There is an element of escapism involved in dressing up like dead people, and playing make-believe, escapism in which J. R. R. Tolkien, he of Lord of the Rings, saw “an attempt to figure a different reality” and found emancipation. Perhaps that’s part of why people spend spare hours outfitting themselves in the garb and gear of this or that historical era and pass spare weekends fighting old battles, reveling in renaissance fairs, or just hanging out with pals who share their affinity for a past. The most serious of them have as well an abiding interest in the fine points of history, a dedication to authenticity, and a determination to come as close to living in yesteryears as they can contrive. We call those folks reenactors.
Understand at the outset that there is a distinction between reenactors—like the blue and gray clad skirmishers mock battling Gettysburg—and professional interpreters and tradespeople employed at such historical museums as Old Sturbridge Village and Colonial Williamsburg to work in costume, to preserve knowledge of the past, and to share it with guests. Museum people do it for a living… read on!