We ARE hot is these pilgrim clothes! You all are hot and you’re only wearing shorts a t-shirts. But what about our characters? How do they feel about all that wool and linen on these sweltering New England afternoons? Well, I can’t say for certain, of course, but I have to imagine that they were just as uncomfortable as we are.
But…they were terribly concerned for their health. The prevailing medical theory of the day was the Doctrine of Humours whereby “health was seen as the proper balance of the four internal humours, blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. While a balanced state brought wellness, imbalance resulted in ill health and disease. Either harmful or helpful, the environment was a powerful agent in this dynamic physical process, such things as weather, water, air, or astrological movements affecting the equilibrium of both individuals and nations. Thus cold was not just unpleasant, but the potential cause of minor and severe ailments.”*
It is as though they might have thought that any skin exposed to the elements had the potential of allow sickness into the body. We have evidence of people fearing that they were not wearing enough even if a man did not wear a doublet over his cassock or suit.
What we will offer the visitor concerned about our comfort is the admonition that “I would not dress as you for the sun is not good for you.” And they can understand the worry of skin cancer even if our seventeenth century counterparts cannot.
So, please understand, when you see those rivulets of “liquid sunshine” pouring down our faces under those hats or coifs…we ARE hot in those clothes. But to dress otherwise would do a disservice to the actual people we represent. In a sense, we do it for YOU.
*”from “Dressing the Elite: Clothes in Early Modern England” by Susan Vincent. Thanks to our costumer extraordinaire, Denise Lupica, for this.