Block-Printed Italian Gown

But wait …

But wait—are we going to follow English and French fashions? The royal courts and aristocracy set the fashion. We’re trying to be democratic now! How will our new nation build credibility without falling into the patterns of the aristocracy?

Pink Silk Gauze Dress

President Washington wears an American-made woolen suit to his 1789 inauguration, trying to encourage Americans to wear “homespun” fabrics.

Muslin Dress and Yellow Spencer Jacket
Homespun Coat

But our fledgling nation does not have the infrastructure to meet the demand. And why shouldn’t we have nice things? Why shouldn’t we imitate European fashions, adapted to American standards and lives? Didn’t we fight for our pursuit of happiness?

So—what’s a patriotic American to wear?

Use the links below to discover how Americans constructed their fashion identity after the Revolution.

Timeline Gallery Catalogue