(First published April 25, 2014 on my original website.)
Now that my cover for Keeping Secrets is posted and out there, the question is bound to come up in the minds of my future readers. They might retain the thought in their head. They might whisper it behind my back. Or, heaven forbid, they might even access social media behind my back. Gasp!
But the questions will all go something like this – “I thought Donna wrote a book about the Quakers. Then why is the woman on the front of her cover dressed like that? And where is the Quaker bonnet?”
Let me first state that NO ONE in 18th century America wore bonnets. They weren’t the fashion yet. Headwear for women, which was much like Allstate Insurance for they would “never leave home without it,” consisted of either a straw hat, oftentimes tied under the chin with a ribbon, or a mobcap.
“Okay, Donna. That’s fine about her head, but what about her dress? It’s certainly not black. And where’s the large collar? Didnt you do your research?”
Unless you were a Puritan, you didn’t wear black garments or large white collars. The Virginians, and the rest of the colonies for that matter, wore bright colors and fancy fabrics, including silks, satins, and jacquards.
And the Friends, in 18th century Virginia, dressed much like everyone else. Sort of.
“Papa, I want my big boy waistcoat out of this.” Thomas jumped up to touch a bolt of red, shiny damask. He turned sideways to gauge his father’s reaction, then spied some shiny, gold buttons. He reached for them and held them up to his chest. “And I want these buttons.”
“Son, ‘tis a bit bright.”
“I like bright. And red.”
“I will agree to the red fabric in this.” Amon held up a heavy broadcloth which had no shine. “I will not agree to the buttons. Sister Mary can give thee fabric buttons to match?”
It had started as a statement, but ended as a question directed to her. Mary nodded her agreement. While she still didn’t like the idea of the red waistcoat, she wasn’t about to say anything. She was working for Amon. She would sew what he ordered.
Friends did shun excess lace, which oftentimes bordered the neckline of their dress as well as the sleeves of their chemises. Even colonial men wore an inordinate amount of lace on their sleeves and collars. Friends also shunned the satins and silks, preferring more functional fabrics such as linens and broadcloths, and they shunned excess amounts in their shirts and waistcoats. While many of them did prefer dark colors, such as deep burgundies, forest greens, and chocolate browns, not all of them did. They did, generally, avoid bright fabrics, such as reds and pinks. They avoided gold and silver buckles on their shoes and kept their ribbons of a simple fabric and color. Sometimes this devotion to plainness resulted in wearing outfits that were out of “style,” since Friends didn’t believe in buying new clothes to keep up with the latest fashion. That would have been wasteful and a poor use of God’s money. Records of meetings are replete with admonishments to Friends to dress in plainer fashion so as to be more “pleasing to God.”
While later generations of Friends chose to set themselves apart by their clothing, these early generations did not. As a matter of fact, their refusal to serve in the militia, their use of “thees” and “thous,” and their overall simplicity of life set them apart from their colonial counterparts far more than their clothing. All in all, it would have been difficult for the average colonial to distinguish between a Friend or a non-Friend based on their clothing alone.
If you read my previous blog, you know the trouble I had finding appropriate stock photography for my cover. The woman dressed in this outfit was as close as I could come, and since she wore no headcovering, which would have been necessary for historical accuracy, I chose to do a cover from her neck down. That worked well since that is the latest fad in covers.
Lttle Thomas Cayle’s desire for shiny red fabric and shiny gold buttons is indicative of so many Friends at the time. They straddled a world of excess and simplicity, with the average Virginian who drank hard, raced hard, and worked hard on one side and the plain life of the Friends on the other. Training the younger generations to follow in the faith of their parents with outside forces swirling around them was no different than the struggle of parents today to raise our children in the faith.
As for little Thomas, like so many children today, he had a very simple reason for wanting such a fancy outfit.
But you’ll have to read the book to discover what it is.