Dress Design: An Account of Costume for Artists and Dressmakers


The same shapes apply to costume during the Commonwealth, though a sterner effect was given by the choice of plain decoration and less colour. A small or a large plain collar, and the disappearance of slashings on the coat, and a longer skirt became noticeable. A very high tapered hat, with stiff circular brim, was worn by the Puritans, and little, close, black hoods were much favoured. A general reaction from gay extravagance set in.


The hair was set out from the head on combs with falling ringlets, and several small flat ringlets were placed on the forehead. The back of the hair was plaited into a knot, and pearl strings were interlaced, or ribbon loops caught in at either side. Toward 1680 the hair was worn tightly curled and fulled out into a round shape with a curl or two falling on the front of the shoulders; small feathers or long feathers were also worn. Hats were of a similar shape to those of the last reign, with a stiffer and narrower curved brim; but the chief head-dress was a large hood faced with another material, which latter was tied under the chin; these mostly formed part of a cape also.

Fig. 72.—Period 1650-1685.

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Plate XVII.

  • (a) Silk Suit. 1765-80.
  • (b) Quilted Dress. 1700-25.
  • (c) Silk-embroidered Suit. 1765-80.

Fig. 73.
1, 2, 3, 4.—Back and Front of two Corset Bodices. Period Charles II.
5, 6.—Two Corsets. Period Charles II.
7, 8.—Two Bodice types. Period Charles I.

The bodice again became much longer and of a pointed shape, but many corset bodices took a round point, and a round neck coming well off the shoulders became general, usually decorated with a plain wide band of lace. Ruffs and collars were no longer seen amongst the upper classes. Very full sleeves and large opened sleeves were tied or clasped over full lawn ones, and at times separated from the shoulders, being caught effectively with jewels. Groups of ribbons were placed at the breast or point of the bodice, and the ends of sleeves or shoulders, besides at the fronts of the outer skirt when divided, also in the gathering of the lawn sleeves. Stomachers were not much worn, but a drape of soft silk was caught here and there round the neck of bodice, and large draperies were clasped to the shoulders. Loose robes and robes shaped to the figure, opening down the front from the neck even to the waist, with a clasp or several holding them together; these were worn over a quilted linen corset laced in front as in the illustration, but the bodice was often formed on a corset. Long gloves and mittens were in use, and small muffs with ribbon loops on the front were carried. High-heeled shoes with very long square toes were affected in imitation of the male shoe, but most ladies now began to wear a very pointed shoe.

Fig. 74.—Sleeve treatments. Period Charles II.


Long hair or wigs of long curls falling on the shoulders, a very narrow moustache and point of beard on the chin came with this reign. Lace collars of a smaller square or rounded shape were in use, but a fall of lace pleated in the centre soon took its place. High-crowned hats with a band and bow in front and a flat, waved, or curved brim, with feathers on either side or all round, were the fashion, the crowns becoming shorter during the reign; the fronts and sometimes the sides of the brim are seen turned up, and so begins to form the three-cornered hat, which remained so long a feature in history.

Fig. 75.—Period Charles II.

We find with extravagant shapes a happy return of gay colours. The high-waisted jerkins of the Charles I period were now seen without the skirt (as very short jackets), leaving the lawn shirt to show between this and the breeches, besides which the jackets were nearly always left unbuttoned several inches up, some being cut away in a rounded shape and also having short sleeves. The lower arm was covered with a full lawn sleeve caught at two or even three distances with a loop of ribbons or bows, and finishing with a wide lace frill; a bunch of ribbon loops was also often seen on the right shoulder. A long circular cloak, with turned-back fronts forming a collar in many, still retained the hanging sleeve, and was mostly decorated with bands of heavy braid. A long square coat also came in about 1666, buttoned right down the front, with pockets set very low in the skirt, and large narrow cuffs opened at the back as in Plate VIII (see p. 90).

Very full breeches were worn to just about the knee or shorter, with a fringe of ribbon loops, and a row or several rows of the same were arranged at the waist. A short petticoat just showed the under breeches, many of which were turned into a doublet shape by an additional piece looped up loosely from the knee with a silk filling; the ribbon loops at the waist were repeated up the sides of the petticoat. Silk garters were worn with bows on both sides of the leg, or a deep lace fall came from the end of the breeches to the middle of the calf; a lace setting also filled the wide top of the boots, which was worn very low, even to the ankles. These short bell-topped boots were favoured, with high heels and very square toes. Shoes were long and square (or duck-billed) at the toes; and had a high narrow front to the instep, and latchets fastened with a stiffened butterfly bow, besides, at times, a rosette lower down on the front: red heels were in evidence. The sword-band was very wide, and many were decorated with gold embroidery.

Fig. 76.—Costume types. Period Charles II.


The hair was still worn full at the sides over a comb, as in the former reign, with curls dropping to the shoulders, but they now began to discard the set-out comb and the little flat curls on the forehead, the hair being of a round shape or parted from the centre and mounted higher and narrower on the head, in the latter part of this reign. The same large hoods and drapes continued in use, and a high goffered head-dress with set-out front began to appear; the same shaped bodice with round low neck showing the shoulders, often set with a stomacher front or jewelled in that form, and smaller decorations of ribbon loops were still favoured. A smaller and shorter sleeve began to appear with a turned-up cuff, and the gathered-in lawn sleeves and ruffles caught here and there with pearls or clasps as before, besides the same light drapery clasped about the breast front. The overskirt was now looped back, the points being held together, giving a wide display of the underskirt, which was heavily banded or had a jewel setting down the front. Other train skirts, also divided in front, were bordered with drawn silk caught at intervals into long puffs. Very small muffs were the fashion. Shoes increased their pointed shape and rather large heels are to be noted, but some shoes assumed a very narrow square toe; they were either tied from small latchets with a bow, or with buckled latchets. Longer gloves were worn, and large full cloaks with hoods or large drapery wraps when required for outdoor wear.

Fig. 77.—Costume notes. Period 1670-1690.


The same long wig was worn as in the last reign, but the curls were more of a set ringlet type, and embroidered caps were worn when these were taken off. The face was now clean shaven until the 19th century. Hats also of the older character were retained, but the turned-up three-cornered shape, filled with short feathers, became more settled in fashion, and they were heavily banded with gold braid or lace on the edge.

Fig. 78.—Period 1690-1700.

A smart bow was worn crosswise over the folded lace fall at the neck. The coat was a very long square shape to the knees, the stiff skirt often set out over rather full breeches, which were sometimes "shorts," and just above the knee, the stocking being often brought up above the knee, with a garter just below. The sleeves were short, above or below the elbow, with a turned-up cuff, leaving the full-gathered lawn sleeve with a lace ruffle to show at the wrist. A sash encircled the waist, and often shut in the sword-belt, which hung from the right shoulder. The coat had buttons from the neck to the bottom of the skirt, though the lower buttons were seldom fastened; the sides of the skirt were opened up about 11 inches, and also the back seam to the same height; most seams were heavily decorated with gold, silver braid, or lace, and the pockets were placed rather low down towards the front of the skirt, and were sometimes set vertically.

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Plate XVIII.

  • (a) Brocade Bodice. 1770-85.
  • (b) Flowered Silk Dress. 1750-70.
  • (c) Silk Brocade Bodice. 1780-95.

Fig. 79.—Period 1688-1702.

Long round capes were still worn, without sleeves, and a collar turned down about 4 inches.

Shoes of a similar shape to those of the later Charles II type were in use, but the heels became larger and the toes not so long; the top of the front was sometimes shaped and turned down. Heavy boots to the knee, with large curved tops, were also in favour, as in the illustration (Fig. 71).


The hair was now mounted high on top and the front parted with two curls, the rest of the hair being bound on top, or a curl was arranged on either shoulder. A goffered frill head-dress, set on a cap, rose very high, and a long fall of lace, or lappets, came down on either side from the cap, or was gathered in like a small hood at the back. Bare shoulders now began to disappear, the bodice shape coming over the shoulder to a V shape enclosing a stomacher, which was sometimes tabbed or shaped at the point. Many dresses were made in one length, caught together at the waist with a band; the fronts of these skirts were looped back high up, creating a pannier-like fullness at the hips, and narrow hoops came in to set out the skirts, many of which were heavily embroidered with gold. The Watteau-back dress started in this reign; a very early specimen, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is most probably of this time (Fig. 85, A). The sleeves worn to the elbow increased in width from the shoulder, and were set with large narrow cuffs gathered with a jewel or bow on the front of the arm. Hoods and cloaks of the same character as described for the last reign continued, and light sticks were carried by the ladies. Very pointed shoes were worn, with large high heels, the top of the front flap in some being shaped into points. Black masks were frequently used, some having long lace falls. Rather small muffs were still the fashion, and beautifully decorated short aprons became a feature with the dress.

Fig. 80.—1688-1698.


Wigs of the same long character continued, and were parted in the centre with a raised effect, and variously shaped caps, with turned-up fold or brim, were worn when the wig was taken off.

The beaver or felt hat, turned up three-cornerwise, was now in general use. It is often seen with the brims loose, or sometimes down, especially amongst the lower classes. Both small shapes and large were worn.

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Plate XIX.

  • (a) Silk Brocade Dress. 1775-85.
  • (b) Embroidered Silk Jacket. 1775-90. Pattern, see p. 326.
  • (c) Brocade Jacket. 1780-95. Cap pattern, see p. 331. Coat pattern, see p. 348.

Fig. 81.—Period 1680-1690.

Black ties across formal lace cravats, and long lawn cravats, edged with lace, one end of which was sometimes caught up loosely through the large buttonhole of the coat were worn. Waistcoats were left open well down to the waist; some of these were nearly of the same length as the coat, the skirt being often edged with deep gold fringe.

The coats were of much the same character as in the time of James II, with buttons all down the front, but now it was the mode to button coats just at the waist, allowing the waistcoat to be shown. The sleeves were generally longer, to the middle of the forearm, and the turned-back cuffs became very large and deep, often towards the end of the reign taking a curved shape. The seams, fronts, and pockets were frequently braided as before. A long square waistcoat of rich brocade or embroidered material, about four inches shorter than the coat, was worn; some of these had tight sleeves, which came to the wrist beneath the outer coat-sleeve; otherwise a gathered lawn sleeve with ruffle was worn.

Shoes and boots were practically the same as in the previous reign, with larger high heels and a high square front, with latchets buckled or stiffly tied, and very square toes. Top-boots of the same heavy character continued as in Plate II (see p. 42). Stockings continued to be worn frequently above the knee outside the breeches, with a garter beneath, and beautifully embroidered clocks to the calf. Muffs were carried by many men, and the gauntlets of gloves had a very angular shape. Patches and make-up were used by the dandies, and the sword was now carried through the side pleats on a waist-belt sometimes worn outside the waistcoat.

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