Gown and Petticoat

Gown and Petticoat

Spitalfields, England, worn in Virginia by Elizabeth Dandrige Aylett Henley, ca. 1750 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) 


Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America . Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002. 

Breen, T. H. "The Meaning of 'Likeness': Portrait-Painting in an Eighteenth-Century Consumer Society," in The Portrait in Eighteenth-Century America. Edited by Ellen G. Miles. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1993. 

Breen, T. H. The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 

Ulrich, Laurel. The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth. New York: Knopf, 2001.


1. Worn by an elite Virginia woman in the mid-18th century, on what occasions might this dress have been worn? What other types of clothing might have been owned by elite Southern women?* 

2. What does this dress reveal about the importance of imported textiles to British colonists? Colonial portraits pay great attention to the clothing worn by sitters. Why? 

3. With the Non-Importation Acts, the wearing of homespun becomes a political statement. Discuss the political implications of clothing and personal items in the years leading up to the Revolution. 

4. Most textiles that survive are elite and were used on special occasions. Discuss the clothing of non-elite women. 

* Use the database “North American Women’s Diaries and Letters” to help you answer this question. http:\\www.Alexanderstreet2.com\NWLDlive\

Gown and Petticoat