The REAL Danger of Synthetics in Period Costume

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A Napoleonic reenactor has suffered what could have been a serious incident were it not for her use of historically-accurate natural fibres.

Liz Webb recalled that she and her friend Vicki were attending the first Napoleonic weekend at Canada’s Fort George historical site when Vicki was cooking dinner over an open fire and the wind blew her skirts into the flames. “As she leant into the fire to stir a dish the wind whipped up, caught her dress and was immediately ignited,” Webb wrote on social media. We were very fortunate that she was not burned other than ruining her skirt and petticoat.”

She said that Vicki was quickly helped by her fellow reenactors and the adequate fire precautions the camp had to hand. “The swift action of Craig Williams helping to kill the flames and me grabbing our fire safety bucket of water and unfortunately having to dowse Vicki. It could have been so much worse.”

Webb wanted to use this story as a powerful warning to fellow reenactors about the importance of natural fibres in camp life besides historical accuracy when many costume enthusiasts opt for cheaper garments made from man-made synthetics. “Please camp followers remember why we make our clothing from natural fabrics. Imagine if this had been polyester. Also, keep those water buckets full and to the ready by your fires. It was a lesson yesterday nobody expected to have happen,” she said.

The image Webb shared revealed the extent of the damage. The fabric is slashed halfway up the Regency skirt’s length, leaving viewers to imagine how man-made fibres could have burned much faster and spread, creating a lethal residue of molten plastic.