Sunglass Warehouse is a brand for people who live life to the fullest. Our customers are just normal people, but they know how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, and turn everyday experiences into great adventures. SW: Profiles is an interview blog series that shares these unique stories about our customers. From a tattoo shop owner directing horror films, to a young tech professional searching for his Jewish roots, these seemingly different people share a common thread that we’ll uncover together.
If you’re judging a book by it’s cover, you probably wouldn’t pin Chloe Shallenberger as someone who dresses up in garb from the 1800s to re-enact historical battles. Wearing horn-rimmed glasses, long blonde hair, and trendy sneakers, you’d probably assume she was a designer, a musician, or something else equally as artistic. And it’s true — she does work in fashion. As a merchandise buyer, she has a knack for dressing up and finding the right aesthetic for the right occasion.
Chloe would argue, however, that reenacting history is an art form in it’s own rite. When I spoke with Chloe about this aspect of her life, it was as if she was sharing an inside secret. It seems like there’s a magical element that comes with reenacting history, and that’s what keeps bringing people back over and over again. Our interview digs into what that magic truly means and how it continues to captivate Chloe every time she puts on her costume.
First things first, tell us how you got involved reenacting history.
I grew up taking field trips every year to the Mississinewa 1812 battle reenactment and living history event in Marion, Indiana and loved it. So when a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go and actually do the reenacting for a weekend, I jumped at the chance. I think we were sophomores in college at the time, so it would’ve been 2010.
I really just thought it was going to be a fun weekend away from campus, but it honestly changed my life. I fell in love with everything about it.
Do you know what inspired your friend to get started?
My friend got started by working for an older couple that taught at her middle school. So by the time she brought me along, she had already been doing it for almost 10 years. The older couple had a booth called the “Rose and Thistle” that they set up at events and sold rock candy. They would take students with them to work in the booth and teach them about history. I worked for them that first weekend and have been doing it ever since. They sort of became like my reenacting family.
The rock candy tent that Chloe works at.
So once you initially got involved, would you say it was the people who kept you coming back?
Yes, definitely. You build these really great relationships with the people that participate even though you only see them a few times a year. Phil, the man that co-owned the booth with his wife, was really into artillery. He had a cannon that he brought to all of these events and participated in the actual battle reenactments. At Mississinewa 1812, there’s a pirate battle on the Mississinewa river, and he offered to let me set off the cannon during that battle the first year I went. It takes a whole crew to set these things up, clean them, load them, and fire them. He adopted me into his crew after that first battle, and I’ve been helping run the cannon ever since.
A canon that Chloe loaded and fired to pass her artillery test.
That’s crazy! What is it about Phil and the other people you reenact with that inspires you?
Phil definitely inspired me the most. He just loved being out there and loved teaching people. If he saw you get excited about something, that was it. He would just take you under his wing and give you every opportunity to do new things and learn and have a blast while doing it. He was so passionate and that sort of attitude is truly infectious.
Really everyone that comes to reenact is interesting because they all came into the hobby a different way. Some grew up doing it. I know some people who have actually met their spouses reenacting. Some people do it for a living. Everyone has a unique reason why they chose their character too, whether it be a pirate, a native, or a British soldier. Some people choose based on their heritage and some choose just based on the clothes they like to wear. Everyone is so different which makes meeting these people and hearing their stories even better.
That sounds pretty energizing. Okay, I want to backtrack to this cannon situation. Is this like… an actual cannon that you fire?
An actual cannon! No actual cannonball though, of course. Last year, I went to a training course and took an exam to become a certified artillerist. I have a card from the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association that I carry around in my wallet, which always cracks me up. So last year I actually got to go onto the real battlefield and run the cannon, dressed as a man, of course. It’s really the best thing and such an adrenaline rush.
Before I got certified, I only participated in the pirate battle at Mississinewa 1812 which was much smaller and held over the river. Once I got certified, I started going onto the actual battle field where there are a lot more people involved. I know how to run all of the positions now which varies from cleaning the gun between shots and actually touching off the cannon. The biggest thing you learn in training is all of the safety stuff. Before, Phil was always in charge and giving commands. He was certified and had so many years of experience that he kept us all in line and safe. Unfortunately he passed away last year so everyone that always ran the cannon with him went and got certified so we could keep doing what he taught us and what he loved.
Chloe’s artillery certification.
I’m so sorry to hear that. Sounds like he would be really proud of all of you, though, for carrying on his tradition. How often do you go and participate in these reenactments?
I do three events a year now, but would love to add on to that. Those three are all in Indiana, but they have these history events all over the country.
They typically last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with specific hours open to the public like 9–5. Friday is always kids day with tons of field trips. So we open the shop when the gates open for the public and I usually spend the whole day selling candy and then doing quick clothing changes to be able to go participate in the battles. They usually have a few scheduled per day. Once the public leaves, we can pretty much do whatever we want! Some of the events will have dinners or dances after hours.
Can you tell us a little bit more about what you have to wear and how you’re supposed to act?
So many layers in those days … so I will usually wear a stay, which is basically a corset, a chemise, which is a long white night gown looking shirt, and then layer a few ground length skirts over that. And then a short gown, which is basically like a jacket, over your chemise and then an apron. It’s quite hard to get dressed and I know it sounds really, really ridiculous.
I have been slowing collecting things over the years like period correct clothing and a tent. Everything has to be correct to the time period (1700’s – early 1800’s) when the public is visiting. You can’t use your cell phone or anything like that. That’s probably one of my favorite parts. Everyone comes out and lets their phone battery die, and we don’t worry about talking to the outside world for the whole weekend. It’s like a little bubble.
But even after the public leaves, people stay in their period correct clothes and sit around the fire. People play fiddles and they drink home-brewed wine out of tin mugs. It’s really a crazy experience. It’s kind of a “you have to see it to believe it” sort of thing. It’s time traveling magic.
A wedge tent that Chloe bought a year ago. It’s made of 2 canvas pieces and 3 wooden poles.
Let’s say someone reading this is interested in getting involved in reenacting. What advice would you give them to make the most out of their time and what should they expect their first time?
My advice would be to just go for it. If you’re scared of going by yourself or think you aren’t educated enough about the dress or the time period, know that it really doesn’t matter. You’ll learn.
There’s a huge group of people that are willing to help you get started because they understand what it is to love this hobby and they just get excited when other people are excited about the same thing. I would say you should expect to be extremely dirty while living outside for days. You 1000% have to enjoy camping or you might not have the best time. Expect to meet the greatest people ever. And be prepared to teleport into the weirdest and best place. A place that you probably had no idea even existed. Also expect to have a historical hangover because returning to reality is always a major bummer.