In it for the Fashion

Amy McKinney of Academy holds Victoria Hobbs, 4, during a ladies’ respite at the three-day Civil War demonstration. Paula Frederick, center, of College Station and Katelyn Heisch, right, of Belton enjoy researching and sewing their own costumes.

When Civil War enthusiasts get together, it’s not always all about guts and glory. For some, it’s a good excuse to wear really great clothes, maybe not the most comfortable, but fun to wear all the same.

Katelyn Heisch of Belton researches 19th century fashion and makes her own period clothing. She made a straw bonnet the authentic way, braiding the straw herself. Heisch even carries a tiny black ruffled antique parasol to keep the Texas sun at bay.

Heisch and her friend, Paula Frederick of College Station are somewhat purists when it comes to their own period attire, but only because they love history and have fun dressing up.

“I’ve always been fascinated with this time period,” said Frederick. “I found a local unit 14 years ago and joined right then.” Frederick has a personal connection, too. Her great-grandfather was captured at Vicksburg.

Heisch took up the hobby about three years ago. “I really enjoy the fashions, so that’s why I joined,” she said.

Heisch conducted a period fashion show during the Battle of Temple Junction event on Saturday. She described the outfits as they were modeled and added historical facts and details.

Her own outfit, a green wool hoop skirt dress with pink ruffled ribbon trim, was perfectly tailored to fit. No forgiving fabric with two-way stretch here. Heisch said the dress won’t fit if her weight varies just three or four pounds.

Since dresses were costly and cleaning was labor-intensive, women wore many layers to keep the dresses off the skin.

Undergarments were usually cheap white cotton and changed daily.

Here’s a list of the layers, from the skin out:

1. A thin chemise or slip

2. Drawers or pantelettes (with a split crotch)

3. Corsette – more of a foundation for the dress than a cincher

4. Modesty petticoat (See #2)

5. Hoops

6. Two extra petticoats or else a single one with flounces

7. Undersleeves to keep the dress sleeves clean.

“This time period was not for the weak at heart,” said Frederick.