Dress Design: An Account of Costume for Artists and Dressmakers




The braiding and small slashing continued of a similar character to the end of the Elizabethan age. The slashing now began to be treated with a larger effect and less elaboration, but pricking and punching were still much used for enriching surfaces. An improved style of design was evident.

The female bodice was arranged with a long stomacher, often shaped into curved forms at the point, and this was set with jewels or embroidery, otherwise the bodice was decorated with braiding and jewels as in Elizabeth's reign. The full sleeves were embellished with small slashes (making diamond squares), puffs, or pricked and punched designs. A turned-up cuff or ruff of pointed lace finished the wrist, braided epaulets formed a beautiful feature of the effect, and the front of the underskirt was decorated with a jewelled band or conventional design, as was also the border of the overskirt. Caps of an interesting curved form beautifully embroidered in gold and coloured silks are seen, of which I give patterns; also loose jackets of the same work were in use when not in full dress.


Many beautifully embroidered caps, jerkins, jackets, and shirts are seen at this period in gold and black or coloured silks. Slashings of this reign, though in fashion, had commenced to go out; and those retained were of a large character, mostly from the neck or shoulder to the breast. The favoured sleeves were cut into straps to the elbow or wrist, and were often edged with braid, either side meeting together and lining the forearm, the body being treated in the same way. The open-fronted sleeve was set with buttons and loops or long braided buttonholes with frayed or knotted ends, though these were not generally fastened. The tight undersleeve was often set with gold or silver narrow braids down the front and back seams, and close lines of small braids horizontally round the arm, or vertically when the outer sleeve was treated horizontally, this gave a beautiful counterchanged effect.

Many of the ladies' caps of this time had beautiful gold scrolls, with flowers and birds embroidered in coloured silks, also loose jackets of the same were in use. The bodice was banded with braids or lace on the front and seams, and the stomacher was often of fine embroidery; set rosettes or bows were placed at the waist. Other finishing effects of collar or sleeve, and the button and buttonhole decorations were made important features on both male and female sleeves, and even down the front of the outer skirt when it was not treated with lace. Red heels to shoes began to be worn and continued to the end of the 18th century in marked favour.


During this short period the character and placing of braiding was the same as in the latter part of last reign; slashing had almost completely gone out, except for the treatment of some ladies' sleeves cut into bands. A very sober effect was assumed in colour schemes, besides a plainer treatment in decoration, and a deep plain collar or a small turn-over one was chiefly worn by the men, while the hat of the Puritan rose to an absurd height, with a wide flat brim.


This may be named the period of ribbon trimmings, though braiding was treated in broad lines on the short jackets and sleeves, and down the sides of the breeches. A preference is shown for gold and silver lace, or amongst the ´┐Żlite purfled silk edges; the new mode being a decoration of groups of ribbon loops placed about the suit or dress. The notable feature with the female dress was the gathering of drapery by means of jewelled clasps, and groups of ribbon loops were also used, as with the male dress. The edges of the materials were sometimes cut into scalloped or classic forms, and a very simple voluminous character was fashion's aim.


With the later type of long-skirted coat which began in Charles II's reign, a heavy style of braiding and buttoning came into vogue, all the seams of the coat besides the pockets and cuffs and fronts being braided, which fashion continued to the end of the century. Many coats began to be embroidered in the later reign, and waistcoats became a special feature for the display of fine needlecraft on the fronts and pockets, while quilting or imitations of it in various needlework designs are often seen. In the female dress a more elaborate interest was again taken in the stomachers and the jewelled claspings, while lengths of soft silk gathered into long puffs often edged the outer skirts or were used in smaller trimmings, and "classical" shapings of the edges of materials and sleeves are often seen, also heavy bands of rich embroidery bordered the underskirt or train.


We find much the same high forms of set-up head-dress continuing in fashion as in the later years of Elizabeth's reign; but the hair began to take a fuller shape, rather round, done up in tight frizzled curls, with the usual decorations of jewels, pearls, or set bows of this period. Hats with high crowns and small straight brims, with an upright set of small plumes, gradually assumed a larger brimmed character—often turned up on one side. The same absurd pleated hoop, with its hanging skirt, continued for some time (worn rather short); but we also see the longer and very full hooped-out skirt, with an overskirt opened in the front. The stomacher front became much enlarged during this reign, many having shaped designs at the point. Most bodices took a very deep curved front at the neck, and large padded sleeves narrowed at the wrist still continued, besides the high fan collar at the back of the neck, and large ruffs were used by many. There also appeared, later in the reign, a stiff round collar, set high in the neck, cut off straight across the front, and the bodice took a very low square-cut neck, with a raised curved shape at the centre of neck. The tighter sleeve was also worn throughout this time, with the overdress and sleeve hanging almost to the ground, which often had a very angular cuff. A little later some sleeves began to be gathered at intervals into puffy forms. The waist also showed signs of shortening.

Fig. 58.

Fig. 59.—Costumes. Period, James I.

Shoes with rounded toes and latchets holding large rosettes were chiefly worn, and heels of various heights are seen. Chopins, still worn on the Continent, do not seem to have appeared here.


The hat was of the high-crowned type, perhaps higher than in the last reign. The brim had broadened, and feathers were placed upwards fantastically at the back and sides of crown. Brims were often fastened up on the right side with a jewel; otherwise a band was buckled in front. The hair was now allowed to fall longer again, and a pointed or square-shaped beard with a brushed-up moustache was the mode. Ruffs both large and small surrounded the neck, and a flat fan-shaped collar was seen in the earlier years.

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Plate XIV.

  • (a) Embroidered Silk Dress with Pannier. 1765-80. Pattern of bodice, p. 322.
  • (b) Brocade Dress and Quilted Petticoat. 1750-65.

Fig. 60.—Costumes. Period James I.

The jerkin was close fitting and the length of the waist more normal, with less tendency to being tightened in, and not so deep in the front point, so as to set better over the very full trunks or breeches. The square tabs of the jerkin increased in size, and soon formed large flaps divided into three or four, to the centre of the back. Sleeves were fairly tight and started from slightly larger epaulets, and were usually set at the wrist, either with a small ruff or turned-up lawn cuff, edged with lace.

The trunks were padded in a very full shape and were much longer, just above the knee. Also full padded-out breeches tapering to the knee or just above, where a large tie and bow hung at the side, and full square breeches not tied in, are also a feature of these days, usually banded with wide braids at ends and sides. Upright pockets were made on either side towards the front, about two inches from the side seams. They fastened up the front in a pleated fold, many being decorated with punched, pricked, or slashed design of a smallish character.

Fig. 61.—Shapes of Shoes from 1590-1650.

Cloaks were worn longer to the knee, retaining the same shapes and braid decoration as in the Elizabethan period, and hanging sleeves were still worn on them, as well as on some of the jerkins.

Shoes became fuller and rounder at the toes, mostly with thick welted soles and short heels, or none. They were fastened with a large rosette of gold lace or ribbon on the front, and the latchets were set back to show an open side. The top-boots were close fitting and took squarer toes; the spur flap being rather small. Beautifully embroidered clocks are seen on the tights and stockings of this period.


The hair was now allowed to fall in ringlets round the back and sides, with a few flat curls on the brow, and a bow and pearls were caught in at the sides. Short feathers may also be noted in use. A plait was often coiled at the back after 1630.

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Plate XV.

  • (a) White Cloth Coat. 1775-90.
  • (b) Silk Dress. 1740-60.
  • (c) Embroidered Velvet Coat. 1755-75.

Fig. 62.

Fig. 63.
Collar and Bodice types. Period Charles I.

Fig. 64.
Collar and Bodice types. Period Charles I to 1660.

In the early part of this reign the ladies were wearing the long corset-bodice, with a richly decorated stomacher which curved outwards to set on the very full skirts; this often finished with a curved or foliated shape at the point. Square starched collars, rounded at the back, sometimes set up at the back of the neck or flat on the shoulder, and ruffs were still seen round the neck with collars as well, but they were seldom met with after 1635. A plainer, deep collar, flat, round, or V-shaped at the back, coming well over the shoulders, was caught together by a bow or ornament in front. About 1630 shorter waisted bodices came in, with full, loose sleeves set in epaulets: the neck shape was rounded or square. The bodices were often slashed, and the full sleeves, cut into bands, were sometimes gathered by cross bands from one to three times. Full plain sleeves, opened in the front seam, were also clasped at the elbow in a like manner. Outer short sleeves became a feature, opening in the front, showing the full under one or a tight one; the waist became very short and its tabs larger. A waistband fastened in the stomacher with a bow either side and bows with long gold tags decorated the waist as in the male jerkin. The skirt decorated by a band of ornament down the front was often tied upon the corset-bodice, the front point being left outside. Shoes of the same shape as the male illustrations, with very square toes, were frequent, but an oval toe, rather pointed, is seen in many pictures, with the large lace rosettes in front. Muffs are first noticed in these days, though they were seen much earlier on the Continent.

Fig. 65.—Period 1625-1660.


The hair was worn loose to the shoulders, and a small plait was sometimes arranged on the left side, brought to the front of shoulder. The beard was trimmed to a pointed shape, and smarter curled moustaches were fashionable. Hats were still high in the crown, but rather lower than with James I; the large brims were turned about in various curves, and feathers were worn falling over the brims to the side or back.

The jerkin was high in the collar, supporting a large, square, turn-down collar edged with pointed lace to the shoulders, or a small, plain, turn-over collar; ruffs are very rarely seen after 1630.

Fig. 66.—Charles I.

Fig. 67.—Period 1625-1660.

Fig. 68.—Period 1625-1660.

A rather short waist grew shorter during this reign, with much larger tabs, or large flaps laced to the body, forming a series of bows with long gilt tags round the waist. The body is usually decorated with long slashes from the shoulders to the breast, or the full length, and a long slashed opening is often seen in the back (presumably to give more play to the sword-thrust). The sleeve is also treated in the same way to the elbow or waist. All sleeves start from a stiff epaulet. Breeches are both very full and fairly tight, the latter edged with a purfling of silk or gold lace as well as the sides, the former shape tied either above or below the knee with a large silk bow with falling ends. They were held up by a number of hooks, fastening to a small flap with eyelets, round the inside of the doublet (see pattern 11, p. 295), and were buttoned down the front, the buttons being half hidden in a pleat. The pockets were placed vertically in the front of the thigh, and were frequently of a decorative character.

A short or long circular cloak was worn, and a coat-cloak with opened sleeves is an interesting garment. These coverings were hung in various ways from the shoulders by methods of tying the cords across the body.

Fig. 69.—Period 1625-1660.

Fig. 70.—Shoe shapes. Charles I to 1700.
Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 23. Charles I.
Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 25. Charles II.
Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 27, 28. James II and William and Mary.

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Plate XVI.

  • (a) Silk Brocade Dress. 1740-60.
  • (b) Silk Brocade Sack-back Dress. 1755-75. Pattern, see p. 334.
  • (c) Dress of Striped Material. 1775-85. Pattern, see p. 335.

Fig. 71.—Boot shapes. Charles I to 1700.
Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Charles I.
Nos. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. Charles II.
Nos. 16, 17, 18. James II and William and Mary.

Shoes became very square at the toes, or blocked as in Fig. 70, No. 6. The fronts were set with large rosettes of silk and silver or gold lace, the heels varied much in height, that mostly favoured being a large, low heel. A quaint fashion of shoe combined with a clog sole was an interesting shape (see illustration of clogs, p. 106). Fairly tight top-boots, coming well above the knee, were often turned down. Other boots with large bell-tops, turned over or pushed down, were covered or filled with a lace or bell-shaped stocking-top. A sash was worn round the waist or across the body over the left shoulder (the length and width of these is given in the description of patterns, p. 279). A broad belt, or sword-hanger, came across the right shoulder. Gloves were beautifully embroidered in gold, pearls, or coloured silks, the gauntlets being from five to eight inches deep.

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