The Colonial Wardrobe.
THE Dutch goodwife worked hard from early morn till sunset. She worked in restricted ways, she had few recreations and pleasures and altogether little variety in her life; but she possessed what doubtless proved to her in that day, as it would to any woman in this day, a source of just satisfaction, a soothing to the spirit, a staying of melancholy, a moral support second only to the solace of religion, —namely, a large quantity of very good clothes, which were substantial, cheerful, and suitable, if not elegant.
The Dutch never dressed “in a plaine habbit according to the maner of a poore wildernesse people,” as the Connecticut colonists wrote of themselves to Charles II.; nor were they weary wanderers in a wilderness as were Connecticut folk.
I have not found among the statutes of New Netherland any sumptuary laws such as were passed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia, to restrain and attempt to prohibit luxury and extravagance in dress. Nor have I discovered in the court-records any evidences of magisterial reproof of finery; there is, on the contrary, much indirect proof of encouragement to “dress orderly and well according to the fashion and the time.” Of course the Dutch had no Puritanical dread of over-rich garments; and we must also never forget New Netherland was not under the control of a government nor of a religious band, but of a trading-company.
The ordinary dress of the fair dames and damsels of New Amsterdam has been vividly described by Diedrich Knickerbocker; and even with the additional light upon their wardrobe thrown by the lists contained in colonial inventories, I still think his description of their every-day dress exceedingly good for one given by a man. He writes:
Their hair, untortured by the abominations of art, was scrupulously pomatumed back from their foreheads with a candle, and covered with a little cap of quilted calico, which fitted exactly to their heads.