By Stephanie Kingsley
In 1745, a George Washington of about 14 or 15 years of age wrote a sort of commonplace book he entitled “Forms of Writing.” This book, about 30 folio pages, contained copied receipts and other documents, lines on “True Happiness,” and 110 “Rules of Civility.” These rules reflect what was considered to be polite behavior in society. They date back to the 1590s, when they were written down by French Jesuits, and they were adapted, translated, and published multiple times since then. The young Washington likely copied them down to practice his handwriting. For more on the history of these maxims, click here.
The Papers of George Washington is pleased to present a new tweet and news series, “GW’s Well-bred Wednesdays,” which will be covering these fascinating maxims. Every Wednesday, we will be tweeting one maxim out of Washington’s book, and when a maxim is of particular historical interest, we will be reflecting on that under “Recent News.” Many of the maxims are relevant for today, such as “Sleep not when others Speak”—always good advice. This week’s maxim, “Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out of your Chamber half Drest,” is also applicable to all ages. It may be of interest to many, however, to get a better idea of what exactly was considered “half Drest” in Washington’s day, so we took up the task this week of compiling a list of resources for further reading.
A fascinating array of resources on colonial-era clothing. Here, users can learn about how different social groups dressed and the materials clothing was made of. I particularly recommend “Dressing the Part: an interactive adventure” as an engaging way to learn how different members of society arranged their outfits–fun for all ages!
“Colonial Dress Codes.” Baumgarten, Linda. Colonial Williamsburg Journal (Winter 03-04).
Baumgarten’s article describes how clothing reflected social status in the 18th century using several case studies which draw on contemporary documents describing dress.
“Looking at Eighteenth-Century Clothing”. Baumgarten, Linda. Colonial Williamsburg.
In this article, Baumgarten discusses how 18th-century colonists adapted their clothing according to the occasion. She also includes several comments on appropriateness throughout the article.
About Stephanie Kingsley
This past May, 2014, Stephanie completed her M.A. in English at the University of Virginia. As a graduate student she focused on American literature, textual studies, and learning as much about digital humanities as possible. She served as project manager for the 2013-14 Praxis cohort, rebuilding the Ivanhoe Game, and now works at Rare Book School and the Washington Papers doing bibliographical research and social media.