Thursday, March 25, 2010
This day in history: 3/25/1634
This is a feature I haven't done for quite a while... it is a fun and fascinating topic, but also rather time consuming. But I decided to carve out a few minutes to give my readers another dose of fashion in the context of history.
On March 25, 1634, the colony of Maryland was founded. Just thirteen years prior to this, the cotton seed was brought to America from England.
This image of Henrietta Maria, Queen of France by the artist Van Dyck would have represented the height of European fashion at the time.
However, the common American colonial settler would have found such a costume prohibitively expensive and impractical for a life of hard labor that they had to live. The populations of the settlements were sparse, and everyone had to pull their own weight, and then some. Aside from participating in the more traditional womanly arts of sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and child-rearing, the average American colonial woman would also often be required to attend to the livestock, keep up the family garden, serve as midwife to other women, and step into any more traditionally male role should her husband perish or become otherwise incapacitated. But somehow, they managed to do it all while wearing a corset.
And if that doesn't impress you, try putting on a belt a few notches too tight and doing the vacuuming... you'll get the picture. For good measure, throw on a wool sweater and hat (even if it is summer on the east coast... it didn't stop our founding mothers!)
Rather than the opulent silks and laces of their upper class European sisters, women in early Colonial America would have worn sturdier fabrics such as wool. The garments would have to be mended repeatedly because a lack of time and resources would prevent them from having new bodices and skirts when their old ones wore out. And washing didn't happen nearly as often as today.
If you are curious about what life was like for early American settlers, check out the information on Colonial House, a PBS show that aired in 2004.