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Fashion Of The Aristocrats in
Colonial New York 1789
The luxury and ostentatious display of riches in the city, according to Brissot de Warville, were great and the inhabitants were followers of the English fashions. He considered the ladies to be especially extravagant in their dress. French fashions also were followed to some extent and were described from time to time in the newspapers for the benefit of New York society. Thus, in the N.Y. Gazette of may 15th 1789 several French costumes were described which may have been adopted by the ladies of the city. One was a plain celestial blue satin gown with a white satin petticoat. There was worn with it, on the neck, a very large Italian gauze handkerchief with satin border stripes. The head-dress with this costume was a pouf of gauze in the form of a globe, the creneaux or headpiece of which was made of white satin having a double wing, in large plaits, and trimmed with a large wreath of artificial roses which fell from the left a the top to the right at the bottom in front, and the reverse behind.
The hair was dressed all over in detached curls, four of which fell on each side of the neck and were relieved behind by a floating chignon. Another costume was a perriot made of gray Indian taffeta with dark stripes of the same color, having two collars, one yellow and the other white, both trimmed with blue silk fringe, and having a reverse trimmed in the same manner. Under the perriot there was worn a yellow corset, or shapes, as it was then called, with large blue cross stripes. Around the bosom of the perriot there was pinned a frill of ribbon or gauze cut in points around the edge. The hat worn with this costume was of white satin, with a broad band and two cockades. The newest costume consisted of a perriot and petticoat of gray striped silk trimmed with gauze cut in points.
A large gauze handkerchief bordered with four satin stripes was worn with it on the neck, and the headdress was a plain gauze cap such as was worn by nuns. Shoes were made of celestial blue satin with rose-colored rosettes. Ladies' muffs were of Siberian wolfskin adorned with a large knot of scarlet ribbon. The French gentlemen, far undress, wore very long blue riding-coats with plain steel buttons, scarlet waistcoats, and yellow kerseymere breeches without embroidery. Their shoes were tied with strings, and above them were worn gaiters of black polished leather reaching nearly to the thigh. They wore very full muslin cravats with the ends tied in a large knot in front, and their muffs were made of bearskin with scarlet knots fastened upon them. The muff was probably not used by gentlemen in New York and they adopted English rather than French fashions. The New York ladies' hats were of such huge dimensions that a newspaper writer in 1789 suggested that a larger size of umbrella should be imported to protect them from the rain.
Another writer also ridiculed the
fashion of appearing to be
dim-sighted and of using what he
called a spy-glass at the theatre.
The materials used for clothing
included wildbores, cordurets,
camblets, moreens, taboreens,
callimancoes, durants, tammies,
shalloons, rattinetts, florentines,
denins, velverets, romalls,
lutestrings, duffils, fearnaughts,
hairbines, osnaburgs, ticklenburgs,
ribdelures, honeycomb thicksetts,
dowlas, amens, casserillias, and
plattillas. The men were more simple
in their habits and still despised
gewgaws, but at table made up for
this simplicity by the use of the
most expensive wines. One class of
men seemed to be particularly
obnoxious to Brissot.