Are "Gettysburg" Boots Appropriate For Civil War Costuming?

Litchfield Historical Society - 1860

There's quite a lot of quibbling on Facebook about the dating on the new "Gettysburg" boots, so I'm here to give some insight into how I chose the date range for this style.

The main question is, "can I wear these for Civil War?"

The answer is not a definitive "yes," or a definitive "no." Here's why...

In the 1850s, small heels came back into fashion on women's shoes, and were common on fashionable boots of the early 1860s (and ever after). However, flat boots and heeled boots existed simultaneously during this period.

The latest museum date I have found on an extant pair of flat side-lacing gaiters is 1860, so this is the latter date I set for "Gettysburg" boots.

victorian boots side-lace boots gaiters civil war shoes
Gettysburg Boots

..."but, can I wear these for Civil War?"

We know from studying fashions of the past and even fashion of today that people do not en mas suddenly start wearing the latest, hottest thing. Advertisements for boots in 1861 show heels, but women of lesser means would certainly have still been wearing fashions a few years old.

An advertisement from a German lady's magazine, "Der Bazar," 1861

Edit: After much discussion on several Civil War groups, evidence has turned up for flat-heeled gaiters being sold new in 1862, '63, and '64:

(click for larger) - 1862 Hartford Daily Courant, CT

(click for larger) 1863 - Daily Eastern Argus, ME

(click to enlarge) 1863 - Daily Eastern Argus, ME

(click to enlarge) 1864 - The Sun
Published only five years before, "Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker" was instructing women on how to make their own gaiters at home. This useful little booklet continued to be published into the 1870s, and Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine of 1862 advertises it for 50 cents (pg 303). The book includes patterns for side-lacing, side-buttoning, and elastic-sided, flat boots without heels (for those of you interested in this little publication, you can acquire a copy of it from Originals By Kay, for about $18.00 or Blockade Runner for $12.95)

..."so, I can wear these for Civil War?"

If you are a fashionable lady of means, then I would recommend a heeled boot, but if you are a lady cut off from fashionable developments by the war, a woman on the frontier, or portraying a woman who is not wealthy and up to date with fashion, then you would be perfectly justified in wearing "Gettysburg" boots with your daywear ensembles.

Ultimately it is your choice whether your persona would be wearing styles on their way out, or more up-to-date fashion. If you are unsure about "Gettysburgs" being appropriate for your impression, or your reenactment group, please don't feel pressured to buy them. We have several more styles of mid-19th century footwear in the works, one of which will surely fit your impression perfectly.

Godey's Lady's Book, 1862