Notes on the Creole costume

The first text cited will be the classic text by R. P. Du Tertre.
The R. P. Du Tertre notes in his “GENERAL HISTORY OF THE ANTILLES”, the first habits:
“luxury is great in the Isles, one is especially very curious about beautiful linen, because most of them do not wear a doublet: they have shirts of Holland canvas, very beautiful, with ties at the collar, which have more than a yard and a half in length. The tops of the breeches are of some fine cloth or some fine serge embroidered with passings of gold or silver, or load with quantity of galands.

The officers are usually very nimble and very curious in bouquets of feathers and harnesses, to which they spare nothing. One does not wear coats there, except when it rains, or when one travels. A certain fellow on this subject seeing a newcomer to the church, with a coat over his shoulders, had him summoned before the Judge, to ask for compensation against him; of his raising of petun, saying that he was going to make her lose, by the winter that he was going to bring to the Isles.

Women enjoy the privilege of their husbands, and they believe that their quality as soldiers deserves to be called Damoiselles. They support the rank quite well with their brauderie, but particularly the wives of the Officers, who are all of colored satin. Hence it is that taffeta or ribbed vestües are one of the good goods, and which has the most flow in the country, because of the prodigious quantity which it takes and I have seen it with as beautiful points of genes as in France. It is true that their vanity and luxury has been greater than it is now; for they used to put on them all that their husbands could earn, and one would have said that they only worked to make the brave: what had given rise to this proverb, that the Isles were the hell of men François, and the paradise of their women …
The condition of the engaged and the slaves is precarious; the garment illustrates this well; if Fr. Du Tertre does not give details on the manner in which these employees are dressed (French brought to the lees by a 3-year contract, during which they owe their time exclusively to their master, who can assign them to a second master without their consent), he describes that of the slaves:
Men have for all their clothes the days of work, only a nasty underpants of large canvas, to cover their nudity, and a cap to the test; and women a skirt or a coat of the same material, which goes down to the ground to a few: but which often does not go to the knees, without a cap, there is nothing else that covers their test.
Both never wear shoes or shoes, their little children, boys and girls, usually go as tight as their hands until the age of four or five; and then we give them a little dress of big canvas, which we leave them until nine or ten years old, after which we dress the boys like their fathers, and the girls like their mothers. On Sundays and festivals, the men have a colored shirt and underpants, with a hat: the women also have a shirt with a skirt of white canvas, or some red or blue serge. And that is all that the Masters are obliged to give them when they maintain them.

Father Du Tertre notes a few lines further that: “women are curious about skirts of beautiful white canvas, which they prefer to all fabrics, which they wear with Sunday clothes necklaces and bracelets from White Embassy four or five rows, with colored ribbons on their hair, their shirts and their skirts.
The men shave their heads in figures, sometimes in the manner of the Religious, but most prefer by bands The Blacks of Angole have a kind of embroidery on the face, breast on the arms and shoulders; and for that it is necessary that one shredded their skin with a lancet or some other instrument, and that one filled the scars with some drug to make them lift “. Beside the colonists, engaged and slaves, let us note them Caribbean, whose naked and beautiful bodies contrast with the newcomers, since the arrival of the Missionaries, they wear a “camisa” sort of thong. Their wives wear a kind of shoe below the knee and ankle, as we can still see today among the Indians met in Saint-Laurent du Maroni, in French Guyana.
With the postage, a new dress appeared, from which probably the Creole costume was born today. According to Lafcadio Hearn, the Das baptismal costume was none other than that of the beautiful freed man: that of certain French regional dresses, but one cannot forget either the dresses with baskets and raised on their skirt, as they wore at Versailles and at Trianon,? and the character of African boubous, whose luster in fabrics, craftsmanship in pleats and the choice of headdresses and gold ornaments can be found in the Creole costume.
It seems that the engravings of the XVII and XVIII centuries are very poor in representation of the Creole port of the Lesser Antilles and do not allow us to define it exactly.
In his book “The clearers and the Little settlers of Martinique in the 17 ‘s. Father Delawarde describes the wearing of hut masters, these small owners from freed workers or artisans, sailors and soldiers freshly installed in the colony, who live like French peasants, close to their helpers, slaves. Social status separates them from slaves but they have a common daily life.

“Wearing a beanie or straw hat, short pants and a flannel vest or even a suit of solid gray fabric imported from Holland, the small cultivator cleared, planted and harvested on the slopes of the hills, at a new pace for him, in a harsh climate where the vegetation is continuous. The tropical night fell too quickly at his will, he would then light a torch of “wooden candle” or other gummy essence and manufacture his petun with his helpers. In press times the day was from 4 to 6 pm ”.
the author notes that “the hut master shared in short the life of his slave, although he displayed his attributes of a free man: a cane, weapons on Sunday, and the glass of wine he drank alone when he could afford it. “
The work reveals to us that “around 1640, black women who were converted and freed, married French people who had all regard for them. Here Delawarde takes its notation from an OLD TRAVEL RELATIONSHIP TO THE FRENCH COLONIES OF THE ANTILLES published by L. P. PH May in 1932 in the July-August issue of the review “TERRE AIR MER”. Text before 1664, it seems, is attributed to Father PACIFIQUE DE PROVINS. With the agricultural regime of the sugar plantations, this state of mind was to disappear around 1670, when the commanders appeared.

At the end of the 17th century, Father Labat, (arrived in Martinique in 1694), noted that the clothing aspect has not changed much since Father du Tertre. Note, however, the appearance of gold jewelry among slaves, which can be explained by the small incomes that they have, not by the gift, but by the exploitation of the small garden and the personal backyard that the masters allow, in order to lighten their maintenance obligations.

“… It is rare that negroes are shod, that is to say that they have stockings and shoes. There are only a few good people, and still in very small numbers, who put on those who serve them as lackeys. All are usually barefoot and have soles that are hard enough to wear shoes. So all their clothes consist of underpants and a gown. But when they dress on Sundays and holidays, the men have a beautiful shirt with narrow underpants of white canvas, on which they wear a candal of some light cloth or light colored fabric. This candal is a kind of very wide skirt, which does not go to the knees and not even completely. It is pleated at the top and has a belt like underpants, with two slits or openings that close with ribbons on the hips, almost as we see in Italy and in France these lackeys that we call runners. They wear on the shirt a small doublet without Basque, which leaves three fingers of space between him and the candal, so that the shirt. who eats, seems more. When they are rich enough to have silver buttons or garnished with a few colored stones, they put them on the wrists and collar of their shirts. Otherwise, they put ribbons on it. They rarely wear ties and bodysuits. When their heads are covered with a hat, they have good looks, they are usually well made. I have never seen in any place in America where I have been any negro who was hunchbacked, lame, blind, ladle or crippled by birth. When they are young, they wear two ear pendants like women; but as soon as they are married, they wear only one.

The inhabitants who want to have their lackeys in training, make them make candles and doublets of color and with the stripes of their livery, with a turban instead of a hat, ear pendants and a silver yoke with their weapons.
Negresses usually wear two skirts when they are in their ceremonial clothes. The one below is colored and the one above is almost always white, fine cotton or muslin. They have a white corset with small basques or the color of their underskirt with a scale of ribbons. They wear pendant earrings of gold or silver, rings, bracelets and necklaces of small, multi-turn, fake pearls, with a cross of gold or silver. The collar of their shirt, the sleeves and the false sleeves are trimmed with lace and their hairstyle is of very white canvas, very fine and with lace. All this must be understood by negroes and negresses who work in particular enough to buy all these things at their expense. Because, except the lackeys, and the chambermaids, the masters have to give them all these clothes and all these adjustments “.

According to these texts we understand that the colonists imposed a European dress, But the sense of adornment, and that of colors this science long acquired from the enhancement of their silhouette, whose travelers were struck in Africa, imposed a transformation, and modeled them, to create the Creole costume that we know.
The hairstyles themselves have rediscovered the learned folds and scaffolding of the headdresses of the West African coast; the gold jewels put their discreet sparkle in the “handkerchiefs” and the calendar “heads”, recalling this runoff of gold which can still be admired today on certain heads of women in Dakar and Saint-Louis.

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