Getting Started with Women's Gold Rush and Civil War Era Victorian Apparel

JD Borthwick

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

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. Outdoor shoes. Footwear is the one thing that can't easily be borrowed or homemade. The style here is important, but fortunately, the styles of the 1840-1860 period are still in the shoe stores. Slippers with square toes, flat or low heels with or without bows are easiest to find.
  2. Work dress, cotton solid or print, with back or front hook and eye closure, fan-front or darted. Fine piping of bodice seams and sleeve. Pointed front and slightly raised shoulder seam. Patterns: Past Patterns 803; 700 with 701, Simplicity 7212, McCall's 3669. Ready to wear - at Chile and Crackers in Columbia, at Sutter's Fort during events, www.sutlery.com camp dress.
  3. Petticoats, 4 to 6 usually worn. Ready to wear at Handley's in Folsom, www.sutlery.com, Newman Tailor Shop 916 685-7152; Becky Rogers and Tina Carter 925-8429.
  4. Corset. Ready to wear at Handley's in Folsom, www.sutlery.com, Newman Tailor Shop 916 685-7152; Becky Rogers and Tina Carter 925-8429. Can fake it by modifying a back support belt from the local hardware store. See the Corsets page for more correct alternatives.
  5. Bonnet, hard or soft (for outdoors). www.sutlery.com's felt or straw bonnet, Past Patterns 802, www.bonnets.com has excellent selection of kits, ready-made, and patterns.
  6. Day cap (for indoors). www.bonnets.com/caps.html has ready-made, kits, and patterns.
  7. Gloves - white cotton or kid, no snaps.
  8. Apron (optional). Top is square and pinned to dress.

Save the parasol, knit gloves, watch, jewelry, lace collars, 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..

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