pilgrim clothesEveryone knows that the pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 wore all-black clothing with white aprons and collars and big buckles on their shoes.  And the Native Americans they ate with on Thanksgiving wore big feather headdresses.  Duh.  Every picture you ever saw of them proves it!

Only, not.  If you actually visited Plymouth back then (or the Plimoth Plantation Museum today), you’d see people dressed in lots of colors, and shoes that slipped on or laced up.  Check out the photos below, of reenactors in authentic garb.  Info is courtesy of the Plimoth Plantation website.

It actually wasn’t that easy to dye cloth black back in the day, which meant that true black clothing was expensive, and saved for best.  And people tended to have portraits painted while wearing their nicest clothes, which leads to a abundance of paintings of black-clad Pilgrims.  But for every day, dresses and doublets could be made of brown, blue, red, and yellow, as well as undyed grays and whites.

Hatwise, those buckled things were not in vogue.  Men wore knitted wool caps, or wide-brimmed felt hats.  Women wore linen coifs over their pinned-up hair, and felt hats over that for protection from the sun.  Babies wore biggins – hats that covered the head and tied under the chin.  And toddlers learning to walk sometimes wore “puddings” – padded rolls that go around the forehead to protect little noggins from bumps!

Those feathered headdresses and beaded shirts we all picture when we think of Native American were actually worn mostly by Plains tribes – way to the west of the first Thanksgiving.  The Wampanoag tribe (the one the Pilgrims met) dressed differently, in leather breechclouts, skirts, and mantles (a sort of cape fastened at the shoulder and wrapped around the body).  They decorated clothing by painting, or with dyed porcupine quills.  And they decorated their bodies with face paint and tattoos!

With all this in mind, I hope you have a colorful Thanksgiving.  Make sure to eat some venison; they had a lot of that alongside the turkeys at the first one.

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