Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Documenting Your Duds

Today we're going to take a look at documenting a middlin' class impression.  Even though surviving artifacts and portraits are rare for this group of folks, there is still lots of material to pull from. English genre art is a good place to start, but be careful of using them too literally since frequently things are being lampooned and, a lot of the times, we're not getting the joke. For today's example, I have chosen one of my favorite prints from the Lewis Walpole collection, "A Ladies Maid Purchasing a Leek" 1772. 

It is important to know that documenting your clothing does not mean you need to be running out trying to draft originals from collections. As I mentioned yesterday, many scholars have already done this for you, I'll use some in our example today.  In addition, your documentation doesn't necessarily have to be a work of art either. Sure, it's nice to have your items photographed professionally and to show off your graphic design skills, but it's not required, all you need is the information in writing and your sources cited.

A Middlin' Woman Impression

Shift: linen as described in Costume Close-up by Linda Baumgarten 1999, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Stays: as described in Costume Close-up by Linda Baumgarten 1999, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Gown: Open front gown, blue worsted, tabby weave
PA Gazette 10-16-1766
Quilted Petticoat: MFA Accession# 28.528b Pink Silk

Quilted petticoat
My reproduction

 Black Silk Bonnet over linen cap (as pictured in print)

Linen apron and printed cotton handkerchief (as pictured in print)

My interpretation

Shoes: Black Leather Shoes from Burnley & Trowbridge
NH Gazette 12-26-1766

If this all seems overwhelming, start with documenting your outer garment first and work from there.  Once you do this a couple times, it gets easier. And by the way, when you are shopping on sutler row, don't be afraid to ask for their primary sources.  The best sutlers have done their homework and will be able to cite them for you.


  1. I was just looking at the bonnet it appears to have a ribbon that's part of the bonnet itself that actually appears to go under part of her cap in the back; very interesting. are there any other examples that show this apparent construction?

    1. Amy, when you zoom in on the image, there is a cap ribbon under the bonnet and another ribbon round the back of the head and over the top of the bonnet, holding the bonnet on the head, it is a neat detail and one that I have used when wearing a bonnet in the wind. Hallie