What Did the Pilgrims Wear?

Although the Pilgrims didn’t celebrate Christmas, since they eschewed all holidays except for those decreed by God (Sunday), I thought I would continue with some of my research on how they lived.

The Pilgrims’ (Separatists’) clothing was made of two types of cloth – wool and linen, which they wore year-round. They did not wear black or gray clothing, but clothes of many colors, according to probate records where the color of various clothing items was mentioned. These colors included violet, blue, and green. The color red was also listed; however, the reds that were used in the early 17th century were more of a brick red or a madder red. What was considered black in the early 17th century was very dark greys, greens, and blues and natural black sheep’s wool was also available.

A deep, rich black was considered the opposite of demonstrating piety in the early 17th century. Thus, a true black would not have been worn by Separatists.


If you were a male colonist or a boy old enough to be ‘breeched’, what would you wear? Male children old enough to be ‘breeched’ would wear the same clothing as their fathers:

Felt hat

Linen shirt under

A wool jacket or doublet

Woolen breeches

Wool stockings

Latchet shoes

If you were a Separatist woman or a girl older than five, what would you wear? The same as an adult woman:

Coif on the head

Smock or shift under everything – you would wear this to bed at night so no need to change

Stays – called bodies, designed to give the woman a svelte figure but very uncomfortable


Pockets stitched to a band and knotted around the waist under the skirt

Skirt, also called a petticoat




Knitted woolen stockings

Felt or straw hat

Latchet shoes

I have an authentic costume made by the wardrobe mistress of the Raleigh Little Theater. Even without the stays and petticoats, I sweat profusely in the wool and linen.


The latchet shoe is made of sturdy leather.  Closed latchet shoes were more practical in bad weather. It is thought the open latchet shoes were made to show off rich stockings. These shoes were worn by both men and women. There were holes in the latchet (fastening strap) and in the tongue for laces of leather, cord or ribbon.

Latchet shoes were not fitted for left or right feet but were made ‘straights’ or lasts. Wearers would rotate their shoes from left foot to right to even out the wear.

Work shoes tended to have the “flesh” side of the leather turned out since they didn’t need to be waxed or polished.

I have a pair of latchet shoes. They are very sturdy but hard on the feet, at least until I break them in!



17 thoughts on “What Did the Pilgrims Wear?”

  1. This is fascinating stuff, Noelle. I found it interesting that true black was a color shunned for clothing. And the lachet shoes, not having a left or right, seems so odd. It makes sense that the pilgrims would have shifted them from foot to foot to limit wear (makes me think of rotating tires on my car, LOL). Regarding the clothing, I can’t imagine wearing so many layers in the warm weather. I wonder if anyone every fainted from heat exhaustion!

    Fascinating post. Merry Christmas, my friend!

    1. And a Merry Christmas to you, MC. We are spending this one in Utah with my new granddaughter.
      As for the clothing, I had an authentic costume made for me from wool and linen by the former Wardrobe Mistress of the Raleigh Little Theater. The first time I wore it, I did almost faint from the heat. Then I learned not to wear any layers under the waistcoat and skirt except for the tie on pockets, and it became bearable. I suspect the Pilgrim women did the same except for the shift. I have a warm tan waist coast, dark blue skirt, and a green cloak for winter – along with both a felt hat and a straw hat. I had made a film of me in the various layers which sometime I will post on You Tube! When is you next book coming out?

      1. You definitely need to share that vid when you post it. I would love to see it!

        I released Things Old and Forgotten in October. Next release will likely be summer or fall of 2022. If all goes well I’m hoping for 2 releases in the New Year.

        Enjoy your time in Utah, What a wonderful way to celebrate–with a new granddaughter!

    2. I read Things Old and Forgotten, but haven’t had a minute to write a review. I had to do all the cards and presents and mailings before the beginning of December!

  2. Very interesting. I watched a program about the Amish or is it Hamish and they made their own clothes and shoes and still lived in a traditional style were they decendents of these first pilgrims?

    1. Amish, Charlotte, but their communities are not descended from the Pilgrims. But with millions of people in the US who ARE descended from the Pilgrims (sometimes more than one) I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t a few Amish with Pilgrim ancestors. Thanks so much for your interest!

  3. Most interesting, as always, Noelle. It’s a shame that today the shops don’t toss out the black garments and sell something of colour. The “new vibrant colours of this summer” seem to be black, grey, and white!
    A happy Christmas to you! I shall be singing Noelle, Noelle – but it won’t be the first Noelle!

    1. Thanks, Bruce. I am hoping to get people away from thinking about Pilgrims in black with buckles on their hats and shoes! No, I am not the First Noel, but I do like the song. I do like Bring a Torch (Jeanette Isabella) which I learned in French.
      Merry Christmas to you and the lands down under!

    1. They are incredibly sturdy but not comfortable until they are broken in. I have to do some work on mine – the first thing I did was replace the very heavy sole (not a feature of Pilgrim shoes) with something lighter and less clunky.

  4. as others have said, fascinating. Good to see that those colours were the new black back then. I spent a few years as a trustee of a charity here, the School of Historical Dress which seeks to create authentic originals and works a lot in the US. Jenny Tiramani who runs it is a good friend. They research the ways in which and materials from which clothes were made back in the day. In case you’re interested, I attach a link to their website Why was I a trustee, you may wonder? Legal and financial expertise when they were getting going!! The danger of knowing people from all sorts of walks of life: you end up working for them!!

    1. I had an authentic costume made for me! See my response to Mae Clair, above. The Pilgrim Museum and the Mayflower Society has done a lot of research into the clothing!

  5. petespringerauthor

    What a great topic! It’s fascinating to learn how much clothing from this era was worn for practicality or style. The shoes definitely look like they would be hard on the feet.

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