In the seventeenth century the main items of clothing for country women were knitted woollen stockings, linen smocks, waistcoats (which could be sleeved or unsleeved), petticoats, aprons, linen caps or coifs and linen neck cloths. Aprons were routinely worn, even when women were not working, and most women would have had two or three aprons with one kept for ‘best’ (e.g. for attending church).

Men wore knitted woollen stockings, linen shirts, doublets and breeches and linen neckerchiefs. Men’s doublets and breeches were frequently made of canvas (a coarse linen) and breeches often had detachable leather linings. They might also have worn a ‘frock’ or a ‘frock coat’ which was a loose, protective, over-garment worn by working men (known as a ’round frock’ in the eighteenth century).

Men and women wore sturdy leather shoes with hobnailed soles. Hats were made of felt, straw or ‘chip’.

Outergarments could be made of linen, woollen or a linen-woollen mix. Much of the cloth worn by the occupants of houses like Pendean and Poplar would have been locally produced. Finer linen called ‘holland’ which was used for head and neck wear and ‘best’ aprons was imported from the low countries.

By the late seventeenth century there was an increasing amount of ready-made clothing available to purchase from Sussex ‘mercers’ or shopkeepers. However, most men and women would have had their woollen outerwear made up by professional tailors. Some linen clothing (e.g. shirts, shifts, head and neckwear) was made at home; some was made by professional seamstresses. There was also a significant second-hand clothing market.


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