One of the most important and daunting things about getting started in reenacting is putting gear together. Unfortunately, most historical clothing is by now too old, too rare, or both, to find and wear out into the field. This is a bit of a conundrum for the modern reenactor. Fortunately, an entire cottage industry has sprung up to accommodate the aspiring historical recreation. There’s a plethora of (mostly online) stores that provide a wide selection of reproduced gear, and there is even some original stuff still out there, though it is mostly helmets, field gear, and other items that tend to stand up better over time than cloth and leather.
As with all things in historical reenacting, before you purchase anything, do your research! What are you portraying? In what time period? Have you looked at original photographs, if they’re available? If you have joined an organization, what are their standards? Do they have any recommended vendors? Do they expect their members to buy from specific vendors? All of these are important questions that you’ll need answered before you click the ‘buy’ button. All of this might seem very intimidating, but it’s really very simple, when you get down to it. It requires merely a little time, communication, and effort.
Once you’ve managed these things, it’s down to actually getting the gear. I’m going to be up front about it: reenacting requires a serious monetary investment. A complete kit for any given impression can range, depending on what the impression is, from five hundred to a couple of thousand dollars. Fortunately, most units won’t expect a newbie to run out and buy everything right away and most will also have gear they’re willing to lend to you at events until you can get yours together. So, simply put, the best way to assemble your gear is a piece or two at a time. Though I can make one recommendation about your first purchase that I think most people will agree with: shoes! Shoes are often times very important since you do a lot of walking. Your own pair, properly fitting, will be very important to making sure your weekend doesn’t end with blisters on blisters.
When buying gear, make sure you’re purchasing from reputable vendors who make a good product and will deliver it as promised. It’s tempting to buy the cheapest thing you can find but it will often be of incorrect pattern or materials or simply badly made! Then you’ll have to shell out even more money to buy the correct item. In the long run, buying quality will save you money when you don’t have to replace cheap or shoddy gear. Hopefully, this little guide will arm you with the basics you need to go out and get started on your impression, if you’re so inclined!