 1-3 petticoats to donate to the bandage drives. I also found other Victorian fashion stories interesting… For example, the reason women wore long sleeves and had high neck lines was not related to modesty. Women did this to provide cover from the sun – a sun tan was a sign of having to do common work outdoors. These same women might wear an evening dress that was low-cut and down off the shoulders. Obviously, there was no sun in the evening so the “style” could change.
The Ladies Fashion talk lasted an hour and the speakers covered a bazillion topics – including courting and how fashions change as a girl went from being a girl to being a young woman ready to court and how they continued to change after the women married. I cannot remember it all, but, these conversations were definitely interesting and the speakers were well prepared.
So, next time you hear about a reenactment make sure to check it out – you have that rare opportunity to take a look at life in a different era.