10 Historical Untruths About the First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims Wore Black
Actors play the parts of colonists and Wampanoag at Plimouth Plantation, a recreation of Plymouth Colony. Note the authentic clothing, which differs from the usual depictions of Thanksgiving. Michael Springer/Getty Images

We've all seen the various depictions of the first Thanksgiving supper, Indians in their feathered headdresses and loincloths and Pilgrims in the black-and-white costumes that we've come to believe that they wore. From television and film, to the local elementary school's Thanksgiving pageant, re-enactments of the original holiday celebration have ingrained in our heads the vision of Pilgrims in tall hats and lots of big buckles.

But historians say these fashions, including the black-and-white kit, didn't come into vogue among settlers until many years after that first holiday. In fact, the early Pilgrims typically reserved black-and-white clothing for Sundays and formal occasions. Otherwise, they are believed to have donned a more colorful wardrobe, including red, green, brown, blue, violet, and gray [sources: Large, History].

In 1621, anyone rocking a steeple hat and black breeches along with white squared cuffs and collars was more likely a Puritan in Boston than a Pilgrim in Plymouth. Women likely wore solid-colored, full-length skirts along with bonnets and aprons. Men decked themselves in long-sleeved button down shirts, baggy, colored breeches and stockings. Hats would have been of the floppy, felt variety, instead of the tall, narrow types often associated with Pilgrims [source: Heinsohn].

As for the Wampanoag, one historian writes, "It's likely that the Indians were fully clothed to ward off the chill of autumn in New England. Who would wear only a loincloth in Massachusetts in November?" [source: Walch].