Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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MARCH 4, 2011 2:45PM

All Night Long: My boyfriend's waistcoat

Rate: 56 Flag

This morning, my beloved went to war.

Well, not an actual war.  At least, not in our time. 

As some of you might remember, back in October I posted about the Napoleonic-era reproduction pants that my boyfriend made entirely by hand (even the wooden buttons), following historic reference material.  He made them to wear in his battle reenactment group, but I think he might have done it anyway and worn them around the house. 

My boyfriend has always been fascinated by history, and as he grew older, the First Empire became his greatest historical passion.  He’s become a respected young collector of sabers used in in the Napoleonic wars; a go-to reference for uniform styles, patterns, and materials; and a wealth of knowledge about everything Bonaparte-related. 

Now he’s about to take another big step. 

The first time he left to spend a weekend with his battle reenactment group, it was a sort of basic training to get to understand the experience and its rules and way of preserving the illusion of being in the early 19th century.  For example, participants in the reconstruction can and do bring their cell phones, ID’s, and modern-day cigarettes, but these can only be used in a separate area known as “the 21st century zone”.  The rest of the time, the people involved are wearing hand-made (or tailor-made, depending on your sewing skills) historically accurate uniforms of the Grand Armée, eating food cooked by a vivandière (woman who followed a regiment and sold vegetables and meats, as well as prepared meals for the officers), and handling reproduction weapons. If you wear glasses, you even have to get frames that look like the eyewear of the time.  These people are hardcore.

This time around, my boyfriend and sixty other members of several reconstitution groups will be reenacting the Battle of Craonne, which took place on March 7, 1814.

I asked if I should attend to watch and show my support, but my boyfriend told me that apart from some large reenactments like the one they’ll be participating in for the 200th anniversary of Waterloo in 2015, the reconstitution groups generally like to keep things to themselves.  A crowd of 21st-century dressed, cell phone toting spectators would only ruin the magic.

 …The magic that will continue all weekend, with drills and sleeping in historically accurate tents in historically accurate hand-made burlap sleeping bags.  In nearly 30 degree (Fahrenheit) weather.

One girl’s hell is another man’s heaven, I guess.

When I found out about the accommodations, I asked my boyfriend why they wouldn’t be housed somewhere, as they had been last time.  He explained to me that this time it’s for real, and that to him and the others, two nights suffering from the cold, risking tick- and goodness-knows-what-else infestation by stuffing your sleeping bag with hay, and doing your business in a hole (I asked him what was used for toilet paper in Napoleon’s day, and he didn’t know), is a way to connect with the past.

I can understand that; I’m very glad I don’t have to wear a corset, but if I wanted to really understand how women in my favorite historical period, the Belle-Époque, used to feel, I would probably have to squeeze myself into one and walk around for a while. 

My boyfriend may be smart, but he’s not a planner.  Though he’s had months to do it, he only really started sewing the gilet à manches (sleeved waistcoat) to go with his pants, about 2 weeks ago.  Since then, he’s been sewing almost non-stop from the time he gets home from work, till he collapses into bed in the wee hours.  This morning he left for the reenactment.  In order to have his waistcoat ready for battle, he stayed up all night.

When I woke up to get ready for work, he’d just finished.  I asked if I could take some pictures – the waistcoat really is a beaut.  Flushed with caffeine and triumph, he happily agreed.  So, as an accompaniment to my boyfriend’s pants, here is his sleeved waistcoat, all (except the buttons this time) made by hand or with the aid of his sewing machine. I say “his” sewing machine because I could use it, too, but I’m too intimidated.   
First, a First Empire depiction of a gilet à manches, from an image by Horace Vernet: 
(Image source: The Réunion des musées nationaux (de la France), image hosted here) 
Now here’s my boyfriend’s copy: 
 Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to properly finish the cuffs of the sleeves.   I’m still impressed, but he says this experience was absolute proof that, though I tell him all the time that he should try to get on Project Runway, he’d never be able to meet their challenge deadlines.
There are two pockets on the waistcoat.  One is real, and one is just a flap for show.  The black hairs you might see on the waistcoat are not regulation, but a gift from our cat Ali, who eagerly monitored the sewing and occasionally tried to eat thread and needles. 
The waistcoat on top of the burlap sleeping bag, which my boyfriend also made. 
My boyfriend models the waistcoat and the pants in the early morning light. 
Uniform sleeves at the time were cut in a curve. 
The view from the back. 

Buttoned up, as it will be worn on the battlefield.


I left for work about an hour before my boyfriend had to leave for Craonne.  I wish him and his fellow soldiers luck on their trip back to the past. 

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All the preparation for this totally threw me off and I couldn't participate in the Friday Fiction OC, resurrected by Rita Bourland. If you have time, you should definitely check out Rita's post, as well as those of the other OSers who've participated. And, if you're reading this on Friday, why not give it a shot yourself!
Oh my goodness. do I have a friend for him in Quebec hahaha.
This man can sew. I used to make costumes and this is hard work and he did a fantastic job. Just amazing..

Let him do his business in the trenches.. he will appreciate la belle vie once he gets home.:)
rated with hugs
What a work of art and history. You should have him make something matching for you and stroll down the streets of Paris.
Well, Alysa, I suspect there would be things about being a woman in the Belle Epoque that wouldn't meet your approval.

Glad the boyfriend finished the waistcoat, but I'm staying over here in the 21st century zone.
I am pretty much in shock.
They're not actors doing a movie, or working a festival.
This is just for fun?!?!
There's a group in my town that meets at the park on Sundays and dresses like knights and does jousting, but they're really of the lame half baked variety just goofing off, with their regular clothes on underneath, it's more about wearing armor and slamming into each other with oversized wooden swords, like some bizarre flashy wrestling match.
But your boyfriend's group sounds pretty hard core. I guess with all that detail and prep I just wish he was getting paid for it! lol Maybe there's some historical society that could sponsor them?
You may not believe me? It'd true.
Michele (one "L") gave me britches.
I keep losing my comments today.
My cotton britches are Civil War Era.
Pants are quality made with crotches.
The loin area is mammoth sewed stitch.
Pants under my britches make me itchy.
I hope Snoopy no take pants or comment.
I sure enjoyed this. Pants are worth money.
I promised to be 'jest' one brief-underpants
One moment.
I's in big trouble.
You cover for me?
Write a brief note?
I'd sure appreciate?
Email (pink-slip)
(frilly) (asap) to`
fellow farmers?
I feel bad your boyfriend doesn't have a head...
I remember well the reproduction pants!

I adore the idea of reconstructing history,
but MY way of doing it would include
a mixing of the 21st century people
with the reconstructors, perhaps
at the end of the reconstruction....
maybe get people from several periods to mix..
all in character...

I wikked that battle and found out something odd:
the young recruits w/o beard were
called "MarieLouises"
after Napoleon's 2nd

"the real war is never in the books", i remember Whitman saying.
One might object that such loving reproduction
is usually of war ..but
what else could it be,
i guess...
war is never going away,
so we can learn alot..
Alyssa, he is amazing. You should have him make your clothes. -R-
Jeez, my first reaction is that he's got a nice shape and is a clever fellow...but stark raving mad. Well, better re=enactment than the real thing. Motto: War is hell, re-enactment is heck.
Christine - he DOES!
Linda – I’ll tell my boyfriend what you said about his sewing skills. Coming from you, it means a lot! And yes, I hope he’ll be happy to return to the comforts of 21st century Parisian living…but that he won’t hog the bathtub or the chocolate!

Out on a limb – It’s long been my dream for my boyfriend to make me a historical outfit. He’s made me skirts and has helped me add other details to clothes I buy. But he always has stuff to sew for himself. I really need to bite the bullet and learn to sew more than a button onto a shirt. Someday….

Cranky – You make a very good point – I’m so conflicted about my love for the Belle-Époque. It definitely wasn’t a perfect time in a lot of key ways, including women’s rights and civil rights in general, healthcare, and hygiene. But then I look at the pretty dresses and the great literature and the cool art, and the bohemian lifestyle and…I just get seduced all over again, dang it. But you’re right – life probably is better in the 21st century zone.

dragonfly – I know what you mean. And some of these groups are even asked to be extras in locally-produced historical documentaries or costume dramas. I think they do it for free because it’s sort of like why we write here on OS – it’s more about love than money. Though in the case of people doing battle reconstitution, it sure would be good to have a little extra cash to help with their costume budgets. Generally you can find the necessary fabrics for a decent price, but it’s the extra things, like special buttons, that can add up.

Art – Thanks for reading, good sir. The thing about historical pants is, they must be re-made; few originals survive….mainly because urine is extremely corrosive and the soldiers didn’t really pay attention to shaking dry out there in the fields. 100% true.

rita – He doesn’t have a head ‘cause he lost it over me!
:-) No, actually, he’s very, very private and a bit paranoid and prefers not to be pictured fully. I respect that, even though it means the world’s missing out on one handsome face!

James – I’ve missed you! "the real war is never in the books" – so true. I’m in the Whitman camp, and if there were a real war that my boyfriend or brothers wanted to take part in, I’m sorry to say it but I’d cut off their trigger fingers so that they couldn’t go. As for the “Marie-Louises”, that doesn’t surprise me. The army at the time had all sorts of funny expressions for its soldiers and others. I think it was a more overt sense of humor – it still seems to exist among soldiers today, but it seems more secretive. And reconstituting a battle and then having everyone dressed in clothes from different time periods mingle together sounds fantastic. I would love to participate in something like that! As long as I didn’t have to empty my bladder and/or bowels in a hole…

Christine – Thank you! I’ll tell him you said so. He has made some skirts for me, including the one I’m wearing in my most recent photo in my post “My Changing Body”. He’s also done alterations and added trimmings to clothes I buy (at my request). I hope one day I’ll be able to sew and do that, too. But I don’t know….
Myriad - I like your motto! I'll try to remember that! And I'd say the rest of what you've written is pretty accurate, too! :-)
I see vivandière in your future missy. Hide the machine!
Abby - I could probably cook the basic ingredients well enough to be a vivandière...but I can't do anything resembling camping. Originally my boyfriend thought I might be able to become a cantinière, a woman with a very cute uniform (sort of like bloomers or a very early swimming outfit) who would give water to soldiers on the battlefield. But that would also involve "roughing it". Now I just want him to make me the costume!
Like Rita said, the boyfriend does seem rather ...headless. Otherwise I'm a bit speechless about your boyfriends waistcoat and his passions. I think it is truly great- the thought of you two with your intensities and passions is life affirming- you seem like some groovy groovy couple- enough energy and interest for 1,000 couples etc. Where was I? Yes, yeah for fiction friday and yeah for you and the boyfriend. Great post.
That outfit really is quite stunning, in all sorts of ways. This whole project has so many intriguing aspects to it - not wanting spectators to spoil the atmosphere is so hardcore! I'm not going to say it's crazy, because I have to admire such dedication, as I'm a history freak myself, but I do wonder what real Napoleonic soldiers would say if they could see this. Of course, if he were really doing it right, wouldn't you have had to do all the sewing for him??? I want to know how they do the laundry with all those battle whites. River rocks?
Very nice, Alysa. I remember your earlier post and your bf's interest in Napoleon. I hope you get to see his participation in the 200th year anniversary and will take lots of photos. Such events always fasten my pulse.
He is extremely talented and is into it for real.
This was an interesting read.
I do well remember that October installment and did not need to click on the link. This is a great follow-up.

Your gentleman friend is a man of fascinating, delightful craziness. I hope you appreciate that gift. But obviously, you do.
Congratulate the boyfriend on his EP.
I understand that your boyfriend must desire privacy (so we only get to see his elegant body; not his face). That's one really cool outfit, though!
Like you, I would not want to sleep outside with the bugs. There are more comfortable ways to "connect with history." Still, I'm glad your boyfriend gets to have this experience if it's what he wants.
fernsy – Thanks for your kind words and enthusiasm. I guess we do have a lot of energy and passion for different things – but we’re far from perfect! And yes, go Fiction Friday!

Mumbletypeg – No, you’re right, it is a little crazy. I look at it and think of how I used to play pretend games with my friends when we were little. It would have been so cool to have had princess costumes (so much of my life is about never having had a princess costume…) and not had our moms telling us to come in for dinner. As for washing the uniform, you’re a kindred spirit, I see – I asked the boyfriend about that, too, and he says that it’s sort of a mark of pride for the guys in the group to let their uniforms get dirtier and dirtier. I am grossed out and surprised, because an army still had to look presentable. I think as time goes on and he does more of these reconstitutions, we’ll probably have to deal with washing at some point…and I’ll probably be the one to do it, as the boyfriend knows as little about cleaning fabrics, as he knows heaps about sewing them.

Fusun – Thanks! I will definitely take pictures – and in those, maybe my boyfriend will have a head!

XJS – Thanks. Yeah, that’s definitely the way my boyfriend approaches this.

Brassawe – Thanks so much and I’m flattered you remember the post. I definitely appreciate the boyfriend’s eccentricity, no worries there!

Cranky – Thanks, but I can’t for now…he’s not in the 21st century zone!

Eva – Right on! I feel like even if I did find a way to participate in a Belle-Époque reconstitution group (my boyfriend showed me a site the other day where there is a group like this – they do ballroom dancing from the time and have gorgeous costumes), I would still use a toilet! Or a commode, as it were....
Wow! Your guy is awesome! That looks like a museum piece.

I have no trouble understanding the motivation.
I thought those old European battles were decided not on actual combat but by positioning the armies on the battlefield. The generals would watch from vantages on high and at some point agree to declare one or the other the winner based solely on the best tactical design of his forces. This would explain the fancy white uniforms that never had to see the dust, grime and blood of actual fighting. N'est-ce pas?
Almost forgot. Congrats on the EP.
My oh my, what a dashing (headless) figure. In my imagination he's a handsome fellow and doesn't have a turnip head with raisin eyes. I can sew, but I sew like a mitten-pawed cat might sew, which is fine, until you look at the actual construction, or you...wash it.
This is SO cool!
What a talent your boyfriend has, how fun he has a passion for history, and how interesting re-enactments occur in Europe as well...I didn't know.
steve – Thanks! And I’m glad you can relate – have you ever thought of doing battle reconstitution in your neck of the woods?

Matt – Interesting questions. From what I understand, the fighting in these battles was very real, but there was an idea of formation in battles in armies throughout Europe, which contributed to the British loss in the American Revolution, as well as horrible injuries during the Civil War, when weapons were too advanced to be shot at people so near you in orderly rows. The link I posted to Craonne shows that it was a horrible massacre, with huge losses on both sides. The sabers in my boyfriend’s collection often have signs of trauma, for example, places where other blades came into contact with them. That really impresses me and makes me realize how much force was involved. Like you, I do find it curious that the French had white uniforms. It’s not practical, and the color was associated with royalty – but then again, Napoleon was for all intents and purposes more or less a king. He just couldn’t call himself that. You’ve given me something to ask the boyfriend about – I mainly just panicked when I saw him sewing a white uniform, visions of grass stains dancing in my head. And thanks for your congratulations – I’m very pleasantly surprised and I know the boyfriend will be, too, when he returns to our modern times.
Could you accompany your boyfriend in the role of a pox-infected camp follower?

I have a friend who does the occasional Civil War reenactment. On especially hot days, everyone falls "dead" early in the battle rather than run across the field risking heat stroke.
loved, loved, loved this!
the man is a genius! never met a man who could sew this well.
reenactments are not a "fashion" here on the island, only done once a year or something and I always seem to miss them
but I'd love to see one
Bellwether – I love the images in your comment. My boyfriend doesn’t have a turnip head, which is good, because I don’t like turnips! I will have to post his head on here one day, because he’s going to make the funny hat that goes with this uniform. I don’t know if he’ll be comfortable with showing his face, but at least you’ll be able to see he’s not an enchanted vegetable. Although that would be very interesting, and we’d save a lot of money on shaving cream….

Just Thinking – Thanks! Yes, I was surprised about the reenactments here, too. I thought it was mainly something Civil War buffs did before I came to France and met my boyfriend. I’m really fascinated by the world of reenactments, since for me it’s like grown-ups playing pretend…but over such a horrible thing that in reality killed many people.
Stim – Haha! I’m going to tell my boyfriend about your friend’s strategy during the hot-weather reenactments! I did once suggest to my boyfriend that I could be a prostitute (that means I’d wear a pretty dress!), but he was against it – said his girlfriend being the regiment prostitute might embarrass him or something. As Tink would put it, Pfft!

vanessa – Thanks! I’ll pass on your kind words to my boyfriend. I’d also love to see a reenactment…I’ll probably have to wait till 2015 to do so, though. I bet they’re really cool when they’re done well, and the best part is, unlike a real battle, (hopefully) no one dies!
Beautiful waistcoat and story!! rated~
thanks, alysa. I have had wifi problems.
a reconstruction
of no fixed

let us make it so!

I think i'll call it
thanks, alysa. I have had wifi problems.
a reconstruction
of no fixed

let us make it so!

I think i'll call it
I'm kind of fascinated by it also...and the Renaissance re-enactors as well. In our town , kids/ go to the park and "boff": fight/whack each other in handmade medieval costumes with regulation handmade "weapons" made of fortified swimming noodle stuff.... it must be in the genes.
Congrats Alysa on the EP!! I had a feeling..:)
I got the recreation thing out of my blood when I was a kid. It also took a fair amount of blood out of me. My brother and I played "Alexander Nevsky and the Teutonic Order Grand Master". We used bamboo broadswords and I still have the broken cartilage scars on my ears. Mom never let us near a frozen lake. Somebody would have died for sure.
James – Uh oh. I hope those problems are over. Let’s make it so, indeed!

Just Thinking – I love Renaissance festivals and the like, as well. It really is admirable in a way to see grown-ups dressing up and sharing in collective make-believe. And you’re right about it starting young or being in the jeans: my boyfriend’s mom says he used to always pick up sticks when he was little, and pretend they were swords. I think violence is a part of human beings, alas, or at least most of us. That’s why people attended public executions or gladiator battles and the like in the past, and why we have violent shows on TV – can’t change it, it’s a part of us.

Linda – Thank you! I’m very surprised and honored – and I can't wait to tell the boyfriend he's on the cover!

steve – Your comment made me crack up and made me feel so bad for you at the same time! Children are crazy and sometimes even dangerous. I’m glad you survived that experience!
ay yi yi..
i have taken the metaphysical position that
my wifi in its bitch-goddess mode
is teaching me valuable ...patience

i am ready for Whitman to take over the globe...
bringing democracy:
\"life immense in passion, pulse, and power,

cheerful , for
freesest action formed
under the laws divine...

the modern man..."
I am amazed at how well he can sew and I hope it is everything he thought it would be!
This is impressive in so many ways: War! History! Sewing! I really do think it is interesting that they/he wants to be as authentic as possible. And sweet that you want to cheer him on! Vive le boyfriend reenacteur!
Et son petite amie :)
That waistcoat is a beaut. I wouldn't mind making a modern, modified one for myself.
The uniform your boyfriend made is really quite spectacular and I bet he looks handsome in it. That said, I do not understand the battle re-enactments nor the other dress-up social scenes like the Society for Creative Anachronism. To each his own, though, and it really is kind of cute.
James – I try to do the same as you when I have computer trouble or otherwise – think maybe it’s a lesson or something that needed to happen. As for Walt Whitman taking over the world – that would be quite alright with me!

Lunchlady – Thanks so much for your kind words. I’ll pass them on to the boyfriend when he returns to our time.

dirndl – Merci beaucoup!

Naomi – Thanks so much – and I’m glad someone else is curious about the toilet paper question. I will definitely keep you posted! : - )

marcell – Thanks. The boyfriend wants to do a modern one for himself one of these days, too. You should definitely give it a shot!

Bonnie – Ooh, good point…I never thought about spoils…maybe he’ll swipe some unguarded cell phones from the 21st century zone!

maryway – Thanks for your kind words about the uniform. He does look handsome - but then again, I might be biased. As for reenactments, I’m not into military stuff, either. The way I figure is, we all have worlds we want to escape into, be they relatively realistic, or completely fantastic. I think we just all have different ways of doing it. Some of us read or play video games or watch movies, and others dress up and run around with swords.
i love all the detail in this post about his work and the weekend. plus he has a really nice rear end!~ Hey I may be old and married but I can still appreciate the view! rrrrr

I am a re-enactor also. :-) I always play the part of the Civil War Surgeons Nurse for the North. I know every tool the civil war surgeons used at the time of the civil war, how it was used, when it was invented, what the dangers were, how the health care system worked during that era, etc.. etc.. For instance, you would most likely be surprised that many times the doctor and surgeons were paid with chickens or an animal rather than money. :-) Can you just imagine someone taking a cow into the doctors office for payment for the whole family for a year? Well, during the time of the Civil War in the US this kind of thing was done all the time.

Your boyfriend will have a blast. Hope you do to. :-)

And the costume is marvelous.
If fashion falls through he can always get a job as a waiter.
Nice uniform. Much nicer than the US Civil War uniforms. I guess it's playtime for adults.
great post.
Napoleon had flaws for sure, but Marengo and Austerlitz and his final defense of Paris were magnificent, and always studied in the Art of War.
What an amazing job he did. That looks so difficult to do. And what a bod he's got to hold it up with too! He must be freezing his butt off in 0 celsius temperature trying to sleep in his burlap sleeping bag stuffed with hay, and all by his lonesome to boot. Personally, I would want to be in the heated 21st century zone.
The waistcoat is beautiful, if I could sew everything by hand I would as I find embroidery soothing. I'm a danger to myself (and all others) with all powered items, I loved the close ups of the stitching. I hate to think the clothes might get damaged, all that beautiful handwork.

Hand stitching is an art, I have my mothers sheets from her trousseau, all hand sewn and the edge worked in Hardanger. The couldn't get much "off the rack" in Cairo 60 years ago. I was going to have them made into drapes (no one wants to sleep on their parents wedding sheets) and I didn't have the heart to have them cut. Somewhere in her house is a tiny wedding gown, bolts of lace came from Paris for a dress that would never have fit anyone but her.

I'm very happy to see this post, I'm sorry he had to push so hard at the end but the details are really gorgeous.

This week at Goodwill I found a leather belt for jeans that was curved with two pieces stitched in the back, I wouldn't have thought to go to the Gap. That tiny detail drew my eye, I had a patent leather belt cut like that almost 40 years ago. I hope you two will bring back human shaped belts, the buckling on the hip is uncomfortable. I stock up when things I like come back in style.
Once again, I'm very impressed with his dedication and his needle-craft, Alysa. =o) I too, am fascinated with historical reenactment, but my devotion would not extend to sleeping in burlap in the cold, anything involving ticks, or peeing in a hole in the ground. The 21st century Grand Armee is welcome to them all!

I remember you talking about this before and thought it was great. He'll be OK just so long as he doesn't invade Russia.
Impressive work on his part!
Those Napoleonic uniforms really set off a man's assets, don't they? Wonderful essay -- so fun and affectionate. Your boyfriend is extremely talented, too. While sleeping outside on hay in frigid cold makes me reach for the phone to call room service, I hope your boyfriend enjoyed his weekend immensely!
Awww, I wanted to see his face. And personally have slept outside in the cold I just don't see the thrill. Although I do want to go camping this summer, but on a warm weekend.
Hello Alysa: Funny, the bit about doing it in a hole, as the last time I was in France (admittedly a while ago) that still seemed to be the fashion in some places. It really takes talent, sometimes, to keep the contents of your pockets from also heading down the hole.

Here is a link to a theater fencing youtube channel of a friend of mine in Germany. I tried it (theater fencing) a few times while I was living there. It's not easy to wield those blades, and pretending to do so in a theater environment definitely gives one a sense of how dramatic, to put it mildly, an actually battle with these weapons must have been.

Bernadine – Thanks. I really do think the uniform is flattering to the male figure…maybe that was intentional (this is the French army, after all)?

Flower Child – How cool that you, too, were involved in making historical costumes. I wish I could sew….

Victoria – That’s so interesting! I really love how people who do the reenactments do so much research. It’s admirable – and quite useful (if I ever get onto “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” I might have to use you as one of my lifelines!)!

Hardly – I don’t know, he’s very out of it when it comes to practical things. I think he’d be fired from that job tout de suite!

Lea – Thanks. I agree – I think it’s a way for adults to play make-believe games. I wish I could find a make-believe Belle-Époque world!

Don – Yes, he was a very talented general. A huge jerk in real life, though, if you ask me.

liz – Yes, I’m in awe of all the work he did, too. And I’d be right with you in the 21st century zone – any enterprise without toilets is not for me!

L’Heure Bleue – It sounds like you and my boyfriend could have a long conversation, especially about changing some inconvenient aspects of modern fashion. He’s also inherited some embroidery and things done by his great-grandmother. Some of them are cloth napkins, and I just feel bad using them and possibly staining them, so they’re put away. I know he’ll enjoy reading your comment. Thanks.

Shiral – Thank you – I’m impressed, too. And I agree completely and totally with what you said about reenactments.

Harry’s – Haha! Good point….

Pilgrim – Thanks. I’m really proud of him.

Rw- Wow – a lot of questions, and I can’t answer them for the time being, unfortunately. The one about reconstitution groups having links to accommodation is a very good one – I’d imagine that they would, but only for each other, not for outsiders. Still, you could probably piggy back. I’d say to try – I use the site for most of the traveling we do in Europe, and they always have reasonably priced but high quality hotels, b&b’s, etc. This would also solve the problem of language, since reservations are made in English. I’d offer a recommendation, but I haven’t even started to think about accommodations…I guess in our case, if it’s finished early enough we might just head back to Paris. But your questions make me think I’ve got to be sure of that, or else I”ll be sleeping outside, too! As for my boyfriend’s regiment…hmmm..I don’t think they did anything extraordinary at the battle (well, bearing in mind of course that anyone risking his life is extraordinary) – they don’t have hussards or cavalry amongst them. I’ll ask if he wants to give more information, and I’ll let you know.

500 words – Yes, I really do think these uniforms are flattering to most male figures. It’s weird, because I’ve never been a girl who’s attracted to men in uniform, but he does look good. I hope he has fun, too – he sent me an sms from the 21st century zone a little while ago and told me it was below freezing last night. Poor sap.

ocular – I’m not surprised that you’ve roughed it – you live in such a naturally beautiful place. Still, no matter what, I’ll never understand people’s desire to go camping! As for the boyfriend’s face, he’s very private and forbade me to take anything above the uniform’s collar. As I responded to another poster, though, he has to make one of those funny hats to go with his uniform, eventually. Then I’ll have to show at least the back of his head!

Inverted – You are right: there are many bathrooms, especially in the older restaurants here that have what are called “Turkish toilets” – i.e., a ceramic-tiled hole in the ground. I hate them and have the same problem as you with losing my stuff. If I absolutely have to use one and am with someone, I strip myself down so that I have as little as possible on me that might fall into the hole or touch the ground. It’s just awful and luckily it seems they’re slowly disappearing. Thanks for the link – I learned to stage fence at a drama camp a long time ago and loved it…I’ll have to check this out once my computer is behaving and will let me watch videos again….
Sincerest complements on the editor's choice
& deserve it...
How come they changed your clever title on the cover?

Anyway: thank you for becoming scatological..
we were all secretely wondering about that kinda stuff...
I imagine a good bowel movement before battle
might make you more on your toes
when the guns start firing.
I remember how smart us North American used to think waistcoats were. Will they ever make a comeback.? Nice post here about this.
Alysa, this is so cool. I cannot believe how talented your boyfriend is to make these works of art. I just loved reading this.~r
Pick up some chicken soup for his return, sounds cold to me; amazing work. I attended a reenactment of a civil war skirmish at Oluskee some years ago, it was surreal but there really was a great impromptu music happening in the adjoining campground where we sat around the fires at night with guitars, mandolins et. al playing period music. That made it worthwhile. Hope he has fun and avoids the 'dangers'.
James – Thanks for your congratulations. I actually prefer the substitute title, but I’m flattered you like my original. As for being scatological, that’s the story of my life! I agree about the bowel movement before battle. Certainly during it would not be good….

Algis – I live with the undying hope that many great 19th century fashions will make a comeback and will be readily available for all of us to wear and look amazing in!

Joan – Thanks so much! I can’t believe how talented he is, either. I’m really proud of him.

RedNose – Ooh, I never thought about the fun side of a reconstitution campfire at night. That could indeed be great…and it may be what they do in my boyfriend’s group, too, since he’s told me they know songs from that era….I’ll have to ask. And yes, I’ve got plenty of warm food ready for when he gets back!
Alysa, I am just amazed at your boyfriend's creativity and passionate interest in historical reenactments. Bravo for him and bravo for you in your support of his endeavors. Great post! R
I love this. (The Belle-Époque is my favorite historical period as well.)
Since he's that much of a stickler for authenticity, if you still want to hang around, consider making a camp follower outfit for yourself and boldly accost him as he passes by.
I am speechless. I only wish I had this much dedication for anything. Many, many cool points to you and your honey. Great material and excellent reporting!
Great post! I'm a Napoleonic era afficianado myself. Here are some useful links for anyone interested in French reenactment:
Rita – Thank you so much!

Felisa – Thanks for reading, and I’m glad to find another Belle-Époque fan out there!

Fred – Good idea…but he’s just returned and from what he told me about the toilet conditions (or lack thereof), sleeping conditions (or lack thereof), and the cold…nah. I’ll stay right here….

BB – Thanks! I wish I could be so devoted to something like this, too. Maybe one day we’ll find our motivations.

Francy – Love the name. Thanks for reading and for the link – I’ll definitely check it out and see if my boyfriend knows it!
UPDATE: The boyfriend got home around 9:30pm, and looked awful! He told me he'd barely slept because of the extreme cold, and when he did get some real shut-eye it was on a reconnaissance mission (d'oh!), where he found a bale of hay and slept in the sunshine while his fellow soldiers scouted. This explains his painfully sunburnt cheeks. He came in, had a warm bath and good dinner, and filled me in on some of the details. Worst part: there was no toilet paper or any other such provision, so no one went #2 the whole weekend (some things can't be unlearned). Best part: He had a great time and really seems to have felt transported. I've told him about this post and the questions some of you guys asked in your comments. He's going to try to give me some answers over the coming days. Thanks so much for your reading and support, everyone!
That looks like a waiter uniform. And from the picture, it looks like those French dudes are delivering some warm, french onion soup to somebody, too. Does your boyfriend impersonate a waiter at these reenactments? Hrmmmm????
Titus - You're the second person to say the uniform looks like a waiter's outfit. I think you guys go to far classier eateries than I do! I might have wondered if my boyfriend was moonlighting as a maitre d', but the campfire smells, sunburn, and grass stains all over him and his clothes say otherwise.... :-)
Oh, I so wish my man could sew!
Hi Alysa, glad to help. I posted a few more links but they were cut; I guess I was flagged as a Chinese spambot :) Googling these search terms in quotes will bring up the French reenactment suppliers I recommend:

"le chat botte reconstitution historique"
"atelier christine falieu"
"empire costume"

Vive l'Empereur! ;)
This made me sit up and take notice. As a silly American who doesn't look enough at what the rest of the world does... I didn't know other countries did re-enactments too. I'd like to get inside their heads to understand what they gain as a result of the experience.
jane – I’ll tell the boyfriend you said so!

loveinmexico – It really is a useful and fun skill!

Francy – Thanks for these other links – in fact, I recognize them well; they’re among my boyfriend’s favorite sites!

Mimetalker – It seems to be a pretty big thing in the US and Europe, but I’m not sure about other countries. I agree it’s fascinating – I try to think of it as playtime for grown-ups.
....Lest anyone think I'm like Miss South Carolina, by "other countries" I meant "other countries outside the US and Europe", not that Europe was a country.
Dedicated and hardworking!!!!! Such a guy! What a cool thing to do.