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April 16th 1632

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17th Century cross-dressing

On April 1632 the Kirk Session of Perth had before them Janet Gibson, a servant lass, who was charged with “putting on men’s clothes upon her. She answered that she simply drew upon her a pair of breeks, and cast them immediately. She promises never to do the like hereafter.”  Even so she was committed to prison for a short time for this rather unusual misdemeanour.

Later that year there was a report that John Barrett “disguised himself in women’s clothes and went through the town in great profanity, the last Sabbath at night. He is warned to compear before the session the morrow to be censured for the same.” 

The idea of dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex or disguising oneself in any way seems to have been a form of high spirits very much frowned upon by the Kirk Session. There was a case brought during the time of the plague in Perth. There were six people involved, all of whom had recovered from their illness and were no doubt celebrating their good fortune. Not only were they riotous and intoxicated but “they were disguised, namely Andrew’s wife having her hair hanging down and a black hat on her head; her husband with a sword in his hand; David Jackson with a mutch upon his head and wearing a woman’s gown. They hurted and molested several persons.” 

They were sent to prison for several days and ordered to make their public repentance in linen clothes.

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