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Clothing Of The Seventeenth Century

( Originally Published 1928 )


FOR the czar the costume consisted of a tunic o the ankles with fitted shoulders; a collar and full sleeves of elaborate brocade; a heavily jeweled cross of gold on a chain about the neck; a cap edged with fur with a conical top surmounted by a cross.

The Russian boot of variously colored leathers, fitting the foot snugly, wrinkling in folds about the ankles, and reaching either halfway up the calf or finished with wide tops extending over the knee and held to the leg by a leather strap buckled below it, was worn by all classes. It was usually without fastening, being pulled on like a riding boot.


A belted tunic or blouse reached to well below the knee with either elbow or long sleeves, showing a shirt of contrasting color in the wide V-neck opening. Over the tunic, sometimes a long well fitting coat had its two front flaps folded back to the belt line in a fashion identical with that of the Turks. The cap was fur-bordered with a conical crown of velvet or cloth.

For both men and women, full length cloaks were caught together at the neck, then hung loose showing the blouse or gown beneath. Some were cut with arm-holes and hanging over them was a cape running in a deep curve down the back. All edges were bordered with fur. Showy decorations common to all garments were worn by the rich.


The women wore full stiffened skirts and a sleeveless jacket, whose base hung loose from the figure about the hips. Huge puffed sleeves of another material were gathered to the wrists.

A full-sleeved blouse belted or hanging loose, was about knee length; below it was a. full skirt. Many col-ors were combined in one costume in the way of borders, stripes, bands about the shoulders and above the elbow, fancy aprons and headdresses. One of the latter, an up-standing crownlike affair of metal, often finished with a huge bow at the back of the neck, is not only very popular, but most attractive for stage purposes, admitting of much color ornamentation. Such a one has been used by Nina Tarasova, the singer.

Some headdresses resembled turbans, others domes, the latter fitting the crown of the head and surmounted by a peak or a round knob. Veils and wimples were suspended from, and thrown about them. Fur was lavishly used.

The most common form of Russian blouse is a full-sleeved tunic belted at the waist and reaching the thighs; its fullness is gathered into a narrow neckband of a contrasting material, which is also used to bind the edges of an opening about four or five inches long left on the right side of the blouse to admit of the head being easily passed through. Full trousers are tucked into high boots below the knee.


Much of the oriental was retained in the dress of the Tartars, the women showing below long skirts full trousers gathered about the ankles and rosetted slippers with turned-up toes; veils over tight-fitting turbans like head-dresses of metal bands with silk or cloth tops ; long, black hair hanging in several flat braids to the waist.

A tight-necked blouse of striped material was tucked into long, very full trousers at the waistline, where a wide striped sash was knotted. Low flat slippers were pointed and slightly turned up at the toes. The mandarin sleeves hanging in wide ends at the elbow were suspended from long, loose coats with narrow neckbands.



Large turbans were elaborately rolled about a fez which rose to a high point at the crown. A long-sleeved, well fitting tunic with full skirts opened from the waist down, its two corners folded back exposing either an-other tunic reaching to the boot, or baggy trousers gathered into the boot-top.


A tight-fitting dress opened down the entire front, with sleeves smooth over the upper arm and becoming wide below the elbow ; a tight inner sleeve showed on the fore-arm. The loose front section of the gown rounded off to display a full underskirt of another material reaching nearly to the ankle; below, baggy trousers. Elaborate borders and decorations of embroidery and jewels were lavishly used. Bands of trimming were placed in horizontal rows across the front of the dress from the very low neck line to that of the waist. Sashes and girdles slipped down over the hips and were ornamented with fringe and tassels.

Slippers were pointed.

Fringe was arranged in semicircles at each side of the headdress, which was rather round and stiff ; a cockade, strings of pearls and feathers were fastened to one side with a large jewel.

Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and a fan like the flag-shaped one of the Venetians were popular.

Veils were worn by all women.


A mantle was edged with fringe with holes for the arms, its square corners decorated with tassels. A cap, closely fitting the head, had a tasseled point that fell over like that of an old-fashioned nightcap. The fringed tunic, if slit open on its sides, was also tasseled about the corners. A girdle with fringed ends knotted in front passed twice around the body.


A long gown, slit open up the right side to the waist, allowed-an inner tunic to show. This gown was drawn up through two girdles which encircled the hips and waist respectively. A turban was wrapped about the flowing hair. Striped scarfs with fringed ends were much used, and sandals covered the feet. A chain of gold discs worn across the forehead was allowed to hang each side of the face. Disc necklaces, bracelets, and veils over the hair were other popular decorations.


Many colors appeared in the outer garments and a multiplicity of stripes covered a long tunic made with a small neckband and fastened to the waistline. Sleeves with loose ends fell over the wrists. Weapons were stuck through a belt. Over all was a coat, wide open in front, with elbow sleeves. Baggy trousers were tucked into boots reaching halfway up the calf ; the head was bound like that of an Arab with long hair hanging to the shoulders. A mustache was worn.


A tunic of striped material reached to the ankles, a burnous to the middle of the calf, and the shoes were turned up in points at the toes. The head was bound with "agals" of hair holding down the white haik which hung in folds about the face and over the shoulders. A belt held many weapons.



Baggy, slashed trunks were called "Gally-Gascoignes" after the Gascons from Navarre. Long hose, doublets, and shoulder capes were worn. Tight sleeves had epaulets ; with these a ruff. The full outer sleeves, slashed from shoulder to wrist, exposed inner ones, accompanied by lace cuffs and collars. Large plumed hats, also velvet ones with curled-up brims and high shirred-in crowns with a jeweled clasp holding a feather at the front or side were worn. The hat of the musketeers was always broad brimmed with long feathers over the side.

The time for "Cyrano de Bergerac" is about 164o. High leather boots fitted the leg to above the knee or were made with wide tops falling back.

"Lovelocks," sections of hair over the ear allowed to grow waist length and decorated with a bow, were affected at the beginning of the century by French courtiers.


A fitted bodice to which was attached a long train was worn over an undergown of a contrasting color and material distended by the farthingale. Sleeves were of the virago type. Across the shoulders a high lace collar was spread out on a wire frame. (See the portraits of Marie de' Medici painted by Rubens in 1623.)


Short, square-cut jackets were worn over baggy shirts. Below appeared the Rhinegrave breeches, wide and loose with long, square-cut panels hanging over them like a shirt. These were introduced from Germany and alluded to by Moliere in "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme." (See also Petticoat Breeches, the English, seventeenth century, p. 194.) Bunches of ribbon were attached to shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, knees, even the low, square-toed, red-heeled shoes receiving clusters on their sides near the toes. High, floppy boots had their wide tops full of lace frills, and, incongruously, spurs at the ankles.

Either a tall crowned hat with a curling brim decorated with feathers drooping over the right shoulder was worn or a broad-brimmed one with a long plume like that of the musketeer.

Broad, white collars appeared on a high band, but no ruffs. Lace or linen cravats were tied across with stiff strings.

Gauntlet gloves were worn.

Shoulder Knots.—Anne of Austria presented one to Buckingham, with a diamond attached to every point in the great bunch of ribbon.

Louis XIV is said to have had beautiful hair as a boy, which was allowed to cascade down his back. Wigs in imitation were introduced and worn by courtiers. They became an established fashion in France in 1660, although not adopted by the King until several years later. Mme. de Maintenon's sway over Louis made itself felt even in the matter of clothes, those of the men becoming very quiet, almost plain, by the end of the century.


The gowns, with skirts that trailed on the ground, which necessitated the lifting of them in front, were cut extremely low, almost to the waistline in the back, and worn off the rouged shoulders. A trimming common to France and Spain was an edging fashioned of another material and color put on full and caught together at regular intervals. Jewels were used for the latter and also served to catch up the full, slashed sleeve about the elbow.

Flowers were worn in the hair. Ladies stuck them in glass bottles filled with water and hidden in their curls. The Manteau.—This was a bodice with a train attached, the latter looped over a bustle of gummed cloth which crackled at every movement, and was called a "criarde" in consequence. The sleeves, either tight fitting to the el-bow, or fan-shaped, were edged with lace ruffles called "engageants." The flouncings and ruchings on the skirt were termed "falbalas," while stripes of various colors sewn on as borders became "pretantailles." This garment appeared toward the end of the century, after men had adopted the coat, and in time became known as the Watteau.

The engageant sleeve on the manteau was supreme until about 1780.

The Fontange.—The women's hair, which had been arranged in a curled, pearl-strung coiffure with ringlets bobbing over the bare shoulders, underwent a decided change. In 168o, Mlle. de la Fontange, a lady in waiting at the court of Louis XIV, was thrown from her horse while hunting and her hair fell down. She tied it up with her garter. This started the fashion of the fontange, an erection composed of lace, ribbons, ruffles and flutings raised one above another on a wire frame to the height of some eighteen inches; it was placed on the head tilted slightly forward over the forehead curls. The hair was coiled behind it, with one or two long curls hanging over the shoulder. The fontange is used in all of Moliere's plays.

Taking snuff from personal boxes was a French fashion.

Earrings were worn by men.

Muffs, originating in France in the late sixteenth century, continued in use for a long while; at first they were made of various expensive materials and trimmed with lace and ribbons.

The Theatre.—The French stage received the greatest literary contributions in its history during the seventeenth century. Due to the patronage of Cardinal Richelieu, who himself had aspirations as a playwright and maintained two theatres in the Palais Royal, actors flourished. "Le Cid," by Corneille, produced in 1636, was quickly followed by the works of Racine and later by those of Moliere, all so great that to this day they are retained in the repertoire of the Comedic Francaise.

The Cid lived in Spain in the eleventh century, but it is interesting to note that French tragediennes when essaying the role of Chimene, must have worn the enormous farthingales so fashionable in France and in Spain about the date of the play's first performance. These have been immortalized by Velasquez in his portraits of the Infanta and her family. It is hard to believe that the Phedres and the Iphigenies preferred them to the clinging, graceful lines of the Grecian gown, but Planche tells us that all French tragediennes wore full skirts and hoops from the days of Corneille well into the eighteenth century.

Reigning monarchs during the century were Henry IV, Louis XIII (1610-1643), and Louis XIV (1643-1715) in France; and Philip IV in Spain.

People of the Continent of dramatic interest were : Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin, La Fontaine, Racine, Corneille, Moliere; Mignard, Rembrandt, Velasquez, Zurbaran, Murillo, Guido Reni, Giordano, Tiepolo, Guercino, Teniers, Franz Hals, Jordaens ; Calderon, Covarrubias, the Duke of Olivares, Don Juan of Austria; Marie de' Medici, Conde, Turenne, Pascal, Fenelon, Mme. de Sevigne, Mlle. de la Valliere, Mme. de Monte-span and Mme. de Maintenon.



A close-fitting doublet with tight sleeves was worn with trunks wide and full; some enormous ones of Dutch origin were referred to as "slops" by Shakespeare. Bombasting was carried to extremes, but slashing was going out of style. Large plain collars or falling bands were popular; ruffs were still seen, but smaller. Roses perched on the toes of shoes, and hats with broader brims were used.

Jerkins of buff leather, one-eighth of an inch thick, were worn by soldiers in 1607 and placed under the armor after 1632. They used a buff leather coat after 1585.

Masks called "vizards" were fashionable.

A periwig known as the "Gregorian" was classed as "grave" in 1615.


The farthingale was still used and a bodice very stiff and cut low was accompanied by a ruff about the throat. Beaver hats were trimmed with plumes or roses.

The hair was worn off the forehead, and, in 1612, powdered with orris. Artificially produced white hair was the mode in 1621.

Painting the face was still in vogue. In 1607, women had "ceruss" cheeks (probably no worse than orange!). A pot of "ceruss" is mentioned in a play of 1615, as a cosmetic used by men for enhancing the natural bloom of the cheeks.

Muffs were called "snuftkins" or "snoskyns" early in the reign.


This was one of the most beautiful in the history of clothes. Van Dyck's portrait of Charles depicts for us the cavalier in all his grace of costume. His portrait of himself shows the tiny and carefully brushed Carolean mustache, and hair hanging loosely to the shoulders. The pointed chin beard which reappears on so many canvasses by this artist is known to this day as the Van Dyck. The points on wide lace collars and cuffs received the same appellation.


The doublet no longer stiff and with a much higher waistline was pointed in front and finished with a narrow sash. Large sleeves were slashed from shoulder to wrist. Only two or three long slashes were placed on the doublet each side of its center opening just below, the collar. This last, also that on the shirt, was often left negligently unfastened. (See Van Dyck's portrait of himself.)

Breeches were loose to the knees, where they were tied with bunches of ribbon whose tagged or pointed ends became known as "fancies." Silk stockings were no longer a novelty.

Footgear.—Shoes with broad toes were bedecked with jeweled roses or clusters of ribbon. High-heeled boots of soft leather fitted the leg. Others had very wide tops which fell back in folds, the opening thus made being filled with a frilling of lace; spurs on the ankles, and over the instep a broad band of leather. On jack boots, worn as part of the armor now mostly of leather, was a wide strip above the knee.

Hats.—Large and dashing hats had broad brims over which hung long ostrich plumes.

Voluminous cloaks of light-colored satin were draped over one shoulder. Lace collars and cuffs were cut in Van Dyck points. Ribbons appeared as decoration wherever possible. Bristol paste diamonds were very much the mode, and the king wore a large pearl in one ear. Gentlemen of the court affected earrings.

The Hair.—Long curls known as French lovelocks hung each side of the face.

Order of the Garter.—The color became a "celestial blue" probably due to the popularity of this shade; a surcoat and hood of crimson velvet was topped by a black hat of the same material draped with ostrich plumes; the badge, a Cross of Saint George surrounded by a garter, was worn by knights on everyday dresses; in 1629, by adding rays, at first wavy and subsequently straight, a form resulted which became the permanent Star of the Garter.


All stiffness had gone from the dress. The waist was laced with ribbon across its front opening, through which an underbodice of the same color as the petticoat could be seen. The waistline was defined by a narrow ribbon tied in a cluster of loops at one side. Below it a series of square tabs finished the bodice. The sleeves were large, either elbow length or long, and slashed open with cuffs cut in Van Dyck points. A wide lace collar encircled the shoulders of the low-cut waist. The skirt was round and full. This was the principal gown of the reign. Ribbon ends finished with metal tags known as "points," also "fancies," were the most popular form of ornamentation.

Hats were wide brimmed and trimmed with feathers.

Patches on the face were the fashion. Long gloves were worn and large muffs carried. Ribbon roses on the toes of slippers were decorated with jewels.

The Hair.—It was worn parted in the middle and caught up in a knot at the back. Across the forehead was a row of small curls resembling inverted question marks; large curls descended each side of the face to the shoulders.

Chin cloths or mufflers known as "clouts" were worn by poorer women. Satin was the most popular material and ribbon rosettes a much used form of ornamentation. Red heels were seen.

The Puritans.—The reform that cost Charles his head descended on the costume also and we find the Puritans garbed in a wardrobe regulated by law.

CROMWELL, 1649-1660

The costume for both men and women was stripped of nearly all trimming and sober colors such as black, dark brown and gray were used. Plain wide linen collars and broad-brimmed hats with high crowns were worn.

The hair of both sexes now became suddenly straight and plainly arranged under linen caps ; dark hoods were often attached to full-length capes.

The men had exceedingly wide tops on their boots, however, and women were permitted shoe rosettes. The strangest reform in dress was the removal of all square tabs from a woman's bodice save the one exactly in the center of the back, which hung tail-like, suggesting a possible missing link.

CHARLES II, 1660-1685


Petticoat Breeches.—During the first part of his reign, Charles and his court followed the fashion of the Rhine-graves then the vogue in France ; these became known in England as "petticoat breeches." Short jackets allowed a full white blouse to hang over the beribboned waistline; the breeches were loose and bagged about the knees ; skirt pieces, resembling a slit tunic, hung over them.

The Age of Ribbons.—A craze for this form of decoration developed. Bunches were used to ornament the tunic, sleeves, waistline and the leg below each knee. Clusters were tied to canes, and formed wide, stiff bows across the instep of the square-toed, high-heeled shoes with their upstanding tongues.

Hats were very large with stiff brims and decorated with feathers in profusion.

The Periwig.—The huge French peruke was not copied by Charles until his dark hair became streaked with gray; the year 1663 marked his appearance in a very large brown one of many curls, which rose in points each side of the center parting and hung thence upon the breast in two long ringlets. Such wigs were worn over armor in portraits by Lely and Kneller.

Wigs.—A powdering of meal was placed on the enormous periwigs, which began to assume various shapes.

The valiancy wig, white and full, was mentioned in 1672 and 1674 by Dryden, who also alludes to another with a tail one yard long as "the snake." The campaign, for traveling use, was almost as large as the periwig and differed chiefly in being flatter on top with the two long front curls twisted into tight tails, one hanging each side of the face and called pole locks. The rest of the hair was arranged in one tail down the back, the first hint of the bob wig of the future. A quantity of powder was now used on wigs. At home, on removal of these huge head coverings, white caps were worn against draughts, as most men had shaven heads.

Combing the periwig in public had been a popular diversion in public ever since its first introduction, men being supplied with combs for this purpose. The practice was indulged in at the French court and was considered the proper thing in England, the fashion lasting until Queen Anne's reign. In Killigrew's play "The Parson's Wed-ding" (1663), occurs a stage direction for a group of fashionable gentlemen which reads, "they comb their heads and talk."

The small mustache was still in use, also the imperial of the Frenchman.

The Coat.—The long vest of black cloth or velvet reaching to the knees, worn by Charles in 1666 and said to have been copied from a garment of the Russian ambassador, proved the first gun of the frock coat to be. So revolutionary a style caused a sensation, but by 167o a coat and vest had developed, and in 1679 Charles II, according to an inventory of the time, owned a suit comprising "coat, waistcoat and breeches." Thus was established a new era in the body covering of man.

Cravats.--Neck cloths had ends of rich lace falling in broad folds on the chest. They were also known as "bands," and the long ends of lace and ribbon, when used to secure them, "band strings" ; the latter, when made of stout silk tasseled cords and allowed to hang limp, were named "snake-bone band strings." The extremely large cloths were called by Dryden "bib cravats." A fold of cambric about the throat, with long ends of point lace, was worn by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.


The Age of Satin.—Petticoats, trains and cloaks were made of this material; great elbow sleeves were slit open to show the arm beneath. The round, very low-cut waist was worn off the shoulders. High, red-heeled shoes had square toes and a little tongue of leather standing up above the instep in an impertinent manner. Shorter skirts were introduced by Nell Gwynne, permitting the shoe to show.

Shoulder knots, bunches of ribbon or lace, were worn on the shoulders. Plumed hats and patches were fashionable. Gloves were perfumed with scents from Paris.

Masks and hoods were worn always in the street and to the theatre, to which as a rule only "ladies of the evening" dared go. See quips in plays of the day. Pope speaks of the "masked ladies."

The Hair.—Ringlets were held out over the ear by a wire cage. Little curls, known as "heart-breakers" and "favorites," fell across the forehead; an arrangement resembling that on the center of a bull's brow was called a "taure." Strings of pearls were looped through the hair, ribbons clustering in the side ringlets. Long curls were brought forward over the shoulder.

JAMES II, 1685-1689


The coat, with wide cuffs, opened in front, disclosing a long waistcoat with pockets. Braid was much used as decoration and claret color began to be popular. Breeches were snug fitting and buttoned at the side of the leg. Swords were carried in a baldrick. Shoes had buckles.


A black silk apron with a bib was the latest cry, worn over a full skirt, the tight bodice showing a wide collar about the shoulders. The sleeves were cuffed. Black hooded shoulder capes were used as wraps.

Plumpers, round light balls intended to fill out sunken cheeks, were a fad at the end of the reign.



The coat was several inches longer than the brocaded waistcoat, with sleeves half a yard wide at the elbow; the cuffs, broader still, were turned back, and, like the flaps on the pockets which were set vertically and horizontally, fastened with buttons. Two more buttons placed halfway of the coat's length caught it together. Braiding and gold fringe were much used as decoration and claret color was the rage.

The sword was fastened through the side flaps of the coat to a belt worn about the waistcoat.

The Steinkirk.—This cravat had its very long ends twisted in spiral effect and drawn through a ring; occasionally they were caught through a buttonhole of the coat. Snuff boxes were considered a necessity. Canes swung from ribbon loops about the wrist, and small muffs were carried on ribbons. The stocking was pulled up over the knee and rolled, a garter holding it below. Square-toed shoes had stiffened strings and upstanding tongues, as in the previous reign.

The Cocked Hat.—This was achieved by turning up the brim of the wide hat so long popular; on one side only at first, then on two and finally on all three. Gold lace was festooned about the edges.


The Commode.—The appearance of the fontange , or commode as it became known in England, was a striking note in women's ever-changing attire. Tiers of lace, rising to the height of twelve inches, were fastened one above the other on a wire frame covered with a thin silk such as "tiffany," and set well forward on the head. The hair was parted in the middle, forming small curls over the temples called "confidents," and then drawn into a knot on the crown of the head behind the commode, with long curls falling over one shoulder. High lace caps were also worn with falls of lace each side of the face.

The elbow sleeve with a ruffle of lace became an established fashion. A black silk apron was worn on all gowns.

An overgown well laced in the bodice was looped over the hips on small hoops, its back ballooning down over the trained underskirt. The trimming of ribbons and ruches on the skirt was called "fal-lals," probably a contraction of the French falbalas. The black silk shoulder cape, small muffs, patches and make-up were all in fashion.

Flat wooden soles called "clogs" were fastened to the soles and heels of the long, square-toed shoes in the street.

Various new materials had appeared during the century.

A la mode was a thick silklike lutestring, loosely woven ; tiffany, a thin transparent silk; tabbinet, poplin; persian, thin lining silk; mochado, mock velvet; shag, shaggy cloth with a nap on one side like that of velvet, generally worsted but sometimes of silk, and used for lining; cloths such as cartmells, caltons, durance (coarse and durable) ; duffel, rough woolen cloth sent to America; dimity, stout linen cloth first made at Damietta; linen cloth made from flax manufactured in England; sergedusoy, coarse silken stuff for coats of common people; mary-muffe, coarse common cloth used for chin clouts by peasant women from 1604-1640.

The Theatre.—Masques by Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger and others, were very popular early in the seventeenth century.

Inigo Jones left costume designs for the Morris dancers and harlequinades, also one for Romeo as a pilgrim in the conventional long cloak with wide sleeves, shoulder cape and broad-brimmed hat. For the Morris dancers, the costume is that of Elizabeth, gaily colored, embroidered, feathered and hung with bells.

When the Globe Theatre was burnt in 1613, a poem of the day alluded to the lost "perriwigs" and jerkins. Another, when the cockpit in Drury Lane was pillaged, states that "King Priam's robes were soon in rags."

However, a print of the time of Charles II represents Dame Quickly and Falstaff making merry in the dress of 166o, proving that actors were given to serious lapses in the matter of correct costuming.

At the end of the seventeenth century, during the reign of William and Mary, the custom of peopling plays with fantastic and mythological characters went into disuse.

People of dramatic interest were Guy Fawkes; George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham (killed by Felton) ; George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, son of the former and favorite of Charles II; George Fox, founder of the Quakers ; Betterton, the actor ; Milton, Davenant, Cowley, Ben Jonson, Inigo Jones; Jean Bart; Van Dyck; Dryden, Beaumont, Defoe, Bunyan, Samuel Pepys, Massinger; Pocahontas, Lady Castlemaine, Nell Gwynne and the Countess of Shrewsbury.

The date for the Cavaliers and Roundheads is 1642. The opera of "Gioconda" is laid in Venice during the century, while "Traviata" takes place at Paris about 1700. (The play "Camille," by Alexandre Dumas fits, and founded upon the same story, is dated in the middle of the nineteenth century and modern clothes are requested by the author.) "Ruy Blas" is laid in Spain, 1692.

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