Joseph B. (Joseph Barlow) Felt.

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ing fire and water through the Roman empire." We are


informed, that Lncullus, the Roman epicure, had more cloaks
than he ever had dishes on his table. In both of these ex-
cesses, he showed himself a slave of despotic extravagance
in pride and sensuality.

Shaw, whose long residence in the East qualified him to
speak with certainty of Oriental dress, supplies us with sev-
eral facts. After mentioning the hyke^ sometimes of the im-
moderate length of six yards, and fastened up with a girdle,
he remarks on the burnoose. He says that this is like our
cloak, and for the sake of warmth, is worn over the hyke ; is
" strait about the neck, with a cape for a cover to the head,
and wide below." Of such an article of dress in Old Eng-
land, we have the following from Stubbs : " They have
cloaks of white, red, tawney, black, green, yellow, russet,
purple, violet, and infinite other colors ; some of cloth, silk,
velvet, taffata, and such like, whereof some be of the Span-
ish, French, and Dutch fashion ; some short, scarcely reach-
ing to the girdle-stead or waist, some to the knee ; and others,
trailing upon the ground, resemble gowns rather than cloaks ;
then are they guarded with velvet guards, or else faced with
costly lace, either of gold, silver, or at least of silk, three or
four fringes broad, down the back, about the skirts, and every
where else. And of late they use to guard their cloaks round
about the skirts with bugles, and other kind of glass, and
all to shine to the eye. Besides all this, they are so faced,
and withal so lined, that the inner side standeth in almost as
much as the outside ; some have sleeves, other some have
none ; some have hoods to pull over the head, some have none ;
some are hanged with points and tassels of gold and silver or
silk ; some without all this. The day hath been when one
misht have bought him two cloaks for less than now he can
have one of these cloaks made, they have such store of work-
manship bestowed upon them."

Cloaks have been used more or less, by both sexes, ever
since the first peopling of New England. One of the most
fashionable colors of them was formerly red. Those of dif-
ferent names, dates, and persons are found in divers places.
In 1645, we meet with the description of one as light colored,


and in 1654 of another with silver buttons. In his will,
dated 1700, Samuel Wheelwright, of Wells, wrote, " I give
to my son John a suit, cloak, hat, and stafl." In 1728, we
have notice of a light-colored camlet cloak, lined with blue
ratteen. A paper of Boston, in 1741, gives notice of such a
garment, under a foreign name. " A blue roquetaure, with a
velvet cape, was left at Air. Whitefield's lodgings." In 1765,
a red cardinal was lost.

As worn by females, it frequently had a head, and was
often termed a capuchin. So made, it was called a riding
hood. With this appellation it was familiar in the former
stories of childhood. Speaking of it under this denomina-
tion, a lady wrote from Boston to her friend, in 1720, " Rid-
ing hoods are made not only of red, but of any color, for
IVIrs. Hirst had a blue one ; but chiefly light colored for young
folks." Another is described, in 1730, as follows : " A wo-
man's worsted camlet riding hood of grayish color, faced with
crimson colored persian."

Cloaks with heads were generally worn till fifty-five years
ago. They were succeeded by Jersey coats, shawls, and pe-
lisses. The cardinal, so called from its likeness to the cloak
of an ecclesiastical dignitary, was disused in England, for a
long period, from the death of Cardinal Pole, in 1558. It
was revived in our country prior to 1765, and continued till
thirty-five years past.

Such an item of dress, in imitation of those worn by China
mandarins, appeared at the last period, were popular for a
decade of years, but are now seldom seen.

About a quarter of a century since, cloaks resumed their
capes, which, for ten years, were so long, that each of them
and its larger accompaniment were denominated " a cloak
and a half" Twenty years since, those of Scotch plaid
were, in part, made with heads, which are more common
now than they have been for several years immediately pre-
ceding the last.

With regard to such clothing, thtn-e is something far more
gratifying to the philanthropic beholder to meet with com-
fortable garments, as though there was proper precaution

GOWN. 149

against colds and consumptions, than to remember such as
have been worn by females, at dificrent periods, almost alto-
gether unsuited to the inclemency of our winter climate.

Gown. — This has long been used in most nations of the
world. It was a token of respect in the East to put off the
garment which resembles the gown worn by males. The
sublime passages uttered by the Psalmist, and so expressive
of divine immutability, has an allusion to such an article of
dress. " Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth ;
and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall
perish, but thou shalt endure ; yea, all of them shall wax
old like a garment ; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and
they shall be changed ; but thou art the same, and thy years
have no end."

The gown of this class was the io^a virilis of the Romans,
because assumed by their youth when arrived at a particular
age. "Worn by men wiio held offices, it was used, by the
figure of metonomy, for the civil magistrate. In this sense
it was, that Cicero remarked, " Let arms give place to the

The part of dress under consideration was common with
the principal men of our primitive colonists, as it had been
in their native kingdom. Such persons, including divines,
lawyers, doctors, and literary characters, as well as magis-
trates, then having the simple title of Mr., were denominated
gownsmen. This terra was sometimes reproachfully applied,
as a sobriquet, to the individuals to whom it was given by
general consent.

As previously intimated, gowns were among the attire of
the governor and his council. But the same spirit which
shook oft' royal authority, terminated such a use of them.
At the same epoch, they appeared on the judges, and after-
wards on the barristers of our courts. This custom, as to
the judges, seems to have been suspended during a part of
the revolution, but revived soon after. The last time of the
judges being so habited, in Massachusetts, was in 1793, at
the funeral of Governor Hancock, with an exception, as to
similar officials of the United States Court.


150 GOWN.

The following occurrence may not be inapropos to this
topic. Chief Justice Hutchinson, having lost his court and
council gowns by a mob, was called, the next morning after
the event, to sit on the bench. He accordingly complied, in
his every-day suit, and suffered not the necessity of dispens-
ing with a mere mode of dress to keep him from the dis-
charge of his pressing duties.

Gowns have been mostly laid aside by men as a badge
of the literati. The nonconformist clergy have, for the most
part, put them off. They were used more among them in
our larger towns and cities than elsewhere, even proportion-
ally to population.

Such garments for the other sex hold a like standing as to
period of continuance. Stubbs spoke of them as worn in
England. " Some are of silk, grograin, taffata, scarlet, and
of fine cloth of ten, twenty, or forty shillings the yard ; but,
if the whole garment be not of silk or velvet, then the same
must be laid with lace two or three fingers broad, all over the
gown, or else the most part ; or, if it be not so, as lace is not
fine enough, now and then it must be guarded with great
guards of velvet, every guard four or five fingers broad at the
least, and edged with costly lace ; and as these gowns be of
divers colors, so are they of divers fashions; some with
sleeves hanging down to the skirts, trailing on the ground,
and cast over their shoulders ; some have sleeves much
shorter, cut up the arm, drawn out with sundry colors, and
pointed with silk ribbands, and very gallantly tied with love-
knotts ; some have capes, reaching down to the middle of
their backs, faced with velvet, or else with some fine WTOught
taffata, and fringed about very bravely ; and some are plaited
and crested down the back wonderfully, with more knacks
than I can express."

Of one particular sort of gowns, the same author observes,
" Kirtles of silk, velvet, grograin, taffata, satin, or scarlet,
bordered with guards, lace, and fringe." Such garments
were anciently worn by both sexes, but chiefly by females.
They are mentioned in old romances. They are sometimes
laced close to the body, like bodices and stays.


Other gowns were known as long, short, half, straight, loose,
riding, night, tenice, cassock, Turkey, and Spanish. Anciently
some of the gowns were named chatiimer and glaudkin. In
1711, among clothing lost in Boston were changeable, flow-
ered, and striped silk, and black crape gowns, some of which
were called double. An advertisement of 1714, in the same
place, mentions a flowered satin gown, trimmed with silver.

Rayles. — These seem to have been a sort of robe. They
were fashionable in the first period of New England, and
have cpntinued more or less ever since. Among property
stolen in Boston, in 1700, were " callico night-rails with col-
lared necks." As early as 1634, the authorities of Massa-
chusetts prohibited the use of "immoderate great rayles."
In five years afterwards, so hard to hear were the female part
of the community, the same prohibition was repeated. Still
the ladies held to the fashion, as one of the particulars which
Miss Martineau would denominate " rights of women."
Their perseverance, however, was not intended to break the
ice for their introduction to a participation in the strifes and
offices of political life.

In the days of our primitive legislators, the gown for fe-
males was low at the neck, had sleeves above the elbows,
which, as before related, were immoderately large at the
shoulder, and abundantly slashed, as well as the back.
Hence it was that such sleeves were prohibited in Massa-
chusetts in 1634, and the shortness of them similarly frowned
on in 1639, and also in 1675. In the last of these years, our
General Court alike faulted the neck part of gowns, as pre-
viously specified. A portrait of the wife of the second Gov-
ernor Winslow shows a gown low in the neck, with short
and full sleeves.

We cannot complain that our fathers were careless of
what they deemed amiss and even demoralizing. But let
them do what they would, let them admonish and warn as
much as they pleased, some of the people would have their
own way. True, the ladies consented to lengthen their
sleeves so as to reach the elbow, where ruffles made no small
appearance, in conjunction with sleeve buttons of various


colors and materials, and also did without slashes by 1750.
At this period, the sleeves were quite large, and were made
to expand by means of some metallic substance. About
fifty-six years past, they descended to the wrist, and were fit-
ted to the arms. Thus long and close, they received little
quarter at first from industrious housewives, who found them
much in the way of their work, till use rendered them more
convenient. So altered, they were often seen with tidy cuff's,
in families who wisely thought and acted, as though they
felt it to be their duty to be engaged in useful employment,
whether requisite for support, or health, or happiness.

Short sleeves rallied some thirty-six years ago, and held a
stand of five years, and gave up the contest. Not successful
in this direction, they sought a change twenty-four years
since, in their enlargement, chiefly above the elbow. In this
effort they were not foiled. Going on from great to greater,
they reached their fullest size fifteen years ago, when each of
them had cloth enough to measure two yards in circumfer-
ence in its widest part near the shoulder. Since, they have
decreased in appearance, not being expanded with buckram,
for twelve years, and have generally gone under the name of
tight sleeves. While they were like small air balloons, and
often received the sobriquet leg of mutton sleeves, the gowns
were in keeping with them as to dimensions, having, for
common-sized women, from fifteen to twenty-one yards of
silk. Such enlargement appears to equal any thing of the
kind in ancient times. To the next age it will probably be
related as a wonder of the fashionable world.

In England, as late as the sixteenth century, sleeves were
so made as to be put on and taken off from the gown. In-
ventories of persons in high life, at that period, contained the
subsequent items : " Three pair of satin sleeves for women ;
one pair of linen sleeves, paned with gold over the arm,
quilted with black silk, and wrought with flowers between
the panes and at the hands. One pair of sleeves of purple
gold tissue damask wire, each sleeve tied with aglets of
gold. One pair of crimson satin sleeves, four buttons of
gold being set upon each sleeve, and in every button nine

GO^^^^fs. 153

So it was with capes. These, used with gowns, coats,
and cloaks, were made to be removed and replaced at pleas-
ure. Their use seems to have been like the partelet, which
was worn in the reign of Henry VIII. , by both sexes, to cover
the neck and shoulders.

An article accompanying the gown for women, and the
jacket and coat of men, about the same period, was known
as the placard. This is synonymous with stomacher, and
has continued to be fashionable among females, at one time
or another.

For two years, flowing sleeves, with others of a white color
under them, have advanced their claim to preference, and
now have it generally allowed. Whoever looks at them on
the arm of the good housewife, as she hands the viands of
her hospitable board to the guests, cannot resist the conclu-
sion, that however they may receive the smile of fashion,
they cannot escape the frown of convenience and neatness.

With regard to other particulars, we are called to turn
back on the track of time. By 1667, gowns were long and
flowing, set off with liberal flounces and furbelows. This
fashion lasted, more or less, for a century. Speaking of la-
dies' appearance with a trail, Cowley remarked, " They can-
ncrt stir to the next room without a page or two to hold it
up." Fifty-seven years since, trails, or, as sometimes styled,
" sweep streets,''^ were commonly seen from a half to a yard
and a half long, when allowed to have their full course.
They were often troUoped ; that is, were fastened up to each
side by means of loops. Young women did not begin, in
general, to wear them until they were eighteen years old.

While stays abounded in number and length, gowns were
equally long-waisted, and were laced in front. From 1790
till within a quarter of a century, they were of small dimen-
sions, compared with what they had been, and have been

Between the year just expressed and 1753, spangles were
sewed on the best gowns, as well as on ribbons. Such or-
naments gradually disappeared, till few of them were met
with at the beginning of the present century. Till since the


154 GO^vxs.

last period, gowns had an opening on the right, and some-
times, also, on the left, for large pockets, fastened by strings.
These pockets were often loaded with keys, change, keep-
sakes, and other notions. It was seldom the case but that
the children, who were permitted to sound them with their
little hands, found something to delight their eyes, ears, and
taste. Such convenient appendages reappeared twelve years
ago, and ere long resumed their ancient privileges, with the
exception that they have been fitted to gowns, and have not
been accompanied with pin balls and scissors attached to
them, as formerly.

As to low-necked gowns, it may be said with truth, how-
ever ornamental stomachers would frequently supply their
deficiencies, that their reigns have never been peaceful. We
are informed that Isabella of Bavaria, who deceased in 1435,
commenced such a fashion. It reached England, and went
down in the days of Queen Mary. It had resuscitated con-
siderably when our shores began to be settled. It was in full
vogue here prior to 1675. At this date, as before stated, the
legislature of Massachusetts shook a rod at it and command-
ed it to be gone. Still it was not greatly terrified by their
threatened fines and punishments. To the honor of Queen
Anne, when her likeness, as exhibited in bust and on golden
coins of her realm, appeared with drapery, in order to suit
the mode of the day, she ordered both to be altered, and be
reissued with proper covering. Many wayward subjects, in
her kingdom and colonies, declined to comply with her wish,
so decorously intimated. Not till the year of her decease,
in 1714, was there much alteration for the better.

This reform increased and continued a long period. It
was disturbed thirty-seven years since, and its opponent pre-
vailed five years. Then it was again restored by the good
sense of our most influential ladies. It is desirable that such
a triumph might not only be general, as it has been, but also
complete and perpetual. Still there have been signs, that it
has not partaken of all these qualities. Occasionally we
hear of low-necked, though more frequently of high'necked


We are all aware that there are many, among both males
and females, of pure principles and morality, who are back-
ward to conform with a doubtful fashion. With regard to
this, people of such character are apprehensive, lest they
may be deemed odd, if they do not adopt it ; and, therefore,
they consent with no small degree of constraint. But our
motto and practice ought always to be, Principle and pro-
priety before expediency and indecorum.

Though we would not presume to dictate in matters of
this sort, (for there is not much odds on the part of either sex
in the history of dress,) yet, would our mothers and daughters
be as independent of foreign milliners as they are of foreign
governments, and encourage, both by precept and example,
an appropriate beau monde of their own, would it not be an
enterprise worthy of the descendants from ancestors of no
common fame and desert ? As a specimen of the readiness
with which the fashions of Europe have always been adopted
in our country, the following advertisement, of 1733, is pre-
sented : " To be seen at Mrs. Teatts, mantua maker, at the
head of Summer Street, Boston, a baby, dressed after the
newest fashion of mantuas, and night gowns, and every thing
belonging to a dress, lately arrived in Captain White, from
London. Any ladies that desire to see it may either come
or send, and she will be ready to wait on them. If they
come to the house, it is five shillings ; but if she waits on
them, it is seven shillings." About ten years ago, the like-
ness of a full-grown woman was shown at a window in
Washington Street, of the same capital, performing constant
gyrations, so as to show off the fashion of wearing hair, as
well as different articles of attire. They have gradually in-
creased, but still arrest the attention of not a few, as they
pass by them.

Could comfort, propriety, and comeliness be the standard
of all habiliments, without bowing at the shrine of every im-
ported mode, however fantastical or indecorous, it would be
well for the purse, purity, and peace of our population.

Skirts and Small Coats. — These have long been numbered
among the items of female wardi'obes. Stubbs remarked of


the English women in his day, as to the last of these gar-
ments, they have them " of the best cloth and of the finest
die, of scarlet, grogi*ain, taffata, silk, and such like, fringed
about the skirts with silk fringe of changeable color." Both
have had their periods of being richly worked, and formed to
make a consjoicuous appearance. Such was the ton for them
when our grandams largely contributed, with Spartan firm-
ness, and what is more, with Christian principle, to lay the
foundation of our country's privileges and enjoyments.
Some of them, stolen in Boston, in 1711, were of black
crape, changeable, flowered, and plain silk. They have, at
different periods, been accompanied with negligees, sacks,
and aprons. As prevalent in the metropolis of Massachu-
setts, and contained in the schedule of a lady's clothing, in
1765, they were of striped lutestring, English and India pad-
usoy, damask, and brocade.

FANS. 157


Fans, Masks, Veils, Aprons, Hoods, Bonnets, Scarves, Mantle, Mantelet, Muffs,
Tippets, Stays, Corsets, Hoops, Face Painting, Artificial Teeth, Spectacles,
Mourning Dress, Sewing Silk and Thread, Pins, Needles, Hazors, Beards,
Wigs, Hair, and Combs.

Fans. — These, as we are informed, were brought from It-
aly, in the reign of Henry VIIL, into England. They were
scarce in the time of Mary. Though she wore a crown, yet
she obtained by stealth one of these articles from a woman
who dealt in them. She was called to account for this act
by her husband, who was by no means the most affectionate
of partners. It might have been, however, that he, knowing
fans to be used in Italy, for the most part, by women of low
fame, was fearful lest her majesty would sink her dignity
more by displaying one, than promote her comfort.

Coryat saw such articles in that country in 1608, and re-
marked about them, as though they were objects of curiosity
to him.

Though the history given of the fan intimates that its in-
troduction into our fatherland was in the sixteenth century,
still the need of it in warm seasons, and the ease of its man-
ufacture, suggest to us that it would naturally be among
the first inventions for human comfort. It very probably
was used, in some form or other, among the antediluvians.
Layard mentions its representation on Assyrian monuments.

Fans were known by our primitive mothers and daughters.
With them they were nothing near so common as in our day.
Fine ones are advertised, in 1713, in Boston. In 1723, Sam-
uel Browne, merchant of Salem, imported ten dozen of black
and painted bone fans. Described as of gauze, they were
offered for sale in 1739, in the capital of Massachusetts.
Large ones, called " sun fans," of different colors, but chiefly
green, were used to shade the face.



158 MASKS.

So cheaply and readily can they now be obtained, that our
youngest misses could hardly suspect that ever a queen was
denied, in summer's heat, the gratification of its undulating
breezes. It is so convenient to frighten away the buzzing
insect, and cool the sweltering face, that, let its materials and
its thousand adornments be what they may, it bids fair to
liold its place among the appurtenances of daily and occa-
sional dress.

Masks. — Poppffia, the wife of Nero, is said to have been
the inventor of these articles, in order to protect the complex-
ion against wind and sun. But a coffin, lately discovered in
Nineveh, contained the remains of a lady of royal rank, and
a thin mask of gold, which retained the features of her face.
In reference to females of England, Stubbs remarked, " When
they use to ride abroad, they have masks and visors, made
of velvet, wherewith they cover their faces, having holes
made in them against their eyes, whereout they look." Such
coverings came with the emigrants to this country. Plym-
outh colony forbade them, in 1645, to be worn for improper
purposes. Two of them were named, in 1654, among the
chattels of George Burrill, who lived at Lynn. A dozen of
them, made of velvet, were valued, in 1656, at one pound
four shillings. There were imported into Salem, in 1723,
plain and silk masks. In 1737, Catharine Mariott, of Bos-
ton, offered them for sale. The legislature of Massachusetts,
in an act of 1756, forbidding processions, which were so
formed to commemorate the gunpowder treason, mention
some of the persons, so collected, as disguised with visors.

These, as worn formerly by the women of New England,
were of velvet, black for winter, and green for summer, put
on parchment or pasteboard, with apertures for the eyes,
nostrils, and mouth. A means of their being made to look
neatly and kept in place, was to have two large beads, with
strings, for each of them, fitted on each side of the mouth,
and held within the teeth. This was also done by silver

Masks were comfortable for the wearers, who, for a cen-
tury and a half, had few of the present carriages, either

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Online LibraryJoseph B. (Joseph Barlow) FeltThe customs of New England → online text (page 13 of 18)