Last year around this time, one of our good friends, Kirsten over at KittyCalash, wrote a short article about how much it may cost to make a whole suit for a gentleman of 16 to join in a battle. One of the most popular questions for gents joining the 17th is how much does it cost to make an entire uniform? I was curious to know how much it would cost if one were to make an entire women’s wardrobe from scratch using the materials and resources that we can find online and at sutler fairs. If one follower / civilian were to purchase everything from the patterns to the fabric and notions from our sutler friends that we frequently recommend purchasing from… how much would everything cost in total? Clayton of the modernreenactor blog noted on May 1, 2017;
…you can’t just show up with $5 and a “winning attitude.”
Reenacting is a volunteer based hobby, and we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t want to be here and we weren’t having much fun. But we do love what we do and we love the people we do it with. Clayton made an important point when he noted that you must spend money to be apart of this hobby. It does cost money and time if you want to do it right.
This information as it turns out seems to be somewhat of a hot topic for new comers who are actually starting out from scratch. After having several conversations with the 17th central command, and new followers who are cost conscious, something like this might be useful information. I wanted to note that my estimated budget is based on how much I’ve spent over the course of my seven years reenacting (not including off-the-rack purchases from CW when I first started), and even now, as a particularly slow hand sewer, my wardrobe is not yet complete… It is exciting to think about the pretty outfit we could have for the next event, if we had our way. I’m sure we would all want to build a complete wardrobe from shift to cloak, but there just isn’t enough time in the day. Like Kirsten, I tend to hand sew everything, mostly because I’m not comfortable using a sewing machine. This means my stitching is painstakingly slow. Granted when I wasn’t the best at sewing, I had a lot of help from my boyfriend who spent hours sewing my gown that feels too nice to wear to get dirty… I haven’t really spent the time to add in a labor wage to my budget yet, as it wouldn’t be a fair judge of cost since I haven’t had the experience of making a clothing item for someone else on the clock yet.
I started to break my wardrobe down by clothing item, and then broke it down even more by pattern, material type, the yards, and the vendor where the materials came from. I wanted a wide range of options, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for the cheapest option… However, since I am only about five feet tall my material cost will vary from someone who is of average height. I calculated how much it would cost with and with out the pattern provided we, being “veterans”, were sharing our resources with new followers. We can break down my wardrobe here.. The first part of the spreadsheet is the wardrobe. If you reenact all year round your wardrobe might look something like this…
As a disclaimer: I wanted to note that my math may not be right as I get easily confused by numbers, so forgive any mistakes that you may find.
Of course you don’t have to go to the sutler stores, to buy your material. We just know that its going to be of good quality and in our best interest to purchase from friends and support small business owners. There are hundreds of other fabric stores and locations where you could come by 100% natural material and it might make the final price cheaper. But as I explained this is as if someone were to buy from the sutlers as many of us do. As you can see it gets to be quite expensive even if its an impression built over time.
Next, I calculated the accessories it would take to make a followers impression stand out, which included anything from a market wallet to a pincushion which can be produced from your broadcloath scraps. Here its the blanket that you purchase I found to be the most expensive part of your accessories. Luckily, I’ve come to borrow a blanket from friends or one from David. It’s been a goal of mine to throw down $300 for a really nice blanket to call my own, and not have to worry about misplacing it. There are many ways to carry in and out your equipment to the campsite. Obviously the most useful thing here would be your market wallet, but in the picture; I didn’t have one yet. I used a blanket roll to carry an extra blanket and maybe a spare petticoat. I used a handkerchief to carry left over food that I had not eaten over the weekend. Anything else, if needed a space to be carried would have gone in my apron, tied around my waist.
Here is how much I would need to spend on some accessories, some of which you cannot depend on yourself to produce or you don’t have the skill to make correctly.
I can understand the idea that not everyone might have the funds to throw down cash right away so this blog is not about all the money you must spend to attend your first event. Most of us should be willing to lend other clothing items just for that weekend. It wouldn’t be fair to deprive someone of a hobby if you had extra clothes to lend, just because you were afraid it might get destroyed, lost or stolen. All valid reasons, you’ve put in a lot of hours to make that garment, it should be treated well, and sometimes you just cannot trust people.
This is the importance of making loaner clothes which are meant to be loaned out and a separate from your personal wardrobe, at the ready in case someone wants to try out reenacting for an event. There eventually will be someone you know who sees what you do, may it be a relative or a non reenacting friend, who becomes interested in the comradery that comes along with historical teamwork and camping, and will want to try it out for a weekend or a day.
I suppose by now you’re wondering what it would cost in total… One of my fears would be for someone to get scared away from joining the hobby because of how expensive it is. But there are folks who are willing to support you, if in return you’re willing to participate in the care of the wardrobe. These are clothes not costumes and they’re not cheap either. But note that if you were to buy the pattern only once, and use that multiple times to make new clothing the only cost would be the material and your time. But like I’ve said. One should not shy away from something that your heart desires you to do. Plus you might really enjoy it. I want to note that this fictional kit was produced in such a way that it reflects someone of my size just shy of 5’1” and what I’ve purchased in the past. The results will vary based on height and weight of the general follower and their personal preferences for material… I’ve calculated that in the full spreadsheet. Now with a grand total of $564.70 with out the patterns, and $663.30 you to could have a rockn’ kit all to yourself. If you would like to view the full spreadsheet which includes the stores to buy from click the link here to view it on google docs.
is a full time Film and Media Arts Student at Temple University, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the ‘head follower’ for the 17th Regiment of Infantry. She has been reenacting the Revolutionary War for seven years and is continuing to do so. Mary has been the moderator of the 17th website since 2015 and has been teaching herself html code and css since 2009.