While it's usually the clothes of the rich and famous that survive in museums, those of the "middling sort" in the 18th c took care with their dress, too. Here Sarah Woodyard (an apprentice mantua-maker in the historic trades program at Colonial Williamsburg) shows what an English or colonial American housewife would have worn for work-a-day dress.
She is wearing an English night-gown with a fitted back, made from a printed calico. The small figure and dark print would have held up to wear, but this kind of printed calico was also less fashionable than printed cotton chintzes with more white space in the printed design (like this one here.)
The gown is worn over a cream colored loom-quilted petticoat with a cotton muslin apron. Of course she is wearing boned stays (corset), which not only give her a fashionable shape, but help support her back as she goes about her tasks. Her ruffled cap - for no respectable 18th c woman ever goes without a cap, even indoors - is also cotton muslin, with a silk ribbon.
Tucked into the bodice of her gown is a triangular kerchief of Irish linen, and around her throat is a small strand of red coral beads. The stuffed red heart hanging by a ribbon from her waist is a pincushion, and also hanging is a pair of scissors (ribbons tied to the apron strings like this would have constituted an average woman's chatelaine.) She's wearing white cotton thread stockings, and a pair of men's flat mules - perhaps borrowed from her husband?
All clothes are replicas, but stitched entirely by hand by Sarah herself, in the same way as an 18th c seamstress would have done.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.