Children's clothing at the time of the American Revolution (sample report)

This page shows a sample research report from Historicalfic: Historical Research for Fiction Writers. Every report is custom-designed to fit the research needs and budget of the writer, so if you don't find the type of report here that you're interested in, just contact Historicalfic to enquire further.

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Children's clothing at the time of the American Revolution

Research requests

Novel's genre: Time travel.

Setting: Mainly Philadelphia. Exact date not yet set, but sometime around the American Revolution.

Author's requests: "I'd like a list of books to consult on what the children in my novel might be wearing. I'm especially interested in any information on the clothing of children in minority groups (African-American, Native American, etc.). I'd like to know where I can find the books, either in libraries or at Amazon or (if they're available that way) as online texts. . . . I have access to research libraries in my local area."

Type of research requested: List of books. Exclude articles in periodicals. Exclude subscription databases unless they're specifically devoted to the topic of clothing.

Researcher's note: Wherever possible, I've included links to online versions or online previews. I've indicated when I've been able to preview the full text through an electronic library. I've included links to WorldCat (sometimes via Open Library), which should show you the nearest research library that owns the books; the books may also be available through your public library system, including by interlibrary loan. In addition, I've linked to Open Library entries. In many states, Open Library lends e-book versions of in-copyright books. If your state participates, you'll just need to sign up for Open Library to borrow these e-books. If you are unable to locate copies of a book I've previewed and would like to hire me to take notes for you, just let me know.

If any of these links break in the future, you can use the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive to try to reach copies of the websites.

Bibliographies and guides

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Costume Design Center Source List (PDF).

Costume and Fashion History: A Guide to Resources. From the New York Public Library.

Historical Boys' Clothing. Too massive a site for me to fail to mention; however, it is put together by enthusiasts and often fails to note sources, so take care.

Recommended Core Bibliography of Textile and Clothing Resources for Academic and Public Libraries (PDF). From the Reference & User Services Quarterly, published by the American Library Association.

Recreation of Revolutionary War Costumes
. A booklist put together by an enthusiast.

Subscription databases

Berg Fashion Library. I have access to this and have listed the relevant books below. The database also includes artwork.

Rose, Clare. Oxford Bibliographies: Children's Clothes and Costume.

Primary sources

Drinker, Elizabeth. The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker. Edited by Elaine Forman Crane. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010 (one-volume abridged edition; reissue). Google Books preview: abridged edition. Amazon preview. Open Library: abridged edition. Previewed full text of the abridged edition. Diary of a Quaker woman living in Philadelphia, from 1758 to 1807. The diary begins when she is fifteen years old. Passing mentions of children's clothing are thoroughly explained in the notes. Various types of clothing appear in the index.

[Eleazor, Moody]. The School of Good Manners: Composed for the Help of Parents, in teaching Their Children how to behave during their Minority. Boston: S. Hall, 1790. Full text online. Includes references to articles of clothing, especially hats.

Fairfax, Sally Cary. "The Plantation Life of a Virginia Girl in the Eighteenth Century." In Sally Cary: A Long Hidden Romance of Washington's Life, by Wilson Miles Cary, 59-65. New York: De Vinne Press, 1916. Full text online. Diary of a twelve-year-old girl from December 1771 to January 1772. Passing references to clothing.

Fuller, Elizabeth. "Diary Kept by Elizabeth Fuller, Daughter of Rev. Timothy Fuller of Princeton." In History of the Town of Princeton, in the County of Worcester and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1759-1915. Vol. 1, Narrative, by Francis Everett Blake, 302-323. Princeton: Town of Princeton, 1915. Full text online. Diary of a girl between ages fourteen and sixteen (1799-1792). Most of the brief entries are about her creation of clothing.

Heath, Elizabeth. "Extracts from the Journals and Letters of Miss Betsey Heath." In The Crafts Family: A Genealogical and Biographical History of the Descendants of Griffin and Alice Craft, of Roxbury, Mass., 1630-1890, by James M. Crafts and William F. Crafts, 693-701. Northampton, MA: Gazette Printing Company, 1893. Full text online. Diary of a young woman in 1783 and 1790-1791 when (according to an online genealogy) she was age thirteen and age twenty-one, as well as later letters. Occasional mention of children's clothes.

Washington, George. Rules of Civility. About the Rules of Civility. Full text online. Copied by Washington when he was sixteen years old. Includes references to clothing and grooming.

Winslow, Anna Green. Diary of Anna Green Winslow: A Boston School Girl of 1771. Edited by Alice Morse Earle. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1894. Full text online. Letters sent by a girl to her mother, between ages twelve and fourteen (1771-1773). The letters include many references to Anna's clothing.

The history of children's clothing

Brooke, Iris. English Children's Costume: 1775-1920. London: A. & C. Black, 1930. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2003 (reissue). Open Library. Amazon preview. Pages 10-14 (shown in the Google Books preview) cover the period between 1775 and 1795. The introduction can also be seen online.

Buck, Anne. Clothes and the Child: A Handbook of Children's Dress in England 1500-1900. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1996. Open Library. Publisher's listing.

Callahan, Colleen R. "Children's Clothing." In The Berg Companion to Fashion, edited by Valerie Steele. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic, 2010. Open Library. Previewed full text. An encyclopedia entry that covers the transitions in children's clothing that took place in the late eighteenth century. 

Callahan, Colleen R. "Children's Dress and Fashion, 1715-1785." In Clothing and Fashion: American Fashion from Head to Toe. Vol. 1. Pre-Colonial Times Through the American Revolution, edited by Jose Blanco, Patricia Kay Hunt-Hurst, Heather Vaughan Lee, and Mary Doering, 54-56. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016. Amazon listing. WorldCat. This encyclopedia entry can be viewed in the Google Books preview.

Collard, Eileen. From Toddler to Teens: An Outline of Children's Clothing Circa 1780 to 1930. Burlington, ON: Collard, 1973. Open Library. Review. Canadian history.

Cunnington, Phillis, and Anne Buck. Children's Costume in England: From the Fourteenth to the End of the Nineteenth Century. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1965. Open Library. Previewed full text. The book includes a chapter on the eighteenth century.

Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Children's Costume. New York: Scribner's, 1977. Open Library.

Murphy, J. J. Children's Handkerchiefs: A Two Hundred Year History. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998. Open Library.

Paoletti, Jo Barraclough. "Children and Adolescents in the United States." In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: The United States and Canada, edited by Phyllis G. Tortora, 208-219. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Publisher listing. Amazon listing. WorldCat. Previewed full text. Includes a passage on colonial children's clothing.

Peacock, John. Children's Costume: The Complete Historical Sourcebook. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2009. Reviews at Goodreads. Open Library. The table of contents includes the chapter "From 'Little adults' to 'children' 1500 BC - AD 1833."

Rose, Clare. Children's Clothes Since 1750. London: Batsford, 1989. Open Library.

Worrell, Estelle Ansley. Children's Costume in America, 1608-1910. New York: Scribner's, 1980. Open Library. Previewed full text. Much of the book concerns the late eighteenth century.

The history of clothing

Ashelford, Jane. The Art of Dress, Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996. Amazon preview. Open Library. The table of contents shows a chapter on English children's clothing.

Baumgarten, Linda. Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1999. Reviews at Goodreads. Amazon listing. WorldCat. From the table of contents, this appears to be mainly about adults; however, the table of contents makes one reference to children.

Baumgarten, Linda. Eighteenth-Century Clothing at Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1986. Amazon listings. WorldCat. Google Books preview shows a few references to children.

Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002. A major source on the history of colonial clothing, mentioned in many bibliographies. Amazon preview. Open Library. Google Books preview shows that it includes a number of references to children's clothes.

Burnston, Sharon A., and George J. Fistrovich. Fitting & Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Texarcana, TX: Scurlock, 2007. Open Library. A review at the Amazon listing says that children's garments are included.

Copeland, Peter F. Working Dress in Colonial and Revolutionary America. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1977. Amazon listing. WorldCat. According to the table of contents, the book includes sections on house servants, indentured servants, and slaves. The author also did a whole series of history-related coloring books, some on Colonial America.

Cunnington, C. Willett, and Phillis Cunnington. The History of Underclothes. London: Michael Joseph, 1951. New York: Dover, 1992 (reissue). Often recommended in clothing bibliographies. One of the chapters covers the period 1711-1790. Open Library. Google Books preview and Amazon preview bring up a few references to children.

DuPlessis, Robert S. The Material Atlantic: Clothing, Commerce, and Colonization in the Atlantic World, 1650-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Google Book preview. Amazon preview. WorldCat. Previewed full text. Includes passages on how European settlers clothed slaves, indentured servants, and native people. Only brief references to children.

Earle, Alice Morse. Costume of Colonial Times. New York: Scribner's, 1894. Full text online. A glossary with introduction. References to children's clothing are scattered throughout the text.

Earle, Alice Morse. Two Centuries of Costume in America. Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1903. Full text online. Vol. 1 includes a chapter on children's clothing. There are other references to children scattered throughout both volumes.

Ewing, Elisabeth. Everyday Dress, 1650-1900. New York: Chelsea House, 1989. Open Library. Previewed full text. A history of the clothing worn by ordinary people in England. There are a few references to girls in the chapter on the eighteenth century.

Ewing, Elizabeth. Fashion in Underwear: From Babylon to Bikinis. London: Batsford, 1971. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2000 (reissue). Open Library. English clothing. Has a chapter covering the period from 1600 to 1790. Google Books preview shows references to children.

Foster, Helen Bradley. "African American Jewellery Before the Civil War." In Beads and Bead Makers: Gender, Material Culture and Meaning, edited by Lidia D. Sciama and Joanne B. Eicher, 177-192. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Women. Oxford: Berg, 1998. Google Books listing. Amazon listing. WorldCat. Previewed full text. Describes the importance of beads to African-American men, women, and children. Passing references to Colonial American children.

Gehret, Ellen J. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing. York, PA: George Shumway, 1976. "Being a Study of the Wearing Apparel of the German and English Inhabitants Both Men and Women who Resided in Southeastern Pennsylvania in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century: Also Including Sewing Instructions and Patterns which are Profusely Illustrated!" Review at Goodreads. Amazon listing. WorldCat.

Gummere, Amelia Mott. The Quaker: A Study in Costume. Philadelphia: Ferris & Leach, 1901. Full text online. Much of the book describes the clothing of Quakers in Pennsylvania in colonial times.

Haulman, Kate. The Politics of Fashion in Eighteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. Previewed full text. Only passing references to children's clothing, but a good deal to say about the political implications of clothing during the Revolutionary War. Parts of the book are devoted to Philadelphia.

Holliday, Carl. Woman's Life in Colonial Days. Boston: Cornhill, 1922. Full text online. The chapter on home life includes references to girls creating clothing. The chapter on dress includes a passage on girls' clothing.

Loren, Diana DiPaolo. Archaeology of Clothing and Bodily Adornment in Colonial America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2010. Open Library. Amazon preview shows some references to children.

MacDonald, Anne. No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. Previewed full text. Includes a chapter on colonial times and a chapter on the Revolutionary War. A number of references to girls.

McClellan, Elizabeth. Historic Dress in America, 1607-1870. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1904. Full text online. One chapter is devoted to children's garments.

Meehan, Norma L., and Jean L. Druesedow. Collection by Design: A Paper Doll History of Costume, 1750-1900. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press, 1999. Review at Foreword Reviews. Amazon preview. Open Library. One of the dolls is a girl.

Paterek, Josephine. The Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. New York: Norton, 1996. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. Previewed full text. Includes a number of references to children's clothing.

Pollock, Linda. Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Amazon preview. WorldCat. The preview shows a few references to Colonial American children's clothing, in relation to attitudes at that time toward childhood.

Rawson, Marion Nicholl. Candle Days: The Story Of Early American Arts And Implements. New York: Century, 1927. Full text online. The unique feature of this book is that the author drew upon oral histories describing generations-old family traditions. Few references to children, but three of the chapters describe the creation of clothing.

Staples, Kathleen A., and Madelyn C. Shaw. Clothing through American History: The British Colonial Period. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2013. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. Previews show that a large portion of the book is given over to the clothing of children, including Native American children and enslaved, indentured, and apprenticed children.

Styles, John. The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. Review at a scholars' e-mail list. Open Library. The review says that the book centers on adult clothing; however, a search within Google Books' snippet view shows that there are a number of references to children.

Styles, John. "Involuntary Consumers? Servants and Their Clothes in Eighteenth-Century England." In Classic and Modern Writings on Fashion. Oxford: Berg, 2009. Previewed full text. Appears to only be available through the Berg Fashion Library (which I have access to, as I mentioned above) or for a hefty price online. Detailed description of the clothes bought by the female servants of an eighteenth-century English manufacturer and landowner. The servants were probably adolescents or young adults.

Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. Survey of Historic Costume. 6th ed. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015. Previewed full text of 5th edition (which was authored by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eubank). Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. This is a standard textbook on costume history. It includes a brief but helpful section on changing attitudes toward children's clothing in the eighteenth century. Part of a lengthy survey of the history of clothing.

Wass, Ann Buermann, and Michelle Webb Fandrich. Clothing through American History: The Federal Era through Antebellum, 1786-1860. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2010. Amazon preview. Open Library. This is the companion to Kathleen A. Staples and Madelyn C. Shaw's volume on the Colonial period. It has equally extensive references to children's clothing.

White, Carolyn L. American Artifacts of Personal Adornment, 1680-1820: A Guide to Identification and Interpretation. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005. Amazon preview. Open Library. The Google Books preview shows a few references to children.

White, Carolyn L. "Single Shoes and Individual Lives: The Mill Creek Shoe Project." In The Materiality of Individuality: Archaeological Studies of Individual Lives, 141-159. New York: Springer-Verlag, 2009. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. Previewed full text. The author briefly describes what a child's shoe of the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century tells us about the wearer.

Wilcox, Ruth Turner. Five Centuries of American Costume. London: Scribner's, 1963. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2004 (reissue). Amazon preview. Open Library. Only one page on eighteenth-century children's costume, available in the Google Books preview.

Worrell, Estelle Ansley. Early American Costume. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1975. Open Library. Previewed full text. Includes a number of passages on children's clothing.

Wright, Merideth. Everyday Dress of Rural America 1783-1800. New York: Dover, 1992. Originally published as Put on Thy Beautiful Garments: Rural New England Clothing 1783-1800. Google Books preview. Open Library. The Amazon preview includes a section called "A Word About Children's Clothing."

Zakim, Michael. Ready-made Democracy: A History of Men's Dress in the American Republic, 1760-1860. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. WorldCat. Neither of the previews show anything about Colonial American boys' clothing, but it's possible there are some references that the keywords aren't hitting.

Colonial American children

Calvert, Karin. Children in the House: The Material Culture of Early Childhood, 1600-1900. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994. Open Library. Examines children's clothing and toys.

Earle, Alice Morse. Child Life in Colonial Days. New York: Macmillan, 1899. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2009 (reissue under the title of Child Life in Colonial Days). Full text online. Includes a chapter on children's clothing.

Greven, Philip J. The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Child-rearing, Religious Experience, and the Self in Early America. New York: Knopf, 1977. Reissued in 2013 as an e-book. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. WorldCat. Previewed full text. The chapters "Regular Methods of Living" and "From Feminine to Masculine" contain long passages about the symbolic and practical importance of children's clothing.

Lombard, Anne S. Making Manhood: Growing Up Male in Colonial New England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. WorldCat. The previews show a few references to children's clothing.

Related topics

Brown, Kathleen M. Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. Amazon preview. WorldCat. Open Library. Parts of the book cover the topic of grooming. Google Books preview shows only brief references to children.

Earle, Alice Morse. Home Life in Colonial Days. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1898. Stockbridge, MA: Berkshire Traveller Press, 1974 (reissue). Full text online. The chapter on colonial clothing includes information on children.

Morgan, Philip. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998. Open Library. Amazon preview. The section on dress in Chapter 2 is detailed and includes brief references to children. The footnotes may lead to further information on enslaved children's clothing.

Smith, Daniel Blake. Inside the Great House: Planter Family Life in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. Open Library. WorldCat. Previewed full text. One page describes how the relatively permissive parenting practices of Chesapeake families were demonstrated through the clothing their children wore.

Spruill, Julia Cherry. Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1938. Google Books preview. Amazon preview. WorldCat. In the chapter on wardrobe, which appears in preview, there is a short passage on girls' apparel.

Watson, John F., and Willis P. Hazard. Annals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, in the Olden Time. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: Edwin S. Stuart, 1884. Full text online. Originally published in 1857, this book drew partly upon the memories of men and women who were alive during the American Revolution. Children's clothing is mentioned a few times in the chapter on apparel.