Archive for the ‘Clothes’ Category

“Lucy Locket Lost her Pocket”

I couldn’t resist recommending a recent Two Nerdy History Girls blog post on “pockets” because of the charming video of the song “Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket” that is included, courtesy of Pauline Loven.

For 18th century women, “pockets” were a separate part of their attire, not built into clothing as they are today. They were attached to a ribbon which was tied around the waist rather like an apron, usually worn under the skirt, and accessed through a slit. They could be capacious or small, plain or fancy, and hold a multitude of things. See my earlier post here. The dimity pocket pictured belonged to Abigail Adams. More information about it can be found here.

For those inclined to make a pocket, follow the instructions issued by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. After 1800, the type of pockets described were not suitable for the slimmer fashions, and women took to carrying reticules or purses.

posted March 8th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail,Clothes,Fashion

“Goods & Chattles”

An inventory of a household’s goods provides an intimate glimpse of the owner’s life as no other document can. Reading it, one almost feels guilty of spying or trespassing. ELIZABETH AMSDEN (1724-1768), an unmarried woman from Deerfield, Massachusetts, made her living as a weaver; indeed she had a shop. Shortly before her death in 1768 she made a list of all her belongings and sold them to a townsman. Here are her possessions, actually quite of number for a single lady. Note that “do” means “ditto”, “hollon” refers to a plain-weave fabric from Holland. Prominent are the tools of her trade: looms, warping bars, sley, shuttles. The signatures at the bottom left are those of the neighbors who witnessed the document.

See the inventory in manuscript form HERE. Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA.

posted November 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amsden, Elizabeth,Clothes,Employment,Furnishings,Primary sources

“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

“be so good as to send me . . . money”

In October of 1792 George Washington sent his niece Harriot Washington (his deceased brother Samuel’s daughter), who had been at Mount Vernon, to live with his sister Betty Washington Lewis. Betty’s husband had died and Betty and her family found themselves in some financial distress. Harriet wrote letters to her uncle asking for money for herself. (He had promised to take care of her). It must have been embarrassing to do this; it makes me squirm to read this letter.

Fredericksburg [Va.] January 5 [1793]I hope my dear Uncle will excuse my troubleing him again, Aunt Lewis has desired me to ask you for a little money there is a few thing’s I want, that I would be much obleiged to you for, she say’s if you will send me some she will keep it, & I shall not get any thing but what I really want, I hear the Birth night is to be kept, and as every one is a going here and as I should like to go I will thank my dear Uncle if he, will be so good as to send me enough money, to get me a ⟨s⟩lite Lutestring or something, of that kind, as there is some very pretty one’s here, Aunt Lewis will get it for me and I will take great care of it[.] I had a violent pain and inflamation in my jaw last week I was obleiged to have my tooth drawn, and the Doctor charged two dollar for it. . . . If you please to give my love to Aunt Washington. I am my dear Uncle Your affectionate Neice
Harriot WashingtonP.S. Aunt Lewis desirers me to give her love to you and say’s she would have wrote to you but she had not time.
H.W.

George Washington sent “Money for Harriot” in a letter to his sister later in January. According to local newspapers a ball was planned to commemorate George Washington’s birthday. Lutestring is a glossy fabric used for women’s dresses and ribbons.

Betty Washington Lewis wrote to her brother George on January 29, 1793 saying she had received the money for Harriot and she provided a few details about Harriot’s situation.

My Dear Brother
Your letters of Januy the 6the and 14the of this Month came duly to hand, the enclosed letter to my son Robert met with a speedy conveyance the same day, the other with the Money for Harriot, which I shall see that no part of it shall be laid out but in those things that is really necessary, it is unfortunate for her my living in Town for many things that could be wore to the last string in a Cuntry Place, will not do here, where we see so much Company, I must say less would be more agreeable to me.

I must in justice to Harriot say she Payes the strictest regard to the advice I give her and really she is very Ingenious in makeing her Clothes and altering them to the best advantage. . . . Harriot desir’s me to thank you for your Kindness to her, and Joins me in returning your Compliment, by wishing you many happy New Years. I am with sincear love to you and my sister [Martha] Your Affet. Sister
Betty Lewis

Citation: “To George Washington from Harriot Washington, 5 January 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-11-02-0373. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 11, 16 August 1792 – 15 January 1793, ed. Christine Sternberg Patrick. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002, pp. 590–591. “To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 29 January 1793,” founders Online pp 60-81.

posted June 26th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Lewis, Betty Washington,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot

“it is time to spruce myself for dinner”

Below, ANNE BLAIR continues her long and frequently interrupted letter to her sister Mary. I love the way she refers to handkerchiefs——spelling it just the way it was/is often pronounced. I had no idea the word “duds” was in use back then. When I did a quick search I found that it had been used to refer to clothes for hundreds of years, since the Middle Ages in fact. Regarding Anne’s remark “it is time to spruce myself for dinner,” I was fascinated to learn that “spruce” originally had been used as an adjective describing items brought from Prussia, as in “spruce leather.” Toward the end of the 16th century it began to be used as a verb “to make trim and neat.”

I am sorry I gave you so much trouble about my long lawn aprons as I have them all; I lost the last of my Cambrick in King William (Hankerchiefs I mean) so that I did not bring one down with me——am much obliged for the care you have taken to get all my dud’s together. I have found one of ye Shifts which I will give Mrs. Starke for you. I cannot find that you have neglected putting up anything for Betsey [Mary’s daughter] [t]hat was necessary——adieu till tomorrow, it is time to spruce myself for dinner——after wch expect Company to Tea.

Good Morrow to you, Sisr. we spent a cheerful afternoon yesterday——Mrs. Dawson’s Family stay’d ye Evening with us, and ye Coach was at ye door to carry them Home, by ten o’clock; but everyone appearing in great spirits, it was proposed to set at ye Step’s and sing a few Song’s wch was no sooner said than done; while thus we were employ’d, a Candle & Lanthorn was observed to be coming up Street . . . no one took any notice of it——till we saw, who ever it was, stopt to listen to our enchanting Notes——each Warbler was immediately silenced; whereupon, the invader to our Melody, call’d out in a most rapturous Voice, Charming! Charming! proceed for God sake, or I go Home directly——no sooner were those words utter’d, than all as with one consent sprung from their Seats, and ye Air echoed with “pray, Walk in my Lord;” No——indeed, he would not, he would set on the Step’s too; so after a few ha, ha’s, and being told what all knew——that it was a delightful Evening, at his desire we strew’d the way over with Flowers &c. &c. till a full half hour was elaps’d, when all retir’d to their respective Homes.

Mrs. Dawson was the widow of the president of William & Mary College. The visitor was Norborne Berkeley, 4th Baron Botecourt, royal governor of Virginia. It sounds as if a good time was had by all.

William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XVI, 1908, 177-78.

posted June 5th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Blair, Anne,Braxton, Mary Blair,Clothes

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