Knickerbockers' History of New York

The Dutch Vrouws,
page 4 of 6

Petticoats she had, and waistcoats, bodies and sleeves; but there was also homelier attire, purple and blue aprons, four pairs of pattens, a fur cap instead of love-hoods, and twenty-three caps. She wore the simpler and more universal head-gear,—a close linen or calico cap.

The head covering was of considerable importance in New Amsterdam, as it was in Holland as well as in England at that date. We find that it was also costly. In 1665 Mistress Piertje Jans sold a fine “little ornamental headdress” for fifty-five guilders to the young daughter of Evert Duyckinck. But it seems that Missy bought this “genteel head-clothes” without the knowledge or permission of her parents, and on its arrival at the Duyckinck home Vrouw Duyckinck promptly sent back the emblem of extravagance and disobedience. Summoned to court by the incensed milliner who wished no rejected head-dresses on her hands, and who claimed that the transaction was from the beginning with full cognizance of the parents, Father Duyckinck pronounced the milliner’s bill extortionate; and furthermore said gloomily, with a familiar nineteenth-century phraseology of New York fathers, that “this was no time to be buying and wearing costly head-dresses.” But the court decided in the milliner’s favor.

It is to be deplored that we have no fashion-plates of past centuries to show to us in exact presentment the varying modes worn by New York dames from year to year; that method of fashion-conveying has been adopted but a century. The modes in olden days travelled from country to country, from town to town, in the form of dolls or “babies,” as they were called, wearing miniature model costumes. These dolls were dressed by cutters and tailors in Paris or London, and with various tiny modish garments were sent out on their important mission across the water. In Venice a doll attired in the last fashions —the toilette of the year—was for centuries exhibited on each Ascension Day at the “Merceria” for the edification of noble Venetian dames, who eagerly flocked to the attractive sight. Not less eagerly did American dames flock to provincial mantua-makers and milliners to see the London-dressed babies with their miniature garments. Even in this century, fashions were brought to New York and Philadelphia and Albany through “milliners’boxes” containing dressed dolls.


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