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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada





Report H F 16 E

Fortress of Louisbourg



This paper on women's clothes is only the first part of a more comprehensive study on the civil costume at Louisbourg in the 18th century. Its original objective was to find general descriptions of clothes of that period in order to reproduce some of them, but unfortunately such information was not given in the documents consulted. The data collected were mostly taken from records or inventories and sales held after the death of a person. Therefore, this large quantity of accurate and isolated information had to be analyzed and grouped together in order to obtain a general nicture of the period. Using such a procedure to study the costume may allow one to understand some aspects of the economic and social life related to it, but it also had the disadvantage of making the work involved much longer.

The garments discussed here are strictly the ones composing the women's clothing: the fact that a bonnet was included in a woman's inventory was not sufficient to consider it as a woman's garment, because fishermen's trousers and sailor's shirts might also have been listed in the same inventory. Without valuable classification criteria, it was necessary to make a selection which reduced the material analyzed while increasing the accuracy of the study.

The book by Robert-Lionel Séguin was used as a general guideline to divide our material, but the approach we adopted and the way we dealt with it are quite different. On the whole, this report is made up of four sections: clothing, headgear, foot-wear and accessories, which constitute the headings under which the various articles are classified. The information concerning each piece was organized in such a way as to explain: what it was, what was its pattern, fabric, assembly and function, by whom was it worn and to what extent was it a common article of clothing. The documents alone did not provide all the answers; so it was necessary to consult secondary sources, which were used only when the data found in Louisbourg gave us a starting point. Instead of risking general conclusions without knowing if they applied to Louisbourg, we preferred to limit ourselves to hypothesis in many cases.

Consequently, the picture drawn here is incomplete and we realize that much of it has yet to be unveiled, but, in our opinion, the few elements which were clarified reflect precisely what the women's costume was at Louisbourg in the 18th century.