Colonial Dress

During colonial times, men and women dressed a lot differently than they do today.  Their clothes were sometimes considered to be very uncomfortable because they were very hot and very heavy for them to wear.

Men’s Colonial Dress

Men would wear clothing based on how much money he had.  Most men would wear the following items in their wardrobe:

  • Stockings
  • Breeches
  • Waistcoat
  • Coat
  • Cravat
  • Tricorne Hat
  • Shirt


The shirt was an article of clothing that the man would wear that was very long and almost looked like a nightgown.  This shirt would be considered underwear and was made of linen that was white.

Tricorne Hat

The Tricorne Hat was a hat that was flat looking on the top and was usually made of black cloth.  This was usually made by a tradesman.

The hat was folded on three different sides so that it was easy for the man to carry.


The cravat was a long strip of cotton that was usually white, and the man would wrap it around his neck and then tie it in the front.  This was a popular piece of clothing and was similar to a bow tie but was only tied int eh front.  Men wore these that were in the meddling and the gentry class.


The coat was worn over the inner coat or the waistcoat.  This coat was long and heavy, and even though some were long, and some were short, most of them fit close to the body and were very heavy.

A coat could be long, way past the knees or shorter, and cut off at the waist.


A waistcoat was what was worn over the shirt.  This was like a vest, and it was made of different materials such as cotton, linen, wool, or even silk.

The waistcoat was made depending on what the man like.  It could be decorated or plain.  Some of the waistcoats had embroidery on them, and some even had lace and tassels.


The breeches were the pants, and these were short and were only down to the knees.


The stockings were like socks that covered the rest of the leg, all the way up to the knees.  They were made of cotton and were white.


The men would wear shoes that were made of leather and had buckles on them.  One of the biggest jobs and trades that a person could have was to be a blacksmith, and this was because shoes were so important to the people of colonial times.


Most of the meddling class and the gentry class would wear wigs that were powdered.  The powder was made to make the hair white.


Slaves were not given clothing that was nice as the men of the colonial times.  Most of the times, the slaves were required to wear the color blue so that people would know that they were a slave.


The Puritans would wear clothes that were simple and were usually black in color.  They did not wear wigs as the other men wore.

Women’s Colonial Dress

Most of the clothing that the women wore was made out of cotton, wool, or linen, but some of the women that were richer would wear clothing that was lighter or made of silk.

Dress and Undress

Clothing that was considered formal was the dress clothing.  Women that wore dress clothes would wear clothing that was very decorated.  Most of the time, they would wear these types of clothing to church and other special gatherings.

Clothing that was everyday clothing was called undress clothing.  These things were just regular clothes that they wore to their jobs and at home.

Some of the clothing that women wore included:

  • Shift
  • Stay
  • Stockings
  • Petticoats
  • Gowns
  • Shoes
  • Sleeve Ruffles
  • Muffs
  • Mittens
  • Cloaks
  • Aprons
  • Caps
  • Hats
  • Mob Caps


The shift was the underwear that was worn by women.  This was usually made from linen and was like a short dress all the way down to their knees.  This was typically white.


The stay was a metal or wood material that was worn over the shift.  This allowed the dress to stay down and the women to have good posture.


The long socks were called stockings, and they covered the feet and all the way to the knees.  These were made of linen or wool.


A petticoat was a long skirt that was worn under the gown.  This was worn to keep the women warm and would have many layers.  Some of the dresses were open, and the petticoat would be seen.


The gown was made of wool, linen, cotton, and sometimes silk.  This was worn over the stay and the petticoat.  The gown sometimes had an opening in the front, and the petticoat was seen.

Gowns were usually made to work in, and the richer women usually had a lot of gowns that were covered in lace or decorations and made out of silk.


The women’s shoes were different and made of cloth, leather, or even silk.  Some shoes had a heel, and some didn’t.

Sleeve Ruffles

A sleeve ruffle was attached to the sleeves to make the dress fancier.


Muffs were put over the ladies’ hands to keep them warm in the winter and were made of fur or feathers.


A cloak was worn when it was very cold and would only go around the neck and shoulders.  It was very heavy.


Many women in the colonial times wore an apron made of linen to keep them clean while they worked.


Women wore a cap made out of linen; it was used to keep her hair from getting dirty.


Women would wear hats that were decorated or made of silk or straw to keep them from getting burnt by the sun.

Mob Cap

A mob cap was a larger hat that covered the head and part of the face.  It was what we would now call a bonnet.

Facts About Colonial Dress:

  • When it was cold out, men would wear a cloak that was made of heavy wool.
  • Banyan was a housecoat that men would wear over their shirts while they were at home.
  • Some men wore trousers that were not short pants but were down to the ankles.
  • Men would sometimes stuff their clothing with horsehair so that their shoulders and thighs would look thicker.
  • Wigs were made of real hair from horses or people.
  • Most women wore their hair long and would pull it up under the cap or hat while they worked.
  • Girls would dress like women when they reached the age of 5 years old.
  • Women that were rich would sometimes wear shoes with the sole made out of paper.
  • Puritan women did not wear jewelry.
  • Many rich women loved to wear pearls and hairpins.
  • Hoop skirts were an important kind of skirt that was worn under a gown to give the gown a bell shape.

What Did You Learn?

Did the people of the colonial times dress like we do today?
No!  The people of the colonial times were clothing different than we wore today.

What is one piece of man’s clothing that was different?
One piece of man’s clothing that was different was the breeches.  Men usually do not wear pants that stop at their knees.

What color did slaves wear?
Slaves wore the color blue.

What did women wear?
Most women wore dresses with different layers under them.

Were shoes important?
Yes!  Shoes were very important, and that is why being a blacksmith was an important trade.