Getting Started with Men's Gold-Rush and Civil War Victorian Apparel

JD Borthwick

This is my personal set of recommendations for clothing acquisitions for new OLSHP men.

You will need an outfit that is appropriate for 1850 to be used for Gold Rush Days. You may branch out from that time period depending on your character(s), but the basics will always be appropriate:

  1. Brogans or plain front boots. Footwear is the one thing that can't easily be borrowed or homemade. The style here is important, and there really is no good substitute for reproduction boots or shoes. www.caboots.com is has some of the best reproductiont that I have found at good cost. Their factory defect civil war brogans are a great bargain at $50 if they have your size, otherwise the perfect ones are $75. IF you are a larger man, you will need custom-fit boots or you will have to have boot uppers modified in order to fit your calves. Another reliable source is www.ushist.com
  2. Button fly or drop front straight leg pants. If you choose fabric carefully, these can be used for many different social classes. They must not have belt loops, and will need suspender buttons. Www.sutlery.com makes an excellent quality pant.
  3. Band collar, standing collar, or button-on collar shirt, period buttons, pull-over style (not buttoned all the way down the front). Plain white is most versatile. Try Handley's in Folsom, www.sutlery.com, or www.wwmerc.com. Miners wore red or blue overshirts, hard to find, but sometimes available in Columbia CA at Chile and Crackers.
  4. Vest, period buttons, back buckle. www.sutlery.com sews excellent vests at a good price. Alternatives are modern western vests, carefully chosen, from Handley's or www.wwmerc.com.
  5. Hat. Most versatile is a panama. Boaters are not period; neither are cowboy hats or derbys (1865). Top hats are fine, but put you into middle or upper class - they're not real comfortable in the heat and are more expensive, so you might save that for later.
  6. Suspenders - button variety, simple canvas type is most authentic, also very inexpensive at www.sutlery.com.

Save the frock coat, top hat, walking stick, watch, stickpin, kerchief, gun, gunbelt, knife, gloves, paletot, and so on for later, when you have had time to do more research. If you wear glasses, plan to take them off or to wear contacts while in character, otherwise talk with Ken Knott about how to get period-appropriate spectacles made, or order from Reenactment Eyewear. In period, many people with sight problems did not use spectacles, so you might consider making your limitations into part of your character.