Knickerbocker's History of New York

The Dutch Vrouws,
page 5 of 6

Mrs. Vanderbilt tells of one much admired fashion-doll of her youth who had a treasured old age as a juvenile goddess.

A leading man of New Amsterdam, a burgomaster, had at the time of his death, near the end of Dutch rule, this plentiful number of substantial garments: a cloth coat with silver buttons, a stuff coat, cloth breeches, a cloth coat with gimp buttons, a black cloth coat, a silk coat, breeches and doublet, a silver cloth breeches and doublet, a velvet waistcoat with silver lace, a buff coat with silk sleeves, three “gross-green” cloaks, several old suits of clothes, linen, hosiery, silver-buckled shoes, an ivory-headed cane, and a hat. One hat may seem very little with so many other garments; but the real beaver hats of those days were so substantial, so well-made, so truly worthy an article of attire, that they could be constantly worn and yet last for years. They were costly; some were worth several pounds apiece.

Gayer masculine garments are told of in other inventories : green silk breeches flowered with silver and gold, silver gauze breeches, yellow fringed gloves, lacquered hats, laced shirts and neck-cloths, and (towards the end of the century, and nearly through the eighteenth century) a vast variety of wigs. For over a hundred years these unnatural abominations, which bore no pretence of resembling the human hair, often in grotesque, clumsy, cumbersome shapes, bearing equally fantastic names, and made of various indifferent and coarse materials, loaded the heads and lightened the pockets of our ancestors. I am glad to note that they were taxed by the government of the province of New York. The barber and wig-maker soon became a very important personage in a community so given over to costly modes of dressing the head. Advertisements in the newspapers show the various kinds of wigs worn in the middle of the eighteenth century. From the “New York Gazette” of May 9, 1737, we learn of a thief’s stealing “one gray Hair Wig, one Horse hair wig not the worse for wearing, one Pale Hair Wig, not worn five times, marked V. S. E., one brown Natural wig, One old wig of goat’s hair put in buckle.” Buckle meant to curl; and derivatively a wig was in buckle when it was rolled on papers for curling. Other advertisements tell of “Perukes, Tets, and Fox-tails after the Genteelest Fashion. Ladies’Tets and wigs in perfect imitation of their own hair.” Other curious notices are of “Orange Butter” for “Gentle-women to comb up their hair with.”


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