Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Reenactment - Clothing and Outfit:

Clothing can be both the easiest and most difficult place to begin with.  If you are planning on attending rondyvoo, especially if you plan on starting with just day trips, it can be fairly easy to put together an outfit that will allow you to fit in, and you don’t need to invest upfront in a set of buckskins to do it either.  Rondyvoo type events can be quite forgiving and accepting as long as it is apparent that you are attempting to fit in.  Later as you add to your wardrobe, you can still continue to use this first outfit.

Clothing can be one of the most difficult places to begin if one intends to do it right, because styles changed, sometimes considerably across the decades. If one isn't careful, and isn’t clear on their personna, they can wind up with a hodge-podge of clothing from across the centuries none of which might have been actually worn together as one outfit.  If you are planning on attending historically accurate events, these kinds of details will become very important.  

No matter what type of event you are planning to attend, there are a few rules regarding clothing that pertain to everyone.

1.  Absolutely use only natural fibers.  Wool, linen, cotton, hemp, and leather.  (English generally wore more linen, French more wool). Nylon, rayon and other synthetics can be detected visually, and many colors on modern fabrics were simply not found on period fabrics. 

2. Machine sewn garments are generally acceptable, as long as any visible stitching is hand-sewn (hemming and top-stitching).  Use buttons which are bone, shell, or horn.  If you purchase clothing and it comes with plastic buttons, replace the buttons with natural materials.  Fabric stores do have a limited selection of natural material buttons, and you can easily make your own (generally if you don't need too many).  Acceptable buttons for different periods can also be found from sutlers online and at many events.

3. Invest in period-correct shoes or a set of moccasins.  I did manage to get by for a while with a pair of field boots, which were mostly covered by long fringy buckskin pants, as long as I didn’t get to comfortable by putting my feet up.  Moccasins are not difficult to make, and so you should get a pair as soon as you can.  Be aware that proper moccasins do not provide much foot support or protection for the modern foot accustomed to hard soles.  (I’ve heard it said that moccasins are a dignified way of going barefoot) Also, custom made shoes, such as brogans or trekkers, which may seem pricey at $120 or more really aren't that expensive.  After all, how much did your kid pay for his last set of athletic shoes that he’ll wear out in three months?  

4. If you wear glasses, get a pair in period-correct frames.  They're small, they aren't the most comfortable, but they are a must for creating the right look.  Frames are available from outfits like Jas. Townsend & Son, take them to Walmart and have your prescription put in them.   Frames can also be found at antique stores.  

5. Abandon your modern views of vanity.  What is considered attractive or fashionable in 2012 is not what was attractive in 1820.  

Below is a short list of basic clothing items that’ll fit you into a “Mountain Man Rendezvous”.

Capote (Blanket Coat, not need in the summer)
Drop Sleeved Shirt
(made of linen, cotton or wool)
Trousers (made of linen, cotton or wool)
Leather Shirt, Pants, or Leggings and Breechclout (if you’re doing native).  Don't get the Tandy "Orange." You'll want something that looks like braintanned leather. 
Moccasins (No rubber soles, and not the "slipper look")
Suspenders (belts at this time were used for holding weapons, not pants) Felt Hat
Coyote or Coon Hat (warning, these will roast your brains in any season except during winter) (Beaver Hats-No!  That would be like taking your paycheck and making paper airplanes out of it)
Possibles Bag (What ya keep yer possibles in, such as fire steel, caps, wallet, coin of the realm, etc.)
Skins and Furs (not exactly clothing, but ya may want to have a few on hand just in case.  After all what this is what the fur trade is all about)  

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