Independence Day Fashion (1776 that is!)

I hope everyone is having a delightful Fourth of July! I’m so excited to get a day off to work on projects. In honor of the holiday, I thought I would give a glimpse of what people were wearing around the time of the original Independence Day, July 4th, 1776.

These sketches are all of European fashions because, at the time that America declared its independence, it didn’t really have its own fashions. The fashionable men and women were imitating the Europeans. (Some fashion historians argue that it wasn’t until after WWI that Americans stopped slavishly imitating European fashion!).

From What People Wore by Douglas Gorsline: French Men from 1775. You’ll notice that their hair isn’t elaborate and obviously wigs. It was around this time that it became fashionable for men to wear their own hair tied at the nape of their neck and powdered as if it was a wig, with even the powdering disappearing from favor by the end of the century.

And a glimpse at what their accessories would have been. Take note of the “cocked hat”, also known as a tricorne. I think when most people picture our founding fathers, it’s with these hats on their heads!

From Costume 1066-1966 by John Peacock (that I just bought), a glimpse at women 1770-1780. Hoops were large, and wigs were obvious, but neither were as extreme as earlier in the century. You’ll notice lots of lace. All of these examples could be called polonaise, meaning the overskirt is drawn back and puffed to reveal petticoats and underskirts.

The male silhouette was fairly fitted, with fitted breaches, sleeves, and coats, the coats often being cut away at the front.

From The Chronicle of Western Fashion by John Peacock.  You’ll notice the sleeves ending at the elbow with ruffles of lace or muslin under-sleeves called engageants.