Thanksgiving.. Being a foreigner, I don’t have much to say about it, besides that I do like the turkey. So I decided to take this post into a different direction. Let’s talk about fashion…

If I would ask you to explain me the Pilgrims outfit, your answer would come up as something like this right?

Pilgrim’s costumes are generally associated with dark and somber clothes, large white collars and cuffs, and bucket shoes and hats. But that wasn’t true. Pilgrims costumes actually followed fashion in vogue in Europe during the 17th century (or to the biggest extent, a simplified version of it). Something like this..

(Courtesy of http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/)

Let’s start from the bottom – shoes! I was asked a question last year on a Thanksgiving trivia game, regarding pilgrims shoes. I don’t remember the exact q&a but, in any case, pilgrims shoes didn’t have buckles. Neither did their hats! Buckles weren’t fashionable in the beginning of the 17th century in Europe. And later on, when they started to be, only the wealthiest of the pilgrims would probably be able to afford them. However, most of the paintings depicting the Pilgrims arrival to North America were done later in the century, so they would just show the costumes as it was fashionable by then.

So leave your buckle heels at home this year!


Pilgrim Shoe, by Roger Vivier, 1950s

Also, the pilgrims didn’t wear only black and white. In fact, pure black textiles in the 17th century was very difficult to achieve, since synthetic dyes weren’t even a dream yet. So, actually, pilgrims clothes, as the north american indians’ ones, would have had natural wool and cotton colors or been dyed with natural dyes. Think browns, golden yellows, blues, reds and beiges.. The dark or black garments would be reserved for special occasions and worship on Sundays.

Something like this 19th century painting..

“Pilgrims going to church”, (1867) by George Henry Boughton, New York Public Library

Also, amongst the passengers of the Mayflower there were wool carders, tailors and seamstress, and shoe and hat makers. With all these resources, one can think that even if simple, the North American Pilgrim’s clothing could be at least creative.

Amongst the Wampanoag there’s probably even more wrong preconceived ideas. For instance, no long feathered headdresses or living in teepees.

The basic Wampanoag clothing for men, women and children was the breechcloth. Breechcloths were made from soft deerskin and worn between the legs with each end tucked under a belt, hanging down as flaps in the front and back. Women would also wear skirts. The deerskin mantle was another garment worn by both men and women. It fastened at one shoulder and was wrapped about the body in various ways, often tied at the waist with a woven belt. The women were the responsible for tanning the skin and sewing it into a garment. (http://www.plimoth.org/)

“The First Thanksgiving” (1915), by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris (American painter, 1863-1930)

Although they would normally walk barefoot, they would also wear Moccasinash made of deer, elk and moose skin on the feet in cold weather or rough terrain. The word moccasin is a Wampanoag word for a single shoe. The correct word for a pair is moccasinash.  (http://www.plimoth.org/)

In the absence of good photo or illustration of the moccasins, I leave you with a lovely Wampanoag  twined, braided and hand-dyed bag:

Bag, 1980-1984

(Courtesy of the National Museum of American Indian)

Textile Arts Center will be off until Sunday, enjoying the deserved holiday. We wish to you all a very fashionable Thanksgiving, spent amongst loved ones.

See you next Monday!

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