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
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
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
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
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
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.
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