Every fall, in cities like New York, Milan, Paris, and London, people gather from all over the world to celebrate their love of fashion at Fashion Week. It really shows how important fashion is to some. Whether we are heading off to work, to the gym, or to carline drop off at school, what we wear gives off an impression of us and what our personalities are like. For women, in particular, fashion has always been vital to how they present themselves to the outside world. From the colonists to the styles of current day, fashion tells our history in great detail.
Many people think the Pilgrims wore black and white clothes. This is because in the 1620s, best clothes were often worn for their portraits and their best clothes were mostly black. Girls and women wore corsets over their smocks. Corsets were stiffened with rows of stitching or reeds. Over the corset they wore a waistcoat that looked like a long-sleeved, close fitting jacket. It was usually made of wool or canvas. Women usually wore one or two petticoats over their legs. When it was especially cold, they could wear more underskirts. Underskirts, known as petticoats, were made of wool for warmth. Ruffled or flat collars were always worn around the neck, as well as linen hats, called coifs, upon their heads. Overall, the style of clothing was very much suited to being modest and practical for the day’s work. Puritans attempted to impose laws that brought minimalism by abolishing any sort of decorative feature, leading to a distinctive style to call their own.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, despite the Puritan’s efforts, fashion continued to play a large role in most colonials’ lives the more the colonies grew and flourished. Women began to re-adopt elements such as full skirts and clearly visible corseting of the natural waist. The most noteworthy garment to come out of the century was the hoop skirt. This skirt would become a staple of women’s fashion for years. Originally, the hoop skirt bulged out from the sides but gradually became rounder and more bell-shaped. It seemed the more eccentric the silhouette, the better.
In the beginning, hairstyles stayed modest and women typically decorated their heads with a frilled cap, but by the end of the century, wig were beginning to be worn for special events or evening affairs. These wigs were often elaborate and required women to sometimes sleep sitting up the night before an event to prevent the wig from losing its shape. The idea that a woman had to sleep in an uncomfortable position with huge wig sitting atop her head demonstrates the great lengths women have gone through for fashion and beauty. However, that focus on status and elegance began to fade with the Revolution. Suddenly a dependency on European trends did not seem patriotic in the least. Women began weaving their own cloth and wore homespun clothes in public, an act that would have been an immediate marker of low status in the past that was now considered a symbol of pride and dedication to the nation.