Fashion in the period 1550-1600
by increased opulence, the rise of the
, the expansion of the
and, for men, the transition from
The wide, broad-shouldered silhouette
of the 1540s and 1550s gradually shifted
to a tall, slender look.
and shoulders became narrower in the 1560s,
expanded through the 1570s and 1580s, and
narrowed again at the end of the period.
Waistlines dropped toward a low point
in front for both men and women.
The severe fashions of the Spanish court
under Philip II of Spain were dominant through
the early part of the period every where
except France; black garments were worn
for the most formal occasions. Regional
styles were still distinct. Janet Arnold
in her analysis of Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe
records identifies French, Italian, Dutch,
and Polish styles for
and sleeves, as well as Spanish.
Ruffs increased in size throughout the
period and then began to disappear everywhere
except Holland, where they remained in fashion
well into the next century.
The general trend toward abundant surface
ornamentation in the
Elizabethan era was mirrored in clothing,
especially among the aristocracy in England:
and edged in
were further ornamented with applied lace,
gold and silver embroidery, and jewels.
Leather and fabric garments continued
to be decorated by slashing and punching
the fabric in regular patterns, and
linings could be pulled through the
slashes in small puffs.
Men's fashionable clothing consisted of:
with a ruff and matching wrist ruffs
early, replaced by a
later in the period.
in variety of styles, worn with a
early in the period.
with separate sleeves tied or laced
to the shoulders.
- Optionally, a
usually sleeveless and often made of
usually hip-length, often with
or a miltary
mandilion, were fashionable. Long cloaks
were worn for inclement weather. Gowns
were increasingly old-fashioned, and were
worn by older men for warmth indoors and
out. In this period gowns began their transition
from general garments to traditional clothing
of specific occupations, such as scholars
Hairstyles and headgear
Hair was generally worn short, brushed
back from the forehead. Longer styles were
popular in the 1580s. In the 1590s, young
men of fashion wore a lovelock, a
long section of hair hanging over one shoulder.
various shapes and fashions, but generally
tall and trimmed with a jewel or feather,
were worn indoors and out.
Close-fitting caps covering the ears
and tied under the chin called
biggins continued to be worn by children
and older men under their hats or alone
indoors; men's coifs were usually black.
The wide "trumpet"
sleeves characteristic of
Tudor England disappeared
with the accession of Elizabeth,
in favor of French and Spanish
styles with narrower sleeves.
Bodices could be high-necked
or have a broad, low, square
neckline, often with a slight
arch at the front early
in the period. French, Spanish,
and English bodices were
stiffened into a cone shape
or worn over
The wide-shouldered look
of the 1580s was emphasized
with padded and jeweled
shoulder rolls. Bodices
fastened with hooks in front
or were laced at the side-back
seam; high-necked bodices
styled like men's doublets
might fasten with hooks
A low neckline could be filled in with
a partlet, usually of embroidered
linen with matching sleeves. Embroidered
sets of partlet and sleeves were frequently
given to Elizabeth as New Year's gifts.
Alternatively, a high-necked chemise with
a standing collar and ruff could be worn.
Gowns with hanging sleeves in various
styles, often lined in
worn as an extra layer indoors and out through
the period. Loose gowns of the 1560s hung
from the shoulders, and some had puffed
upper sleeves. Loose gowns could be worn
over a one-piece kirtle or under-dress,
usually laced at the back.
Later gowns were fitted to the figure
and had full or round sleeves with a wristband.
These were worn over a bodice and matching
and undersleeves. Extremely long hanging
sleeves came into fashion at the end of
The fashion for skirts worn open at the
front to display a rich petticoat or separate
forepart continued into the 1580s.
The forepart was a heavily decorated panel
to fill in the front opening; it might be
sewn to a plain petticoat or pinned in place.
During this period,
consisted of a
(optionally) linen drawers. The chemise
could have a low, square neckline or a high
collar and ruff like a man's shirt. Fine
chemises were embroidered and trimmed with
To shape the figure, the fashionable
lady wore a
called a pair of bodies. Her skirts
were held in the proper shape by a
In Spain, the cone-shaped Spanish farthingale
remained in fashion into the early 17th
century. It never really caught on in France,
where a padded roll or French farthingale
held the skirts out in a rounded shape at
the waist, falling in soft folds to the
In England, the Spanish farthingale was
worn through the 1570s, and was gradually
replaced by the French farthingale. By the
1590s, skirts were pinned to wide wheel
farthingales to achieve a drum shape.
Hooded cloaks were worn overall in bad
Hairstyles and headgear
Early in the period, hair was parted
in the center and fluffed over the temples;
later front hair was curled and puffed high
over the forehead. Wigs and false hairpieces
were used to extend the hair.
In keeping with tradition, married women
wore their hair pinned up and covered. A
close-fitting linen cap called a
was worn, alone or under
other hats; many embroidered and lace-trimmed
coifs survive from this period. A cap wired
or starched into slight heart-shape is called
by costume historians a Mary Stuart cap
Queen of Scots
who wears one in several
In this period, women began
to those worn by men, a fashion which was
Philip Stubbes in his Anatomie of
brides wore their hair down in token
of virginity and wore orange blossoms in
- In this
allegorical painting c. 1572,
Elizabeth I wears a fitted gown
with hanging sleeves over a matching
arched bodice and skirt or petticoat,
elaborate undersleeves, a high-necked
chemise with a ruff, and a Spanish farthingale.
Lettice Knollys wears an embroidered
black high-necked bodice with round
sleeves and skirt over a gold petticoat
or forepart and matching undersleeves,
a lace cartwheel ruff and lace cuffs,
and a tall black hat with a jeweled
ostrich feather. C. 1580s.
French fashion: A open ruff fastens
at the base of the neck, and the skirt
hangs in soft folds over a French farthingale.
Mary Queen of Scots in capitivity
wears French fashions (open ruff and
French farthingale) and a cap and veil.
Elizabeth I, 1592, wears a dark
red gown (the fabric is just visible
at the waist under her arms) with hanging
sleeves lined in white satin to match
her bodice, undersleeves, and petticoat,
which is pinned to a cartwheel farthingale.
She carries leather gloves and an early
Time Line of Fashion From the Victorian Era Through the 1950's
(from U.S Department of Labor)