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What I learned wearing Civil War-era clothing

In the spirit of the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I took it upon myself to see what it was like to dress in Civil War-era clothing.

Tish and Del Hilbert, owners of Victorian Photography Studio on Steinwehr Avenue, allowed me to use their rental clothing and dressed me as authentic as could be. 

Here is what I took away from the process:

  • Women have to wear multiple layers of clothing even in the scorching heat. I believe I had six pieces on. 
  • No skin was allowed to show in daylight. If you wore a three-quarter-sleeve dress, you would need to add additional sleeves to cover your visible skin.
  • Women saved pieces of their hair to create a "rat," which they would then use as an accessory to put on their head and wrap their hair around.
  • If you had a hoop skirt, you were considered wealthy. (I felt very rich for the half hour I wore the outfit).
  • Women highlighted their waists by tightening their corsets and skirts, utilizing a belt to bring out their figure. It wasn't about the legs or anything else but the waist. 
  • Zippers didn't exist back then. Clothing was tied or connected with eye hooks.
  • You did not smile for pictures. 
  • Sitting down in a hoop skirt isn't as difficult as I thought. You bring it up in the back a little before you sit, and it lays perfectly.

To try it yourself

What: Experience Civil War clothing

Where: Victorian Photography Studio, 76 Steinwehr Ave., Gettysburg

Contact: Call for appointment 717-338-1515