Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fashion Throughout History (12th - 19th) Centuries

While reading Historical Fiction novels, I'm constantly trying to picture the gorgeous intricate gowns being described and I'm sure I'm not the only HF enthusiast trying to form a picture from the description given; therefore, I decided to put together this post in order to try and get a better idea how fashion has changed through history and also to help me form a better picture in my mind while reading my books. Hope you enjoy this and I hope you learn something as well because I know I sure have!

12th Century Garb




The Twelfth Century was an era of cultural and technical innovation that has been called both the “High Middle Ages and the “Little Renaissance”. This era was also an age of innovation and elegance in civilian dress. One such example was a new, elegant back-laced gown that replaced the bliaut over the second half of the 12th century, and was made popular throughout the courts of England and France by such famed ladies as Queen Eleanor and her daughter, the renowned Marie de France. These new, fitted gowns adopted a variety of both simple and dramatic sleeve shapes, and although they fell out of fashion in the 13th century, were forerunners to the fitted dresses that would reappear in the 14th. These beautiful designs are from the later decades of the 12th century and were worn for comfort. The long, fitted dress has narrow sleeves that flare out into dramatic, streaming cuffs that almost reach to the ground. Worn with a double-wrapped belt, these gowns were the height of “High Medieval” fashion! These gowns were typically made from wool since it was the primary fabric worn for all classes. Also, women typically wore a wimple around their head, which is depicted in the picture above.

13th Century
As you can see the gown was a little looser around
the midsection. Notice the barbette on her head.
There really wasn't much change from womens' gowns from the 12th to the 13th century except women wore hose and leather shoes, while their long dresses were loosely-fitted and had a narrow belt and tight sleeves. Over the dress was worn the cyclas or sleeveless surcoat. Women also continued to cover their hair. The 13th century headdress was notable for the barbette, a chin band to which were attached various types of hats. The “woman’s coif” that resembled a pillbox hat was the most popular headdress from the 12th to the 13th century. Both barbette and coif were reduced to narrow strips of cloth by the end of the 13th century, while the hair was often confined into crespine or crespinette, a thick hairnet or snood. Women’s headdresses in the 12th and the 13th centuries also featured wimple and veil which were mostly worn by older women.

14thCentury Dress

In the 14th century clothing moved away from simple variants of the tunic towards sleek, elegant lines that emphasized the human form. The basic woman's gown of this era is elegant simplicity, naturally following the contours of the body, with a wide neckline - the height of 1300s daring! The classic elements of the historical design: fitted sleeves extending down unto the hand, full skirts, and a wide, rounded neckline. The skirts run long with a small train  trailing along the ground - or they were hemmed to your desired length. In the 14th century, this gown can be worn alone, over an underdress or chemise or beneath a sideless surcoat or houpelande. 

Since ladies are rarely depicted from behind in illuminations, the exact closure method for these gowns is unknown. We have chosen to use a simple, back-lacing method that was common in both earlier and later centuries. A range of fit is given for each size because the lacings and placket in the back start at the top and extend to below the hip, providing flexibility within each size as well a near perfect fit to each individual within that size range. The placket is designed so that, no matter how tight or how loose the dress is laced, you are always completely covered.

15th Century
Women's fashions of the 15th century consisted of a long gown, usually with sleeves, worn over a kirtle or undergown, with a linen chemise or smock worn next to the skin. The long-waisted silhouette of the previous period was replaced by a high-waisted style with fullness over the belly, often confined by a belt. The wide, shallow scooped neckline was replaced by a V-neck, often cut low enough to reveal the decorated front of the kirtle beneath.
Various styles of overgowns were worn. The cotehardie fitted smoothly from the shoulders to the hips and then flared by means of inserted triangular gores. It featured sleeves tight to the elbow with hanging streamers or tippets. The tight fit was achieved with lacing or buttons. This style faded rapidly from fashion in favor of the houppelande, a full robe with a high collar and wide sleeves that had become fashionable around 1380 and remained so to mid-century. The later houppelande had sleeves that were snug at the wrist, making a full "bag" sleeve. The bag sleeve was sometimes slashed in the front to allow the lower arm to reach through.
Around 1450, the gown of northern Europe developed a low V-neck that showed a glimpse of the square-necked kirtle. The neckline could be filled in with a sheer linen partlet. Wide turn-backs like revers displayed a contrasting lining, frequently of fur or black velvet, and the sleeves might be cuffed to match. Sleeves were very long, covering half of the hand, and often highly decorated with embroidery. Fine sleeves were often transferred from one dress to another.


16th Century (Tudor Dress)
Catherine Parr
English or French fashion of 1545: the trumpet-sleeved
"French" or "Tudor gown", worn over a farthingale
and false undersleeves with a matching
forepart. The turned-back cuffs are lined with fur
Elizabeth Tudor at age 13 wears a rose-colored
gown over a forepart and undersleeves of cloth
of silver with patterns in looped pile.
Her French hood matches her gown, 1546.
European fashion in the earlier decades of the 16th century was dominated by the great rivalry between Henry VIII of England (ruled 1509–1547) and Francis I of France who was governor of France at the time] (ruled 1515–1547) to host the most glittering renaissance court, culminating in the festivities around the Field of Cloth of Gold (1520).
Women's fashions of the earlier 16th century consisted of a long gown, usually with sleeves, worn over a kirtle or undergown, with a linen chemise or smock worn next to the skin.The high-waisted gown of the late medieval period evolved in several directions in different parts of Europe. In the German states and Bohemia, gowns remained short-waisted, tight-laced but without corsets. The open-fronted gown laced over the kirtle or a stomacher or plackard. Sleeves were puffed and slashed, or elaborately cuffed.
In France, England, and Flanders, the high waistline gradually descended to the natural waist in front (following Spanish fashion) and then to a V-shaped point. Cuffs grew larger and were elaborately trimmed.Hoop skirts or farthingales had appeared in Spain at the very end of the 15th century, and spread to England and France over the next few decades. Corsets (called a pair of bodies) also appeared during this period.
A variety of hats, caps, hoods, hair nets, and other headresses were worn, with strong regional variations.Shoes were flat, with broad square toes.



17th Century (Elizabethan Dress)


As some of you may already know, Queen Elizabeth I inspired much of the fashion during this century known has the Golden Age and the dress was called the Elizabethan style. In the early years of the new century, fashionable bodices had high necklines or extremely low, rounded necklines, and short wings at the shoulders. Separate closed cartwheel ruffs were sometimes worn, with the standing collar, supported by a small wire frame or Supportase used for more casual wear and becoming more common later. Long sleeves were worn with deep cuffs to match the ruff. The cartwheel ruff disappeared in fashionable England by 1613.

By the mid-1620s, styles were relaxing. Ruffs were discarded in favor of wired collars which were called rebatosin continental Europe and, later, wide, flat collars. By the 1630s and 1640s, collars were accompanied by kerchiefs similar to the linen kerchiefs worn by middle-class women in the previous century; often the collar and kerchief were trimmed with matching lace.

Bodices were long-waisted at the beginning of the century, but waistlines rose steadily to the mid-1630s before beginning to drop again. In the second decade of the 17th century, short tabs developed attached to the bottom of the bodice covering the bum-roll which supported the skirts. These tabs grew longer during the 1620s and were worn with a stomacher which filled the gap between the two front edges of the bodice. By 1640 the long tabs had almost disappeared and a longer, smoother figure became fashionable: The waist returned to normal height at the back and sides with a low point at the front.
The long, tight sleeves of the early 1600s grew shorter, fuller, and looser. A common style of 1620s and 1630s was the virago sleeve, a full, slashed sleeve gathered into two puffs by a ribbon or other trim above the elbow. In France and England, lightweight bright or pastel-coloured satins replaced dark, heavy fabrics. As in other periods, painters tended to avoid the difficulty of painting striped fabrics; it is clear
from inventories that these were common. Short strings of pearls were fashionable.



18th Century Gowns

French silk sack-back gown with closed bodice
and panniers, trimmed with padded
bands of blue satin, chenille blonde lace,
flowers of gathered ribbon, feathers
and raffia tassels, 1775–1780
Hoops & Stays

Women's clothing styles retained an emphasis toward a conical shape of the torso while the shape of the skirts changed throughout the period. The hoop-skirts of the 1740s were left behind, but wide panniers (holding the skirts out at the side) came into style several times, and the aesthetic of a narrow inverted cone, achieved with boned stays, above full skirts remained.
1759 portrait of Madame de Pompadour shows her petticoat trimmed with flounces to match her gown. She wears a small lace ruff around her neck.

The usual fashion of the years 1750–1780 was a low-necked gown (usually called in French a robe), worn over a petticoat. Most gowns had skirts that opened in front to show the petticoat worn beneath. If the bodice of the gown was open in front, the opening was filled in with a decorative stomacher, pinned to the gown over the laces or to the corset beneath.

Tight elbow-length sleeves were trimmed with frills or ruffles, and separate under-ruffles called engageantes of lace or fine linen were tacked to the smock or chemise sleeves. The neckline was trimmed with a fabric or lace ruffle, or a neckerchief called a fichu could be tucked into the low neckline.The robe à la française or sack-back gown featured back pleats hanging loosely from the neckline. A fitted bodice held the front of the gown closely to the figure. Toward the 1770s, an informal alternative to the gown was a costume of a jacket and petticoat, based on working class fashion but executed in finer fabrics with a tighter fit.

19th Century (Victorian)
Silk Court Dress - 19th Century - England
(from Victoria and Albert Museum)
Day Dress
(Victoria & Albert Museum)

In the 1840s and 1850s, women's gowns developed narrow and sloping shoulders, low and pointed waists, and bell-shaped skirts. Corsets, a knee-length chemise, and layers of flounced petticoats were worn under the gowns. By the 1850s the amount of petticoats was reduced and the crinoline was worn the size of the skirts expanded. Day dresses had a solid bodice and evening gowns had a very low neckline and were worn off the shoulder with sheer shawls and opera-length gloves.
Queen Victoria's Dress (1860's)

In the 1860s, the skirts became flatter at the front and projected out more behind the woman. Day dresses had wide pagoda sleeves and high necklines with lace or tatted collars. Evening dresses had low necklines and short sleeves, and were worn with short gloves or fingerless lace or crocheted mitts.
Victoria's Dress (1870's)

In the 1870s, uncorseted tea gowns were for informal entertaining at home and steadily grew in popularity. Bustles were used to replace the crinoline to hold the skirts up behind the woman, even for "seaside dresses".

In the 1880s, riding habits had a matching jacket and skirt (without a bustle), a high-collared shirt or chemisette, and a top hat with a veil. Hunting costumes had draped ankle-length skirts worn with boots or gaiters. Clothing worn when out walking had a long jacket and skirt, worn with the bustle, and a small hat or bonnet. Travelers wore long coats like dusters.

In the 1890s, women's fashion became simpler and less extravagant; both bustles and crinoline fell out of use and dresses were not as tight as before. Corsets were still used but became slightly longer, giving women a slight S-curve silhouette. Skirts took on a trumpet shape, fitting closely over the hip with a wasp-waist cut and flaring just above the knee. High necks and puffed sleeves became popular.
Day Dress (1836 - 40)
(Victoria & Albert Museum)
 So those are the dresses through the ages. It's so hard to choose my favorite century but I would have to say my favorite is the Elizabethan gowns. I don't know what it is but I have always been in such awe over all things Elizabethan and the Elizabethan collars! They are to die for! My second favorite century dress is probably a tie between Tudor (16th Century) dress and 18th Century dress. I love what I call "Marie Antoinette" gowns. They are so intricate, but I would never want to try to walk through a doorway with those hoops and stays! Can you imagine? 

So I am very interested as to what your favorite century dress is and why. I know it's soo hard to choose so you can list several if you'd like. Hope you enjoyed this post!

36 comments:

  1. Thanks for such an interesting and informative post. I also try to visualize the clothing as I'm reading works of historical fiction.

    BTW - I like the new look of your blog.

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  2. Thanks Melissa! I'm glad you like the new face of ATHF. I wasn't sure how everyone would feel about the change. I wanted it to look more Renaissance/Elizabethan.

    Taylor~

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    Replies
    1. thanks melissa really helpful doing a class project on how dresses have changed throughout the ceuntuaries could you carry on that would be even more helpful

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  3. Absolutely fascinating.
    Thank you.
    I just read a book, The Paper Garden, a biography/memoir combination about a woman from the 18th century and it had the most detailed and well written description of what an upper class woman would have worn and how she would have been dressed.

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  4. Thank you so much for this post! I am always trying to imagine the elaborate gowns described when I read and I'm sure I'll be coming back to this post in the future to reference. :)

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  5. I like the 12th-15th century dresses. The later ones kind of scare me. All I can think of is... "hot." How can they wear all those clothes without air condition?

    Thanks for sharing. I found this to be a very interesting post. I usually picture the clothing of this period based on the cover. I also didn't give it much thought. So it never crossed my mind that I was wrong.

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  6. Wow, excellent dive into the fashion history. We continuously go back and reinvent the old. I would love to see more of these designs on todays clothing. I got an article about history of glasses

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