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 Historical Scottish Clothing Project
Brereton's Description of Edinburgh Women's Clothing

by Sharon L. Krossa

Last updated 5 Jun 2001  

Sir William Brereton was a Puritan soldier from Cheshire who was in Scotland in 1635-6 and wrote an account of his visit, including a description of the women of Edinburgh.


Unfortunately, at the moment I don't have the details of the original.

Dunbar: The Costume of Scotland

Dunbar, John Telfer. The Costume of Scotland. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1981. Order hardcover from Amazon.com (used) Order paperback from Amazon.com (used)

To put Brereton's observations in context, Dunbar notes that Brereton "remarked that the inhabitants [of Edinburgh] were 'most sluttish, nasty, and slothful people'" (p. 124) and that Brereton "described the ladies as 'only neat and handsome about the feet, which comes to pass by them often washing with their feet.'" (p. 124) (The washing concerned was the washing of clothes.) Dunbar goes on to say "Although the comments which Brereton made about the people of Edinburgh were highly uncomplimentary, he has left us the first extensive account of female costume,which includes some interesting observations on its various distinctions:" (p. 124)

Original English:

"Touching the fashion of the citizens, the women here wear and use upon festival days six or seven several habits and fashions; some for distinction of widows, wives and maids, others apparalled according to their own humour and phantasy. Many wear (especially of the meaner sort) plaids, which is a garment of the same woollen stuff whereof saddlecloths in England are made, which is cast over their heads, and covers their faces on both sides, and would reach almost to the ground, but that they pluck them up, and wear them cast under their arms. Some ancient women and citizens wea satin straight-bodied gowns, short little cloaks with great capes, and a broad boun-grace – a shade in front of the bonnet to protect from the sun – coming over their brows, and going out with a corner behind their heads; and this boun-grace is, as it were, lined with a white stracht cambric suitable unto it. Young maids not married all are bare-headed; some with broad thin shag ruffs, which lie flat to their shoulders, and others with halfbands with wide necks, either much stiffened or set in wire, which comes only behind; and these shag ruffs some are more broad and thick than others." (p. 124)

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