Very few original indicators of fashion in the 17th Century exist, perhaps the best being Wenceslaus Hollar’s series of engravings of women done at the time. While the engravings were done primarily of English women, one can assume the fashions were closely linked to the 17th century clothing in America. Given the harsh conditions in those early years of America one could also assume the wear and tear of their clothing might be a bit more than those living a much more stable life in England. More of Hollar’s drawings can be viewed here in an article written by Jone Johnson Lewis
Among the drawings perhaps the most familiar to historical tales in America seem to be Drawings 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27. 28. Some feature the pilgrim hats, so to speak & some more of a bonnet, actually called coifs. The dresses that come to my mind were more simplistic and straighter than their bustled up comparisons in the other drawings. I'm sure the muffs as depicted in drawing 21 were a much desired accessory in battling the cold temperatures of a New England winter. Many assumptions have been made that everyone wore buckles & wore black & white, but neither of these myths are true. "Myth: The pilgrims wore only black and white clothing. They had buckles on their hats, garments, and shoes.Fact: Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the seventeenth century and black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions. Women typically dressed in red, earthy green, brown, blue, violet, and gray, while men wore clothing in white, beige, black, earthy green, and brown."
Another artist of the time was Frenchman Jacques Callot who also created etchings of the time period. One might want to view the book published by the Museum of Fine arts, Houston entitled Princes and Paupers: the art of Jacques Callot for more on his work. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston also has short Biography of him from their exhibition in 2003-2004. Click here.
Amylynne (Baker) Murphy