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  • Jonathan Walford

Polyester Soldiers and other Farbs

Updated: Oct 9


Classic 1960s Farbs - flappers in polyester fringed dresses


Farb was a term first used in the 1960s by historic costuming re-enactors. Being called a Farb was not a compliment - it meant you didn’t put enough time or research into your recreated outfit. The resulting costume probably used period clichés and modern conveniences, like back zippers and polyester - something suitable only for a Halloween dress-up party.


The term was coined in about 1961, during American Civil War centennial re-enactments. It has a few possible origins, from an acronym for ‘Fast And Researchless Buying’, to a derivative of the German word ‘Farbe’ for colour (because of the inappropriate blues and greys chosen for making reproduction American Civil War soldier’s uniforms.)


In 1966, the Society for Creative Anachronism was founded in Berkley, California. This was a group of medieval enthusiasts who explored pre 17th century European social history by dressing up in period fashions and holding tournaments. I knew several avid members of this group forty years ago, and there was a high geek-element -- many members were keenly immersed in the academic minutia of fashion history from their era of interest.


While shows like Bridgerton may cause purists, like myself, angst over the costumer's free-wheeling re-invention of fashion history, there is an increasing popular demand for everything from 18th century corsets to 1940s shoes for niche markets of re-enactors and period fashion enthusiasts. There is even enough demand to support several successful commercial ventures like American Duchess - who last year copied a pair of 1930s shoes from the museum's collection for resale.



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