Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

4/9/2004

18th Century apparel / First hand accounts from “The Annals of Philadelphia”

18th Century apparel / First hand accounts from “The Annals of Philadelphia” by John F. Watson
Pub.1830

Here follows the text from the chapter “Apparel” from this excellent old book.
I hope you find it interesting as well as helpful

” We run through every change, which fancy At the loom has genius to supply.”

THERE is a very marked and wide difference between our moderns and the ancients in their several views of appropriate dress: The latter, in our judgment of them, were always stiff and formal, unchanging in their cut and fit in the gentry, or
negligent and rough in texture in the commonalty; whereas the moderns, casting off all former modes and forms, and inventing every new device which fancy can supply, just please the wearers “while the fashion is at full.”

It will much help our just conceptions of our forefathers, and their good dames, to know what were their personal appearances: To this end, some facts illustrative of their attire will be given. Such as it was among the gentry, was a constrained and pains- taking service, presenting nothing of ease and gracefulness in the use. While we may wonder at its adoption and long continuance, we will hope never again to see it return! But who can hope to check or restrain fashion if it should chance-again to set that way; or, who can foresee that the next generation may not be
even more stiff and formal than any which has past, since we see, even now, our late graceful and easy habits of both sexes already partially supplanted by “monstrous novelty and strange disguise!” -men and women stiffly corsetted &emdash;another name for stays of yore, long unnatural-looking waists, shoulders stuffed and deformed as Richard’s, and artificial hips- protruding garments of as ample folds as claimed the ton when senseless hoops prevailed !

Our forefathers were excusable for their formal cut, since, knowing no changes in the mode, every child was like its sire, resting in ” the still of despotism,” to which every mind by education and habit was settled; but no such apology exists for us, who have witnessed better things. We have been freed from their servitude;
and now to attempt to go back to their strange bondage, deserves the severest lash of satire, and should be resisted by every satirist and humorist who writes for public reform. In all these things, however, we must be subject to female control;
for, reason as we will, and scout at monstrous novelties as we may, female attractions will eventually win and seduce our sex to their attachment, “as the loveliest of creation,” in whatever form they may choose to array: As ” it is not good for man to be alone,” they will be sure to follow through every giddy maze which fashion runs. We know, indeed, that ladies themselves are in bondage to
their milliners, and often submit to their new imported modes wit lively sense of dissatisfaction, even while they commit themselves to the general current, and float along with the multitude. OUR forefathers were occasionally fine practical satirists on offensive innovations in dress&emdash;they lost no time in paraphrastic verbiage which might or might not effect its aim, but with most
effective appeal to the populace, they quickly carried their point, by making it the scoff and derision of the town! On one occasion, when the ladies were going astray after a passion for long red cloaks, to which their lords had no affections, they succeeded to ruin their reputation, by concerting with the executioners to have
a female felon hung in a cloak of the best ton ! On another occasion, in the time of the Revolution, when the ” tower” head-gear of the ladies were ascending, Babel-like, to the skies, the growing enormity was effectually repressed, by the parade through the streets of a tall male figure in ladies attire, decorated with the odi-
ous tower-gear; and preceded by a drum! At an earlier period, one of the intended dresses, called a trollopee, (probably from the word trollop) became a subject of offence. The satirists, who guarded and framed the sumptuary code of the town, procured the wife of Daniel Pettitteau the hangman, to be arrayed in full dress
trollopee, &c. and to parade the town with rude music ! Nothing could stand the derision of the populace ! Delicacy and modesty shrunk from the gaze and sneers of the multitude ! And the trollopee, like the others, was abandoned !

For furthur information go to the link on the rhs

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