Try-on clothes are a big favorite with Conner Prairie guests, so it comes as no surprise that our new experience opening in June, 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana
, highlighting the incursion led by Gen. John Hunt Morgan, will have some, too.
There have to be uniforms, more Union, of course; this is Indiana. I looked for a fabric that was washable yet had the rough feel of the all-wool jackets worn during the Civil War. I stumbled across a thick craft felt and bought some to try out in the washer. It washed and dried with seemingly no change in appearance or texture and has an authentic, slightly scratchy feel. The buttons and trim, however, are good reproductions, made for re-enactors.
The signature look for Civil War belles is the hoop skirt. While many were made of wire and tape, ours will be petticoats with hoops threaded through tucks. Our young guests will be able to practice wearing the ever-swaying hoops skirts and will probably find sitting without showing their legs to be most difficult.
Girls up to age 14 and sometimes older often wore off-the-shoulder dresses during the Civil War and the decades preceding it. Our little girls, however, get to experience the wonderful feeling of dressing up in grown-up clothes that are just their size.
The silks and sheer cottons of “fancy” dresses of the era will be represented by synthetic fabrics and trims that shine and mimic their predecessors, each chosen because it reminded me of a picture of an original dress. Day dresses with the ubiquitous round neckline and off-the-shoulder evening dresses will be waiting for little girls when we open the new area in June of this year, as well as one cotton work dress. There will even be an adult-size dress and uniform for parents and older kids!
Will the young ladies be able to convince the soldier boys to stroll or dance with them? Or will they prefer to pick up a rifle and go to war, too?
Click the links below to view the Conner Prairie Historic Clothing Collection: