Archive for the ‘Fashion’ Category

“a fashionable Muff & Tippet”

ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL kept up her correspondence with George Washington in 1798. She delivered to him a set of prints from a friend that she added to. She also did some shopping for him.

Market Street [Philadelphia] Decemr 3d 1798My dear Sir
I have the Pleasure to send the Book of Prints that you were so obliging as to accept from your Friend. I have also taken the liberty to add a few that I admire on a presumption that the Mind capable of tracing with Pleasure the military Progress of the Hero whose Battles they delineate will also have the associate Taste and admire fine representations of the Work of God in the human Form.

As you wish to take Miss Custis a Testimonial of your recollection of her, I really know not of any Thing more appropriate at this Season, than a fashionable Muff & Tippet; and such may be procured for less than Thirty Dollars, a Pattern of Muslin for a Dress such as you would choose to present will I find cost Sixty dols. at least——a Pattern for a half or undress may be bought for 23 dols.; but let me know what will be most agreeable to you and I will purchase it with Pleasure and pack it up in a manner the least inconvenient for you.

I hope you have suffered no inconvenience from your long unpleasant Walk in the Rain on Sunday last. My best wishes ever attend you as I am always Your sincere Affectionate Friend
Eliza. Powel

The image shows a fur muff on the left and a fur tippet on the right, popular during the 1790s. Eleanor “Nelly ” Parke Custis was Martha Washington’s granddaughter.

“To George Washington from Elizabeth Willing Powel, 3 December 1798,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/06-03-02-0164. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Retirement Series, vol. 3, 16 September 1798 – 19 April 1799, ed. W. W. Abbot and Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999, p. 242.]

posted October 2nd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Custis, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke,Fashion,Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, George

Items from Martha Washington’s wardrobe

Searching through information about MARTHA WASHINGTON I came across two items of clothing that reveal something of her as a woman. The slippers, in purple and yellow silk, are the ones she wore when she wed George Washington in 1759. They signify her status as a wealthy woman and reflect her youthful flair: Martha, the widow of Daniel Parke Custis, was just 27 years old.

Also shown is a simple brown silk satin gown, the only dress of Martha’s wardrobe that has survived intact. It is constructed of narrow brown satin-weave silk, likely of English manufacture.

The SLIPPERS are shown courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The gown can be seen HERE. (accessed April 24, 2017).

posted April 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Fashion,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

The Adamses: “quite out of their element”

MARY HILL LAMAR wrote again from London to her brother Henry Hill in Philadelphia this time including a couple of catty remarks about John and Abigail Adams as well as Ann Willing Bingham and her husband, said to be the wealthiest man in America.

London, March 18, 1786. . . . Please make my affectionate compliments to my sister Mrs. Hill, with my thanks for the nice cranberries. Before this gets to hand you will probably see Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, whom I have not seen since their return from France, although I called twice after I heard of their being in London. I am told the extreme of the French fashion, or her own taste, has made great alteration, while on the continent, in her manners, &c. When I mentioned her own taste, it was because she appeared at the opera in a hat unlike anything that ever made its appearance there before or since; fond as they are here of the French fashions. She has been introduced to their majesties, by Mr. and Mrs. Adams, our American plenipo [plenipotentiary], who, by the by, the girls have been to wait on several times, with myself. We have had them to a party of cards and tea, and she has been asked a second time, but as they have not returned the compliment, I think it unnecessary to pay them any farther attention.

They seem sensible people, one and all, but quite out of their element. Mrs. Adams has been very handsome, but an indifferent figure, being very short and fat. Miss [the Adams’s daughter Nabby], by some, reckoned handsome. . . .

Excuse haste, and believe me, my dear brother,
Your sincerely affectionate sister,
MARY LAMAR

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854), 260-61. Anne Willing Bingham (above) was the model for an early coin design. More than 23 million non-gold coins of Bingham were introduced into circulation from 1795 to 1808.

posted February 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Adams, John,Americans Abroad,Bingham, Anne Willing,Bingham, William,Fashion,Hill, Henry,Lamar, Mary Hill,London,Paris,Smith, Abigail "Nabby" Adams

A Quaker wedding: “the couple signed the certificate”

Among the events ANN HEAD WARDER attended during her visit to the United States in 1786-87 was a Quaker wedding. The diary entry is dated 1 mo. 9th, which in the Quaker notation means first month, that is January, on the 9th day. The year was 1787.

A dull wet morning and bad prospect for Elliston Perot’s wedding guests. . . . On entering [the meeting house] found most of the wedding company present, among whom I sat. Cousin Betsy Roberts first said a few words, then honest Robert Willis, soon after which Betsy appeared in supplication and William Savery followed with a long and fine testimony. The bride and groom performed, the latter exceedingly well, and the former very bad. Meeting closed early when the couple signed the certificate, the woman taking upon her her husband’s name. We then proceeded to Elliston’s house but a short distance from the meeting, where about forty-eight friends were assembled. We were ushered up stairs where cake and wine were served, and Joey Sansom in helping with two decanters of Bitters, and glasses on a waiter, spilt the wine over his sister’s wedding garments, much to his embarrassment. The next disaster was, that some of the fresh paint [on the chairs] ruined a number of gowns. At two o’clock we were summoned to dinner and all were seated at a horse-shoe shaped table . . . except . . . the groomsmen [who] waited on us. . . . We had an abundant entertainment—almost every thing that the season produced. After dinner we adjourned up stairs, and chatted away the afternoon, the young folks innocently cheerful and the old ones not less so. Tea was made in another room and sent to us. At nine o’clock we were called to supper, after which the guests prepared to return to their homes.

A lot of eating and drinking and visiting. I attended my niece’s Quaker wedding. The bride and groom signed the certificate as did all of the people who were present. An official document as well as a wonderful remembrance.

“Extracts from the Diary of Mrs. Ann Warder,” 58-59, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, 1893, No. 1. The Quaker wedding dress illustrated, dated 1809, is from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The dress is beautiful in its simplicity, no added adornments or decorations as was the Quaker custom.

posted October 13th, 2016 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Fashion,Marriage,Quakers,Warder, Ann Head

“a doll . . . dressed to show us the fashions”

ANNA PAYNE, Dolley Payne Todd Madison’s youngest sister, lived with Dolley until she married in 1804. Sarah “Sally” McKean, the daughter of a Pennsylvania politician, was one of a number of “belles” of Philadelphia and a friend of Dolley’s. She also befriended Anna. Sally’s letter to Anna which follows describes the fashions of the day in considerable detail. Note her mention of the “doll” sent from England dressed in the latest fashions. Wealthy women could have local dressmakers copy the styles in fabrics of their choice.

Philadelphia, June 10, 1796And now, my dear Anna . . . we will speak a little about Philadelphia and the fashions, the beaux. Congress, and the weather. Do I not make a fine jumble of them? . . . Philadelphia never was known to be so lively at this season as at present; for an accurate account of the amusements, I refer you to my letter to your sister Mary. I went yesterday to see a doll, which has come from England, dressed to show us the fashions, and I saw besides a great quantity of millinery. Very long trains are worn, and they are festooned up with loops of bobbin, and small covered buttons, the same as the dress: you are not confined to any number of festoons, but put them according to your fancy, and you cannot conceive what a beautiful effect it has. There is also a robe which is plaited very far back, open and ruffled down the sides, without a train, being even with the petticoat. The hats are quite a different shape from what they used to be: they have no slope in the crown, scarce any rim, and are turned up at each side, and worn very much on the side of the head. Several of them are made of chipped wood, commonly known as cane hats; they are all lined: one that has come for Mrs. [Anne Willing] Bingham is lined with white, and trimmed with broad purple ribbon, put round in large puffs, with a bow on the left side. The bonnets are all open on the top, through which the hair is passed, either up or down as you fancy, but latterly they wear it more up than down; it is quite out of fashion to frizz or curl the hair, as it is worn perfectly straight. Earrings, too, are very fashionable. The waists are worn two inches longer than they used to be, and there is no such thing as long sleeves. They are worn half way above the elbow, either drawn or plaited in various ways, according to fancy; they do not wear ruffles at all, and as for elbows, Anna, ours would be alabaster, compared to some of the ladies who follow the fashion; black or a colored ribbon is pinned round the bare arm, between the elbow and the sleeve. There have come some new-fashioned slippers for ladies, made of various colored kid or morocco, with small silver clasps sewed on; they are very handsome, and make the feet look remarkably small and neat. Everybody thinks the millinery last received the most tasty seen for a long time. . . .
Mind that you write me a long answer to this, and that very soon.
Your sincere and affectionate friend,
Sally McKean.

Sally McKean married the Spanish minister plenipotentiary to the United States, Carlos Martínez de Irujo, in 1798. After the birth of her third child she moved with her husband to Spain in 1808 from which she never returned. Anna Payne married Richard Cutts, a Massachusetts congressman in 1804. James Madison served as President Jefferson’s Secretary of State, was elected president in 1808 and served two terms. Dolley played a much more active role in public life than did her predecessors. She often served as Jefferson’s hostess and as the ‘first lady,” wearing her trademark turban, presided over grand dinners and entertainments in the redecorated public rooms in the presidential mansion.

See more information about Dolley Madison HERE. Sally McKean’s letter to Anna Cutts can be found HERE, pages 18-21.

posted September 29th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Cutts, Anna Payne,d'Yrujo McKean, Sarah (Sally),Don Carlos, Marques de Casa d'Yrujo,Fashion,Madison, Dolley,Philadelphia

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