Friday, December 13, 2013

Colonists not to wear gold

gold trim not allowed
The first Assembly which convened in Virginia emphasized that the settlers wear simple outfits. Mr Pory, in testify before it, stressed that the simplicity of the outfits was not followed, even by persons in the lower ranks of life in the Colony. "Our cow-keeper in Jamestown," he wrote, "on Sundays goes accoutred in fresh flaming silk, and the wife of one in England that had professed the black art, not of a scholar but of a collier of Croyden, wears her rough beaver hat with a fair pearl hat-band and wears her rough beaver hat with a fair pearl hat-band and a silken suit thereto correspondent." The regulation passed in the Assembly in 1619 provided that every person should, if unmarried, be assessed according to his apparel, and if married, according to the clothing belonging to himself and the members of his family. The object of this was to discourage any disposition to show extravagence in dress. It was thought that, owing to the state of the Colony, that the settlers' means should be husbanded after the adoption of the regulation to assure them the absolute necessities of life. In 1629, Thomas Warnet, a prominent merchant in Jamestown, died, and in his will bequeathed to different persons many articles of showy clothing, among them a coif, a cross-cloth of wrought gold, a pair of silk stockings, a pair of black hose, a pair of red slippers,, a sea-green scalf edged with gold lace, six dozen buttons of silk and thread, a felt hat, a black beaver hat, a Polish fur cap, a doublet of black camlet, a vest, a sword, and a gold belt. In the 1621 proposal of the Assembly, it enjoined to allow only members of the Council and heads of Hundreds to wear gold in their clothes. So it was that Virginians carried out the traditions of England, a proper dress according to one's station in life.

Source: Letter of Pory, Neill's Virginia Vetusta, p. 111; New England Historical and Genealogical Register, April 1884, p. 197; Randolph MSS, vol. III, p. 161.

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