Dressing a Colonial Lady

Last Saturday, for the purpose of researching colonial fashion for my Etsy shop, I attended the Revolutionary Reenactment at Old Sturbridge Village.  It is the largest reenactment of its kind in New England, and is just a spectacular event!  I took over 400 pictures that day, and will be sharing them with you in themes over the next few weeks.

Today's theme is "Dressing a Colonial Lady".  I attended a talk on ladies' underpinnings, which was held in this arbor.  It was quite surprising to discover that only three of us in attendance were not reenactors.  The other two left early.  I stayed.  And I asked a gazillion questions.  Such a fascinating subject!

The speaker is showing here how the hem of her metelasse petticoat is bound in a ribbon to protect the edge from wear.

For this time period, a corset would've been called "stays".  Here she is holding "fully-boned" stays.  Each one of those channels in the stays contains boning.

An obliging reenactor removed some of her garments to show her "loosely-boned stays".

Her stays laced in both the front and the back.  They are worn over a shift.  Petticoats are worn over it, followed by her skirt.

This kindly woman discussed sewing with me for quite awhile.  She had a beautiful stomacher that was hand embroidered.  Every colonial woman would've worn 2-4 petticoats, and they were frequently quite colorful, as she demonstrated for me.

In every layer of gown, skirt, and petticoat, there was an opening that allowed a woman to reach through all the layers into her pocket, which was a separate bag that tied round her waist.

I am inspired!


  1. What an amazing learning experience! What beautiful women to share such long lost information....our society benefits from such history.


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