Period Clothing

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Florida in the early 1500s, they were dressed in shining armor and the clothing suited for any European court. They were accompanied by servants, sailors, and yes, even women. These pages will attempt to shed some light on what they wore. Noblemen and officers sported rich velvets and silk brocades over linens, and they were ostentatious, despite the attempts of the Vatican and the crown to pass laws to tone it down. Sumptuary laws might declare that fabrics could not be woven with threads of gold, but tailors accommodated their wealthy patrons, wiggling around the law by embroidering the surface with gold thread.

The serving class and sea men were usually more humbly dressed in plain woolens and linens, but they too could have some more elegant clothing stored away in a sea chest, just in case the occasion should arise where they needed to get dressed up.

Native American people were no less flamboyant in their dress. They may have used different materials, but they too knew how to put it together into finely woven fabrics, embellished with pearls, shells, feathers and imported copper. Just like their European counterparts, how they were dressed indicated their status. In the painting by Hermann Trappman, Cofitachique is dressed in her finest, as she presents Hernando de Soto with a strand of beads. More about that later.