Hands down, the question we get asked the most at a re-enactment is, "Aren't you hot in all those clothes?"'
As living historians, we emulate our 19th century ancestors. And that means we wear the same clothing that they wore. As a male citizen/civilian, I wear a long-sleeve cotton shirt buttoned all the way up with a period correct tie, braces (suspenders), wool or cotton waistcoat (vest), wool sack coat, wool (and sometimes cotton) breeches (pants), cotton (and sometimes wool) socks, and leather brogans (shoes), ankle length cotton drawers (underpants), topped off with a wide-brimmed hat.
Underneath my wife's long-sleeve, high neck, cotton dress (which is just inches from the floor), she wears drawers, a chemise, a corset, underpetticoat, a cage crinoline, an over petticoat, cotton (and sometimes wool) stockings, and leather shoes. She also wears a brooch as a neck-closure, as well as a bonnet. And white cotton gloves if we are walking into "town."
Whether the temperature is 60 degrees or 95 degrees, this is what we wear at a re-enactment.
Are we hot underneath all these layers of clothing? You betcha!
Are we as hot as you are, in your shorts and short-sleeve shirts?
Why is that? Because we are covered. Because we do not let the sun burn off our natural coolant: persperation. That's what happens when you let the hot summer sun hit your skin. Underneath all of that clothing, we are sweating, and it's the sweat that keeps us cooler. As I said, we are definitely hot on those hot, humid days. But not as hot as those of you who are nearly naked.
Here's a true story about what happened this passed Memorial Weekend at Greenfield Village:
I invited a few people that I know from where I work to come out to the Village to experience a Civil War re-enactment, and many did. One couple who took up my offer came on Memorial Monday, which happened to be an above 80 degree day. However, they ended up leaving early. Why? The woman, dressed in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt and no head covering, got sun-stroke. Now, how do you figure that? I mean, here we all are, dressed in layer upon layer of clothing, and this woman who, by the way, did make the "Aren't you hot in all those clothes?" comment, becomes ill due to the heat and sun, while those of us dressed for the 19th century are able to survive "in all those clothes."
Contrary to poplular belief, our 19th century ancestors knew more than we like to give them credit for. I think one of my next projects will be to find out and compare the rate of skin cancer deaths from 150 years ago to now.