Women’s fashion in Western Europe in 1600–1620

Fashion in the period 1600–1620 in Western European clothing is characterized by the disappearance of the ruff in favour of broad lace or linen collars. Waistlines rose through the period for both men and women. Other notable fashions included full, slashed sleeves and tall or broad hats with brims. For men, hose disappeared in favour of breeches.

The silhouette, which was essentially close to the body with tight sleeves and a low, pointed waist to around 1615, gradually softened and broadened. Sleeves became very full, and in the 1620s and 1630s were often paned or slashed to show the voluminous sleeves of the shirt or chemise beneath.

Spanish fashions remained very conservative. The ruff lingered longest in Spain and the Netherlands, but disappeared first for men and later for women in France and England.

In the early decades of the century, a trend among poets and artists to adopt a fashionable pose of melancholia is reflected in fashion, where the characteristic touches are dark colours, open collars, unbuttoned robes or doublets, and a generally disheveled appearance, accompanied in portraits by world-weary poses and sad expressions.

Women’s fashions
With the dawn of the 17th century, resistance to the rigid Spanish nature spread. The quest for freedom and naturalness expressed itself in clothing fashion at the time of the Thirty Years’ War .

The women wore in those decades a wrinkled dress with sleek, narrow sleeves, on it a camisole with hanging sleeves, lace cuffs on the dress, ruff or lace collar , a feather-decorated felt hat with a turned-over brim.

Gowns, bodices, and petticoats
In the early years of the new century, fashionable bodices had high necklines or extremely low, rounded necklines, and short wings at the shoulders. Separate closed cartwheel ruffs were sometimes worn, with the standing collar, supported by a small wire frame or supportasse used for more casual wear and becoming more common later. Long sleeves were worn with deep cuffs to match the ruff. The cartwheel ruff disappeared in fashionable England by 1613.

By the mid-1620s, styles were relaxing. Ruffs were discarded in favor of wired collars which were called rebatos in continental Europe and, later, wide, flat collars. By the 1630s and 1640s, collars were accompanied by kerchiefs similar to the linen kerchiefs worn by middle-class women in the previous century; often the collar and kerchief were trimmed with matching lace.

Bodices were long-waisted at the beginning of the century, but waistlines rose steadily to the mid-1630s before beginning to drop again. In the second decade of the 17th century, short tabs developed attached to the bottom of the bodice covering the bum-roll which supported the skirts. These tabs grew longer during the 1620s and were worn with a stomacher which filled the gap between the two front edges of the bodice. By 1640 the long tabs had almost disappeared and a longer, smoother figure became fashionable: The waist returned to normal height at the back and sides with a low point at the front.

The long, tight sleeves of the early 17th century grew shorter, fuller, and looser. A common style of the 1620s and 1630s was the virago sleeve, a full, slashed sleeve gathered into two puffs by a ribbon or other trim above the elbow.

In France and England, lightweight bright or pastel-coloured satins replaced dark, heavy fabrics. As in other periods, painters tended to avoid the difficulty of painting striped fabrics; it is clear from inventories that these were common. Short strings of pearls were fashionable.

Unfitted gowns (called nightgowns in England) with long hanging sleeves, short open sleeves, or no sleeves at all were worn over the bodice and skirt and tied with a ribbon sash at the waist. In England of the 1610s and 1620s, a loose nightgown was often worn over an embroidered jacket called a waistcoat and a contrasting embroidered petticoat, without a farthingale. Black gowns were worn for the most formal occasions; they fell out of fashion in England in the 1630s in favour of gowns to match the bodice and petticoat, but remained an important item of clothing on the Continent.

At least in the Netherlands the open-fronted overgown or vlieger was strictly reserved for married women. Before marriage the bouwen, “a dress with a fitted bodice and a skirt that was closed all round” was worn instead; it was known in England as a “Dutch” or “round gown”.

Skirts might be open in front to reveal an underskirt or petticoat until about 1630, or closed all around; closed skirts were sometimes carried or worn looped up to reveal a petticoat.

Corsets were shorter to suit the new bodices, and might have a very stiff busk in the center front extending to the depth of the stomacher. Skirts were held in the proper shape by a padded roll or French farthingale holding the skirts out in a rounded shape at the waist, falling in soft folds to the floor. The drum or wheel farthingale was worn at the English court until the death of Anne of Denmark in 1619.

Hairstyles and headdresses
To about 1613, hair was worn feathered high over the forehead. Married women wore their hair in a linen coif or cap, often with lace trim. Tall hats like those worn by men were adopted for outdoor wear.

In a characteristic style of 1625–1650, hair was worn in loose waves to the shoulders on the sides, with the rest of the hair gathered or braided into a high bun at the back of the head. A short fringe or bangs might be worn with this style. Very fashionable married women abandoned the linen cap and wore their hair uncovered or with a hat.

Style gallery 1600–1620

1 – 1602

2 – 1605

3 – 1609

4 – 1610s

5 – 1612

6 – 1614–18

7 – 1618–20

8 -1620

1.Hilliard’s Unknown Woman of 1602 wears typical Puritan fashion of the early years of the century. Her tall black felt hat with a rounded crown is called a capotain and is worn over a linen cap. She wears a black dress and a white stomacher over a chemise with blackwork emboridery trim; her neckline is filled in with a linen partlet.
2.Anne of Denmark wears a bodice with a low, round neckline and tight sleeve, with a matching petticoat pinned into flounces on a drum or cartwheel farthingale, 1605. The high-fronted hairstyle was briefly fashionable.
3.Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, Regent of the Netherlands, wears a cartwheel ruff and wide, flat ruffles at her wrists. Her split-sleeved dress in the Spanish fashion is trimmed with wide bands of braid or fabric, 1609.
4.Mary Radclyffe in the very low rounded neckline and closed cartwheel ruff of c.1610. The black silk strings on her jewelry were a passing fashion.
5.Anne of Denmark wears mourning for her son, Henry, Prince of Wales, 1612. She wears a black wired cap and black lace.
6.An Englishwoman (traditionally called Dorothy Cary, Later Viscountess Rochford) wears an embroidered linen jacket with ribbon ties and embroidered petticoat under a black dress with hanging sleeves lined in gray. Her reticella lace collar, cuffs, and hood are tinted with yellow starch.
7.Frans Hals’ young woman wears a chain girdle over her black vlieger open-fronted gown, reserved for married women, and an elongated bodice with matching tight sleeves and petticoat. She is wearing a padded roll to hold her skirt in the fashionable shape. Dutch, 1618–20.
8.Elizabeth, Lady Style of Wateringbury wears an embroidered jacket-bodice and petticoat under a red velvet dress. She wears a sheer partlet over an embroidered high-necked chemise, c. 1620.

Style gallery 1620s

1 – c. 1620

2 – 1620–21

3 – 1620s

4 – 1625

5 – 1623–26

6 – 1623–26

7 – 1626

8 – 1629–30

1.Margaret Laton wears a black gown over an embroidered linen jacket tucked into the newly fashionable high-waisted petticoat of c. 1620. She wears a sheer apron or overskirt, a falling ruff, and an embroidered cap with lace trim. The jacket itself is in the longer fashion of the previous decade.
2.Marie de’ Medici in widowhood wears black with a black wired cap and veil, c. 1620–21.
3.Anne of Austria, Queen of France, wears an open bodice over a stomacher and virago sleeves, with a closed ruff. Note looser cuffs. C. 1621–25.
4.Susanna Fourment wears an open high-necked chemise, red sleeves tied on with ribbon points, and a broad-brimmed hat with plumes, 1625.
5.Élisabeth de France, Queen of Spain, wears her hair in a popular style at the Spanish court, c. 1625.
6.Isabella Brandt wears a black gown over a gold bodice and sleeves and a striped petticoat, 1623–26.
7.Paola Adorno, Marchesa Brinole-Sale wears a black gown and a sheer ruff with large, soft figure-of-eight pleats seen in Italian portraits of this period. Her hair is caught in a cylindrical cap or caul of pearls. Genoa, c. 1626.
8.Marie-Louise de Tassis wears a short-waisted gown with a sash over a tabbed bodice with a long stomacher and matching petticoat and virago sleeves, c. 1629–30.

Fashions influenced by royal courts
Fabric and patterns
Figured silks with elaborate pomegranate or artichoke patterns are still seen in this period, especially in Spain, but a lighter style of scrolling floral motifs, woven or embroidered, was popular, especially in England.

The great flowering of needlelace occurred in this period. Geometric reticella deriving from cutwork was elaborated into true needlelace or punto in aria (called in England “point lace”), which also reflected the popular scrolling floral designs.

In England, embroidered linen silk jackets fastened with ribbon ties were fashionable for both men and women from c. 1600–1620, as was reticella tinted with yellow starch. Overgowns with split sleeves (often trimmed with horizontal rows of braid) were worn by both men and women.

From the 1620s, surface ornament fell out of fashion in favour of solid-colour satins, and functional ribbon bows or points became elaborate masses of rosettes and looped trim.

Portraiture and fantasy
In England from the 1630s, under the influence of literature and especially court masques, Anthony van Dyck and his followers created a fashion for having one’s portrait painted in exotic, historical or pastoral dress, or in simplified contemporary fashion with various scarves, cloaks, mantles, and jewels added to evoke a classic or romantic mood, and also to prevent the portrait appearing dated within a few years. These paintings are the progenitors of the fashion of the later 17th century for having one’s portrait painted in undress, and do not necessarily reflect clothing as it was actually worn.

Fashions influenced by royal courts

Simplicity of dress
In Protestant and Catholic countries, attempts were made to simplify and reform the extravagances of dress. Louis XIII of France issued sumptuary laws in 1629 and 1633 that prohibited lace, gold trim and lavish embroidery for all but the highest nobility and restricting puffs, slashes and bunches of ribbon. The effects of this reform effort are depicted in a series of popular engravings by Abraham Bosse.

Puritan dress
Puritans advocated a conservative form of fashionable attire, characterized by sadd colors and modest cuts. Gowns with low necklines were filled in with high-necked smocks and wide collars. Married women covered their hair with a linen cap, over which they might wear a tall black hat. Men and women avoided bright colours, shiny fabrics and over-ornamentation.

Contrary to popular belief, most Puritans and Calvinists did not wear black for everyday, especially in England, Scotland and colonial America. Black dye was expensive, faded quickly and black clothing was reserved for the most formal occasions (including having one’s portrait painted), for elders in a community and for those of higher rank. Richer puritans, like their Dutch Calvinist contemporaries, probably did wear it often but in silk, often patterned. Typical colours for most were brown, murrey (mulberry, a brownish-maroon), dull greens and tawny colours. Wool and linen were preferred over silks and satins, though Puritan women of rank wore modest amounts of lace and embroidery as appropriate to their station, believing that the various ranks of society were divinely ordained and should be reflected even in the most modest dress. William Perkins wrote “…that apparel is necessary for Scholar, the Tradesman, the Countryman, the Gentleman; which serveth not only to defend their bodies from cold, but which belongs also to the place, degree, calling, and condition of them all” (Cases of Conscience, 1616).

Some Puritans rejected the long, curled hair as effeminate and favoured a shorter fashion which led to the nickname Roundheads for adherents of the English Parliamentary party but the taste for lavish or simple dress cut across both parties in the English Civil War.

Source from Wikipedia