Bringing up the Rear...In Small Clothes

By Karen L. Hayden

Greetings to the column! This article is focusing on the smallest clothes in the hobby: children's garments.

I recently have received several compliments on the authenticity of my children's re-enactment clothing. It seems that in the "hobby." kids are the last ones to be dressed correctly. (OK, so there are a few holdouts from the grand and glorious Bicentennial Days.) The reasons are usually that, 1. "they grow too fast anyway" and 2. "there are no good sources for children's clothes."

In defense of the majority of sutlers, let's face it. Reason number one prevents most parents from spending very much on kids clothes and so, it may no seem like a lucrative business. And on the other end, moms and dads who work full time are not looking forward to endless hours of sewing. (By the way, keeping house and raising children IS full time work.)

Here are a few suggestions for getting more mileage out of those clothes.

  1. In the eighteenth century, girl and boy babies were dressed alike. Open shirts, gowns, and caps (even with lace!) can be shared by brothers and sisters. (We did it.)
  2. Toddlers should still be wearing dresses or frock coats. Skirts and breeches just don't stay on!
  3. Boys being "breeched" doesn't have to be taken literally. A few sizes larger "breeches" can be used like overalls. You can leave the legs plain and finish them later as the child grows. A larger waist gusset that allows you to pull it in a little more can work wonders.
  4. Girls can wear those great dresses with extra pleats in the back and hem to be let out later. (See Tidings from the 18th Century by Beth Gilgun.) Also, adding ruffles to the sleeves can stretch it out. Lacing can naturally be let out to accomodate growth, or you can use a bigger overlap with hooks and eyes and just move them out later.
  5. Shirts and shifts are supposed to be roomy. Don't skimp on the material!
  6. It may sound obvious, but share kids clothes within your unit, or look for someone else who might need your kids' outgrown outfits.

So far, I have gotten two seasons out of dresses I made for Sarah (age 6) and will hopefully get two seasons out of frock coats for her brother, Ian (age 2). Capotes are also useful over several seasons. Hope to see you at Cherry Valley!

Copyright © 1995 Karen L. Hayden. All rights reserved.