The Colorful Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock…

The Colorful Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock…

Think The Founding Pilgrims Were A Dowdy Lot? Think Again.

The Embarkation of the Pilgrims, Robert Walter Weir, 1857

When we think of that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, we conventionally picture the Pilgrims dressed in black and white, with big buckles and steeple hats. Well, it’s time to photoshop that stereotype. Research indicates that the early Pilgrim settlers actually wore a variety of bright solid colors. They had no religious restrictions with regard to colorful attire, and indeed the fabric dyes they used included red, green, burgundy, blue, violet, beige, brown, and yes, black, making for colorful garb even by today’s standards.    

The monochromatic myth of how they dressed is attributable to popular styles in late-17th century England, which 18th and 19th artists drew from in their depictions. It is these depictions of the Pilgrims that have endured to this day. The “traditional” pilgrim look most of us are familiar with hadn’t even entered the fashion scene when Plymouth was founded in 1620. Historical records, including the passenger list of the Mayflower, inventory lists and wills, provide detailed descriptions of Pilgrim clothing, and paint a very different picture. For one thing, they didn’t wear big buckles – not on shoes, hats or belts. Buckles were simply too expensive, which is precisely why they became fashion statements back in England. (Hello Gucci) Plymouth Pilgrims wore affordable leather laces both on their shoes and to fasten their pants.

As for wearing only black and white, that might have been the case Sundays, but the rest of the time, they would’ve made hippies look dull by comparison. One Pilgrim’s will documents the clothing left he to his inheritor: “one blew clothe suit, green drawers, a vilolete clothe coat, black silk stockings, skyblew garters, red grograin suit, red waistcoat, tawny colored suit with silver buttons.” Quite a dandy he would make today.

Gheorghe Tattarescu, Pilgrim, mid-to-late 19th century

Behind the fashions of the Pilgrims, however, is the more significant basis of what they represent. Seeking religious freedom, and settling the second colony of what was to become the United States of America, they set the precedent for what this country is all about, and the colorful people that we are today. For this we can be thankful

Departure of Pilgrims from Delft Haven, Charles Lucy, 1847