1550-1600 Fashion History presented by Apparel Search

Fashion Industry  Fashion History  Color Trend Forecasting  Artist Guide  Merchandising  Fashion Industry News  Definition List  Fashion Museums and Exhibits

1550-1600 Fashion History Picture with definition for fashion historical informationFashion in the period 1550-1600
in Western European clothing is characterized by increased opulence, the rise of the ruff, the expansion of the farthingale for women, and, for men, the transition from hose to breeches.

General trends

The wide, broad-shouldered silhouette of the 1540s and 1550s gradually shifted to a tall, slender look. Sleeves 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 bodices 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: shirts and chemises were embroidered with blackwork and edged in lace, and heavy cut velvets and brocades 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 Fashion

Men's fashionable clothing consisted of:
  • A linen shirt with a ruff and matching wrist ruffs early, replaced by a collar and matching cuffs later in the period.
  • Hose, in variety of styles, worn with a codpiece early in the period.
  • A doublet with separate sleeves tied or laced to the shoulders.
  • Optionally, a jerkin, usually sleeveless and often made of leather, worn


Short cloaks or capes, usually hip-length, often with sleeves, or a miltary jacket like a 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 (see Academic dress).

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.

Hats, of 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 coifs or biggins continued to be worn by children and older men under their hats or alone indoors; men's coifs were usually black.

More images:

Philip II of Spain (d. 1598) in old age. Spanish fashion changed very little from the 1560s to the end of the century.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, 1594. Note the lovelock hanging over one shoulder, the wide lace-trimmed collar, and gloves with deep embroidered cuffs. Trunk hose are still worn, but without the prominent codpiece.

Sir Martin Frobisher in a peascod-bellied doublet with full sleeves under a buff jerkin with matching hose.

Henri III of France wears a short cape over doublet and hose.

Sir Christopher Hatton wears a fur-lined gown with hanging sleeves over a slashed doublet and hose, with the livery collar of the Order of the Garter, c. 1590.

Women's Fashion

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 corsets. 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 or buttons.

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 fur, were 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 skirt or petticoat and undersleeves. Extremely long hanging sleeves came into fashion at the end of the period.

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, underwear consisted of a linen chemise or smock and (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 narrow lace.

To shape the figure, the fashionable lady wore a corset called a pair of bodies. Her skirts were held in the proper shape by a farthingale or hoop skirt. 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 floor.

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 weather.

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 coif or biggins 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 after the Queen of Scots who wears one in several portraits.

In this period, women began to wear hats similar to those worn by men, a fashion which was deplored by Puritan commentator Philip Stubbes in his Anatomie of Abuses 1583.

First-time brides wore their hair down in token of virginity and wore orange blossoms in their hair.

More images:
  • 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 folding fan.

The above article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1550-1600_in_fashion 1/6/06

Time Line of Fashion From the Victorian Era Through the 1950's

Designer Definition Guide

Learn about another era in fashion:

1550-1600 Fashion History

1600-1650 Fashion History

1700-1750 Fashion History

1750-1795 Fashion History

1820' Fashion History

1830's-1840's Fashion History

1850's Fashion History

1860's Fashion History

1870's Fashion History

1890's Fashion History

1960's Fashion History

1970's Fashion History

1980's Fashion History (terms section)

1990's Fashion History

Artistic Dress Movement

Edwardian Fashion Era

Elizabethan Fashion Era

Victorian Fashion

History of Western Fashion

Clothing & Fashion Industry Definitions

Designer Definition (from U.S Department of Labor)

Clothing Definitions

Fashion Accessories



Fashion Industry

Apparel Search   Add Your Company   Contact Us   About Us   Advertise   News Letter   Legal   Help
Copyright © 1999-2023  Apparel Search Company.  All Rights Reserved.