Colonial Williamsburg Internship Week 3

This week, I have been working on a very special research project in accordance to my sewing project at work. This week starts the subject of millinery (i.e. hat making); in the 18th century the term millinery covered more than just hats. It covered accessory items that one would normally wear day to day, including things that were out of the ordinary and fashionable necessities (like a cane sword or a new pair of stays for example). At first, I wanted to replicate a silk calash that I've seen on sites like Pinterest as well as fashion plates that the milliner shop has available, but something else in the back office caught my eye that really resonated with me.... 

A picture of Jean-Étienne Liotard's Portrait of a Young Woman, painted in the second half of the 18th century. As soon as I saw this portrait, I was inspired not only to replicate her head wrap, but to also look into doing some research on African American/African/Caribbean history through 18th century fashion. This was something I've never done before and became very excited to get started. The first thing I did was do the research: kind of "play" detective and peel back the layers of what made up her headwrap. With the help of my supervisor and my friend Cheyney McKnight (who btw, is an expert in 18th and 19th century headwraps), we were able to decipher that the young lady is wearing 3 head coverings: a light pink underwrap, then the overwrap, and finally the ribbon that she ties into a bow. 

Notice the changes in texture in her head wrap(s)

Recreating the headwrap

I think the bow is my most favorite part

The Tignon

Example of a Creole woman wearing a Tignon

In addition to this part of the research, I also came across an article online called the Louisiana Tignon Laws of 1785, a state law which barred Creole women (free and enslaved) from wearing their hair out. Creole women had to wear their hair in the headscarves called a Tignon. However, women used this to their advantage. Not only did they tie their hair up, they also decorated their Tignons with other bold and colorful fabrics (lightweight linens, and cottons). Below is a great example! 

My favorite actress, Thandie Newton as Evette from Interview with a Vampire, wearing a very bold Tignon


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