The name of this epoch comes from the Portuguese word “barocco“ (English: uneven, odd) which describes a pearl of irregular shape. In the 18th century, it was meant derogatory. It was, however, established slowly in the mid of 19th century as a common and unbiased term for this epoch. In the baroque, the clearness and unity of the preceding Renaissance was not wholly abandoned but changed into a more refined style. The women adhered (at first) to the stiff bodices and skirts and to the gigantic ruffs but the times advance continuously and the women gained more freedom as well in dress as in fact. Changes in the law had made it possible for unmarried women to have full control over their finances and interests, even allowing them to engage in trade and business.
The dominant power that Spain had had in the preceding epochs, especially in the 16th century faded slowly. The Baroque era was a rather troubled one for Europe. The Thirty Year's War shook the peoples and states, the counter-reformation gained ground and absolutism was on the rise in France. A very small country, however, began to strengthen: The Netherlands remained in most part untouched by the Thirty Years' War and became an economical and commercial power.
1. The ”Peter Paul Rubens – gown”:
Rubens painted himself with his wife Isabella in 1609. She is wearing a distinctive style of dress which is dominated by a
certain stiffness. Fashion in the Netherlands (and Spain) was very sombre. The ruff collar, large as a millstone, seems to isolate the head from the torso. In her hair the lady wears more lace, a
semi-circle of lace is placed around the back of her head. On the top of her head sits a high and broad-brimmed hat (looks like the one of a man). The bodice, made of black and luxurious floral
fabric in gold and silver, is very tight and ends in a shape like a four centred arch turned upside down. This arched part stands proud of the body below the waist to match with the wide red and
gold skirt. Isabella's sleeves are long, tight and end in fine linen cuffs. Around each wrist she wears a golden bracelet set with gemstones. Her appearance is undoubtedly rich and impressive yet
stiff and somehow heavy compared to the rather frisky style to come.
A considerable change was the elimination of the hoop-skirts. Consequently, the skirts fell softer and the whole silhouette appeared less geometric and more flowing. The hips were still accentuated by using paddings. Sometimes, the over-skirt was tucked around the waist so that the underlying skirts were visible. If it was not tucked up, the outer skirt was open in the front and thus showed the layer beneath. The ladies wore a mass of underskirts, made if possible of the finest fabrics (Maria de'Medici had for example underskirts of white atlas and black ones with golden flowers). The Spanish women are said to have worn twelve underskirts and more in winter and in the summer still seven or eight.
The bodice was still stiffened, reached to the lower waist and ended triangular in the front. The neckline was (like in England) square-cut or like a Carmen neckline baring a bit of the shoulders and became increasingly low and thus quite revealing. The ruff collar remained, huge as ever, until it changed to a cape-like collar of fine(st) lace in the 1630s, called Vandyke collars.
The cut of the sleeves widened, so that they could be styled in various ways: A popular method was to tie it with a ribbon at the height of the elbow or at more places. Furthermore, lace or linen cuffs were added to every kind of sleeve. In the 40s of the 17th century, the female fashion was relatively flowing and natural. The skirt was moderately wide and the bodice was short, close-fitting and low-cut. This rather simple and elegant fashion is due to the Dutch burgesses' wives. The Netherlands had no dominating court and other courts in Europe had lost their influence on fashion.
In the early days, colourful cloths were a matter of elegance and taste. Strong colours at first, later pastel shades like pale blue and yellow. Lightly coloured soft silk that glimmered in candlelight was desired. The decolletage was not longer covered with kerchieves, just adorned around the neckline with lace, trimming or ornamental gemstudded clasps.
Henrietta Maria of England was an openly Catholic Queen in protestant England. She possessed several large bejewelled crosses
and liked to attach them to her attire, as a means of displaying her faith.
2. Hieronymus Janssen: "Charles II Dancing at a Ball at Court":
This new style has the shape of two triangles that meet at one tip. The upper triangle symbolizes the straight Carmen
neckline from shoulder to shoulder and the tip where it meets the lower one is the small waist. The other two tips of the lower triangle are the left and right edge of the skirt's hem.
The low neckline is quite baring as it reveals (when uncovered by a kerchief) a part of the bust raised and pushed by the tightly laced and stiffened stays Usually the bodice is adorned with (golden) braid running from the midst of the neckline and from under the sleeve holes to the pointed hem of the bodice. Normally, the skirt is trimmed, too. The sleeves are made of the same fabric as bodice and skirt and are quite loose-fitting, ending in at the wrist or below the elbow in lace cuffs or linen ruffles. Fashionable was furthermore to wear sleeves cut in the virago style: loose-fitting sleeves held in place by colourful ribbons. The ribbons are tied arm-tight around the broad sleeves and thus give the impression of sleeves consisting of several “fabric balls”. Soft colours and pastel shades were used. Brooches and bodice ornaments were the decoration.
A Dutch invention was the Matinee, a very loose-fitting jacket. It is about hip-long and usually made of
colourful fabric and trimmed at neck, sleeves, hem and the front opening with fur. The Matinee was normally worn at home. Vermeer painted several pictures showing women with a yellow
The simple Dutch fashion was quickly changed to a more elaborate style, after the French court started to dominate fashion issues again (French Queen Anne had long worn mourning). The bodice was expanded with a triangular part in the front. It was laced over this part or closed with clips.
This new part was called the stomacher. The gown had opened in the front under the waist and the beautiful skirts beneath were visible. The two garments were called Manteau and Jube. The sleeves could not escape a change either; they tightened significantly, reached to the elbow and ended in ruffles of fine lace, called Engageants.
Accessories depended on the season: In summer a veil was worn to protect the complexion and a fan was used to cool oneself while in winter a woman would go out with e.g. a fur muff, a hood and a mask. This mask covers the face from the nose to the forehead (probably tied around the head with strings) with holes for the eyes and gives the wearer for our taste today a hint of mystery.
The heel lost nothing of its popularity – but it wandered slowly towards the middle of the foot. Consequently, the angle that the foot describes with the floor increased – no existing footbed and nearly no anatomic forming lead to an inclination of the whole foot and not just of the heel as today. The toe-caps used to be horribly pointed and walking in them was sure as fate very painful for the wearer. Cut-outs were a popular element and typical for this time.
The shoes were closed with a buckle or tied with a band or were just to slip in. Those who could afford it had the shoes made of fine materials like high-quality leather, velvet or damask. Decorative elements increased the luxurious look even more. Pattens with high plateau heels used to protect the fine footwear from mud and dirt on the streets.
Contrary to common belief, people bathed
regularly. But when the Plague broke out anew, e.g. in 1679 in Vienna, people drank contaminated water which spread the epidemic further.
The pox were a horrible epidemic killing numerous people. Those who survived carried scars away. To cover them, decorative little plasters were used. Every shape, even that of a little carriage, existed. Soon, the function was advanced: They became a mean of communication. A black velvet plaster called mouche placed on the chin meant discretion, on the corner of the mouth talkativeness and on the lips delight to kiss.
It seems a universal cliché that powdered wigs and faces white with make-up are Baroque. This was by no means the case, powdered wigs would not come up until the Rococo era. Make-up was used by many, no doubt, but especially in the Netherlands the women looked quite natural and not white with powder.
After the first quarter of the 17th century trendy married women did not longer want to hide their elaborate hairstyles under caps and began wearing their hair uncovered or with a big (black) hat. The hair was usually parted in the middle and fell down in curls on both sides of the head (shoulder-long). Some women had the upper layer of their hair drawn straight to the back of the head into a flat-topped style, there bound with decorative bows, while the rest of the hair fell down to the shoulders in neat small curls. The face was framed by lots of small curls.
Towards the middle of the 17th century extra hair was added on both sides to achieve even more fullness. Another way was to braid the hair and pin it up. In Spain, a very volouminous hairstyle had developed: the hair was curled, backcombed, supported by false hair and wire constructions and finally arranged to look like a semi-circle of hair around the head which leaves the face out (picture below text, Infanta Maria Theresa). This coiffure used to be ornamented with all kinds of rosettes, bows and precious stones.
Dark fabrics were naturally a great base for elaborate jewellery of gems and precious metals. To the soft pastel shades pearls go very well. Several rows of pearls around the wrist were e.g. chic.
Very in vogue were bodice ornaments, called "devant le corsage" in French. Large pieces of jewellery which were pinned
to the stiff upper part of the gown, placed at the front of the neckline. The ornaments were made of precious metal gemmed and studded with pearls and usually had a symbolic meaning or were gifts
from family members. Some pieces were made in an artful way, having flowers or gems sitting on hairsprings fixed to the ornament which seesawed and glittered at every movement of the
The techniques of gem-cutting had advanced so that the luster and light refraction was better and the stones glittered more
beautiful. Wearing miniature portraits was still very popular, as well, e.g. in lockets.
Nehelenia Patterns np800 1660s Gown Pattern
- Please note that this list does claim no completeness and does not operate as advertisement. It was merely composed for informative purposes. Furthermore, no valuation of the patterns is implied or intended -
Keywords: epochs, fashion, gown, dress, costume, history, era, pearl, hair, jewellery, jewelry, beauty, shoes, pattens, Henrietta, Maria, Anne of Denmark, wheel farthingale, ruff, Engageants, stomacher, Manteau, Jube, Vandyke collar, 1575-1720, lace, mouche, Peter Paul Rubens, Rubens, accessories, art, painting,patterns, sewing, mouche, smallpox, hygiene, bathing, fabric, material, carmen, Rembrandt, Netherlands, Dutch, rococo
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