Friday, May 04, 2012

What colonial women wore: A Trip to the Past - Part 9

During my "time travel" to the Revolutionary War in Camden, S.C. (previous posts here and here), this helpful young lady in the American camp explained what a lady would wear in colonial times.

The first layer is a shift, which serves as slip during the day and nightgown at night. Her white shift shows at the sleeves. Next she wears stays (a corset) and petticoats of linen or wool.

Her outer layer is a carico jacket, an upper garment which is open at the front, revealing the petticoat. She could also wear a short gown or a bed jacket.

She ties an apron around her waist and tucks in a neckerchief to protect her skin from the sun and for modesty. Colonial women wore caps as a matter of course, but the straw hat she wears on top of it is optional.

Seventeenth century women didn't wear anything under their shifts. (Re-enactors, however, prefer modern underwear to a chilly November draft!)

For lots of details about what colonial Americans wore and how they lived, as well as simple patterns and instructions to make your own period clothing, I recommend Tidings from the 18th Century by Beth Gilgun.

If you're not very handy with needle and thread or don't have the time, vendors at re-enactments — like the lady with the blue straw hat — will be happy to sell you ready-made dresses, caps and other items.

Next week I'll return to the 21st century for bookish events in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Fill out the "Follow by Email" box in the sidebar of this page to get posts delivered right to your inbox.


Julia Tomiak said...

I just finished a trip to Colonial Williamsburg with my daughter and enjoyed this post. So much great information for history enthusiasts! I'm giving your blog the "Liebster Award" - it's a "pay it forward" recognition for blogs that deserve more traffic! More information at my blog Good luck with your work!

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth,I am a MNINB challenge participant and I have awarded you the Liebster award. I too have English roots, I married an Irishman and have been to the castle my English ancestors constructed quite awhile ago. Anyway, just wanted to tell you I enjoy your blog and history lessons.

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Thank you, Julia and JLynn! I don't do memes because I'm trying to focus and brand this blog, a big challenge when so many topics are interesting. But I will find a way to pay forward the blog love - after my trip to Philly.

I'd love to hear more about your roots and historical travels!