Haute History: Pilgrim Style

pilgrim runway style

Did you laugh at the title of this post? I kind of did too when I wrote it. But stay tuned, I may just blow your mind: I dreamt up this post fully intending to 1) find some super fun “pilgrim” inspired buckle shoes, coats, and dresses for the modern girl, and 2) write about how black and white Pilgrim dress reflected the Puritanical standards of the culture. But lo and behold, and surprise surprise — this was not so!

Believe it or not, the black and white dress that we so often conjure up when we talk about Pilgrims was actually not as common as we think. After hunting around online for info about Pilgrim dress, I found out that black clothing was considered extra special, and since many people often had their portraits painted in their best clothes, that’s why you’ll so often see 17th century Pilgrims in all black and white garb. However, it was not easy to dye cloth such a dark color, and even more difficult to make the color last through washings, which meant black clothes were really only for special occasions. Instead, everyday clothes featured a whole spectrum of colors, from brown, to dark red, yellow, and blue. If cloth was not dyed, it was typically gray or white (the natural color). Beyond portraiture, most people would don their black clothing on Sunday — their true “Sunday best”.

Also blowing my mind: that buckles were not really in fashion at the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival to the American continent, and they were also hideously expensive. Good ol’ laces were used to tie shoes, since they were much more affordable (buckles wouldn’t come into fashion in England until much later, as their price meant they were considered a big fashion and wealth statement).

So, how to do a blog roundup of Pilgrim-inspired items that doesn’t predominantly focus on black and white clothing with large, wide collars and items with buckles? You can’t. Because that’s called modern clothing everywhere. So I hope you’ll forgive me for perpetuating the stereotype, but below are a few of my favorite “Pilgrim” style finds. Isn’t this a great Thanksgiving small talk factoid?
pilgrim inspired style


Image and Post Credits: Top image by Daphne Groenfeld for Style.com; runway image within graphic by Karmen Pedaru for Style.com. Info on Pilgrim dress found here and here, with more reading available here.

Shop This Post

Kate Spade Norella crystal-buckle suede flat (also love these in blush) | Mossimo Pilgrim Buckle Belt | Prada Suede Buckled Block-Heel PumpCarven Contrast Collar Tweed Coat | Ted Baker Bow Collar Jersey A-Line Dress | Manolo Blahnik Hangisi Satin Pump


  1. 11.26.13

    Too funny. Very interesting about the black and buckles but makes sense I suppose.

  2. 11.26.13
    dana said:

    love this! you always have the most unique and interesting posts – always worth reading!


  3. 11.26.13

    How interesting! I guess it makes sense that the stereotypical pilgrim look we think of comes from the pictures-which were the most fancy clothes for them-not truly reflective of their everyday “style.”

  4. 11.26.13

    Love the term ‘pilgrim chic’ — and that you did the research to actually find all of this out, so cool! I’m a big fan of the collared, prim look paired with more edgy pieces — perfect combo!

  5. 11.26.13

    Lots of fun! Love all the shoes.

  6. 11.26.13
    Bethany said:

    I did not know that! I love getting a fashion and history lesson in one! :)

  7. 11.26.13
    Chelsea said:

    Truly fascinating – who knew?! I love your selections. I was planning on wearing my Blahniks anyway so it’s nice to know I’ll be themed.

  8. 11.26.13
    Colleen said:

    I love a good shoe buckle. And black and white anything is pretty much my favorite. That’s so weird that they actually wore colorful things. It’s so funny how our perceptions of history are so different from reality.

  9. 11.26.13
    meg said:

    Eeeek! I LOVE those buckle pumps!!!!


  10. 11.26.13
    Nina said:

    Love how you researched pilgrims. And I love your fashion picks even more. ;)

  11. 11.27.13

    I just love when posts feature fab finds with a backstory, rather than a blanket statement, “Here’s a bunch of pretty things I found on the Internet.” Thanks for sharing your research and have a Happy Thanksgiving, Victoria!

  12. 11.27.13
    Sam said:

    Really interesting about the buckles! I love the little A-line dress – absolutely gorgeous!

  13. 11.29.13
    Lisa said:

    Loved this post! I saw a few Pilgrim inspired posts from other bloggers and mags, but really appreciated your more in-depth approach. I am a history junkie and you’re spot on about the pilgrim dress.
    Oh, and I love those Kate Spade buckle flats!

    Thanks for your lovely blog. You seem so authentic and it resonates with this reader (and most certainly many others:)

    • 11.30.13
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Wow, thank you so much for such a kind comment, Lisa! I really, truly appreciate it! :) Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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