How Did Puritan Clothing Support Religious Views?

Puritan clothing reflected the religious view that people should avoid material excess in order to focus more on internal beauty and righteousness. Because of this, Puritan clothing often avoided frills, lace and colors that required expensive dyes.

Rooted in Augustinian teachings regarding affectations, Puritan theology called for moderation in material things. Puritan theologians such as William Perkins taught that moderation was a sign of holiness, and that a person’s soul was appropriately filled with the fear of God. The teachings of moderation, however, did not require that clothing be unfashionable or exceedingly somber. Rather, individuals were simply to avoid excessive ornamentation and to wear clothes that were appropriate for the practical and social needs of a given occasion. This teaching allowed for the more affluent and influential members of society to wear more ornate and expensive clothing, while the lower classes were expected to wear less ornate clothing more appropriate to their station.

While many stereotypical portrayals of Puritans depict them wearing black clothing, black dyes were actually quite expensive. Because of this, most Puritans avoided black clothing since the cost would have been seen as excessive. Rather, many wore more modest colors such as blue, brown, green and deep reds.