What's the best place to get Civil War uniforms?
June 3, 2014 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I've wanted a Union Civil War uniform for a long time. There are a lot of places online to get them. Can anybody recommend one over another? Some particulars inside.

My interest stems from my recent discovery of an ancestor who served all over the war from Vicksburg to Atlanta to the Grand Review, in an Iowa infantry regiment.

I'm not super interested in reenacting the Civil War, this would be more for Halloween and other costume occasions. Obviously I'd like to get equipped for the least amount possible.

Ideally I'm looking for a basic uniform: Kepi, shirt, jacket, pants, and possibly a greatcoat.

I'm also a Major, so I'd like an officer's uniform. What about the shoes? I see shoes online but they're as much as a uniform is. Are there acceptable substitutes?
posted by atchafalaya to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want a real, actually used in the Civil War uniform? Or a costume/replica version?
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:08 AM on June 3, 2014

How authentic do you want your uniform to be?

If you're looking at something inexpensive check Blockade Runner. Here's a bunch of officer's coats, both sack coats (the shorter ones, starting at $129) and frocks (the longer ones, starting at $149). I can't say anything about what their quality level is.

An officer's coat from C & D Jarnagin is going to run more in the $200-$300 range.

There are a bunch of Civil War clothing vendors out there. Do a Google search for "Civil War sutler." Generally the more expensive the higher the quality. If you want to know about a particular sutler's quality a search by their name will probably turn up a discussion on one of the reenacting forums. Also, some forums have a section where people sell old equipment. This may be a good place to get shoes (and on the subject of shoes: when I did my brief stint in reenacting with a friend years ago I just used my street shoes, which were similar to these moccasins from LL Bean. Not at all authentic, but no one complained).

If you or someone you know are handy with sewing you can also make your own. Some modern pattern companies make Civil War patterns - look under historical costumes. Here's an old pattern from Simplicity on ebay. Some sutlers also will have more authentic, less costume-y patterns.

One other thought: do you know the specific regiment your ancestor was in? Uniforms varied a bit across the army. For example, not everyone wore the kepi or forage cap but used a Hardee hat or various broad-brimmed hats instead. It might be cool to duplicate your ancestor's uniform.

On preview, an authentic uniform could run you in the thousands of dollars and there aren't too many left (and they should be preserved for future generations).
posted by lharmon at 7:27 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nah, no need for authentic. This is just for fun.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:33 AM on June 3, 2014

I have a friend who has bought a ton of Civil War stuff from S&S Firearms, and from what I've seen their basic uniform components (trousers, shirts, sack coats, vests) are pretty good for the price.

Regimental Quartermaster has decent stuff too, and an exhaustive selection of the various brass insignias you might want to represent your ancestor's regiment and company. They have two nice brick and mortar shops on the tourist strip in Gettysburg, PA if you ever get up that way.

Finally, if you get into this and decide you want spend a little more money, the same aforementioned friend bought a bespoke General's frock coat from Quartermaster Shop. I've seen it in person and the quality is really impressive. It was made to measure (he sent them his measurements, and they sent him a muslin test shell to try on before making the actual coat.) He said the service was excellent.
posted by usonian at 7:57 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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