Creole Comforts and French Connections: A Case Study in Caribbean Dress

Today’s #ColonialCouture post is by Philippe Halbert. Follow him @plbhalbert.

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“Vêtement dit à la creole,” Galerie des modes et costumes français, Charles Emmanuel Patas after Pierre Thomas Leclerc, 1779, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In 1779, a fashion plate depicting a woman’s garment “in the creole style” was published in Paris. Consisting of a lightweight muslin gown with wrist-length sleeves, the dress was “in the style of a chemise,” the basic female undergarment of the period.[1] Worn over a petticoat, the gown was to be pinned at the bust and loosely closed with a sash or belt. In addition to enumerating its various components, which included a separate caraco jacket, the engraving’s caption remarked that the fantastic ensemble was “of the sort worn by our French Ladies in America.” At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, French colonial possessions in the Americas were largely confined to the Caribbean Basin, a region where interactions between people of indigenous, European, and African descent brought about innovations in everything from architecture to foodways. Although the inhabitants of French-controlled islands like Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint-Domingue, or Haiti, were not beyond the reach of Parisian novelty, the heat and humidity necessitated certain sartorial adaptations. Continue reading

Guest Post: Resistance and Adjustment in Suriname: A Durable Eighteenth-Century Cultural Schism

This is the fourth post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey, the second was by Mark J. Dixon, and the third was by Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan. D. S. Battistoli is a rural development practitioner, working in West Africa and the Caribbean. He holds a B.A. in English literature from Binghamton University, and, since 2011, has more than a thousand days’ field experience among the Saamaka Maroons of Suriname, first as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and later independently.

mcleod-bookCynthia McLeod’s Hoe Duur Was De Suiker, published in 1987 in the middle of Suriname’s Interior War, was the country’s first bestselling novel and a sort of foundational myth for the Creole population of the country.[1] The book takes its name from Voltaire’s famous rejoinder from Candide, “C’est à ce prix que vous mangez du sucre en Europe.”[2] The plantation colonies of the Caribbean took turns being the richest, and also the most violent and exploitative toward the blacks who produced the wealth; for much of the eighteenth century, the distinction belonged to Suriname. Continue reading

Articles of Note: Spring and Summer 2013

Many months ago, I posted the first of what I hoped to be a quarterly series highlighting recent articles I enjoyed, and inviting readers to do the same. Sadly, life got in the way, and so I have a bit to make up. As a recap for this roundup’s purpose: there are so many journals publishing quality articles in the field of early American history that it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep up. So this list serves as a reminder that you need to catch up on new issues, a identify articles I found especially important, as well as a chance to highlight the work of young scholars and friends. Just because an article doesn’t make the list doesn’t mean I didn’t like it—in fact, I am way behind on my own reading—but it is an invitation to list your own favorite recent articles in the comments below.

The following articles were published between March and September, and obviously reflect my own interests and background. Also, remember the fantastic articles in the special WMQ issue on families and the Atlantic world that I highlighted a few months ago. Continue reading