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!


  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.

  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.


    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

  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.

  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. :)

  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.

  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

  7. It is nice collection for fashionable dresses, i would really like it and i hope this blog is really workout for my Furnace Filters business. it helps to keep the maximum air flow through out the house and Reduces the cost of energy you use.

  8. Nice blog and it really workout for my Air cleaner business. It control the indoor air quality by reducing pollutants.

  9. I liked the dresses of the 19th century

  10. Such a great information and I've been looking for this..

  11. Plumber work is a home improvement services that includes the installation of sinks, tubs, and it also maintain existing plumbing systems. Our Plumber London business is also good service provider.

  12. Microdermabrasion will brighten your skin, smooth it out and face will have a fresher look and feel, but you need to have realistic expectations. Our Microdermabrasion business is one of the good service provider.

  13. Our Options Trading business is the trading of stock options over an exchange, it is a most commonly conducted through online option trading brokers and also commonly known as Online Options Trading.

  14. I have one of my Indoor Air Quality business. It affected by microbial contaminants , gases or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Indoor air is becoming an increasingly more concerning health hazard than outdoor air.

  15. Ac Repair Phoenix, the most common central cooling system is a split system, which includes an outdoor cabinet containing a condenser coil and compressor, and an indoor evaporator coil, usually installed in conjunction with your furnace.

  16. When it comes time to search for an HVAC technician. Our one of my Air Conditioning Katy business provide good job in the field of HVAC.

  17. Kacexpress provides air conditioning and heating service for residential customers. We service and install all brands of equipment. Our Air Conditioning Contractors Humble business is one of the best service provider.

  18. I appreciate the write and the real insight of the writer on the subject. well done

  19. Transmission Service Hollywood FL provide you with a complete estimate and an explanation of all transmission rebuilds,Services and repairs to be performed. Our work is 100% guaranteed.

  20. wow.. this is what i am searching for.. nice post, i need something like this :D

  21. Thanks for providing this type of very helpful information. I enjoyed reading it,it is excellent! Thanks a lot!

  22. Thank you to tell us so much useful information. So nice sharing. I’m glad to read it.

    Online Women’s Fashion

  23. good blog article thanks for sharing by i really learn a lot
    healthy facts

  24. very nice blog, very nice collection of dresses and the queen style dresses i like a lot.
    Air Filter

  25. great blog!! i was wodering old fashion in clothing because i also wanted to picture what i was reading :) & im reading pride and prejudice BTW totally recomend it!! :D

  26. Hello ... please am searching on some reffraces for a coocking man form the 16th centeury ...if any one have such thing please send it to my email : Thank you ... :)

  27. I love the detail in that dress and your ankle strap sandals are beautiful!

    Hope you had an amazing time!
    sexy tops

  28. Air conditioning Sunrise solutions delivered by All County Air are well known for being managed in the shortest time available.
    Air Conditioning Sunrise

  29. hi thx for the such interesting information! may i know is this for germany??

  30. Hi There! I Like the way your writing your blog.. I strongly recommend your blog to my friends. Great ReaD! Nice article Composition.

    criminal case cheats
    dragon city hack
    marketland hack tool

  31. This is a wonderful site for reference however the lace background insert makes it rather difficult to read and in my humble opinion distracts from the overall information.

  32. love the article, but hated reading through the lace

  33. OUTLET · ORIGINAl and men clothe online · LIFE STYLE DRESSINg with women clothes online WHOLESALE

  34. What is with the background picture? Having to highlight every word just so I can read it...

  35. Please provide us a link of men's clothing as well

  36. Great post. I loved the information. I read a LOT of books, spanning 13th century to the 1800s of Europe. I love the descriptions of the dresses and outfits that the wore. I recently finished a book based on 13th century Scotland Highlanders that is what lead me to your post. It cleared up my questions and helped with my curiosity of the dresses in that era. Awesome post.

  37. I like everything before the Elizabethan dresses and also the Victorian dresses. I don't have a real reason.

  38. Nice post you have shared here Thanks a lot.

  39. your backdrop makes it very difficult to read the text

  40. delete backdrop plz and add more things about shoes at this time

  41. Thanks for sharing nice information with us. i like your post and all you share with us is uptodate and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.
    flamenca beach bunny

  42. Thanks for posting, I really enjoyed your most recent post. I think you should post more often, you obviously have natural ability for blogging!

  43. I was wondering about the fashion related content. It was awesoeme to see this fab post. I like the efforts you made to continue for this purpose.
    It is a great place to know more about fashion. I hope i will be back and bookmark this page.

    Pakistan Magazine news
    women's latest fashion
    Best Fashion Site in Pakistan
    top fashion blog

  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

  46. Very Nice Post. I hope I see another beautiful post next time. Thank you.
    Ladies Formal Wear

  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. Third-generation co-owners Chas and Gordon Geiger, who already have stores in Lakewood and Chagrin Falls, said their newest location will open this fall in the ground floor of the Ivory on Euclid (formerly the Truman Building) at 1020 Euclid Ave., just east of Heinen's. The brothers have signed a letter of intent to that effect with CRM Companies Inc., which owns and manages the building. We provide best quality Mens clothing online, Cheap mens clothing, Women's fashion clothing, Women Clothing Online, Women's tops online and Best women skirts

  50. This comment has been removed by the author.


  51. Found your blog. It is full of really good information. Thank you for sharing. If you ever need service on air conditioning repair please visit us at We would love it if you would have a look at some of our blogs and let us know your thoughts.

  52. Fantastic post.........All dresses and information shared here are simply amazing.....Thank you for sharing this information
    Buy Womens Clothes Online

  53. This comment has been removed by the author.


  54. What a great article. Thanks for sharing. We are always looking to innovate and carry the industry forward by sharing great practices. What are your thoughts on digital advertising in regards to SEO, Graphic Design and Content? We have seen it all over the map from 500 word pieces to 2,500 word pieces. Not to mention the new hipster designs and parallax themes. What are your thoughts? Come check us out some time. Would love to hear what you think about our blog articles

  55. Nice Website...
    Hey JOIN now and Increase Facebook Likes your profile and websites.
    Increase Facebook Likes and check your website worth worth my websites
    its may be very beneficial for you also really

  56. This comment has been removed by the author.

  57. Hey, I love your dress and am making in for halloween, I'm going as a newsie, liberal media
    henna designs for hands

  58. Fleshandhide

    Fashion Leather Jackets | Celebrity Leather Jackets | Sheep Leather Jackets are Available
    at , leather jackets uk leather jackets usa quality leather jackets

  59. Myshop provide the best material about clothing. We sale in cheap and best quality. Here are options Large collection of hot dresses, ladies bottom wear, ladies fashion collection, Wedding & events, Accessories, Leather products all especially for Ladies.

  60. I was taking a gander at some of your posts on this site and I imagine this site is truly enlightening! Keep setting up.. hairstyles for women

  61. Like a fairytale weaved and spun with magic threads, the story of KHAS started with a dream over half a century back. A subsidiary of the Sadaqat Group, that has won respect and awards all over the world, the vision of Khas is to make the same quality available here in Pakistan.
    Bridal bedding
    Boys bedding

  62. I am unable to read articles online very often, but I’m glad I did today. It is a nicely informative article in fashion, traditional & costume jewelry ranges, I have ever read. Thank you.

  63. Great info! I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. cheap vintage clothing uk

  64. Awesome collection of old time dress and i never saw before it, really nice post and blog as i am able to see here, keep doing well....anti ageing night moisturizer

  65. If you have an interesting point of view or a topic that you want to read more about, NoZombo can fulfill your wish. Our goal is to inform you, inspire you, to arm you with suitable weapons, to give you information that you can use daily and in that way fight against the unknown and unforeseen. Just visit NoZombo . Trends and habits

  66. The new professional style shows that professional Dresss adding authority to the dressing style if you can carry this in a perfect way.
    Shop Women's Dresses Online

  67. I pay a visit each day a few websites and websites to read content, however this web site offers feature based content.
    Los Angeles fashion for women

  68. fascinating post. i have been pondering about this issue, so a debt of gratitude is in order for posting.

    pakistan bridal dresses
    winter dresses for women
    winter wear pret dresses

  69. AS time went by, they started exposing themselves more and more.

    Deals on all Brands

  70. The post is written in very a good manner and it contains many useful information for me. Women Fashion

  71. I have loved the passion of these historical enthusiasts in giving the nice details about the historical fictions in the early ages. The representations which have been used to give the details of this blog have very useful details. This is a very substantial piece of information for the historians. A number of historians have been relying on Literature Review Rewriting Websites for assistance with history research paper literature reviews.

  72. Wow, this is the best blog that I have visited today and it has the best information. I have been able to appreciate the transformation that has taken place in the fashion world. We are anticipating more unique and creative fashion trends from the upcoming fashion designers. Thanks so much for sharing this information with us and I am looking forward to reading more posts. Check out our editing site by clicking on Grammatical Errors Editor.

  73. The exciting debut of embroidery clothes. When you read this blog then you will understand about what it entails. In what aspects do you feel about embroidery. Here I obtain a wide range of details about Hand embroidered dresses.

  74. Great information thanks for sharing this with us.In fact in all posts of this blog their is something to learn . your work is very good and i appreciate your work and hopping for some more informative posts .
    Pakistani Online Suits