Friday, July 22

9 ways for Women to 'MAN UP' in Reenacting

Love it or hate it, women have been dressing as men in reenacting for ages. Some do it well and some need a little help to make a semi-passable gentleman. For assistance with this article I got help from two women who cross dress at reenactments, and who do it REALLY WELL. Some suggestions come from Mr. Vassermann (my good wife), with additional comments and suggestions from “An Anonymous Lady & Sometimes Gentleman, who wishes to remain unknown”, whose insightful contributions will be highlighted in RED.

Here are some suggestions for the ladies who want to cross-dress as a man and do it well!


Not every woman is built like an androgynous beanpole (my wife Maggie's own words), so it sometimes takes a little work to hide your womanly figure. Binding your bust is the first step, and can be done in a way that is not uncomfortable. Even a little bit helps the look. If you have a curvier bottom, like Vassermann does, wearing petticoat trousers over your pants can help hide that, as well as straight legged trousers that don't hug the form. Avoid breeches if possible as to hide delicate calves and ankles.

There are number of tutorials on the web for drag kings, actors, and cosplayers. Don't use an Ace bandage, as this can damage your muscles - depending on your cup size wear a sports bra or a gynecomastia binder.


In my own period of the War of 1812 the clothing includes tight pants and well-fitted jackets, and in most time periods clothes are meant to fit well, not hang on you. Ill-fitting clothes won't help you hide your figure - they just make you look like you stole your dad's or boyfriend's clothes. 

And even if your tight pants do show off your glorious behind, at least they look better than completely wrong baggy saggy trousers.

When Maggie and I created Vassermann (her male alter-ego) we decided that since she was so small to begin with, we'd scale all her clothing and accessories down to make her look bigger. Her clothing is made using mostly patterns for little boy's clothing, with her buttons being a little smaller than what is called for. If the Jacket called for a 1 inch button we'd use a 3/4 inch button instead. Vassermann’s belt and shoes are a little smaller as well.

The main goal being that we didn't want to to look like she was swimming in borrowed duds, but instead that Vassermann was a slight young man with clothes custom made for his frame.


Nothing helps sell it like a little make up. Before we sent Vassermann into the field, we watched some excellent online tutorials on how to make women look more like male characters (thank you Youtube Cosplayers!) Some of the tips we took from the tutorials was the fill in the eyebrows a little bit to make them a little beefier, and to lighten the lips to make them a little less pink.


Women's shoulders are naturally less square than men's shoulders, you might consider beefing up your shoulders with some simple pads.

You can include pads to widen your shoulders or waist in your clothes, and skillful tailoring can hide other parts of your body.


Long or short, you've got to do something with it… if you have a short haircut, style in in the fashion that men with short hair did. Take a look at some period portraits of gentlemen with short hair to seek inspiration. Take a comb and a little hair product and play in front of the mirror to get a look that's different than your everyday look.

Long hair? Don't just tie it back into a loose ponytail. Instead, braid or queue it in a period appropriate fashion like men with longer hair did.

... don't tuck [your hair] up into your hat. It fools no one.


...moving right is critical to looking male. Watch how men walk and sit and practice doing it. Practice walking confidently - get a male and female friend to watch you walk while you practice to criticize you. Throw your shoulders back and spread out. Take up lots of space at all times - when you sit, sprawl - and then sprawl more. Lean on things. Ooze out. Lounge. Practice when you're wearing your modern clothes, too. 


The most important thing you can do to be accepted as a cross-dresser costs nothing: pull your weight and learn how to be competent in camp and on the field. Learn how to do your job and how to do it well. If your impression involves carrying a musket purchase two five-pound weights and do exercises that simulate holding a musket. Learn the details of your weapon and your campaign. Learn how to put up a tent, dig a fire pit, clean a musket, and pack a trailer. Be there for set up and take down whenever you can. March and sleep in the rain and snow. Step in and get dirty, wet, and miserable.


With Vassermann, we worked on the impression for a YEAR before we finally showed it off at an event.

Maybe you can't afford a well-fitted coat right now or do a single push-up or recite the armament of all the frigates of the Navy circa 1812, but get excited! Make plans. Read read read. And always be looking to improve yourself - every reenactor no matter what their gender should always be working on improving their knowledge and impression.


If your body is extremely female or you're extremely out of shape, consider not cross-dressing, or not cross-dressing in all circumstances.

Let’s face it, cross dressing isn’t for everyone and not everyone CAN or WILL do it well.

Do you have any easy suggestions for reeanactors to improve their impressions? Please feel free to share them in the COMMENTS section below, we'd love to hear your ideas!
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Thanks for reading!

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Images by Stefan Barges and Tony Gerard

Thursday, July 21

Lord Nelson's mail

A special guest speaker at the Jane Austen Festival this year was Bryan Austin giving a talk as Admiral Lord Nelson. I invited several of our regular Mail Packet contributers to write him special 'Nelson-themed' letters and they delivered in spades!

As you might imagine, Lord Nelson had a little difficulty in opening his letters, so Mr. Hollybrass  and Mr. Apple stepped in to assist the Admiral in the absence of his clerk, Mr. Scott.

We'll end today's post with a word of thanks from Bryan Austin, who played Nelson:

Once, in a blue while, you have the opportunity to come across an instance of living history or reenactment that is so complete and appellant to every sense that all at once you find yourself entirely transported from where you stand to another time and place. It was my real privilege to have that opportunity this past weekend meeting the crew of HMS Acasta. Sitting as a spectator to their camp and the stories of each man on board would have been enough, however when the time to deliver the mail arrived to my surprise I was included. 

I was entirely overwhelmed, to see brief slices of Horatio Nelson's life both personal and professional left me in awe and gave me that much more of a greater appreciation for him, the history, and those human experiences that knit the present with the past. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank those who contributed to making this an experience I will never forget. For the briefest of moments, you turned an actor into an Admiral with greater ease than years of study could…Thank you!

Wednesday, July 20

The Ruffian v. Jack Power

The excellent bare knuckle boxing matches are always a favorite of Acastas whilst ashore, this year was no different. Hollybrass has bet on 'The Ruffian' (seen in black sash) to win, while Baptiste has put his money on Jack Power in the red sash to win it. Who will win it? Watch and find out!

Special thanks to Bingley's Teas for the use of the footage of the match on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 19

Jane Austen Festival 2016 in images

Acastas ashore at the Jane Austen Festival and their special guest Commodore Hurlbut.

Acasta officers pay a visit to Lady Caroline 

Reclining in camp.

The Commodore and his wife under the dining fly.

Practice with the pikes under Lt. Tumbusch.

Acastas pose with the fighters after the bare knuckle boxing match.

Captain Freymann and Admiral Lord Nelson in the Acasta camp.

Nobody wants their photo with Mr. Hollybrass!

Friday, July 15

2016 Mail Packet, Sneak Preview

The MAIL PACKET gets deliver'd to the ACASTA tomorrow while they are ashore at the Jane Austen Festival! Herein find a sneak preview of a few of the many excellent letters we rec'd this present year for inclussion in the packet. 

As you can see, it was another year of beautiful submissions from our friends and readers! We'd like to take a minute to thank those who contributed to the 2016 packet:

J. Miller
E. Rust
C. LeCours
A. Miller
K. Tolhurst
A. Leeds
J. Blalock
C. Nelson
J. Bernh
M. Moyles
T. Gerard
B. Mooney
S. Zahradka
S. Diatz

and Frank & Carol Jarboe for their special assistance in helping me print
this year's round of prize letters!

We are so pleased and honored by the interest you all showed and by the submitted pieces themselves. Without you, the mail packet project would be woefully empty. The Packet is slated to be delivered on Saturday, July 16th at the Jane Austen Festival. 

Keep watching participants, there's more to come!