Image is Everything: 18th-Century Fashion and the Lees

Fashion crossed the Atlantic as fast as the ships could travel. The Lees, like many others in colonial Virginia, enjoyed and looked forward to the latest styles in clothing and fabrics.

By 1750 the consumer revolution had brought about cheaper copies of fashionable styles, allowing members of all classes to partake in fashionable dress. With this, fashion began to represent an expression of individuality. The constant change in dress mirrored political and social ideals of the time.

Thomas Gainsborough, The Morning Walk (Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. William Hallett), 1785

The clothing that people wore in the past has the ability to fascinate and involve us as few objects of their material culture do. These changing fashions are “mirrors” into the values of another time. By noting the fashion of the time we better understand a daily routine, a rhythm of a daily lives, which is seldom revealed in the written records.

For over a year, members of the George Washington Young Friends (GWYFs) have worked on recreating the clothing of the later 18th and early 19th centuries. Significant to this is the reproduction of the clothing worn by Thomas and Hannah Lee as seen in their portraits found in the Hall of the Great House.

Be sure to plan to attend this memorable program on May 10 at 9:30 AM in the duPont Library.