Archive for the ‘Clothes’ Category

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 Cap . . . is . . . an insignia of their order”

JUDITH MURRAY SARGENT has more interesting remarks to make about the Bethlehem Seminary in her Letterbook. She describes the dress, particularly the caps, of the students and also the sisters who teach them as well as the inhabitants of the town.

It is amazing what eronious conceptions are formed of this Seminary—Even at New York, I heard the Gentleman, and the Man of letters, exclaim—“What, immure your Girl with in the Cloistered walls of Bethlehem? Surely then you do not intend her for society[”]—yet, it is true, that there is no undue confinement, nor restraint—Even the sisterhood make frequent excursions to the adjacent Villages—I have heard much of the awkwardness, and the [immature] heart of the Bethlehem scholar, but I could not trace it in a single instance, and there absolutely is, in their manners an elegant care, and simplicity, which is enchantingly prepossessing—Indeed, dwelling there together, they are constantly accustomed to society, and, it is a fact, that Bethlehem is the resort of the genteelest strangers—It is true dancing is not taught in Bethlehem—but if it be taught proper dancing may be a subsequent acquirement, and a young Lady, designed for the great World, may be very soon initiated into its customs—Mean time, at Bethlehem, she [acquires in her] early days, a good foundation —she will imbibe the chastest system of morals, with a fund of benevolence[,] her mind will be stored, and she will receive almost every embellishment.

An exact uniformity in dress is not required—It is a request made to parents, and guardians, that all excess may be avoided, and they are fond of seeing the children in white—The Cap, however, is, if I may be allowed the expression, an insignia of their order— ll the young Ladies put it on — it is made of Cambrick, received a narrow border of Lawn, sets close to the head, and is fastened under the chin, with a pink ribbon—It is of pure white, indeed all the Bethlehem linen is uncommonly white, and although, upon a cursory view, we are induced to think, this same cap could only suit a handsome face —yet, however they manage it, I protest there was not one of the Girls, to whom it did not seem to add a charm—The fashion of the cap worn by the inhabitants, and which, for more than a Century, the Moravian Women have not changed, sets also close to the head but it is a different pattern, and not near so becoming—It is however assumed by every female, of every description—Maids, Wives, and Widows, and, by way of distinction it is fastened by the Maidens, with a red, or pink ribbon by Wives with a blue, and by widows with a white, and this knot of ribbon, is the only ornament worn by a Bethlamite female . . . .

In the next post Judith Sargent Murray describes the funeral customs of the Moravians.

Bonnie Hurd Smith, the founder of The Judith Sargent Murray Society, has transcribed and published Murray’s letterbooks. See the complete letter HERE. The portrait is of a Young Moravian Girl (1755) by John Valentine Haidt (1700 – 1780). The lacing of the bodice is typical and the cap is as described by Murray.

posted December 26th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bethlehem Seminary,Clothes,Education,Murray, Judith Sargent

“The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON (1748-1840) was the oldest daughter of William Livingston and Susannah French. (The couple had thirteen children.) Her father was the governor of New Jersey, a member of the Continental Congresses, and a brigadier general in the New Jersey militia. Susan, her younger sisters, Sarah and Catharine (Kitty), known as “the three graces,” were very popular. Sarah became the wife of John Jay in 1774. The Livingstons often had the care of Peter Augustus, the couple’s son, during the war. Susan wrote her sister Sarah on November 1, 1777 in care of John Jay who was in Kent, Connecticut at the time. The letter contains details of the military activity in the area and around Philadelphia as well as family news. (The Livingston home, Liberty Hall in Elizabethtown, was looted and damaged during the Revolution by both sides.)

Dearly beloved Sarah
I am in expectation of the arrival of the Post every moment, he usually comes in on Friday Evening, and returns next Morning as he goes no further than Morris Town. . . . I do not know where to direct to you; we are afraid Mr. Jay has lost all his Clothes that were at Kingston. Mama says if your warm Petticoat is lost, she can spare you one, rather than you should suffer for want of it.

Papa has been home since Sunday Evening, the Accounts he brought are old now, and not worth writing, on the 23d Inst. 5 or 6 Men of War, warped through an opening they had made in the lower Cheveaux de Frieze*, and came up to attack our Fort and Ships and Gallies but they found the Navigation so difficult, that they set Fire to the Augusta of 64 and the Apollo of 32 Guns, and the rest made the best of their way back again. A few days before 2500 of the Enemy (most of them Hessians) under the command of Count Donolp. attacked Fort Mercer or Red Bank, and were soon obliged to retreat in a most shameful and confused manner, leaving behind them killed and wounded 1500. The Count is a Prisoner—they also left 12 pieces of Artillery.

The 22nd our Troops attempted a stroke upon a detachment of six Regiments lying at Grays Ferry [near Philadelphia] where they had thrown a Bridge over the River. They marched all night and reached the Ground about Sunrise, but the Birds were flown, they had suddenly the preceding night deserted the Post, left all their works unfinished and broke up the Bridge. To day Sen’night there was a very warm Engagement, but reports respecting it are so vague, and contradictory, I cannot pretend to give you any account of it.

The Articles of Capitulation that appeared in Loudons last Paper are not relished this way, neither by Whigs, nor Tories, the latter say if Mr. Burgoyne was in a Situation to obtain such Terms he ought to have fought, the Former say if Burgoyne was obliged to surrender at all, Gates might have brought him to what Terms he pleased, so that it looks as if the two Generals wished to avoid fighting. The troops will go home and Garrison the Forts abroad, and let those Garrisons come to America—so it will be only an exchange of Men.

The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow next week. He is now a fit subject for it, his blood is well purified, he has pretended to inoculate him often, so he will not be afraid of it. You know old Woodruff, that carts for us, his Son that lived next door to Dr. Darby, died a few days ago of the Small pox the natural way, and now his Widow and Child have it, the old Man has never had it, he stayed in the same House with his Son till a day or two before he expired, they are not entitled to much pity, for they say the Avarice of the old Man prevented their being inoculated. The Child will perish with it, it is thought.

. . . . Our house is a Barrack there was a whole Artillery Company in it, so I expect every thing will be destroyed.

We have not heard from B[rockhol]st [her brother]** since the last action to the Northward. (I have no doubt but his Letters have miscarried) but Mama has allmost persuaded herself he is among the Slain, and if there was any mourning to be purchased, I do not know but she would exhibit a dismal Spectacle of bombazeen and crepe. . . .

We had the Taylor here (that you engaged) these three weeks, which has kept Kitty tightly employed. She is his Journey-woman. Mr. Jay’s green suit is turned. Papa has brought home a Cargo of broken things, so that we have not eat the bread of Idleness since you left us. . . .

I think this scrawl as it is . . . entitles me to a few Lines from your fair hand. This I submit to you and whether you write or not, I am yours most Affectionately.

* An object of timber and spikes placed in a river to rip the hulls of vessels attempting to pass
** Brockholst was a lieutenant colonel and an aide-de-camp to General St. Clair in 1776 and 1777.

Susan makes reference to the battle of Saratoga which the Americans under General Horatio Gates won over the British and Hessian forces under General John Burgoyne. The Articles of Capitulation were very generous allowing what was called the Convention Army to to return to Britain on the condition that they not serve again in America. Both Gates and Burgoyne were criticized as Susan notes. Can you imagine a man, especially a buttoned-up one like John Jay, wearing a green suit!!

Source: John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, 1745-1780, edited by Richard. B Morris (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 445-47.

posted October 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Clothes,Gates, General Horatio,Hessians,Inoculation,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Brockholst,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",New Jersey,Philadelphia,Saratoga,Smallpox,Symmes, Susan Livingston

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

“not keeping to the plain language”

ANN HEAD WARDER continued her rounds of visiting family and friends in and around Philadelphia when she traveled to the United States with her husband John in 1786. A Quaker, she frequently remarked on behavior or practices she considered inappropriate or different from what she was used to in England.

9th mo. 26th.—. . . . At 8 o’clock went to meeting again. Sammy Emlen came in and began in public testimony—that he met some girls walking the streets and asked after their families and was told “they are pretty well, thank you.” This introduced some close doctrine respecting not keeping to the plain language, which indeed it seems as if the young folks have almost forgotten here. . . .

9th mo, 29th.—[A]t meeting friend Nicholas Wain stood up and reprobated with much solemnity the practice of young people being suffered to intermix with improper company, which indeed is carried to an abominable extent in some parts of the country.

10th mo. 8th.—Went to the Market street meeting which was very thin. . . . The women today commenced to wear winter clothing, though to me it is far from being cold. I however, put on a cloak not to appear singular, for some had long ones down to their toes, but no hoods, a lay collar instead which would look very disagreeable to me but for the cape to their bonnet hiding the neck. Blacks are more worn here than with us—no brown except cloth.

12th mo. 2d.—. . . . Jerry, Lydia and Sally invited to dine with Dr. Hutchinson and wife, which as they had been married by a priest would be hardly orthodox with us, but here much too many make no distinction, paying them just the same respect. . . . I think the evil consequences of mixed marriages are reduced in the view of some young minds, who perhaps become entangled in this improper way at some of these places. . . . In the evening sister M____ came in when we had a long conversation on this subject, to which dress was introduced, when I warmly reprobated the too general practice of people here making such figures in the morning and when out such a show you scarcely know them.

12th mo. 6th.—. . . . [A]fter dinner . . . out sleighing, which I found much more agreeable than expected. We met several parties starting out as we returned. This pastime is abused; large parties collect and riotly go together to taverns where they sup and return at all hours of the night.

In the next post Ann Warder attends a Quaker wedding.

“Extracts from the Diary of Mrs. Ann Warder” 52, 53, 56, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XVII, 1893, No. 1.

posted October 10th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Philadelphia,Quakers,Warder, Ann Head

next page

   Copyright © 2017 In the Words of Women.