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Mr S and his waistcoat at Monmouth

Mr S and his waistcoat at Monmouth

Sometimes I can almost hear, “Good God woman, what are you thinking?!” but so far I have only seen it in a man’s eyes. This is usually in regard to laundry.

I erred once in asking if one wanted his hunting shirt laundered, and I had planned only on cold water and hand washing, as the item seemed a bit crunchy and crumpled to my eye and hand. But, no, some other woman had washed that shirt some time ago, and it had taken considerable time—years—to reestablish fringe from fluff.

Well patinated now, formerly embarrassingly white.

Now, I give you Mr S’s waistcoat and overalls. Mr S’s waistcoat was completed on the New Jersey Turnpike in November 2011 while headed to Fort Lee. Since then, it has a acquired a smattering of powder specks, a patina of grunge, a stain or two of greasy beaver (curry, actually) and, most recently, spots of toothpaste. This is where I draw the line: the toothpaste spots must go, as they are inauthentic.

Shirts, shifts, stockings, aprons, and waistcoat

One doesn’t want one’s clothes too clean for reenactments or living history events: you’re “living” in the pre-detergent era, but that doesn’t mean you should never wash your clothes. We know that the armies employed women to wash clothing, and we know that linens–shirts, shifts, and drawers–were washed more frequently than outerwear like breeches, waistcoats, and gowns. It’s not so different from today, when we don’t clean business suits as often as we launder shirts or underwear. Still, we do clean our clothes, and there comes a point when those overalls will get washed. Right about when you figure you need gloves to handle them…