Spanish Colonial Costumes: A Guide for Living History Volunteers
The men and women of the Tucson Presidio wore clothing that identified their class and their occupation. Their clothes were similar to those that would have been found in the colonies back east, which was now in the process of splitting from Great Britain. But there were differences in clothing for both men and wo men. The Spanish colonial civilians and soldiers tended to wear brighter colors and enjoyed almost excessive use of ribbon and silver or gold braid. One inspector of the Tubac Presidio noted that though in rags, their clothing was decorated with galloon (silver lace).
A woman generally had three suits of clothes. She worked in the fields in patched older clothing, often ragged. But once back in the presidio or pueblo she would change into her day clothes. She then had a third costume, a dress, possibly with prints and decorated with silk scarves. The dress, the only “fancy” apparel she had, was altered with ribbon as necessitated by age and time.
In the American colonies to the east women wore mob caps and bonnets. Spanish Colonial women were universal in their use of the rebozo, a rectangular shawl worn over the head for modesty and protection from the weather. The rebozo might be made of wool, cotton or linen, but mainly she prided herself on a rebozo of silk, brightly colored and often with prints. Hats were rarely worn by wo men by women, except when traveling. Records indicate that the traveling hat was usually nothing more than a soldier’s flat crowned black hat.
The basic costume of a woman was a simple chemise of linen, cotton or wool, and almost always white. Contemporary paintings show that brightly colored silk was used to gather the neck and sleeves. The chemise was either short sleeved or ¾ sleeved and reached to just below the knee.
Atop the chemise she wore a petticoat. Actually, she wore as many as eight petticoats which enhanced the hips. (In parts of Portugal today the custom is still carried on by the older women.) The petticoats were generally brightly colored solid material and edged with ribbon.
To be without a bodice or a jacket was considered to be naked, and woman would have had a “shirtwaist, a jacket of French or English style that wrapped around the body. The shirtwaist had no buttons, but was closed with straight pins. The bodice was a tight fitting vest that laced up the front. A third gar ment is now referred to as a “bed jacket,” but is simply a longer version of the shirtwaist.
Spanish Colonial women preferred European shoes. She probably spent a good deal of time barefoot when performing chores and saved her shoes for fandangos, church and travel. The women wore sturdy shoes of the type men wore, complete with buckles. Shoes were considered so important that Indians were schooled in shoe making and this became major educational industry.
Stockings were considered very important and records indicate that women prized their silk stockings though for day to day wear woolen stockings were used. These reached about 4” above the knee and were held in place by ribbon. Even when the foot of the stocking wore out, they continued to be used. The stocking would be cut off just below the ankle and the foot wrapped in red cloth.
The common civilian man started his wardrobe with a voluminous pullover white shirt that reached to just above the knee. The shirt was generally made of white linen, cotton or wool. Around his neck he would wear a cravat, a long silk scarf or a silk neckerchief, usually white or black.
For pants he wore a pair of woolen or deerskin breeches, with pant legs that reached to just to the top of the calf, closing with 4-5 buttons at the knee. By the 1770s the pants were changing to a drop front fly.
His coat was usually a plain work coat with cuffs and collars and he might wear a waistcoat.
The men wore woolen stockings, and when riding wore a tight fitting legging of deerskin, sewn up the rear, fitting like a pair of stockings without feet. These were known as “botas de talon” or boots for the leg. The botas were meant to keep dust and bugs off the legs and they were stuffed into the shoe.
Men too wore European shoes, or boots similar to Wellington boots or ropers.
Flat, broad brimmed hats with flat crowns were generally worn and they might be grey, tan, or more commonly black. A ribbon of red trimmed the crown and a black ribbon was worn as a chin or “stampede” strap.
A man might wear a sash or belt and generally carried large knives. He might be seen in a serape.
The soldiers received a new style of uniform in 1775 (specified in the Regulations of 1772). They were blue with scarlet collar and cuffs and were worn with blue breeches and a black hat. Like other men they wore botas de talon for riding, and European shoes.
The arms and armament of the soldiers set them apart. They were unifomed as heavy cavalry, carrying a lance, sword, musket, and shield. For protection from arrows they were a cuera, a leather armor of 7 layers of white deerskin.
Dressing the Part
The well-dressed 21st century woman, wishing to look like a woman of the Anza Expedition can purchase a brightly colored pashmina shawl; wear a white peasant blouse and an ankle length skirt; and a pair of black shoes.
Men’s costuming of the period is actually more complicated, but a white shirt, dark pants, and black shoes do well. A serape tops of the costume with a flat brimmed hat of felt or straw. A plain white dishtowel or black silk scarf should be worn around the neck.
For soldiers we recommend a seamstress, but you can fabricate the leather armor from a heavy white duck or single layer of leather. The adarga, or shield can be made with paper maché, and a lance can be made from a closet dowel. A black hat should be worn.
The full list of items for the 2nd Company, Catalonian Volunteers is: • Shoes • Stockings • Gaiters • Breeches • Shirt • Neck stock • Waistcoat • Overcoat • Fatique Coat • Hat, cocked • Cap, barracks • Musket (1766 Charleville or Spanish 1757) • Musket Tool • Flint • Cartridge Box • Bayonet • Bayonet baldric • Haversack • Eating Utensils-bowl, knife, spoon, cup • Canteen or gourd • Blanket bag • Blanket