Re-enactors strip away questions about historic attire

Historical interpreter Debbie Barlow said she always has a lot of questions about the period clothing she wore as she re-enacted 19th century living, so she decided to start undressing to show people how the clothes were made.

“I’ve been doing this for years,” said Barlow, of Laurel, Md. “Children always wanted to know how I keep my skirt out, so I decided why not show them.”

Barlow gave her demonstration Saturday at Ben Lomond Manor House on Sudley Manor Drive in Manassas during the annual Heritage Festival.

The audience of about a dozen men, women and children sat rapt, on wooden benches and watched as Barlow discarded her cloak, jacket, skirt, blouse and bonnet to stand before them in a crinoline petticoat, corset, chemise, drawers and leather boots that laced on the side.

Crinoline, originally made of horse hair and linen, is a stiff material that makes skirts puff out. Barlow’s petticoat of crinoline was a lattice work of hoops and twine that she tied at the waist.

She wears the chemise under the corset and the linen drawers are pants worn beneath the skirt for warmth and modesty, Barlow said.

Dottie O’Rourke, a Suffragist interpreter, said Barlow, even as she stands in front of a crowd in her 19th century underwear, wears more clothes than most 20th century folks who watch her disrobe.

“Half the audience will have on less than half the clothes she does when she’s down to her bare minimum,” O’Rourke, of Herndon said.

O’Rourke assisted Barlow in the demonstration and passed around under clothing to audience members.

“It’s amazing the amount of work that goes into producing the beautiful garments. It’s really a shame to get all of this stuff on and not be able to show it off,” O’Rourke said.

Barlow and the other re-enactors, who include soldiers from the War of 1812, an apothecary worker, weavers and a storekeeper, will return to Lomond House today between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to continue the Heritage Festival.

Christine Malson Ruckman, historical programmer for the Prince William Park Authority said experts will be at the festival to offer tours of the rose garden, which contains more than 100 species of roses.

“They’re all period roses and they’re at their peak right now; and they’re gorgeous,” Ruckman said.

Tours of the house Benjamin Tasker Chinn built in the Federalist style in 1832 will also be available, Ruckman said.

A sign in front of the house describes how Tasker, his wife and two daughters lived in the house until the Civil War when First and Second Battles of Manassas drove them from their home.

The house, which served as a hospital for wounded Union soldiers in the spring of 1862, has been restored recently and will soon accept visitors again, Ruckman said.

“It’s going to be open to school groups beginning Tuesday,” Ruckman said.

“We’re booked until the end of the school year, but starting in the summer, people can start booking for next year,” Ruckman said.

Read more about the Ben Lomond Manor House at

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