on July 1, 2002
For women Civil War reenactors, this book is a MUST! Do NOT be deterred by the...pricetag. The money that you spend on this reference is money you will save several times over by not buying inaccurate stuff that ultimately will have to be replaced. I picked up my copy at the same time that I picked up my first reenacting dress, accessorized with wide embroidered collar. Oops! The book was an excellent idea. The collar no longer goes with me to events.
Ms. Leisch bases her study of 1860s fashions on cartes de visite (CDVs), which she notes can be dated fairly accurately based on the types of paper used and photography studio information. She organizes her book by clothing types--coats, day dresses, ball gowns, underpinnings, etc., and particularly emphasizes fashion differences between young women, middle-aged women and older women. "Who Wore What" contains many, many photographs of what women actually wore to the photographer--not the fantasy dresses of Godey's Lady's Book. (Godey's fashion illustrations were for inspiration and not copied from real dresses.)
I notice something new every time I go back through this wonderful book.
on February 17, 2004
This is a great source of information, but I think it's unfortunate that it's become a Civil War reenactor fashion bible. This is only one person's research, ignores the fact that since the dawn of time less-affluent women have copied the fashions of the well-to-do in affordable materials, and that most people wear their best clothes when they're photographed. I've heard reenactors say that "such and such absolutely wouldn't have been worn" or "only by somebody who was of a certain age" etc quoting only this book as the basis. I disagree that because it wasn't found in a carte de visite or a daguerreotype by Ms. Leisch that it isn't so. Great resource, but it's questionable that one researcher found the absolute, inarguable truth.
on November 21, 2002
Juanita is amazing! Taken from research of thousands of CDVs and period photographs, she has narrowed down what women (and some men) wore from day to day during the Civil War era (1861-1865). If you are a Civil War reenactor you must have this book in your collection as it is truly inspiring and a wealth of knowledge. The photos are incredible, and Juanita does a wonderful job in terms of getting down to details to help you make your Civil War costumes or impression fantastic.