Peter Stuyvesant, the Last Dutch Governor

The Dutch Vrouws,
page 2 of 6

Their petticoats of linsey-woolsey were striped with a variety of gorgeous dyes, though I must confess those gallant garments were rather short, scarce reaching below the knee; but then they made up in the number, which generally equalled that of the gentlemen’s small-clothes; and what is still more praiseworthy, they were all of their own manufacture, — of which circumstance, as may well be supposed, they were not a little vain.
“Those were the honest days, in which every woman stayed at home, read the Bible, and wore pockets, — ay, and that, too, of a goodly size, fashioned with patchwork into many curious devices, and ostentatiously worn on the outside. These, in fact, were convenient receptacles where all good housewives carefully stored away such things as they wished to have at hand; by which means they often came to be incredibly crammed.
“Besides these notable pockets, they likewise wore scissors and pincushions suspended from their girdles by red ribbons, or, among the more opulent and showy classes, by a brass and even silver chains, indubitable tokens of thrifty housewives and industrious spinsters. I cannot say much in vindication of the shortness of the petticoats; it doubtless was introduced for the purpose of giving the stockings a chance to be seen, which were generally of blue worsted, with magnificent red clocks; or perhaps to display a well-turned ankle and a neat though serviceable foot, set off by a high-heeled leathern shoe, with a large and splendid silver buckle.
“There was a secret charm in those petticoats, which no doubt entered into the consideration of the prudent gallants. The wardrobe of a lady was in those days her only fortune; and she who had a good stock of petticoats and stockings was as absolutely an heiress as is a Kamtschatka damsel with a store of bear-skins, or a Lapland belle with plenty of reindeer.”

A Boston lady, Madam Knights, visiting New York in 1704, wrote:—

“The English go very fashionable in their dress. But the Dutch, especially the middling sort, differ from our women, in their habitt go loose, wear French muches wch are like a Capp and headband in one, leaving their ears bare, which are sett out with jewells of a large size and many in number; and their fingers hoop’t with rings, some with large stones in them of many Coullers, as were their pendants in their ears, which you should see very old women wear as well as Young.”

This really gives a very good picture of the vrouws; “loose in their habit,” wearing sacques and loose gowns, not laced in with pointed waists as were the English and Boston women; with the ornamental head-dress, and the gay display of stoned earrings and rings, which was also not the usual wear of New England women, who generally owned only a few funeral rings.


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