Monday, November 12, 2012

Researching Napoleonic Authenticity - The Frustration (I need help)

I am sure this is a topic that most of us struggle with. With the increasing amount of information available it is easier, and yet it is also sometimes bewildering. I am lucky with my Victorian impressions in having friends that own original garments from my city, however, I find my Napoleonic impression a lot harder. Recently I have been trying to work on improving my outfits when portraying a wife of a Brunswick-er Private. This is very frustrating as
  • I have been unable to find examples of original lower class garments that have survived, I'm guessing this is due to the fact that they wore them till they became rags and then used them for that purpose.
  • The fact that we do not wear the clothes of our grandparents did, so would they be still making garments that are 50 years out of date (I also believe that the older garments used more fabric so could possibly cost more to make? please let me know if this is true as I have yet to make any 18th century clothing), just because they are poor (within 10 years seems more acceptable to me considering the amount of wear their clothing received).
  • There is the question about European cultural dress and how that can be incorporated
  • That much of the existing cultural dress items are actually from the upper classes and I have yet to find any original dating before 1875, as I doubt that the lower classes had metallic embroidery, pearls and excessive glass beading on their vests (but OMG they are very nice and drool worthy), but please feel free to correct me if you think I am wrong on this one.
  • Most of the paintings I have found were painted around 1900 by artists that were not born until the 1820s.
  • The fact that the Brunswick army recruited from multiple countries after battles, so where exactly do I and my husband come from, there were many different duchies and small ethnic groups
  • That they were away from their homeland for five years, how much of their original cultural garments would still be wearable/not replaced
  • Considerations for the large trade in second hand garments on the tail end of the English army, which the Brunswick-rs were attached to/fighting alongside after their retreat to England
Sorry this has become a little ranting, but I have now been researching these questions for 4 months and I have found that my questions have actually increased with time.This is definitely the most frustrating thing I have come across to date. Much of what I think I know is pure speculation, which annoys my academic and perfectionist personality immensely. I NEED ACCURATE INFORMATION (sorry insane moment there). I would honestly love to hear from any other European Napoleonic renactors if they have any advice or suggestions.

So far this website has given me some help as it has Dutch army prints dated to 1816 and is my current idea of the impression I should be aiming for, but any further images/websites etc would be appreciated
Netherlands Infantry Uniforms


Vegetable Seller

Perfume Seller

The main points I have from these images is that the dresses are half calf length, do up in the front, loose (could be larger second hand garments adjusted to fit), unmatched, have some form of fabric pelisse type garment over the top, coloured fishus and harder wearing fabrics.


  1. I don't think that are short pelisses, I think they are short gowns, like this one that Sabine made:

    I too find researching working class clothes are difficult :)

  2. Wow, that is an excellent blog. I will have to ask my husband to translate it for me. It looks just like the pictures and makes a lot of sense if using older garments on top to protect or extend the wear of dresses.

  3. She translates her posts to English, or I wouldn't understand much.... I also believe there was such a thing as high waisted petticoats, with shoulder straps to keep them up. Both what we would call petticoats, meant to go under the dress, but also petticoats (in the 18th century just meaning a skirt) meant to be worn as a main garment. I think one of those might be worn with a short gown, but putting one on over a dress sounds clever (even if I don't know if that was done).