Thursday, 28 November 2013

European women's fashion, 1600-1650, an overview

The 17th century saw a multitude of fashions and this post and the next one, will try to find a few key ones. Fashion in the previous centuries had been clearly confined to geographical regions. 16th century Venetian, English and german fashion, for example, were quite different, even if they were all fashionable at the same time. The invention oft he printing press, however,  didn't just enable literaure to spread wider and faster, but also fashion prints. Regional fashion was still evident in the 17th century, the Spansih fashion probably the most well-known, but fashion trends travelled much faster through Europe. Trends still hung around for decades, though and different fashions could be worn at the same time, especially in the first half of the century.
The late 16th century fashion with a long bodice, wheel farthingales and over the top decorations still held strong in the early 17th century. It changed slightly, the deep necklines became oval instead of square and the farthingale tipped forward in the front. Though it became obsolete as everyday fashion, it was still in use as court wear, especially in England, where queen Anne insisted on it until her death in 1619.
Elizabeth of England by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger, 1612

With such a cumbersome formal attire, a more wearable combination of a waaitcoat and petticoat, with or without a loose gown, were wron at home or less formal occasion. In England it seems to have been hugely popular with embroidered linen clothes, but as far as I know that was a specific Brittish fashion, as was the trend of being painted in such informal wear.. All over Europe knitted waistcoats were worn, though.

Detail of a painting of Dorothy Carr by William larkin, 1614-1618
Another fashion from the early 17th century was a high-necked gown worn with a large ruff. It had hanging sleeves and a very distict shape of the bottom of the bodice. It was worn over a farthingale as well, but of a very different shape than the wheel farthingale. This style seems to have been popular in Spain and Germany.
Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Lorraine by Frans Pourbus the Younger, 1604-1605
In the late 1610's the long waist started to creep up and the farthingale was abandoned, at least outside Spain. Throughout the 1620's decorations grew somewhat more austere and black clothes more popular.

Unknown lady by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger, 1618
In the 1630's fashion changed quite a bit. Sleeves which genereally had been quite narrow now grew very wide and the waist of the bodices grew to rest a bit above the natural one. One popular style were the Burgundian style with slitted sleeves. They were usually quite plain, decorated with ribbons in a contrasting colour.

Lady Anne Ruhout by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger, 1631
This kind of gown had it's heyday in the 1630's, but the one Henrietta Maria of England worn on a multitude of portraits kept it's popularity throughout the 1640's as well. It had a bodice that looked more like a jacket, worn open in front over a stomacher. Large ruffs and collars were worn well into the 1640's, but falling bands and plain collars became more and more popular in the 1630's and was always worn with this type of gown. 

Hnerietta Maria, Queen of England by Sir Anthony Van Dyck, 1632-1635
Another popular style was a plain gown with a closed front. Here with a square necklines, but they could also have be high-necked or, pointing forward, widen to show more of the shoulders. It was very often black and udually worn with a white collar and cuffs.
Unknown woman by Cornelis Jonson van Ceulen the Elder, 1648

The Spanish, as usual, were doing their own thing.

Maria of Austria, Queen of Hungary by Frans Luyucks, 1635

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