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17th Century EuropeWeek #5:

17th Century EuropeStep 1:

Read the online "lecture" on dress in the 17th Century below and click on any links that interest you. You are not required to read all the material on all the links, however:

Dress in


Century Europe


The trend towards an accelerated rate of change in fashion seen in the 16th Century continued into the 17th Century. However the 17th Century is further complicated by a considerable fragmentation of fashion in the West. Mainstream fashion reflected sharpened divisions among Europeans in religion, nationality and class that had been broadened by the wars of the Reformation and by the "enclosure movement" (aka the early part of the Agricultural Revolution).

So, for example members of various conservative sects of Protestantism in this period develop "plain dress" (a style that in greatly modified form is still worn by Amish and Mennonite people) as a form of anti-fashion, and conservative clergy preach sermons on the sinfulness of fine dress. (see

17thWILLIAM PRYNNE, The Unloveliness of Lovelockes, London, 1628) Conservative Catholics at the Spanish court, on the other hand keep wearing fashions from the previous century well into the 17th Century.

HistoryStibbert214.jpg Spanish Infanta of the 1660's from

Stibbert based on a Painting by Velasquez

Spanish courtiers at the wedding of Louis XIV of France to Maria Therese, the daughter of the King of Spain, in the 1660's are shown wearing stiffened Whisk collars and ruffs, and the poor Infanta is trapped in a huge "French Farthingale" over 40 years after the French dumped the fashion.

The dress of the poor is noticeably more ragged in this period, as the "Beggar" engravings of Jacques Callot will attest, because in many parts of Europe the peasantry were being displaced from their homes in large numbers by either the numerous religious wars of the period, or the Agricultural Revolution.

WILLIAM. The Columbia Encyclopedia: Sixth Edition. 2000


Mainstream fashionable dress in the

early 17th Century began with the silhouette left over from the previous period, stiffened, slashed, be-ruffed, and stuffed. This "Jacobean" style continued with only slight alteration for another 10-20 years in most places, but even from the beginning, there is a slight visible softening beginning at around 1600. First it is only a greater use of soft

fabrics to cover the enormous hoops worn by the women, then

lace ruffs begin to be starched less, puffs inside slashings are unstuffed, and finally hoops get discarded altogether.

HistoryQuicheratHenriiv.jpgHenri IV in 1600, Gentleman in the fashion of 1605 (



After 1620 the fashion loses all stiffness whatever, and most ruffs fall into soft pleats, and formerly standing "whisk" collars (like the one seen in Shakespeare's best known portrait) become un-starched "falling collars".

HistoryKohler387.jpg Lace collar, first half of the 17th Century (Kohler)

Men's breeches get softer and longer, and the waists of their doublets went higher giving an elongated silhouette. Many men discarded

shoes in favor of high topped

boots. This is the style people associate with The Three Musketeers of Alexandre Dumas and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac

HistoryQuicheratGentihomme.jpg Gentleman in the fashion of 1630. (


Fashionable men wore their hair longer, and it stays long for the rest of the century. Conservative men, especially Protestant clergy, kept their hair shorter--only shoulder length. During the English Civil War the Puritans (and other Protestant religious conservatives) who opposed King Charles I and supported Parliament were derisively called "Roundheads" by their longer haired opponents, and the name has stuck to this day. Londoners were warned by conservative clergy that the sexual confusion caused by young men growing a "lovelock" or long piece of hair, and by women cutting and frizzing hair into bangs was the beginning of a slide into mortal sin.

WomensfashplatesNewCallot1630.jpgPlate by Callot, 1630

Women's dress in the same period (1620-40) underwent a very similar style shift, waists rose slightly above the natural waistline, collars softened, hair softened, and hoops went out in favor of a more vertical line. The main exciting innovation is that women's wrists, and eventually lower arms began to be bared again, for the first time since the end of the Roman period. Folding fans, first imported from Asia in the late 16th Century begin to be locally produced and become the fashion as well.

HistoryKohler370.jpg Pourpoint doublet c.1650 (Kohler)


Mid- 17th Century dress continued in the softer style, but had a change in the waistline of both men and women by returning to the natural waist. Clothing and all other decorative arts also begin to acquire an excessive amount of ornamentation in what has come to be called the style.

The French began a fashion for trimming everything with bunches of ribbon, a style that got taken to the extreme in the early 1660's, when Louis XIV (popularly known as ) reached his majority and started setting the style for men's dress covered in ruffles and ribbons in a style known as "petticoat breeches".

HistoryKohler374 1665.gif French men's dress 1665 (Kohler)

Women's necklines dropped precipitously among the fashionable (in warm weather), while remaining thoroughly covered in linen among the conservative middle class.

The most powerful women in the second half of the Century are mainly mistresses, and so the "power" look for women becomes increasingly sexy. A fashion begins, late in this era for "dishabille" or dress that looks like a lady just went for a tumble in the broom closet. Conservative writers continue to decry the sensuous look of fashionable women's dress, but these critics increasingly are outnumbered by Restoration poets like who say "A sweet disorder in the dress/ kindles in clothes, a wantonness.."

17thcentLelyBarbaravilliers.jpg Barbara Villiers, Mistress of Charles II

AcarterRestorationladies35 portrait mrslawson.jpg Mrs. Lawson

AcarterRestorationladies35 portrait barabracleveland.jpgBarbara Cleveland, Mistress of Charles II

17thcentLelyDuchessofportsmouth.jpg Duchess of Portsmouth, Mistress of Charles II

Step 2:Click on some of the following links to see some Lely portraits of notable mistresses of the late 17th Century:

Peter Lely links on the net

de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth

Step 3:

Continue reading the lecture:


Late 17th Century Fashion underwent another sharp shift where dress became even more markedly vertical in style. Women's sleeves in this period almost never cover the lower arms, a style that continues for another century.

Menswear takes an important shift during the of the English Monarchy, when Charles II decides to adopt the three piece suit, and shortly all Englishmen follow this practical, straightforward fashion.

After Louis XIV goes prematurely bald in the 1670's it also becomes the fashion for men to wear wigs instead of their natural hair. Wigs stay in fashion for men until the end of the next century.

HistoryKohler378.jpg Wig and Justaucorps (jacket) of rust brown, c. 1690 (Kohler)

Women adopt a wired lace headdress known as the Fontage to further heighten and elongate the silhouette in the 1680's-90's, a style that persists into the first decade of the next century.

17thcentWomensfashplatesLadyfenwick.jpg (Click image for larger version) Lady Fenwick in widows weeds with a Fontage of the 1690's

Because the political systems in both England and France became more or less fixed in the late 17th Century for roughly the next 100 years (constitutional monarchy in England, absolute monarchy in France), the styles adopted in the last two decades of the 17th Century strongly influence the next century's dress, and the period 1680-1780 is one of the more stable fashion periods in history, undergoing gradual, rather than sudden changes in style.

Step 4:While pictures are good for showing how people's dress looked in an era, more often it is text that tells us how they felt about clothing. Then, as now, people got riled up on issues of female modesty, fashion change and cross dressing. Go to Links for Further Study:

17th Century Costumeand choose one (or more if they are short) of the 'contemporary texts' to read. See if you can figure out whether the writer is exaggerating, or being literal, and what "ax" is being ground. Write a short synopsis of the text, and reflections on the attitude towards dress in it, and post it either to your web page, or to the


This Concludes Week #5's Lesson

Return to

Class Index

17thcentMensfashionplatesJacobeanman.jpg Sir Francis Bacon in early 17th Century Long Gown

HistoryQuicheratDamealamode.jpg 1. Lady in the fashion of 1605. 2. Lady in the fashion of the end of the reign of Henri IV.(


HistoryQuicheratMariedemedicis.jpgMarie de Medici (widow of Henri IV) 1613. Lady in formal dress of 1620. (


HistoryQuicheratPortraitdumarechaldesouvre.jpgPortrait of Marshal de Souvre, before 1620, from an engraving of the time. Gentleman in the fashion of 1627 (


HistoryQuicheratElegantsalamode.jpg Elegant gentlemen, 1628. The man on the right has a Whisk collar, the man at left has an unstarched "falling" collar.(


(Baroque Dance)

HistoryGreatwomen10340 31.jpg Woman's costume of the reign of Louis XIII (


WomensfashplatesNewCallot1625b.jpgPlate by Callot, 1625

HistoryQuicheratPersonnagesdequalitealamode.jpgPersons of quality in the fashion of 1664, Lady of the court in 1668. (


HistoryStibbert210.jpg A Dutch Gentleman in "Petticoat Breeches" of the mid 17th Century from


17thcentMensfashionplatesHabitofaman.jpg Satirical plate showing the excesses of "The Habit of an English Gentleman" of c.1660

HistoryGreatwomen10337 05.jpg Mlle. d'Hautefort (


HistoryQuicheratModepourlannee.jpg Fashion of the year 1678 from an engraving in the Mercure galant


WomensfashplatesNewArnoult.jpg 1690 French fashion plate by Arnoult

17thcentMensfashionplatesSummermans1678.jpg Summer dress of 1678

HistoryQuicheratNew pa2.jpg Gentleman in the fashion of 1689, (



HistoryGreatwomen10337 12.jpg Mme de Maintenon (Louis XIV's second wife) and

HistoryGreatwomen10337 15.jpg The Duchesse du Maine (


Protestant Reformation (Early 1500s to Mid 1600s) - By Miles Hodges

European Enlightenment (Mid 1600s to Late 1700s) - By Miles Hodges

Product Links


Sun King


Collections | General Collection | Sir Peter Lely

Gwynne and the Duke of St Albans


Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th Centuries Historical Fashion in Detail: the 17th and 18th Centuries

Patterns of Fashion : The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women C1560-1620 Patterns of Fashion : The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women C1560-1620

Early Dance Part 2 Early Dance Part 2

Cyrano de Bergerac Cyrano de Bergerac

Cardinal Richelieu: And the Making of France Cardinal Richelieu: And the Making of France

The Embarrassment of Riches : An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age The Embarrassment of Riches : An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age

Restoration London : From Poverty to Pets, from Medicine to Magic, from Slang to Sex, from Wallpaper to Women's Rights Restoration London : From Poverty to Pets, from Medicine to Magic, from Slang to Sex, from Wallpaper to Women's Rights

Restoration Restoration


1700 : Scenes from London Life 1700 : Scenes from London Life

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