As James Baker, noted Pilgrim historian, points out in his recent article in the Mayflower Journal, there is a major image problem associated with what clothing and apparel the Pilgrims wore. The image of black clothing, buckles and blunderbusses persist in the public mind. To overcome this misperception and to assist in this effort to change public perceptions, the donning of appropriate garments representing what the Pilgrims actually wore is a major objective for the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower. We the Mayflower descendants need to Dress Like a Pilgrim and wear Pilgrim Appropriate Apparel (PAA).
So, what did Pilgrim men and women wear?
The basic apparel for Pilgrim men would have consisted of a doublet, breeches, shirt, stockings, latchet shoes, and a hat (brimmed, flat, or a Monmouth cap).
The basic apparel for Pilgrim women would have consisted of a shift or chemise, a bodice/waistcoat/jacket, petticoat or skirt, stockings, latchet shoes, and coif or cap. Women also wore brimmed hats, the same as men.
In 17th Century England and in the Netherlands, there were two basic fabrics that were used for clothing: wool and linen. There was combination of wool and linen known as fustian corduroy that was also used; however, finding this fabric today is almost impossible. Cotton, while available, was very rare and very expensive in the early 17th century and would not have been used by the Pilgrims.
We know that the Pilgrims wore a variety of colors in their clothing from probate records where the color of various clothing items were mentioned, including the colors violet, blue, green, yellow, brown and gray.1,1 The color red was also listed. However, the reds that were used in the early 17th century were more of a brick red or a matter red, which is a little more orange in nature than modern reds. Thus, bright red, scarlet or crimson should be avoided. Black was a difficult color to obtain in the early 17th century and was very expensive, and thus would not have worn by our Pilgrim ancestors.
The GSMD has launched an initiative to assist members in their efforts to participate in living history and to start to Dress Like a Pilgrim.
Dress Like a Pilgrim Procurement Guide
To assist members who wish to Dress Like a Pilgrim, a procurement guide has been prepared by the Mayflower Guard for those individuals who are considering becoming part of living history programs and activities of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants or of their individual partners societies. The information in this guide is based on research and interaction with reenactor group such as the New Plimmoth Gard. We have identified vendors where you can purchase period appropriate gear at reasonable prices. Each of these vendors have been used to purchase Pilgrim Appropriate Apparel by members of the Mayflower Guard. The guide will be updated periodically as new vendors are added and additional resources identified.