Come to Boston - in Costume!
Celebrating historical milestones is something people have done for millennia. In Scripture, God specifically commanded His people to remember the past, to commemorate what God had done, and to remind their children and grandchildren of victories won and lessons learned. Psalm 78:2-7 says:
I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.
Americans have a long heritage of celebration and commemoration of God’s hand in the foundation and formation of our nation. From the stirring sermons given in the 1830s and 1850s to the throngs crowding churches for memorial services in the 1900s and 1940s, we have a wonderful tradition of remembering the past and teaching it to the next generation. And part of that remembering involved dressing in period attire to portray the men, women, and children of America’s past.
The photograph above shows a group of people dressed in historical costumes covering the Puritans through the Antebellum era. This picture was taken in the 1920s at Thomas Jefferson’s summer home in Forrest, Virginia. (Photo copyright Digital Library and Archives of Norfolk Southern and Virginia Tech. Used with permission.)
There is wonderful film footage from the 1920s and 1930s of costumed ladies visiting with Confederate and Union veterans. Stories survive from the 19th century of costumed events held to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and other memorable milestones. Pattern companies began introducing historical costumes in the 1890s, meeting with such great success that they’ve continued up to this day. For America’s 400th birthday celebration in 2007, celebrants at Jamestown enjoyed dressing up to remember God’s Providence in the lives of our forefathers and foremothers.
Reenacting is a popular hobby today, encouraging thousands of Americans to portray historical events so that future generations will not forget them. But you don’t have to be a reenactor to enjoy dressing in costume for a special event. Vision Forum would like to encourage attendees of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Celebration to dress in period attire to help make this gathering particularly special and noteworthy.
America’s history is very closely tied to the Protestant Reformation begun in the 16th century. The Puritans directly owed their heritage to protestant preachers in England, and thousands of Scottish Covenanters settled in the colonies, bringing with them their love for the Scriptures and their bold belief that that law is king (Lex Rex).
Theologian and historian Lorraine Boettner wrote:
When we come to study the influence of Calvinism as a political force in the history of the United States we come to one of the brightest pages of all Calvinistic history. Calvinism came to America in the Mayflower.... It is estimated that of the 3,000,000 Americans at the time of the American Revolution, 900,000 were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin, 600,000 were Puritan English, and 400,000 were German or Dutch Reformed. In addition to this the Episcopalians had a Calvinistic confession in their Thirty-nine Articles; and many French Huguenots also had come to this western world. Thus we see that about two-thirds of the colonial population had been trained in the school of Calvin. Never in the world’s history had a nation been founded by such people as these. Furthermore these people came to America not primarily for commercial gain or advantage, but because of deep religious convictions.
When British Prime Minister Horace Walpole learned that American colonists had spoken out against taxation without representation, he declared, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it.” Many of America’s founding fathers were brought up on Calvin and Luther and had a biblical view of government. For example, President James Madison, the Father of the US Constitution, was homeschooled by his mother until age 11. After this time, he received the bulk of his education from Scottish Presbyterian Calvinists. First, Madison was tutored for five years by Donald Robertson, a Scot who had been educated at the University of Edinburgh. Later, Madison studied for two years with Reverend Thomas Martin, a 1762 graduate from the College of New Jersey at Princeton. Martin had himself been the pupil of the famous Presbyterian and Great Awakening preacher, Samuel Davies, who served as president for the College of New Jersey from 1759-1761.
Scottish Presbyterian John Witherspoon took the helm of Princeton when Madison enrolled there as a student. Witherspoon was the single most influential minister in America’s founding. His students at Princeton later became 37 judges, (including three US Supreme Court Justices); 10 Cabinet members; 12 Continental Congressmen, 28 U.S. senators, and 49 Congressmen. One student, Aaron Burr, became Vice President. When the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in 1789, 52 of the 188 delegates had studied under Witherspoon. In this sense, John Calvin, and his pupil, Scotsman John Knox, were important “founding fathers” of the United States of America themselves.
So when we come together to celebrate 500 years of Reformation history, we can not only portray great Americans like Patrick Henry, George Washington, and Abigail Adams, but we can reach further back and bring to life John Calvin, Martin Bucer, and Katy Luther. The past 500 years are rich with godly men and women who have shaped the formation of our nation and given us a godly heritage for which we can be thankful.
Men, women, and children joining us in Boston can dress in historical clothing from 1509 to 1809, since we’ll be remembering the reformers and their heirs. Come as Martin and Katy Luther. Come as Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. Come as Calvin or Witherspoon or Knox. A wide array of godly men and women await your attention. With careful research and planning, you can breathe life into these people for a generation that has forgotten its Christian heritage. Be prepared to spark conversations with curious tourists and create opportunities to share your thoughts on the providential hand of God in history!
To help you prepare for an outstanding Fourth of July weekend in Boston, we’ve prepared the information on this page to direct you to resources that will give you the tools to create costumes for yourself or your entire family. We’ve included links to sites that will help you find fabric as well. Pattern designer Jennie Chancey has also offered to help Reformation 500 attendees via e-mail if they need assistance as they work on their outfits. You can reach Mrs. Chancey through the feedback form on her website. Be sure to watch Joshua Phillips’s Everyday News segment on how to create latchet shoes from contemporary shoes. His instructions are appropriate for both men’s and women’s shoes for the 16th and early 17th centuries. Simple ballet flats or Mary Janes will work for the Colonial and late Federal eras for the ladies.
The paintings and photographs on this page will help you see how our ancestors would have dressed for everyday life from 1507 through 1809. They will also give you a good idea of the colors and fabrics used for clothing.
Paintings from the Reformation Era (1509-1599)
Above: (L-R) Martin Luther by Cranach the Elder, Katherina von Bora Luther by Cranach the Elder, and Detail from a painting by Pontormo showing boys’ clothing
Above: (L-R) Portrait of a Lady by Raphael, Pietro Aretino by Titian, and Portrait of a Young Man by Holbein
Above: Peasant Wedding Feast by Pieter Bruegel
Patterns for the 16th Century
Above: All-in-one men’s pattern appropriate for the entire 16th century, and Pattern for early-to-mid-16th-century ladies (Copyright Reconstructing History), plus Medieval Children’s Pattern, appropriate for early Reformation (Copyright Patterns of Time).
Paintings from the 17th Century (Jamestown and Plymouth)
Above: Portrait of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, (attrib. to John de Critz, 1603), Inigo Jones by Sir Anthony van Dyck, and Milkmaid by Jan Vermeer
Above: Lute Player by Gentileschi, and Detail from a Tudor scene by Bermondsey
Patterns for the 17th Century
Above: All-in-one pattern for 1607-1630, and All-in-one pattern for 1607-1630, with breeches that can also be used for Colonial Era ( Copyright Reconstructing History).
Above: Girls’ all-in-one pattern for Jamestown AND Colonial Era, and Boys’ all-in-one pattern for Jamestown through Federal Era. Simply lengthen the breeches to the ankles and pair them with the short jacket for the late Federal Era! (Copyright Fleur des Lyse Patterns)
Paintings from the Colonial Era
Above: (L-R) Portraits of Sarah Edwards, Mrs. John Winthrop by John S. Copley, and Martha Washington
Above: (L-R) Paul Revere by John S. Copley, and Portrait of John Philip Haas by Charles W. Peale
Patterns for the Colonial Era
Above: A Gents’ Shirt that can be worn with breeches from Jamestown pattern (adding the waistcoat will complete the Colonial look!), The Gents’ Waistcoat Pattern, and Ladies’ all-in-one pattern for a Robe a l’Anglaise (Copyright The Recollections of JP Ryan Patterns)
Paintings from the Late Federal Era
Above: Rubens Peal with Geraniums by Rembrandt Peale, and Portrait of a Man by Boilly
Above: Self-portrait by Rolinda Sharples, and Portrait of a Woman by Henri F. Mulard, 1810
Patterns for the Late Federal Era (1790s-1820)
Above: A Girl’s Regency Dress Pattern, The Elegant Lady’s Closet, and A Regency Gown Pattern (Copyright Sense & Sensibility Patterns), plus Gents’ Tailcoat which can be worn with breeches and shirt from patterns above. (Copyright Wingeo Patterns)
What about Fabric?
If you do not have fabric stores in your immediate area, you can shop securely for fabric online at the sites listed below. For all the time periods we’ve discussed here, you want to look for all-natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool. For the Colonial and late Federal Era, ladies’ fashions were often made of printed or embroidered materials. Gents’ clothing in the Colonial Era was quite colorful and much fancier than the sturdy clothing of the Reformation and Jamestown Eras. Late Federal clothing for gents is more tailored and less fussy.
- ReproductionFabrics.com — Hundreds of cotton prints appropriate for the Colonial and late Federal eras for women’s and girls’ dresses
- The Fabric Club — Thousands of fabrics at discount prices
- Fabrics-Store.com — Linen at inexpensive prices and in all colors — perfect for 16th- and 17th-century jackets, skirts, and breeches, as well as Colonial era everyday clothing
- Denver Fabrics — All types of wool