Crafts & Hobbies Information

How to Make Your Civil War Uniform Shirt


Your own shirt designed and made by you for your own Civil War Uniform Impression is easy and economical. Follow these simple directions, and your Civil War uniform shirt will be exactly how you want it.

Take all of your girth measurements.

Using a tape measure, measure your chest, stomach and note the bigger of the two measurements. Write it all down in inches. Do not suck your stomach or chest in. Be sure you are in a comfortable position, so your shirt will fit properly.

Next, measure from top of shoulder to mid-thigh, so you can tell how long you want the shirt to be. Next, measure then from shoulder tip to wrist with arm bent at a 90 degree angle, so the sleeve will have enough room in it for you to move freely and comfortably.

Measure your bicep and wrist.

Measure your neck.

Start looking for material but don't buy anything until measurements are completed

Look at original photographs and decide which type of shirt you like and would be comfortable wearing on the march. Look at the collars and variations on how the neck is done. The collar is an easy part of the shirt to change also. A standard placard front with a slit for the head is desirable and very accurate.

Purchase a shirt pattern. Follow assembly procedures.

Now you are ready to choose your material. 100% cotton or Osnaburg is recommended. Muted colors are more of what was worn during the Civil War. If I were going to do a shirt just starting out, I would go with a red, white and/or blue homespun. I would stay away from real bright colors. Use muted-color fabrics. I think it looks much more accurate that way. The reason I said red, white, and blue is that both armies were patriotic and those color combinations were popular in the Civil War Era.

Hand topstitch around the pocket and neck. Your hand topstitching should be about 6 - 8 stitches per inch. If you do this hand stitching, you have just doubled the value of your shirt and jacket.

You probably will not start the hobby out as much of a tailor. My first few handmade items were a joke, but eventually I got to where I can put together a good uniform. I would stay away from shirts that were real fancy. If you don't want to make your own shirt, purchase a shirt that is already made that has machine buttonholes in it and rework the buttonholes to make it look more authentic. Take a seam ripper and pick out the buttonholes and handwork them. I would pick out and redo by hand all exposed machine stitching. Someone can show you how to do that in about 15 minutes. You have just doubled the value of your shirt and made it more authentic.

For photographs of shirt designs, patriotic combinations, and topstitching, go to http://www.civilwaruniforms.net/shirts.htm

Next, get yourself some good buttons. Stay away from plastic and modern buttons. Go with glass, bone, shell, metal, porcelain, 2-hole cat's eye or Mother of Pearl. Metal buttons are authentic, but they have the potential to rust and stain your fabric. Some of the sutlers that sell fabric and sewing items have buttons.

Or I have a ton of buttons I might be talked into parting with. Buttons can also be found at flea markets, antique stores, in old button baskets, tins or jars. Frequently, you can buy a whole jar of buttons for $3 - check out the buttons in it, and if you find a substantial antique buttons, it certainly is worth it. Sometimes the jar is as valuable as the buttons! I have found jars full of buttons with a hundred dollar button in it. Small items like buttons can make a huge difference and increase the value of your shirt, jacket, pants, etc.

To see some antique buttons, go to http://www.civilwaruniforms.net/civilwarshirtbuttons.htm

Try to get solid brass buttons. Waterbury is good. Original buttons are a bit pricey but not out of the question. If you are getting U.S. Eagle buttons, sutlers have them. Stay away from the ones that are plated. I personally just use coin buttons. If you are doing a state regiment, you want to go with state seal buttons. "I" buttons are a good generic impression. For late war buttons, go with the Tate Script "I" which were coming in later in the war. U.S. buttons can go U.S. or Confederate. It would not be unusual to see an Eagle button on a Confederate uniform.

Coach McCoach has been reenacting the Civil War for 27 years. Units he has reenacted with include 4th North Carolina, 2nd Virginia and 21st Virginia, Company B. In the movie GETTYSBURG, he is the soldier holding General Garnett's horse while is talking to General Armistead before Pickett's Charge. His Kepi was used for the little boy in the movie made for the visitors center at Manassas. He received the Stonewall Brigade 1994 Authenticity Award for his uniform.

2004 permission granted to reprint this article in print on your website so long as the paragraph above is included and the contact information is included to coach@civilwaruniforms.net


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