How to Volunteer in Historical Reenactments

Historical Reenactment Costumes and Equipment

Those uniforms and equipment can add up, making historical reenactment an expensive hobby.
Those uniforms and equipment can add up, making historical reenactment an expensive hobby.
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To volunteer in historical reenactments, you'll be dedicating your time, sacrificing your modern comforts and paying a pretty penny. Period clothing and accessories can be very expensive -- depending on the period and figure you're portraying. A colonial shopkeeper will have a pretty simple costume compared to a Civil War general's uniform. Figure the cost of your accessories into your budget, too. For instance, Revolutionary War-era equipment is generally more expensive than Civil War weapons.

Sometimes, you'll be able to find authentic uniforms to wear to reenactments, especially for 20th-century wars. You can buy relatively cheap U.S. uniforms from the World Wars. But if you want to portray a German soldier from World War II, the uniforms are pricier -- typically $300 to $400 [source: Miller]. And that's not including weaponry: An M1 Garand will put you out $700 to $900, while other period guns cost less than $100.

If you're interested in volunteering as a Civil War reenactor, the entire kit (including uniform, canteen, weapon and leatherwear) will cost about $850 to $1,500 [source: Miller]. Colonial-era muskets run a few hundred dollars, and with the rest of the necessary kit, you're looking at more than $1,000 [source: 2nd Rhode Island Regiment].

Don't buy a uniform or other equipment until you've joined a unit, which might have its own particular rules for attire. When you're starting out as a volunteer, the unit you're working with will probably have a spare uniform you can borrow. As you become more engaged with the unit, it's time to think about acquiring your own reenactment kit so that new recruits can use the spares while they test the waters.

One place to find equipment for sale is at the reenactment events. Merchants known as sutlers set up on-site to sell clothing, accessories and weapons. Do your research before making any purchases to ensure that you get the most authentic bang for your buck. Scouring the sutlers' goods may also set you up for an impulse buy that your historic persona doesn't really need. Shopping online is a good alternative to making purchases at a reenactment. You'll have the Web at your fingertips to research an object's authenticity -- and to compare prices from multiple vendors.

Once you invest time and money into historical volunteerism, you'll likely find great reward from all your efforts. There's nothing volunteering in a historical reenactment to experience the sights, sounds and smells of history.

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  • 2nd Rhode Island Regiment. "Become a Member." 2nd Rhode Island Regiment. (May 8, 2009)
  • Bromer, Zachary. "Dream Job: Historical Reenactor." (May 8, 2009)
  • Miller, John. "How to Become a Re-Enactor." Emmitsburg Area Historical Society.