The German farmers of the 18th century in America were a thrifty, and many were landowners. Wills from the 18th century indicate that they owned more garments, but the garments were made of their own linen and wool homespun. Many short gowns were made of a sturdy linsey-woolsey.
This type of gown was worn for almost 100 years by the less fashion conscious woman. The large quilted patchwork apron could carry many things and left the hands free to spin or knit while walking from place to place. Waste not want not was the rule. A dressmaker in the 1840s stated that perhaps she deserved a new everyday dress. Her one of homespun was not worn out, but she was tired of wearing the same dress for 40 years!
This short gown was reproduced from an original gown. It is of one piece of cloth, which is why the stripes run the opposite direction on the sleeves. The piece cut out from under the arm was added to the flounce at the side. Pleats in the back of the bodice give some shape and a drawstring at the waist allows for expansion. The gown is pinned together in the front with straight pins. Another thrifty use of material were the peasant pleats around the bottom of the petticoat. As the girl grew or the bottom became frayed, a pleat could be let down and the skirt repaired.
A pomander filled with sweet smelling herbs acted like perfume for the thrifty. Pomanders came in many shapes and sizes. Almost every woman had an herb garden, and these herbs were given as gifts. On the frontier of central Pennsylvania, the women were said to have given up everything. Some even wore leather bodices, but would not give up their neckerchief. The one featured here is a “double” stripe (plaid) tied around her shoulders, suggesting that this woman had the means to acquire this more expensive material. Her cap is trimmed with lace. The side lappets may be buttoned under the chin or on top of the head.
Beneath the gown and petticoat, a chemise of white cotton or linen was worn. It has a drawstring around the neck and was made of rectangular pieces of material.
Clogs, which evolved from the wooden shoe, were worn throughout the 18th century by those who could not afford leather shoes. During warm weather, many women went barefoot to save their shoes.
Click photo for detailed views.