Bethel Heroes member Donna Boykin was the guest speaker at Chapter 636 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s most recent meeting.
She presented an informative program on the dress of women in the Civil War era. This war had a large and very personal effect on every one then living in the United States, but most especially in the South.
Probably the most distinctive signature of this time period is the hoop skirt, named for the structural support of wire hoops or whalebones called “crinolines,” worn under the skirt to hold its shape. The skirt alone took up to five yards of fabric. The hoop skirts were of great use for those wishing to conceal valuable property. Refugees carried bags of silverware or money, runaway slaves carried an extra change of clothes and daring women smuggled army supplies such as boots through enemy lines – all by attaching them to their crinolines.
During the war, the supply of cloth from the North to Southern mills put a burden on ladies desiring new clothes. Virtually every woman wore a corset of some type under their clothing. The ideal was a waist of 15 inches. In addition to the corset, pantaloons were worn.
Wealthy Victorian women changed their clothes as many as five times a day. They started with a plain “morning dress” If visiting they donned a “walking dress” and for an evening out, they wore an “evening dress” which would be cut low on the shoulders.
Death touched hundreds of thousands of families during the Civil War. Widows were expected to wear deep mourning clothes for at least one year. This included a dull black fabric, widow’s cap, black cuffs and collars and black cape. Black petticoats, stockings and parasols also were required.
Boykin was dressed in a period costume which included her dress, pantaloons, skirt, gloves, scarf, shoes and a parasol.
In addition to wearing the clothes, she had other dresses, patterns, accessories and under garments on display.
Boykin is often a participant in Civil War Reenactments held in North Carolina and Virginia.
Bethel Heroes welcomes guests at their meetings, which are held the first Wednesday of the month at the Braswell Memorial Library. Meetings take place in the Wiley Room at 10:30 a.m.
If you are from this area, you probably have a confederate ancestor. We will assist you in your research and welcome you into the United Daughters of the Confederacy.