Belle of the Battlefield

Outfitting hardcore reenactors for nearly 20 years.

Travis David Warley

Fenny Hanes with one of her Civil War uniform recreations.

Fenny Indajani Hanes may just be the best in the business when it comes to recreating Civil War uniforms. The 39-year-old was studying architecture in her native Indonesia in the 1990s when her parents, concerned about social unrest, sent her to the U.S. She started out bussing tables in a Chinese restaurant, then became a waitress, but, wanting to get away from long 12-hour work days on her feet, she decided to look for another job. “I could sew,” says Hanes. “I found a small alterations shop and became a seamstress there.”

Hanes’ husband at the time was a Civil War reenactor, and she used her sewing skills to make him a uniform, which she also showed to a more experienced reenactor for feedback. “It received positive results,” she says. “So I made another one and sold it on eBay the first day. I thought, ‘Maybe I can make a living doing this.’” So in 1994, Hanes founded Richmond Depot, a telephone- and mail-order (now online) store selling her carefully recreated historical clothing, made from her Midlothian home.

It takes Hanes about 27 hours to make a basic soldier’s uniform consisting of a kepi, or hat ($95-$165), a jacket ($280-$530) and trousers ($170-$220). The interior and exterior stitches are done by hand with seven to nine stitches per inch, which is the same as many of the original period garments on display at museums. An officer’s uniform takes more time to recreate because there are more details.

And to a campaigning reenactor of 1861-1865 American history, it is all about the details. “I had to study the uniforms at the Museum of the Confederacy and at other museums in both the Carolinas and Gettysburg,” says Hanes. She studied the stitching on the clothing and learned what fabrics were available during the war—and when they were used—because experienced reenactors know, and new reenactors expected her to know.

“I order my fabric from a small mill here in the United States that makes it to my specifications,” says Hanes. “There are at least four different fabrics that were worn by the Confederate soldiers that I must keep in stock.” But it’s all worth it to keep Hanes’ customers happy.

“She is simply the best there is at recreating Civil War clothing,” says Scott Williams, a 10-year veteran of Civil War reenactments who will participate in the reenactment of the Battle of Cedar Creek at Middletown, Oct. 19-20, in a uniform made by Hanes.

“It is as close to the real thing as you can get, and it lasts forever. Which is a good thing, because this is not a cheap hobby!”

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