During Colonial America, there were obvious European influences due to the fact that all of the settlers had just sailed to America from Europe and brought their clothing with them. This period is characterized as the disappearance of ruff around the neckline and hose on men. The settlers clothing were very simple, with basic patterns, cuts and colors they always covered the entire body. Both men and women wore wigs, which were necessities, and sometimes as expensive as the houses they lived in.
A trend among poets and artists to adopt a fashionable pose of melancholia is reflected in fashion, where the characteristic touches are dark colors, open collars and unbuttoned gowns or doublets and a generally disheveled appearance. Males wore linen shirts with deep cuffs and cloaks along with knit stockings and breeches. The shirtsleeves became extremely full and were often paned or slashed to show the voluminous sleeves of the shirt and the chemise beneath.
The women wore long dresses with bright colors along with a hooded cloak. Both men and women started to sport broad lace and linen collars, and women began wearing dresses with higher waistlines. The silhouette was close to the body with tight sleeves and a low pointed waist that slowly stated to broaden. A woman’s dress dropped down to her ankles. Wealthy men and young boys wore a black suit, a hat, and black shoes for Sunday church ceremonies.
Children wore wool or light linen in blue, grey, red, green, yellow, and brown. At home the men would wear tri-corner hats instead of wigs and women were still were bound to corsets through this entire period. It was also common to see people in wooden clogs or some form of painted wooden shoes. Clothing during this period was very uncomfortable and not very glamorous. The photo shown below illustrates a typical colonial outfit with neutral and dark colors, a cape covering the head, a skirt down to the ground with not one bit of skin revealed.
Pilgrims and the Puritans homespun their clothes at first but as the mill towns, such as Lowell, Massachusetts grew and employed thousands of young people, ready made clothing became much more available. The wealthy still had their dressmakers but everyone else could now go to a clothing store for their wearing apparel if they did not need or want to do their own sewing any longer. The more readily available clothing however did not mean that people had more outfits, both men and women still only owned a few outfits.