Saturday, September 8, 2018

Getting Dressed in 1665

This is great video of how to get dressed in Delft, Netherland. There are three primary sources in New Netherland and New York with the outfit she is wearing in particular this specific bodice that had a boat neck and worn to be shown. See article here with primary sources.

Enjoy the video !

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Japanese Kimonos in Colonial New York

"1 blew silk Japon men gowne 02:10:00" - 1685 NYC

If you are a reenactor looking for something different or are a bit baffled by the fact that many types of men's and women's robes are listed under the generic term "dressing gown" or "night gown"  or more appropriately "chamber robe" we can use primary sources to determine what the variety of robes really were. 

One thing to consider, is that the 17th Century bridges the middle ages to modern era, so when thinking on how a person perceived themselves and the world the 1600s really were a blend of the 1500s and the 1700s. The microscope and telescope were newly invented, bayonets were mostly being used by French armies and not widely en vogue instead there were pikes and snaphaunces, and meat became something people had weekly. The Dutch discovered every possible broom and brush for cleaning the home and developed the idea of washing one's clothes each week. The western world discovered coffee, tea, lettuce salad and this thing called a fork from Italy and tiny tea pots of red clay from China. Then they wrote about it in several "Discovering the world" books and published maps of near and far off places, both of which were exceedingly popular because half the population could read. The Discovering the world books always include a description of clothing, not just the jacket or robe, but even what they wore under their clothes... every piece. The Dutch were curious, exacting... and likely got nipped in the nose a few times.  

With people being able to read about these lands and find them on a map, their desire to own goods from these places were the next step. Interestedly, an item like a Japon robe does not reveal much of the body. The emphasis was not if he looked masculine, or if she had a tiny waist, it was about the person. And apparently, clothing that emphasized the person was popular. Some call it a Golden Age; it really was a Sophistication of the curious mind, an escape for one that loved reading about people both next door and in far off lands. 


There are actually four different terms that get grouped under "chamber robe" when using 18th Century references; the Banyan (Bannian), Japon rok (Japonsch rok), the Turk and the Muscavoy. However, in the 17th Century they are identified by the nation they originate from. There is also the Sultan which crops up for men in the 17th Century, then falls to the side, and reappears in feminine form in the 18th Century...but I have yet to have found these in American docs. 

Of the five robes mentioned, the Japon rok, Turk and Muscavoy are worn during both the 17th and 18th Centuries in New York and New Netherland. For those 17thC reenactors preferring a fitted garment like the Banyan, consider a Muscavoy coat which is a similar fit and length but with parallel horizontal frogging down the front. You probably have seen them in paintings. Or a Turk which has fitted sleeves and wrap front. The Sultan has wide sleeves like the Japon. We can circle back to these other robes. 

In dictionaries: 

1766 - A Large Dictionary English and Dutch: in two parts - "“Ro’k, a coat, gown. (next) een Japonsche-rok, a chamber-gown." 

 1766 —-Volkomen woordenboek der englelsche en nederduitsche taalen, by William Sewel, Egbert Buys, Caspar Philips - "A morning gown, Een nagt rok, japon."

1707 - A Large Dictionary English and Dutch,: In Two Parts by the Englishman Willem Sewel, “JAPON, Japonse rok, a Chamber gown."

In Early Documents: 

1690 - Europische Mercurius behelzende al het voornaamste 't geen in ..., Volume 1
By E.V. V. "...that was the end of justice. The Elector went beforehand, with the principal Ladies, at one end of the Hall, where after his Seal, regal thoroughness, with a long Japanese dress, was done..."

1669 - "Gedenkwaerdige Gesantschappen Der Oost-Indische Maatschappy in 't Vereenigde ..." By Arnoldus Montanus 

Were there other items from Japan?

Yes. Japanese stilyards, a type of scale, are common in most any inventory where someone sold groceries, sugar, textiles,... anything. Sometimes, a person (men and women) didn't sell anything and there are large and small stilyards in the same inventory. The small ones can be carried in a bag they are so small and good for purchasing small personal size amounts of tea or sugar. There is a Japanese cutlas. There are also Japanese quilts, compared to ones from India. Plus, lacquered chests small and large. Plus, the type of pant worn with the Japon were also imported. Much of this is due to Wina van Hoorn who imported goods from the far east, but also from India. 

Side note: 

The term Ban-nian/Ba-nian is the original word and used in both the 17th and 18th Century. Bannian and Banian continue to be used in the 18th Century but the spelling "Banyan" is introduce in 1728. I am guessing that the spelling used for "Banyan" may be an English colloquialism. The original using the /a/ as in / ball/, instead of the American short /a/ sound. 

In 1641 the first Japanese kosode are shipped to Amsterdam: 

In 1641, The supreme leader of Japan was the Shogun who gifted 53 of these silk robes - 23 were black - to seal the trade deal with the Directors of the Dutch East Indies Company. These robes are not really kimonos. The kimono starts off as the kosode in the 17th Century, and developed from here. [koe-soe-day]  Wiki Commons Kosode Image. For the record, Japanese use the European pronunciation of vowels. 

1675, Netherlands, Anna Elisabeth van reede. 

The Kosode in the Netherlands:

The Dutch were not irreverent to the importance of the gift that they would use it as a dressing gown but instead they were worn to work which is why during the 17th Century they are often painting while the sitter is at a desk in front of a book. They were also called a "night gown" not to be confused with a dressing gown. 

In the below two images the similarities of shaping can be seen. Both happen to be printed in 1669. 

1669 - Portrait of Amsterdam predikant Conradus Hoppe, by Jan Veenhuysen

1669 Likely a Japon but could also be a "Sultan", of Daniel Bernard from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is on loan at the Amsterdam Museum. 

Due to the early date of the image above, it is likely an original "Japon Rok" (Rok = Dress) which would be worn over a skimpy double or waistcoat instead of a jacket or coat. When I did a year long study aboard in Japan, my professor told the class that the word "Japon" and "Japan" is a Dutch invention. It is possible that the Dutch heard Ji-pon or Ja-pon when the Japanese introduced themselves as "Ni-hon-jin" and referred to their nation as "Ni-pon". And truethfully to western ears, /ja/ in Japanese [Nihongo] really does sound similar to /ji/ in the same away that /p/ and /b/ or /m/ and /n/ can be mistaken in English. 

Were there Japon Robes in America? 

There are defiantly a number of them as they are called such by name, Japon rok or Japon robe plus the paintings ! There is another robe, that we can tell is a Japon because it was "padded" as described in Dutch: 1693, Albany, a night "rok" with padding. We can include this because the inventory was written in Dutch with the exact same terms being used in the Netherlands for the same time period. A Night dress in the Netherlands is a robe worn over clothes in place of a coat or jacket. This particular robe is listed with the petticoats. 

A 1685 NYC probate inventory has, "1 Japon Coate lining with 'redd' say 01:15:00". This robe was possibly a Dutch or domestically (American) made Japon coat as say was not a textile of Japan. However, the "1 blew silk Japon men gowne 02:10:00" and the "1 ditto 'redd' 02:10:00 that were for sale in an East Indies store in 1685 Manhattan are highly likely imported Japanese kosode. This same store also lists a number of flowered "India jackets" so we can see that this is not confusion on the part of the author's, who happened to be the owner of the shop. In 1686, the Mayor of Albany owned 2 Japon robes. 

At one to two pounds it was not a robe within "every" person's means, but it is comparable to other clothing. As can be seen, one silk Japon is worth about one man's suit or a woman's scarlet petticoat and Samare from a squarely middle class couple's wardrobe. Alternatively, the domestically made one is the same cost as a Jacket. A colonist could have two sets of waistcoat and bottoms and wear a jacket with one and a Japon with the other. 

1685: 1 black “gross” “greaine” “suite” [men's] 02:17:00, 1 "Indea" "petticoats" with body of "redd" bay 00:17:00, 1 ditto [woman's Indea petticoat] Scarlett 01:15:00, 1 flowered calico petty coats with "redd" lining 00:16:00, 1 colored "stuff" Samare [woman's pleated back coat] 01:10:00.

Japon robes during the 1640s - 1660s were owned by mega merchants or directors of the Dutch East Indies company. By the 1670s, enough had been imported that not only magistrates, but also clerks, scientist and even artists and musicians were wearing them. Women merchants and shopkeepers also sported Japon robes. It was a very continental thing to do, and signaled to everyone that you had a love for exotic cultures and goods. 


There are a few of them, most of which show women wearing them. The upper portrait: This is one of the most beautiful, the sitter is unknown though from New York and the painting is attributed to Gerrit Duyckinck c1660-1710. The lower family painting: Below is a painting of the Emmanuel de Witte, Family Portrait, Munich 1677 with a daughter in similar Japon. It is likely that our unknown sitter is painted about 1690 due to the gown, fan, hair and also the front lacing stay. (There are a couple early inventories that mention having a painting of their daughter, that with further research it may be possible to narrow who this person is down to 1 or two choices.) Because there are no stays for children recorded in 17th Century inventories except out on Long Island, I would say she is over 14 years old and likely closer to her late teens. Her clothing shows her sophistication as she choose a garment from Japan rather than other styles, her stays were attractive so instead of a stomacher she showed the lacing. This is common among Central Europeans. Her fan, again, is a fashion statement, on trend, and nothing more. The flower however, may have some significance beyond giving her something to hold, but it is important not to read too deep. Her hair being down is also common in New York for woman, and should not be read into. Visitors comment on the simple hair styles of New Yorkers, and their "spritely" attitudes. 

The below image is of Deborah Glen, attributed to the Gansevoort Limner, and is in the Colonial Williamsville collection. Note that the pattern on the sleeve is perpendicular to the pattern on the dress when the arm is at rest. There is a hard date to the painting of 1739 in or near Albany, NY. It is difficult to know if the center front of the robe is sewn shut or is just overlapped. However, an English visitor remarks on another Albany family as wearing the same outfit, a wrapping style robe flowered over a petticoat. They also mention the people of up-state NY having their hair not up... but down and simply in a tie like the painting. The visitor mentions this was daily attire for women whether a teacher or student, as much as it was to play shuttlecock or chest. Apparently, normal pastimes for NY women. 

What is interesting is that Glen choose a traditional robe to be painted in with contrasting lining that had been in fashion in up-state New York since the late 17th Century and originated in the Netherlands. Her pierced ears are another traditional refinement that has been fashionable since the 17th Century in New York. I think there is a tendency to mistake her garment as being "rich" or of a "wealthy" class.. but by 1700 this style of robe was typical of educated people as much as it was of artists, musicians and shopkeepers. I think it speaks to both cultural tradition and worldly sophistication. What is fashion forward is her use of a Central European stay, which you glimpse where the lacing crisscrosses in the center front. This was on trend in culturally Germanic regions, and New York, and the shortening of the sleeves which started in the 1720s. It was common for Dutchmen to present their betrothed with a ring of engagement, usually with a small stone in it. It seems Glen has one as this painting occurs right before her wedding. There are a couple early reference to roses and wreaths, with the first from a book looking at the errors of people. 

This gown, along with the Turkish robe will dominate fashions in New York from about 1700-1740s and possibly through the F&I war (1763). 

1668 - "...And also tolerable, if we (wishing that our words are kept closed under the Rose), there are also bad people in company and at the beer bank; In the old habit of wearing rose wreaths in guest rooms, and in this manner, we do not speak of the custom (who is the High-German), who paint a rose in the button [?] on the table. But it would be more significant if it were as original as Lemnius and other written books, that the Rose was the Flower of Venus, which Cupid Harpocrates, the God of silent temperament, had tolerated;...
" - "Pseudo-doxia epidemica, dat is: Beschryvinge van verscheyde algemene dwalingen des volks,..."

The painted flower may reference the idea of a Rose by any other name by William Shakespeare. A 1740 reference to how to paint wreaths of roses or flowers states "... and although every flower has its own name, shape and color, it is not considered, however, in general, that is to say, as under the name can flowers." - Book, "Groot schilderboek, waar in de schilderkonst in al haar deelen grondig werd onderweezen, ..."

If we look at the use of the rose, and the fact that Glen was about to be married, the roses simply represent love.

Mr. Livingston: 

One of the most interesting paintings of an early American is of Robert Livingston (1654-1728), Lord of Livingston Manor who was of Scottish heritage. This is because he was politically on the side of the Governor and is painted with a whig styled in the English fashion and a cravat. However, his whig is brown which was typical color worn by the Dutch and Continental colonist rather than white as preferred by England. This is something that can be seen in paintings but was another observation by visitors. The other blaring issue is he choose the most common color Japon robe used by Dutch Magistrates back in Amsterdam to be painted in. But why? The first Samurai Japon robes were "reddish", brown or black and usually lined in the same color. Though, a more fashionable Japon was with contrasting color lining and had become trending by the time of this painting. It is as if he is giving tribute to both the English governor and the other Dutch and Continental merchants he had to live and work with. 

Merchant: Robert Livingston (1654-1728), Lord of Livingston Manor, New York. The Painting was likely made while he held office 1715 – 1728. - Note how Livingston's hair is brown like the other Dutch paintings but parted at top and the style more structured. And that he points and holds his robe like the Dutch paintings specifically one painted by Caspar Netscher (1639 - 1684) . In most paintings the wearer has to use one hand to hold the Japon closed, however, when painted in genre the Japon is held together with a sash.

Scientist: Portrait of Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek, Natural Philosopher and Zoologist in Delft, Netherlands, Jan Verkolje (I), 1680 - 1686

Doctor: David , Agneta en hun dochter Catherina Neufville - Michiel van Musscher (1645 - 1705), below is an example of a padded Japon... it should have a quilted feel. 

In the End: 

The Japon robe when appropriated by the French is so popular it will be the first on record as being downgraded to a chamber gown from its standing as a robe for Samurai. It is possible that the French had no idea of its importance having adopted the fashion through the Dutch, though they are aware of the original name, Japon. 

There are about eight paintings of New York woman plus Livingston's with a Japon, plus another six in personal inventories (that do not line up with the paintings unfortunately) and another two in a store for sale. It is a robe that could easily be worn for reenacting from the 1650/60s to at least the end of the French and Indian war 1763. New York will never really leave their interest in Japan on the table, paintings by artist will show women in both kosode and later kimonos for some time to come. 


Französischer Meister:

Johannes Hudde (1628 - 1704), Michiel van Musscher, 1686, This one is flowered and padded:

1710 - La diseuse de bonne aventure | Jean Antoine Watteau (1710), And an extend Italian Japon from 1710-1720 made of Lampus comes with blue cap of same material and Caspar Netscher (d. 1684) - Portret van een man in Japanse mantel. 

2 Paintings attributed to Caspar Netscher (d.1684) - Sold at Auctions

This one below in black is one of the most rare types of kimono, due to its color, also by Caspar Netscher (d. 1684). 

The sense of self in the Netherlands and personal identity was not just identifiable at the elite end of the spectrum, but people throughout the middle class which includes the working class were expressing themselves in new and novel way. They were completely adopted foreign garments and using them in a similar way their were originally intended. So, the next time you see a loose robe with no buttons and someone calls it a "dressing gown"... explain it is worn over a waistcoat and bottoms instead of a coat so one may be comfortable while at work, reading, composing music, painting or simply... as a clerk staying up all night trying to get the accounting finished before the shipment arrives the next day.

The two images below don't belong together but have similar coloring and patterning. 

Upper photo: Caspar Netscher, Dutch, 1639-1684, Portrait of a Gentleman, 1680

Lower photo: Silk, gouddraad, Foto: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1689-1702

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Tickets for a Tavern Experience c. 1650s !!!

Beer, Beer, Beer ! 

FYI - History Fans !

The Bronck Museum offers guests a “tavern experience” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25.

The Bronck houses will be transformed into a mid-1600s country tavern where costumed volunteers will serve guests a beer specially prepared by Crossroads Brewery in Athens to replicate a beer offered at Pieter Bronck’s Beverwijck tavern. During most of the 1650s Bronck and his wife Hilletje Jans were involved in brewing and keeping just such a tavern on the river front at Beverwijck (today’s Albany).

Tickets can be purchased the day of the event for $30. Advance sale tickets are $25 before Aug. 17.

To reserve advance sale tickets, send a check payable to GCHS to: Greene County Historical Society, P.O. Box 44, Coxsackie, NY 12051. The Bronck Museum will be closed during the day on Aug. 25 for regular season tours in order to prepare the houses for the evening’s festivities.

INFO: (518) 731-6490 or visiting

Additional Information:

Museum hours: The Bronck Museum is open from Memorial Day weekend to Oct. 15,

Wednesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday, 1-4 p.m.

Memorial Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Further information about the Bronck Museum may be obtained by calling (518) 731-6490 or visiting

From Thruway Exit 21B, Coxsackie: South on 9W 3¾ miles; at RED BARN turn right on Pieter Bronck Road.
From Traffic Light at 9W and 81: South on 9W 1 1/2 miles; at RED BARN turn right on Pieter Bronck Road.
From Catskill: North on 9W; then left on County Rt. 42

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Petticoat Stats

"One Spanish cotton petticoat" for him - 1645 Manhattan 

Politics and the Landscape:

When I go through inventories I am not just thinking about a pair of shoes, a sword, or a dress. I often think of how the person would have worn it? Or what a garment is made of and how this is reflected in store records where fabric is purchased ? But I am also considering, How does the inventory influence what a house scene or a street scene or a market square would look like? 

The late 16th and early 17th Century is when a major shift happens on all levels whether politically, culturally or in clothing. In the Netherlands laws, politics, business and fashion are evolving at a steady pace between the 1550s-1690s. The biggest hump they got over was a shift from Spanish to Netherlander self governance. This affected fashion, the economy, politics and a variety of things. For New Netherland, the legal era starts in 1614 when the New Netherland company was chartered, a map of New Netherland was published and the first permanent settlement was built at Rondout on the Hudson River to when England gained legal ownership and sovereign control in 1667. Other dates are often referenced in publications, but legal control is like owning the title to one's home or car or a business... there is a beginning, middle and end. 

The "New Netherland" cultural era appears to be 1614 to the second seizing of the colony by the English in 1674. In 1674, politics and laws were being transferred from Dutch dominance to a deliberate application of English Common law. The deliberate part is the key, it forces a change from de facto powers (e.g. a person squatting in a house ) to de jure (the title sale of a house). 

The third instance is when one has de jure (legal control), but chooses not to enforce a change over which is what happened between 1667 - 1674. It is like continuing to live in the house though a person sold the title. This is what happened after 1667, the English do not enforce English common law until the year 1674 when the king changes his mind. 

Even then, the powers that be could not displace the common culture of the colonist from its continental mindset. Part of the issue was if they pushed too hard, they would loose tax revenue. We have to remember that from 1614 to 1674 the colonist had 60 years to incubate or over two generations. 

This continental mindset continues through to the 1710 - 1720 when large numbers of Scottish people emigrated but they are canceled out by the large numbers of Germans. While a political divide starts in the 1690s, it is not until enough British arrive during the 1720s that the culture is divided too. The province becomes split culturally British vs. Continental (Anglican, Presbyterian and large estate owning Huguenot vs. Lutherian, Dutch Reformed, Calvinist, Moravian, and working class Huguenot). The province will remain split for the entirety of the colonial era. 

What does this mean for reenactors? Most things whether French, Dutch, German, Swedish, English, Scottish and even Asian and some African styles are fair game. Dutch serge, English kersey, Scottish plaids, China silks, Japanese kimonos, Ottoman corded silks and raw mohair, Bengal cottons and even Egyptian alabaster are all in inventories. It is more of, "Was it an export?" if it was it probably made it to the ware houses of Amsterdam and then onto New Netherland and well into 18th Century New York. When I think of New York I am always amazed at the level of sophistication and worldly outlook. 

When picking out a fabric for a petticoat, consider doing something special. Pick a fabric that represents something important or dreamy for the era and sew it into a petticoat. Every time you wear it you will know it is not just a petticoat, it is made from fabric that connects the world and then tell somebody about it. Tell them how far the fabric had to travel to become that special garment just for you. 

Court Records reveal colors, materials and trims: 

1638 -  She took as payment for a hog, as much purple laken as was sufficient for a petticoat. 

1645 -  Red petticoat lined with blue and bound with cord. 

1648 - 2 kotten petticoats 

Early petticoats could be plain or trimmed with cord for people regardless of class. Fullness does not seem to be a factor, full petticoats are seen on wealthy and working class in paintings. 

The above cotton petticoats were made from cotton from plants, not the English use of cotton to mean either cotton from plants or brushed wool. Since the word cotton rather than "sits" was used it was likely a plain/solid colored cotton fabric. See article on solid colors cottons in New Netherland and New York Here.

As the century moves forward so do the description of petticoats: 

1685 -  
One redd cloth petticoat with black lace, One coloured druggett petticoat with redd linking [lace]. 

Early Inventories: 

In 1640, Hester Symonrsen had "2 laken petticoats" and "1 black kersey petticoat". It is difficult to guess what the 2 laken petticoat colors were, except that they were not black. Had they been black the recorder would have written it in as significant. Fabric tended to be dyed in the Netherlands, so it is possible that they were blue, green, or even yellow. When clothing is black, red, scarlet or purple it is often noted. When another color, often it is simply labeled as "colored". Could they have been natural colors? Yes, especially because Hester had lived in England for some time, and natural colors were very popular there. Off-colors - such as reddish- are possible too. Hester also had 12 linen and purple aprons. 

Ides Stoffelsen had a blue kersey, a staal gray lined petticoat, and black coarse Camelot lined petticoat, 1 half worn red petticoat, two old black skirts” in 1641. Here we can see the colors; blue, gray, black and red being used all in one inventory. Here Stoffelsen probably had two black kirtles. She also had a purple apron and four blue aprons. Colored aprons were common at this time, as were white or black. 

The kersey in Stoffelsen's wardrobe is likely continental, however, Symonresen's kersey could also be from London as she and her husband had lived there prior to coming to New Netherland. As a side note, it was not unusual for Dutch women who traveled to England to sport an English broad rim wool hat which was an English fashion then. While Hester doesn't have one in her inventory a number of items are missing. Dutch women usually just wore a cap, but Bermuda straw hats were also popular for keeping off the sun. 

The staal is the word used for the small metal tab that has an impression of the city of origin on it. They were attached to new pieces of fabric. For instance if a piece of cloth had a seal, it means it was the exact length, width, number of warps and even the color tone according to the quality assurance standards of the city. In order for a gray cloth to be standardize one would need either perfectly matched sheep breeds, or dye. 

The 1646 inventory of Aeltje Jans had the following items; "black cloth skirt, half worn, 1 old petticoat of changeable silk". Silk was easily obtainable at fixed prices at the Dutch West Indies store. While changeable silk was not on the West Indies Company store's list, Italian silks were such as tours de Naples. The fix pricing ensured that colonist had access to goods at the cost of goods, plus import cost, plus small profit. It cost more than in the Netherlands, but was still accessible. 

Heavy fabrics are more common during the 1630s and 1640s, and wardrobes with more variety of fabrics during the second half. By the 1650s, wardrobes are well developed with light and heavy fabrics, many colors, and prints are more popular.  

His Petticoat Breeches:

The 1646 inventory taken of the "effects left by Jan Jansen of St. Obyn" in New Amsterdam included; one Spanish cotton petticoat. This petticoat probably belonged to Jansen and were petticoat breeches as he did not have a pair of breeches but did owned a pair of linen onderbroeken which were commonly worn under petticoat coat breeches in the Netherlands. The Spanish cotton is interesting because during the 16th and into the 17th century India was making cotton fabrics for specific markets. The purpose was to cater to the tastes of a specific nation or culture. Fabrics would have scenes, designs or prints favored by their people. There are a couple inventories where there is almost all men's cloths plus a petticoat and no wife or daughter to be found. These are likely the petticoat breeches which are as full and loose as a woman's petticoat. 

"One Spanish cotton petticoat" - 1645 

Doing the numbers:

Cotton and linen petticoats turn up in inventories, however of the 206 petticoats from 1638 to the year 1700, 115 list the fabric. 

Here is a list of the most common, there happens to be many "one offs" too.  

23.2 % - Cotton or Calico 
21.7 % - Silk  
14.5 %   - Laken (a winter only weight fabric) 
11.6 %   - Camelot (medium grade Grossgrain) 
11.6 %   - Serge  
5.8 %     - Stuff 
4.3 %      - Kersey 

These percentages may change as I add in more inventories but it gives reenactors a look at options that were available. If one would like to make a silk petticoat go with a stiffer fabric; cotton should be shirting weight. Laken is a serge that has been "fulled", Serge can be found at Joan Fabrics in the "sporting" section. Look for the fabric that has diagonal lines. They come in cotton (technically did not exist) but the look is good as are the colors. Camelot is made from silk, mohair, or silk-mohair blend if representing a Dutch, Flemish or person from New Netherland or New York. 

Looking to represent a dairy farmer or cheese maker? One can use all these fabrics. The silk petticoat would have been reserved for church and holidays, the Camelot too. Laken is winter ware. And the Serge would have been one's work horse fabric. Kersey is a very reasonable alternative and more affordable for those muddy days. Are you a poor farmer who raised peas and corn? Or selling pancakes out of her home for extra cash? Use serge as your best fabric for church, which is a respectable fabric because even wealthy people keep a serge suit because it is 1) made of Spanish wool 2) very durable and practical which is a trait respected by people of all classes in NY. 


Of 69 Petticoats with the color or descriptor listed from the 1630s to the year 1700:

Number of: 

19   Black 
17  Red 
5   Scarlet  
5   Blue 
4   Green  
4   Colored (blue, green, yellow, gray, brown) 
2   Purple 
1   Gray 
1   White

Not included in the numbers above...There are two cotton petticoats without the color listed, they were likely plain white which was rather cheap and affordable in NN. There are also "colored" petticoats with red or green lining. Striped, brocade, velvet and "farridine" were also present in small numbers. Ferridine, has other spellings, but it is the affordable version of Camelot. Both Farridine and Camelot are made of a mohair and silk blend, but farridine is a plain weave and Camelot is a grosgrain. The petticoats that are black are sometimes lined in a bright color of red, green, blue, etc. when wearing them, a person could wear them with part of the skirt folded up to show off the lining. Interestedly, there are a few petticoats that will say the fabric but not the color but will then list the color of the lining but not the fabric... these are not included in the numbers but I am guessing they were common black. 

Under petticoats:

A 1657 inventory had a "red under petticoat" and a 1685 inventory had "one under petticoat with a body of red bay, one under petticoat scarlet". 


A quick point on homemade fabric. It did exist. There are some men's garments mentioned as being made from homemade fabric as were storage bags and I think one of the slaves were mentioned as having homespun. However, these are usually very very humble inventories. Homespun sometimes shows up in store inventories. The issue is that the fabric available at the store was so affordable, homespun fabric was usually coarse and reserved for other purposes. Knitting yarn is another story. It seems very fine yarn was being made and was popular. I get the impression that women were more likely to be sewing smalls such as handkerchiefs and aprons or knitting rather than sewing large garments. Loose wool, linen, mohair and cotton is sold in stores. Wool cards and wool or linen spinning wheels are common in English and Scottish homes. Looms are rare everywhere. This is not to say that a reenactor should not make fabric for a petticoat; New York tended to have trained people who were specialist. So, if you can do it, you would. Many people had more than one skill or job. 

Walking down the Street:

When walking down the street roughly a third of petticoats will be black with a bright color lining that is folded back to be seen. Another third could be calico, brocade, or have some kind of pattern. The last third would be the greens, blues, and purples. There would be a couple gray and while the inventories do not mention yellow it is in some 17th Century paintings, and turns up in other garments in NY inventories. I would give yellow the go ahead as a petticoat because other women's garments were yellow.. but it would be a Indian mustard cotton or China yellow silk to be in sync with the era. How do I know yellow cotton existed? Because I happen to own a yellow cotton French dressing gown from the 1720s. 

Petticoats are one of those things a sew-a-long is great for. There is so much fabric to make a properly full 17th Century petticoat chatting is a must. Each person can pick a fabric that really means something and can be a topic for conversation with tourist. Let them guess what it is made of, where it was imported from and why the fabric was used rather than a different fabric. Let them know just how small the world was. 

Sorry for no images, In the guide book I am putting together there will be images.