Celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day or Halloween Wearing Colonial Costumes. Buy a Great Colonial Dress and Male, Female and Kids Costumes Online: Colonial Outfits

Ever since Adam and Eve covered themselves in leaves, man has always been fascinated with clothes. Garments not only protect our all-too-human bodies from the natural elements but clothes also allow us to express our individuality, our status in society and our aspirations in life.

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In the case of colonial dress, we are fascinated by them simply because these garments provide us with a look into our history, into how our ancestors lived in the days of old and even a look into the future by looking into the past. And like clothing in the 21st century, the wearing of colonial clothes also depended on many factors, of which the most important are the individual’s social status, the occasion and activity being engaged in and the prevailing climate.

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Social Status

More than in the 21st century, individuals can be distinguished as belonging to either the lower classes of slaves or the upper classes of plantation masters depending on the clothes being worn. This is, of course, in addition to the fact that color of skin was also the basis for social status.

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Thus, the wealthy wore only the finest cloth of suits and gowns made from silk from China and linen from Holland as well as superfine woolen broadcloth. These colonial costumes were embellished with expensive trimmings, buttons and buckles, all of which were almost always imported.

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The commoners and the slaves wore simpler clothing in less luxurious cloths. The accounts from that period included homespun cotton and wool as the staples of clothes for the lower classes. Often, the trimmings were kept to a minimum considering the expensive prices attached to them.

Occasion and Activity

As with modern times, the occasion and activity demanded different degrees of formality. Take note that in colonial times,  and colonial dress and undress had different meanings than what we think of it now. Dress meant formal gowns and suits while undress meant less formal outfits but still the best in the closet in that category.

Also, modesty was more important that comfort when it came to colonial dresses. As such, stays were very important components of the fashionable dress and undress, the absence of which meant you were likely to be called a “loose woman”. There were long, ruffled sleeves to hide the arms while the shortest hemline for gowns was at the ankles – any higher than that and you were in trouble.

Certain activities also demanded specific wear. Thus, riding habits were for rides in the countryside, the Brunswick was for traveling and gowns were for balls and church services. It’s not very different from our times but in so many ways, so much fussier in preparation.


The climate had a great effect on colonial dress. Summertime meant that men had to wear unlined coats and thin waistcoats made from either linen or cotton fabrics while the women also went for the light touch. Of course, no way must a woman be seen in less than her daily gown complete with stays when going out of the house or when meeting with house guests.

The colonial costumes and dress of today and of centuries past may differ in design, style and silhouette but the factors affecting it remain the same. Still, it is a fascinating trip down memory lane when the men and women were more attuned to their fashionista selves.

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18th Century Clothing at Claude Moore Colonial Farm Video

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