Clothing through American History
The British Colonial Era
by Kathleen A. Staples and Madelyn Shaw
June 2013, 444pp, 7x10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-33593-8
$108, £84, 94€, A148
eBook Available: 978-0-313-08460-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.
This study of clothing during British colonial America examines items worn by the well-to-do as well as the working poor, the enslaved, and Native Americans, reconstructing their wardrobes across social, economic, racial, and geographic boundaries.

Clothing through American History: The British Colonial Era presents, in six chapters, a description of all aspects of dress in British colonial America, including the social and historical background of British America, and covering men’s, women’s, and children’s garments. The book shows how dress reflected and evolved with life in British colonial America as primitive settlements gave way to the growth of towns, cities, and manufacturing of the pre-Industrial Revolution.

Readers will discover that just as in the present day, what people wore in colonial times represented an immediate, visual form of communication that often conveyed information about the real or intended social, economic, legal, ethnic, and religious status of the wearer. The authors have gleaned invaluable information from a wide breadth of primary source materials for all of the colonies: court documents and colonial legislation; diaries, personal journals, and business ledgers; wills and probate inventories; newspaper advertisements; paintings, prints, and drawings; and surviving authentic clothing worn in the colonies.

Kathleen A. Staples is a textile historian and curator specializing in the cultural and technical histories of fabrics and embroidery in early-modern England and colonial America. She has served as curator or historical advisor for exhibitions at The Textile Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, The Charleston Museum, The New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Museum of Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Staples holds a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas, Austin.

Madelyn Shaw is a curator and historian specializing in the exploration of American history and culture through textiles and dress. She has held curatorial and administrative positions at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum, The Textile Museum, and the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).


"The authors, both textile historians and curators, offer an extensively researched and comprehensive guide to a multifaceted period of American history that will serve as a good reference resource for libraries of all types."—Choice, January 1, 2014

"Although it’s written for an academic audience, the readability of the information makes this a good source for high school students as well. . . . Recommended for most public and academic libraries."—Booklist, October 15, 2013

"Uses for this volume are numerous. Students or historians researching the era would obviously be interested, as would those seeking information for a theatrical production or even a reenactment event. The volume would also be useful as a tool to introduce children not only to the clothing itself but to the many individuals and trades necessary to produce and supply it."—ARBA, September 1, 2013
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