Building an 18th Century Wardrobe: Dorothy Hancock

With the recent opening of two new exhibitions at the Old State House - The Council Chamber, 1764 and Revolutionary Characters - a variety of 18th century artifacts have moved into the spotlight, including examples of imported textiles and accessories.

1887.0093 A-B
The purchasing and selling of imported goods became a contentious matter in the 1760s when boycotts were encouraged to urge the repeal of various taxes. In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, Bostonians understood the implications of dealing in British trade, from selling sundries to wearing imported fabric. Style-wise, wearing imported items such as London-made shoes and Chinese silk was de rigueur and exemplified a refined urban look often difficult to procure from artisans in a provincial colony. To the left are a pair of shoes from our collection that features embroidery and a cut out design on the vamp, which became increasingly popular in the 1790s.

Detail of 1887.0093 A-B
Some of these luxury items have fallen into my care at the Bostonian Society, namely elements of Dorothy Hancock’s closet. At a time when buying local was a patriotic virtue, Dorothy Hancock owned imported garments that exemplified the latest in European fashion. In the late 18th century, she purchased some Bragg and Luckin shoes in an enviable London style made specifically for export.  As you can see in the label affixed to the foot-bed of the shoes, they indicate that they were made specifically for export to the colonies.

Stay tuned for future posts with more from Dorothy's closet . . .

By Tricia Gilrein, Collections Manager and Exhibits Coordinator