A Stitch (Back) In Time: How Reenactors Are Outfitted

August 1st, 2016 News and Events

Those who visit Washington Crossing Historic Park often feel transported back in time, thanks in part to the authentic 18th-century clothing worn by reenactors.

What isn’t immediately apparent is the time and energy that goes into making these garments.

Many reenactors’ clothes—including elaborate dresses and military uniforms—were hand-sewn by members of the park’s Sewing Club, which formed in early 2015 when a group of women decided to meet on a regular basis to sew period-accurate clothes for special events.

“As Colonial Days programs approached, a few of us gathered to make aprons, petticoats and pockets for our dresses,” says park volunteer Judi Biederman. “Not only did the Sewing Club grow into an opportunity for us to gather and share our passion for the park and its history, it gave us the chance to become educated about period fabrics, material and stitching.”

In colonial America, young women were expected to make the family’s clothes and bed linens. Because items were hand-stitched, each person had only a few precious garments to wear. That’s also the case today for Sewing Club members, who use only one sewing machine during their Sunday afternoon sewing sessions. The rest is done by hand, without patterns.

Members rely on each other to keep garments as authentic as possible, using popular stitches and fabrics appropriate to the colonial era—despite the monetary cost.

“Period costumes are very expensive—I tease my husband that his regimental coat cost more than my wedding dress,” member Nancy O’Leary says.

New members are always welcome at the Sewing Club. Call the park at 215-493-4076 for upcoming meeting dates.