Among the rows of white canvas tents at the Civil War re-enactment exists the living history area, where men and women dress in clothing designed from Civil War-era patterns to help educate visitors about various topics related to the battle and time period.
One tent in particular educates re-enactment attendees about the civilian experience during the Battle of Gettysburg. Katie Carroll, of Gettysburg, invited folks to step out of the heat of the day and into her tent to learn about women’s clothing during the Civil War period.
Carroll has been involved in re-enactments for more than 20 years. She originally made the leap into re-enacting after her husband returned from a deployment during the Gulf War. During his deployment, she sent him books about the Civil War per his request, and after his return, the pair took to re-enacting Carroll said. Carroll is a member of the Civilians of Gettysburg group and enjoys the opportunity to share information about the civilian experience, particularly that of the women.
“You are in a hobby like Civil War re-enacting and it’s all about the soldiers, but there’s a whole civilian world out there,” Carroll said.
Women’s fashion during the era was highly influenced by European style, Carroll claimed. Women at the time would look at magazines with pictures of the latest fashion trends, similar to the way women today flip through Vogue, Carroll said. Although many women at the time could not afford to purchase the styles seen in magazines, many would take a piece from the outfit as inspiration and incorporate it into a dress they made for themselves, Carroll said.
Carroll herself has a collection of nearly 100 Civil War style dresses she sewed. After taking a class through Gentile Arts Academy, she learned the craft and began making different styles of dresses. An evening gown and a traditional dress she had sewn were on display in her tent over the weekend.
Carroll works as a lawyer but enjoys sewing Civil War apparel as a hobby.
“It’s fun for me,” Carroll said. “It gives me a nice creative outlet to look at my fabric stash and think ‘what am I going to make today.’”
During Carroll’s experience in re-enacting she has found both women and men enjoy learning about clothing, parenting and life during the time period.
“It’s fun to have people see how we lived 150 years ago,” Carroll said.