looped up in front to display the contrasting skirt of the underdress. Trains on outer gowns often had decorative underlinings. The train was buttoned or pinned to the waist at the back in order to show the lining fabric. Most often dress necklines were square, with the edge of the chemise visible; they might be cut with smaller or larger V-shaped openings at the front or at both front and back.Lacings held the V-shaped opening together. Bodices (the upper part of the dress) were fitted, skirts were long and full, flaring gently from the waistline to the floor in the front and trailing into long trains at the back. There were several different sleeve styles which included smooth-fitting narrow sleeves with decorative cuffs, wide funnel shapes with contrasting linings, and hanging sleeves.
Whenever two layers were worn, the underdress usually had closely fitted sleeves; the outermost sleeve was large, full, funnel-shaped or hanging. The second phase of costume for women, 1530 to 1575, was marked by Spanish influences whereas men’s styles of this period had been more directly influenced by German styles. Spanish influence was not evident in men’s clothing until the second half of the century.
One important aspect of the Spanish influence was a tendency to emphasize dark colors, especially black. The changes in women’s clothing after 1530 represent a gradual change in style, not a radical one. Significant changes took place in the construction of dresses. Instead of an underdress and an outerdress, women wore a petticoat (an underskirt) and on overdress. The overall look was more like an hourglass.Bodices narrowed to a small waistline.
Skirts became more rigid and gradually expanded to an inverted cone shape with an inverted V opening at the front. Many dresses were untrained and ended at the floor. Bodices and skirts of dresses were sewn together. The bodice narrowed and flattened, becoming quite precise. The waist dipped to an elongated V at the front.A rich, jeweled belt outlined the waistline, and from the dip in front its long end fell down the center front of the gown almost to the floor.
At first, necklines were mostly square, but later were made in a variety of more closed styles. Some were high, closed necklines with standing, wing collars. There were neck fillers, part of the chemise, which were closed up to the throat and ended in a small ruffle. Others were ruffs of moderate size at this phase of their development, worn with high, fitted collars.
The first of many changes in sleeve styles came early in the period when German- and Italian-style sleeves were adopted. Some of the following styles developed. First there was a sleeve narrow at the shoulder, expanding to a huge, wide square cuff that turned back upon itself. This cuff was often made of fur or of heavy brocade to match the petticoat. A detachable, false sleeve decorated with panes and slashes through which the linen of the chemise was visible might be sewn to the underside of the cuff or, if the chemise were richly decorated, the sleeve of the chemise might be seen below the cuff.Another sleeve style was made with a puff at the shoulder and a close-fitting, long extension of the sleeve to the wrist. Though worn elsewhere, this style was especially popular in France.
A sleeve full from shoulder to wrist where it was caught into a cuff was also popular. Lastly, sleeves that were wider at the top and narrower at the bottom became fashionable. Some remarkably complex sleeve styles developed, especially those worn at the Spanish court, utilizing combinations of fitted, full, and hanging sleeves.Sleeve decorations included cutting and paning with decorative fabrics and fastening the panes with aiguillettes (small, jeweled metal points). Padded rolls of fabric were sometimes located at the joining of the bodice and sleeve. These were supposed to hide the laces fastening separate sleeves to bodices. Petticoats were worn to accent one’s ensemble.
They were mostly invisible except for a small V at the front of the skirt which showed their presence.Petticoats were cut from rich, decorative fabric such as velvet or brocade. Because the back of the petticoat was covered completely by the skirt of the dress, it was usually made with a less expensive, lighter weight fabric. The flared, cone-shaped fashion skirts required support to achieve its desired rigid shape. This means of support was provided by a Spanish device known as a Spanish farthingale. It was a construction of whalebone, cane, or steel hoops increasing in size from the waist to the floor and sewn into a petticoat or underskirt.
Originally a Spanish style, the ropa was an outer gown or surcote (an over garment of rich material, often with fur-linging) made either sleeveless, with a short puffed sleeve, or with a long sleeve, puffed at the top and fitted for the rest of the arm’s length. It fell from the shoulders unbelted in an A-line to the floor.Some versions closed in the front, but most were open to display the dress beneath.
In the last quarter of the century, 1575 to 1600, the first changes were seen in the shape of skirt, which grew wider at the top. Instead of the cone-shaped Spanish farthingale, a padded roll was placed around the waist. The English called these pads bum rolls, “bum” being English slang for buttocks. The farthingale was modified to obtain greater width and for better support of the dress than was provided by these rolls.In the new modified version, circles of whalebone, cane, or steel were the same diameter from top to bottom instead of increasing in size from the waist to the floor. Steel or can spokes fastened the upper hoop to a waistband.
It was called the wheel, drum, of French farthingale. This style was not used in Italy or Spain at this period where the older, hourglass shape of the Spanish farthingale with a slightly padded roll at the waist was preferred. Although it was essentially a northern European style, many women in northern Europe continued to wear Spanish farthingales, or dresses widened slightly at the waist with bum rolls or small, wheeled farthingales.Dresses worn over wheel farthingales had enormous skirts that were either cut and sewn into one continuous piece all around, or open at the front of sides over a matching underskirt. A ruffle the width of the flat shelflike section of the farthingale was sometimes attached to the skirt. To avoid having the body appear disproportionately short in contrast with the width of the skirt, sleeves were made fuller and with very high sleeve caps.
The front of the bodice was elongated, ending in a deep V at the waist. Additional height came from high standing collars and dressing the hair high on the head.In the late 1500’s ruffs grew to enormous widths.
Made of sheer linen or of lace they had to be supported by a frame called the supportasse or by starching. The following are a few different styles of ruffs. One consisted of gathering one edge of a band of fabric to the size of the neck to form a frill of deep folds. Some were round, flat lace pieces without depth of folds like a wide collar.Others had several layers of lace rounds placed over each other, covering the lower part of the neck. Then there were open ruffs, almost a cross between a collar and a ruff, which stood high behind the head and fastened in front into a wide, square neckline.
A conch or a conque as known in French, was a sheer, gauzelike veil so fine that in some portraits it can just barely be seen. It was cut the full length of the body from shoulder to floor and worn like a cape over the shoulders. At the back of the neck it was attached to a winglike construction that stood up like a high collar behind the head. Some references consider the conch to have had some significance as a widow’s costume, and this may be true in France; however, in England it seems to have been more widely worn for a purely decorative element of dress by women, such as Queen Elizabeth, who were never widowed.
The custom of having married and adult women cover their hair with a coif (under cap often embroidered and curved over the ears) continued. In the last two-thirds of the century, more hair was visible. The hair was combed back from the forehead, puffed up slightly around the face, then pulled into a coil at the back of the head.
To balance the width of the wheeled farthingale, extra height was gained by dressing the hair high and decorating it with jeweled ornaments. Hats popular toward the end of the century were generally small, with high crowns and narrow brims and trimmed with feathers. Jeweled nets and caps were also worn.Bibliography Boucher, Francois. 20,000 Years Of Fashion. New York: Harry N.
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ed, Social Science Dept.Head, Curlew High School, personal interview. Tortora, Phyllis and Keith Eubank. Survey of Historic Costume Third Edition. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1998.