Women Dresses BiogarphySource(google.com.pk)
IntroductionThe Costume Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Behring Center, contains over 30,000 garments and accessories representing the changing appearance of Americans from the 17th century to the present. The collection illustrates many of the social, cultural, technological and economic influences affecting dress made or worn in America.
The women's dress collection is the most requested area of the Collection for exhibition and behind-the-scenes viewing. This site currently shows over 70 of these dresses that have been photographed at various times. We have tried to include detailed physical descriptions and information about the people who wore them. These stories are about women from various parts of the country, in differing economic circumstances.
Not surprisingly given the hot climate Egyptians wore only light clothing. Women wore dresses with shoulder straps. Clothes were made of linen or cotton.
Later in Egyptian history clothes became more elaborate and colourful.
Egyptians wore jewellery. Those who could afford it wore jewellery of gold, silver and precious stones. Poor people wore jewellery made of copper or bronze. Both men and women wore make-up.
Greek women wore rectangles of woollen cloth folded and pinned together with holes for the arms and head. It was tied at the waist. This garment was called a peplos.
Towards the end of the 5th century some Greek women began to wear a long linen tunic called a chiton. Women also wore cloaks called himations. Women wore jewellery like necklaces, bracelets and anklets. Rich women carried parasols to protect them from the sun.
Greek Women did not cut their hair unless they were mourning. It was worn in many different styles.
Roman Women wore long dresses called a stola, dyed different colours. Often they wore a long shawl called a palla.
Ordinary Romans wore clothes of wool or linen but the rich could afford cotton and silk. Roman clothes were held with pins and brooches. Both men and women wore wigs and false teeth.
Women's Clothing in the Middle AgesSaxon women wore a long linen garment with a long tunic over it. They also wore mantles. Both men and women used combs made of bone or antler.
Viking women spun and wove cloth at home and made the families clothes. Women wore a dress like garment called a shift made of linen or wool. Over it they wore a dress open at the sides, held with shoulder straps. In cold weather they wore cloaks or shawls. Clothing was held in place by brooches. Viking women often had their hair plaited or held under a head scarf.
In the 12th and 13th centuries clothes were still quite basic. Women wore a nightie-like linen garment. However they did not wear knickers. They wore a long tunic (to their ankles) and over it another garment, a gown. Women held their dresses with a belt tied around their waists.
In the Middle Ages both sexes wore clothes made of wool but it varied in quality. Wool could be fine and expensive or coarse and cheap. From the mid-14th century laws lay down which materials the different classes could wear, to stop the middle classes dressing 'above themselves'. (Poor people could not afford to wear expensive cloth anyway!). However most people ignored the law and wore what they wished.In the late 14th and 15th centuries clothes became much more elaborate. Fashion in the modern sense began. For the wealthy styles changed rapidly. At that time women wore elaborate hats.
Women's Clothes in the 16th CenturyFor rich Tudors fashion was important and their clothes were very elaborate. For the poor clothes had to be hardwearing and practical. All classes wore wool. However it varied in quality. The rich wore fine quality wool. The poor wore coarse wool.However only the rich could afford cotton and silk. Rich Tudors also embroidered their clothes with silk, gold or silver thread. Rich Tudor women wore silk stockings.
Women wore a kind of petticoat called a smock or shift or chemise made of linen or wool and a wool dress over it. A woman's dress was made of two parts, a bodice or corset like garment and a skirt. Sleeves were held on with laces and could be detached. Workingwomen wore a linen apron.
In the late 16th century many women wore a frame made of whale bone or wood under their dress called a farthingale. If they could not afford a farthingale women wore a padded roll around their waist called a bum roll.
In the 16th century women did not wear knickers. However men sometimes wore linen shorts.
In the 16th century everyone wore hats. Poor women often wore a linen cap called a coif.
In the 16th century buttons were usually for decoration. Clothes were held together with laces or pins. Furs in Tudor times included cat, rabbit, beaver, bear, badger and polecat.
The Tudors used mostly vegetable dyes such as madder for red, woad for blue or walnut for brown. However you have to use a chemical called a mordant to 'fix' the dye. The mordant changed the colour of the dye e.g. a plant called weld was used with alum for yellow but if used with iron or tin it produced shades of green.
The most expensive dyes were bright red, purple and indigo. Poor people often wore brown, yellow or blue. Incidentally in the 16th century scarlet was not a colour it was the name of a fine, expensive wool.
Women who could afford it would hang a container of sweet smelling spices on their belt. This was called a pomander and it disguised the horrid smells in the streets! However it is a myth that in Tudor times people were personally dirty . Most people tired to keep themselves clean (see Historical Myths).
Some women wore wigs. Both Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots wore them. When Mary was beheaded her wig came off.
Women's Clothing in the Americas
Different classes of Aztecs wore different clothes. Upper class Aztecs wore cotton clothes. Ordinary people wore clothes made from maguey plant fibre. (By law only upper class Aztecs could wear cotton. If commoners wore cotton clothes they could be put to death). Aztec Women wore wrap around skirts and tunics with short sleeves. Married women coiled their hair on top of their heads.