This shirt was made by Salome Enos for her son, Zimri Enos, to wear to his wedding on June 10, 1846. Salome and her husband, Pascal, came to Springfield in 1823 and became one of the first four landowning families of the town. Their son, Zimri, briefly practiced law before becoming a surveyor and civil engineer.
Salome Enos made this shirt by hand. In the first half of the 19th century, gentlemen’s suits (vests, pants, and coats) were relatively complex to construct and therefore often made by a professional tailor. Shirts, socks, and handkerchiefs were less complicated and thus were usually made by female family members. This particular shirt is made of linen, which is durable, easy to launder, warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. The collar is high to accommodate a cravat, the neckwear of choice for antebellum American gentlemen.
Ruffled shirts such as these were considered fancy at the time and were typically worn by urban gentlemen. They even had political connotations. Politicians of the day who wished to paint their rivals as elitist and out-of-touch often accused each other of wearing ruffled shirts.
Shirts like these would have been common in the mid 19th century, but few of them survive today. Most of them were cut down for children’s clothing, cut up for bandages, or turned into rags somewhere along the way.