Open Book Blog Hop – Disguises

If your character wanted to wear a disguise, how would they dress?

This is a bit of a tricky question for my characters as many of them are historical and would not have had the opportunity to change their style of dress.

In A Ghost and His Gold, Pieter the Boer (farmer) and Estelle the Boer Meisie (farm girl) would have dressed in the traditional clothing of the time which would have been made by Marta, Pieter’s wife, and his daughters, including Estelle.

Typical everyday dress for Boer men consisted of flaptrousers of skin or moleskin with a waistband or a pair of braces, a cotton or woolen shirt, a waistcoat of cotton or wool, a neckcloth, a jacket of moleskin, velskoens (skin shoes) without socks and a broad rimmed hat.

Men’s Sunday church outfits comprised of velvet flap-trousers, a shirt of fine white linen, a waistcoat of velvet, brocade, silk or satin, a cloth frock-coat or velvet jacket, bow-tie, socks and velskoens as well as a top hat.

This was the attire everyone wore so the disguise would have been in looking just the same as all the other Boers and fitting in if you were an infiltrator. Of course, a British soldier would have also needed to speak Afrikaans without an English accent…

Women and girls wore dresses with a narrow bodice and wide skirt of flowered, striped or checked chintz, an apron, a neckcloth of silk or silk tafetta, mittens and a linen bonnet. Their shoes, usually worn without socks, were made of goat or sheep skin.

Girls dresses were a little shorter than their mothers.

Women’s Sunday church outfits consisted of a dress of silk, satin or velvet with a cashmir shawl. Older women wore mantlets (a woman’s short, loose sleeveless cloak or shawl). White cotton socks were worn with their shoes and a bonnet or hat of silk, velvet or straw.

Girls often went barefoot.

Picture of a Boer driving his wagon
Picture of a Boer Vrou in the back of the wagon

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29 thoughts on “Open Book Blog Hop – Disguises

  1. I agree about dressing to fit in with those around you, Robbie. Definitely makes the most sense for a character wanting to disappear into a crowd, or community.
    It sounds like Boer men really dressed up to go to church!

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    1. Hi Mae, I found this interesting information when I visited the Voortrekker Monument. I didn’t know the Boers dressed up so much for church but they were, and many still are, very religious so it does make sense. Thanks for visiting.

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  2. Interesting question. I’ve never thought about it before. In my WIP, the main character and her husband would not don a disguise. That generation of Vermonters was “take me as I am, or I have no use for you.”

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    1. Hi Liz, I agree that historically few ‘regular’ people would have disguised themselves as it would have been easier to just disappear in a crowd by looking like everyone else. I suppose a character could have dressed up like gypsy and disappeared with the Romanies.

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  3. In my novel She Who Comes Forth, my main character wears a galabeya, a loose, ankle-length Egyptian male garment worn with a turban, so she can walk around Luxor at night, something that would not have been advisable for a young woman in 1962.

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    1. Hi Audrey, that is very interesting. You are right that women walking around by themselves would not have been advisable. It still isn’t in many places like here in South Africa. That is an interesting disguise.

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    1. Hi Staci, I think that a very wealthy person would dress down to fit in with the crowd but an ordinary person would just blend in and not be noticed. I had church dresses too. I was brought up Catholic and went to church every Saturday evening. I had to wear a dress with pretty shoes and neat hair.

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      1. I’m Catholic, too. When I was a young girl, my mother dressed me in skirts or dresses. Now, I just “clean up.” I’ll even wear jeans sometimes (and if I do, I’m still not the most casual person there).

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  4. “Sunday go to meetin’ clothes” have changed. My mother would never have let me out of the house on Sunday dressed the way teenagers show up at Mass these days. Your accountancy background serves your research ethic well! I think in the States we appreciated the Marlboro Man depictions on the covers of even historical wild west lit than the ugly truth of how it was. Billy the Kid as a romantic Hollywood Robin hood played by a handsome actor is much more fun than the slovenly sociopath in baggy clothes, gun tucked into his waistband.

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    1. I prefer the simple neat and clean clothes over the overly-fancy, expensive, show-it-off clothes that some folks wear to church. I believe it reflects the heart.

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      1. I think you are right, but I suppose church was an opportunity for people to gather and socialise so they probably liked to dress up. I would be quite keen to go somewhere and dress up after months of wearing shorts or jeans and T-shirts.

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  5. The dress of these farmers seems very similar to those that would have been worn by Laura Engel Wilder (Little House on the Prairie). I remember seeing a pair of shoes in a museum house of early settlers here. The docent asked us to look closely at them. They were not at all like modern shoes, there was no arch and each shoe could have been worn on either foot.

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