Archive for the ‘Clothes’ 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

“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

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

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