Hot! Ask A Reenactor: Where do you get your costumes?

Today’s question comes from a reader of the Daily Reenactor tumblr blog that I run.  I got an anonymous question which read:

Where do you get your costumes?

Dear Anonymous:

Your question is actually fairly complicated, and depending on what reenactor you’re talking to and what impressions they do, the answer will be different.  Since this is a complicated question, I’ll be answering this in a few separate posts, but for now, I’ll give you a short answer in a few short statements:

1.  They’re not really called “costumes”.  They don’t really have a name, but most reenactors will balk at the term “costume”.

2.  Most folks who do early period impressions (let’s say pre-17th century) tend to make their own clothing and equipment.  Those who don’t tend to pay others to do so.

3.  About half the folks who do 18th and 19th century impressions buy their clothing and equipment from people called “sutlers” who mass produce the items on a small scale.  The other half make their own and buy from sutlers or artisans what they cannot make themselves.

4.  Almost everyone who does 20th century impressions buys their clothing, with a few exceptions.  Some buy and wear original gear, some buy reproductions (called repros) from companies that mass produce them.  The earlier in the 20th century the impression, the more likely the gear is reproduction.  The later the impression, the more likely it’s original. Most equipment (magazine pouches, canteens, etc) are original no matter what part of the 20th century the impression is from, though there are some reproductions out there for the most popular items.

So, that’s the short answer.  For the long answer, I’ll be doing two separate posts about the subjects that I know about: where to get 18th century gear and where to get 20th century gear.

Stay tuned!