Standard: Hand or machine-stitched (ideally hand-finished) in white linen, white wool flannel, or white cotton with sleeves gathered into narrow (~ ½ ” finished) cuffs that sit just below the elbows. Gentle drawstring in neckline is acceptable. Cuffs close with side-by-side cuff links or button-to-buttonhole closure, up to 1” wide cuffs, or straight sleeves with no cuffs –as long as they end just below the elbow. (But you are strongly encouraged to modify all of these by adding ~ ½” wide cuffs fitted with buttonholes to accommodate sleeve buttons.) Neck opening should be wide and low enough that the shift barely shows when worn with a proper gown. Natural/unbleached linen shift (sometimes with finer white sleeves) for lower sort impression
Exceeds Standard: Hand-stitched in white linen or white wool flannel with sleeves gathered into narrow (~ ½ ” finished) cuffs that sit just below the elbows. Cuffs close with sleeve buttons (side-by-side “cuff links”) or narrow ties threaded through buttonholes. Neck opening should be wide and low enough that the shift barely shows when worn with a proper gown. Natural/unbleached linen shift (sometimes with finer white sleeves) for lower sort impression.
Unacceptable: Synthetic fabric, three-quarter or long sleeves, high or grossly gathered drawstring neckline, neck ruffles longer than 1.25 inches, lace ruffles.
Standard: Hand or machine-sewn stays which produce the proper 1770s silhouette, which is a smooth conical torso. Partially boned stays. Leather stays for lower sort impression only. No stays are acceptable ONLY if a bedgown is being worn (but please wear a sports-bra to somewhat mimic the look of stays).
Exceeds Standard: Hand-sewn, fully boned stays with worsted or linen exterior fabric, the most common colors being dark green, blue, white, tan, and shades of brown. Stays should create a proper 1770s silhouette, which is a smooth conical torso. Most stays in this period are back lacing only or back-and-front lacing. Back-and-front laced stays generally lace together in back with a 2-3” gap, and they may either lace edge to edge at center front or they may have a boned stomacher inserted between the two front edges which are laced over it.
Unacceptable: Wearing a properly fitted full-length gown without stays. Visible stays (except in very particular circumstances such as doing laundry or other heavy labor on a very hot day).
Standard: Hand or machine-sewn (ideally hand-finished) stomacher-front English gown with robings and back pleats that are cut in one with the skirt, in wool, linen, or printed cotton. In 1775, the full-length English gown was far and away the most common wardrobe choice for Anglo-American women. Wool gowns were the most common, and were worn in all seasons. Linen gowns were also worn. The most common colors were white, natural, blue, brown or in a balanced stripe consisting of these colors. Printed cotton textiles should be well documented to 1775 or earlier. Gowns with a horizontally-tabbed front in lieu of a visible stomacher were old-fashioned by 1775 and should only be worn by older less-fashionable women.
The bedgown (a good style for those beginning to outfit themselves) was generally worn as an indoor, “undress”, or work garment, or by the lower sort. Bedgowns should be worn with stays, but sports bras may be worn with bedgowns until stays are procured. Be sure the gown style (and other garments and accessories) that you choose matches your particular impression. If you’re wearing a bedgown, then a patterned handkerchief, work apron, and simple hat are more appropriate than white or prettily-trimmed accessories. Appropriately styled gowns may be made from printed cottons that closely resemble documented prints dated to 1775 or earlier. NB: Center-front closing gowns are discouraged (having just appeared across the Atlantic on the high fashion scene in 1775) but they may be worn only if gown front is hidden by an appropriately worn large handkerchief.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-sewn, otherwise as detailed above
Unacceptable: Stomacher-front gown without robings. (If you have converted your center-front gown to a stomacher-front gown, it must have robings!) Riding habits (current research shows them to be worn only by upper sorts). Faux military-style riding habits (unless suitable for a British officer’s wife). So-called “short gowns”, jackets, and caracos (current research indicates these were rarely seen in New England). Sleeveless bodices. Horizontally tabbed-front gowns on young women. Fitted garments worn without stays. (Bedgowns without stays are acceptable, but please wear a sports bra.) Garments made of printed cottons with patterns obviously undocumented to the period, such as modern calicos, cabbage roses, and paisleys.
Standard: At least 2 hand or machine-sewn (ideally hand-finished) petticoats, that are solid colored, striped, or matching a printed gown. Petticoats were generally made of wool, linen, or a documented print matching a gown. Linen petticoats should be white, natural, blue, brown or in a balanced stripe consisting of these colors. Hand-quilted petticoats (wool, silk, and occasionally linen) were also common, especially in a diamond-quilted pattern. Outer petticoat length should be between low-calf and ankle, with the shorter petticoats more suitable for work. Circumference should be 2.5 to 3 yards. Petticoats should be pleated to narrow (~ ½“ finished) waistbands of self fabric or tape. Slits at the sides of the petticoat allow access to pockets (separate items tied around waist). Narrow cloth tape ties are attached at the sides of the waistband and wrap around to tie in front and back. Hems should be very small (~ ¼“ finished). Alternatively, the bottom edge can be bound with wool tape. Under-petticoats can be shorter, or less decorative, as their function is to provide warmth and fill out the silhouette.
Exceeds Standard: At least 2 hand-sewn petticoats otherwise as described above
Unacceptable: Synthetic fabric, modern skirts, petticoats without sufficient fullness or shorter than mid-calf. One petticoat. Printed petticoats with a non-matching gown. Wide hems. Petticoats made of printed cottons with patterns not documented to the period, such as modern calicos, paisleys, and cabbage roses.
Standard: Hand or machine-sewn (ideally hand-finished) with a bound edge, bound slit, and narrow ties to wrap around the waist. Most are large and used to store all sorts of women’s personal items. Most often worn underneath the petticoats and accessible through the pocket slits. Some pockets were beautifully embroidered but were still hidden beneath outer layers. Pockets were occasionally visible under the apron when suitable to the impression (a woman selling goods, or at home with need for easy access). It is also acceptable not to have pockets.
Exceeds Standard Hand-sewn, othwise as described above
Unacceptable: Visible pockets out “for show”. Synthetic materials. Embroidery designs or printed fabrics that are not period-appropriate.
Standard: Hand or machine-sewn (ideally hand-finished) linen, wool, or cotton aprons, in white, natural or checked. Most commonly linen, sometimes linsey-woolsey or just wool. Checked (”plaid”) aprons are often blue on a predominantly white ground (not the evenly balanced blue/white gingham commonly found today). Aprons are stroke-gathered to a narrow (~ ¼“ finished) waistband of self fabric or tape. Narrow tape for ties is commonly wrapped around the back and tied in front. Aprons should be long enough to cover a majority of the petticoat front, and at least a yard in width. Hems should be very small (~ ¼“ finished). Small-pleated aprons.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-sewn, otherwise as detailed above
Unacceptable: No apron. Wide hems. Synthetic fabrics. Printed or wildly colored fabrics. Very short or very narrow aprons. Drawstring aprons. Aprons longer than the petticoats they accompany. Decorative aprons with ruffles or lace. Eyelet or bibbed aprons.
Standard: Hand or machine-hemmed handkerchiefs, white linen or cotton is most common. Triangles or squares (folded diagonally into triangles). Wool worsted, wool flannel, linsey-woolsey, or silk handkerchiefs may be layered for warmth. Colored, patterned handkerchiefs (block-printed, yarn-dyed, resist-dyed) were worn for work or by lower sorts. Handkerchiefs should be large enough to be draped around the shoulders and cover the bosom. Handkerchiefs may be tucked into the gown front or pinned to the outside of the gown front. A handkerchief may also be worn between the robings in lieu of a stomacher. However, handkerchiefs should be left out over the shoulders and over the back of the gown no matter how they are worn in front.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-hemmed overwise as detailed above
Unacceptable: No handkerchief. Handkerchief tucked into the sides of the gown neckline, exposing the bosom. Fringed or knitted shawls. Synthetic fabrics. Handkerchief with modern pattern motif. Paisleys. Handkerchief tucked into the back of the gown. Handkerchief tied together in front. Modern scarves (long rectangles).
For indepth information on women's neckwear, see this video with Ruth Hodges.
In 1775 New England we can identify three cap styles for the middling and working class woman --the lappet, the round eared, and the dormeuse.
The LAPPET cap seems to have been the most common, on both the young and the old. It refers to a style that ties under the chin. It has a U-shaped caul and a band that comes down into little tapering lappets that meet under the chin. A ruffle is attached to the band. The ruffle is most often eased to the band, with gathering only around the tips of the lappet.
ROUND EARED caps have a U-shaped caul, a straight-grain band that is rounded off (not squared) at the level of the ears, and a ruffle that is either gathered, pleated, or eased.
The DORMEUSE has a caul and two crescent-shaped wings. The wings curve sharply upward in the middle toward the top of the head. The wings may be gathered, pleated, or eased. If they are merely eased, then they have a small ruffle gathered or pleated to their outer edge. The proportions and shapes of these vary but they most often appear to be worn well back from the face with high hair. This was the newest of the three cap styles and was therefore most likely seen on more fashionable women.
Standard: Hand or machine-sewn fine white linen, cotton, or silk organza in one of the three cap styles described above. In general, cap and hair styles should have some height and volume in this period, but not too exaggerated. Caps were generally trimmed with a silk ribbon tied in back or on top of the head. Some hair should be visible in front, with the cap set at least 1” back from the hairline.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-sewn fine white linen or cotton, otherwise detailed as above.
Unacceptable: Synthetic or colored caps. Synthetic ribbon. So-called “mob caps” (circular caps consisting of one piece of material gathered all around to create both caul and ruffle). Caps worn down over the forehead or enveloping the face with no hair showing. No cap.
Standard: Hair styles of the 1770s are fairly large, with some height and volume. Hair should be put up under a cap, with most of the volume on top (not at the back) of the head. Some hair should show above the forehead, and this hair may have some volume to it. Hair pieces (sometimes called “rats”) may be added to the top of the head under the cap to create more volume. Short hair disguised as long hair by the addition of hair pieces. Bangs must be pinned up.
Best: Hair dressed with pomade and minimal powder, otherwise as detailed above
Unacceptable: Visible bangs. Hair worn in a bun at the back of the head (rather than on top). Hair worn down. Visible hair dyed in a color that is not a natural hair color. Obviously modern or synthetic wigs
HAT with a flat, shallow crown (~ ½“ high) made from straw, wool felt, or silk-covered with a diameter no greater than 14”, tied at the back of the head with silk ribbons attached under the brim. Hat brims may be gently turned up in front and/or in back. Most often hand-trimmed with silk ribbon.
OR, BONNET, far and away most often in black, but a few in white, green, crimson, pink, and blue have been documented to New England. It’s possible that the colored bonnets were most often worn by girls and young women (more research needed). Most often made from silk satin, with others of silk taffeta or sarsnet (twilled silk), although bonnets of wool durant or stuff may be worn by working women in colder weather. Short, high brim that curves across the face just above eye level, with a high rounded crown/caul. Bow trims made from self trim or sometimes silk ribbon. Brims may be made from paste board (“bonnet board”) or boned or buckram.
OR, HOOD, either attached to cloaks or separate, often seen in cold weather. They were sometimes worn under bonnets with short cloaks. Hoods were sometimes red wool (as an accessory to a red wool cloak). They were also made from black silk satin, black silk taffeta, and black velvet, but were known to have existed in blue, brown, gray, "yellowish”, and "drab".
Standard: Hand or machine-stitched (ideally hand-finished) hat, bonnet, or hood. Hats, bonnets, and hoods were worn over a cap.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-stitched hat, bonnet, or hood using period-appropriate construction techniques.
Unacceptable: Synthetic ribbon for trim or ties. Hat with high modern crown greater than one inch. Hat with ties on top of the brim or tied under the chin. Hat folded down over the ears. Hat or bonnet decorated with feathers or flowers. Hat with back curled severely forward to touch the crown. Hat, bonnet, or hood worn without a cap underneath. Fur caps, sheepskin hats, modern hats of any kind.
Thank you to Kirsten Hammerstrom for the bonnet details noted above. Her KittyCalash blog entry on bonnets in New England is included in the Addendum.
Standard: Machine-made or hand-made stockings in white/cream, natural, blue, brown, gray, or black, also “mixed”, and without a center back seam. Stockings knit flat in the style of frame-knit stockings may be hand-knit or made on a modern flatbed knitting machine (see details for frame-knit stockings in the Addendum). Stockings cut and sewn from knit fabric yardage using an accurate pattern. Wool, linen, or cotton knee socks (because the tops are not visible under the petticoat) –again in white/cream, natural, blue, brown, gray, or black, also “mixed”.
Women’s stockings were knit with a plain (unribbed) leg. Gore clocks (embellishment on both sides of the ankle) are usually subtle and same-color, but some contrasting clocks are documented. Choose clocked stockings with caution, match to your impression, and be aware many modern reproductions are not accurate.
Lastly, stockings should be held up with garters of cloth tape or silk ribbons tied above or below the knee
Exceeds Standard: Densely knit stockings of wool, linen, or cotton. Colors are white/cream, natural, blue, brown, gray, or black, also “mixed”. Length is above the knee. Frame-knit stockings knit flat to shape and stitched up the center back to form a visible seam. [Frame-knit stockings are commercially unavailable at the time of this writing.]
Hand-knit stockings or socks knit in the round to shape with a faux seam of purl stitches up the center back.
Unacceptable: Red, yellow, or green stockings or socks. Brightly colored tights or socks. Striped stockings, synthetic stockings, athletic socks. Elaborate knit patterns such as cables and textures. Diced (Highland) hose. Buckled leather garters (these were military issue).
See addendum document by Paul Dickfoss about common stocking colors found in runaway advertisements.
See the Addendum document for more construction details and information about stockings.
Standard: Hand or machine-stitched, appropriately styled mid-heeled shoes with period-style buckles and sturdy black wool fabric uppers or leather uppers in black, red or brown. Machine-stitched low-heeled black leather shoes with period-style buckles, or occasionally with ties (one hole only on each latchet), for a lower sort impression. Period-style mules for indoors and “undress” only. Simply-styled black leather modern shoes.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-constructed, appropriately styled, timber-heeled (“French heel”) shoes with period-style buckles. Sturdy black wool uppers. Black or red leather uppers.
Unacceptable: Obviously modern shoes, such as hiking boots, sneakers, lug soles, etc. Fake buckles. Victorian lace-up shoes. Shoes that extend up the ankle. Shoes that lace up with more than one hole on each side. Dutch-style wooden clogs.
Standard: Reproduction period-appropriate glasses with round lenses. Subtle wire-framed modern glasses or oval 19th century glasses. NB: Tinted lenses were rare and should only be worn if portraying someone who is ill (e.g., syphilitic) or who has a modern medical condition requiring them; they still should be period-correct round lenses.
Exceeds Standard: Original period-correct glasses with round (not oval) lenses.
Unacceptable: Plastic-framed glasses. Modern tinted lenses or sunglasses.
Standard: No jewelry. No makeup. Simple wedding bands are ok. A simple narrow silk ribbon (generally black) tied high around the neck, generally on younger women. Plain straight modern pins. Plain hat pins. Makeup is not appropriate for April 19th events, but subtle rouge and tinted lip balm may be appropriate for planned social gatherings in the Park, such as a country dance, tea party, or other social gathering in a home.
Exceeds Standard: No jewelry. No makeup. Tinned brass, wound-head pins (for garment closure, sewing, etc.)
Unacceptable: Post earrings. Obviously modern jewelry or watches. Obviously modern pins, such as those with plastic heads. Obvious, heavy makeup, including eyeliner, eyeshadow, etc.
A note about period-correct earrings: Women of the middling sort would be unlikely to possess non-functional jewelry like earrings. If you are portraying a woman of the upper sort in, perhaps, a more genteel setting (not really appropriate for Battle Road) you may consider gold or silver small hoops, or drop earrings attached by a fish hook or lever back, and either plain or with small gemstones such as rose-cut diamonds, zircons, garnets, sapphires, topaz, emeralds, or pastes that imitate these. To help you with your choices, read "Hierarchy of 18th Century Jewelry" by Sharon Ann Burnston
Standard: Hand or machine-sewn (ideally hand-finished) wool cloak, far and away most commonly RED but also known to have existed in blue, brown, gray, drab, black, and very occasionally green. Closed with ties (wool tape or silk ribbon) at the neck. Made from wool broadcloth that can hold a cut edge. Generally mid-calf for longer cloaks, and wrist-length for shorter cloaks. With or without hood. Hoods should be fan-pleated in back and may be lined in silk. The body of the cloak should not be lined. The edges of the cloak may be bound or trimmed with wide silk ribbon or wool tape.
Exceeds Standard: Hand-stitched otherwise as detailed above.
Unacceptable: Celtic-style or fantasy cloaks. Cloaks closing with decorative metal clasps. Cloaks with hemmed edges. Synthetic or patterned fabrics.
Standard: Layer on extra petticoats and handkerchiefs. Wool and silk are warmer than linen and cotton. Wear thin silk stockings under heavier wool stockings. Wear a wool flannel shift. Wear a quilted or matelassé (mock-quilted) or wool flannel woman’s waistcoat (tied in front) either under or over your stays (not visible under your gown). Wear a quilted or matelassé (mock-quilted) petticoat and woolen or worsted gown. Mitts or mittens can be hand or machine-knit wool or sewn of wool fabric, linen, or leather. Elbow length gloves with period appropriate details. Bonnets and hoods are warmer than flat hats. A long heavy wool broadcloth cloak. Waterproofed period-appropriate shoes. A handkerchief worn over or under your hat/bonnet and tied under your chin, especially in windy weather.Long underwear, especially silk because it is thin and warm, worn under clothing so it is not visible.
Unacceptable: Modern garments and accessories that are visible. Fringed or knitted shawls. Modern scarves.
Standard: POCKETS (hidden). So-called “market” wallets (usually natural linen). Linen pillow cases (white linen, unbleached linen, or linen ticking). Handkerchief bundles (made with period-appropriate handkerchiefs). Frails (soft-sided grass baskets with two short handles) seem to have been used primarily for food-stuffs, and also as baby carriers! Split-wood or willow baskets in period-appropriate styles are best for carrying large quantities of things. (Try to avoid using baskets as purses. Use your pockets instead!)
Unacceptable: Haversacks. Knapsacks. Rattan baskets. Baskets made of synthetic materials. Basket styles that post-date our period (such as “Nantucket baskets”). Baskets that are obviously modern in appearance. Baskets made with metal tacks or glue. Modern containers or bags.
Exceeds Standard: Produce that is seasonally appropriate to 18th century New England (for example, fresh apples only in the fall). Food wrapped in linen cloth. Food that would have been available in the 1775 Boston area. Wooden, pewter, or tin bowl or plate. Tin, pewter, or redware mug. Horn or pewter eating utensils. Wooden period-appropriate rumlet. Period-appropriate hand-blown bottle, without carrying strap. Stoneware jug, without carrying strap. Leather-covered pocket or saddle flask (note that these are small and fit into a pocket and are not suspended by a strap). OR, food wrapped in parchment paper, otherwise as detailed above. Modern water bottle hidden in a linen drawstring bag, kept out of sight when not in use. Food suggestions: bakery-style bread, cheese, hard sausage, hard-boiled eggs, dried apples.
Unacceptable: Tin or stainless steel canteens. Cloth-covered canteens. Gourds. Leather bottles (“jacks”). Modern water bottle not concealed in a linen drawstring bag. Modern packaged food. Plastic containers. Plastic wrap and foil. Food that is not seasonal or appropriate to 1775 New England.
Last updated: January 26, 2023