Fashion during the 1600s was all about looking your best. Women were creative with what they wore, and fashion indicated social status. Corsets and linen underwear are still worn. Waistlines rose, but was eventually replaced by a long lean line with low waist. It was a changing era when it comes to fashion, but it was the century of the breech, broad hats and wigs.
Below are some of the major fashion trends and styles of the 17th century.
During the start of the century, bodices were long-waisted. Over time, waistlines rose until mid-1630s. In the 1620s, short tabs were attached to the bottom of the bodice that covers the bumroll that supports the skirts. These tabs were designed longer over time and were worn with a stomacher that filled the gaps between two front edges of the bodice. By the 1640s, this fashion almost disappeared, favoring the longer and smoother figure.
The ruff, which was worn by both men and women, was still popular during the first decade, but it eventually disappeared in England in 1613. It evolved to a large lace collar that are wired. It was called rebatos in continental Europe. By the 1630s to 1640s, it was accompanied by kerchiefs and often, the kerchief and the collar were trimmed with matching lace.
The virago sleeve is very fashionable for women during the 1620s to 1630s. It’s a full pansied, slashed sleeve gathered into two puffs by a ribbon or fabric band above the elbow.
Petticoats, or an underskirt, was common during the era. Gowns often have a contrasting or matching petticoat. Skirts in the 1630s are often open at the front or looped up toreveal a petticoat, which was often heavily decorated.
The mantua was a new fashion for women that became popular in the 1680s. Instead of having a bodice and skirt cut separately, it was hung from the shoulders to the floor. It started as a female version of the Banyan for men, but gradually it developed into a draped and pleated dress, and eventually to a dress worn looped and draped up over a contrasting stomacher and petticoat. It resulted in an attire with a high, square neckline. The mantua was ideal for showing off designs of the new patterned silks that replaced the solid-colored satins that were popular in the mid-century.
King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland introduced the waistcoat as part of proper dress in 1666 after the restoration of the British monarchy. The waistcoat was derived from Persian vests seen by English visitors to the court of Shah Abbas. On the king’s decree, men were also ought to wear a long coat, a vest, a cravat, a periwig, breaches and a hat for outdoor wear. But by 1680, this ruling was replaced by a uniform-like outfit of coat, waistcoat and breeches.
Cloaks and capes
Also popular in the previous century, cloaks and capes are still fashionable for men during this era. They are usually hip-length and often with sleeves, and usually slung over the left shoulder. In the 1630s, it was fashionable to match your cape fabric with the breeches and lining to the doublet.
During the 17th century, men wore breeches, which is a knee-length, moderately-fitted, trouser-like garment. They are worn with stockings and boots. The breeches replaced all other styles of hose by the 1620s. It can be fastened up with the outer leg, with buckles or buttons over a full lining.
By the mid-1650s, breeches are much looser and uncollected, and they were called petticoat breeches. It became very popular in Western Europe. As the 1650s progressed, breeches became looser and larger, until it looked like women’s petticoat. These are typically decorated with yards of ribbon around the waist and around the ungathered knee on the outside part of the legs.
Before the modern tailored necktie and bow tie, there was the cravat. It was a fashionable neckband in the 1600s, originating from a style worn by the 17th century Croats, who were cavalry forces who fought in the Thirty Years’ War. It was basically a knotted kerchief worn around the neck. The modern version of the cravat originated in the 1660s during the reign of Louis XIV of France. The cravats of the people of rank were fine, trimmed with broad lace and embroidered at the ends. Those cravats for the lower classes were made of cotton or cloth.
The low-heel shoes became popular around 1610, with a ribbon tied over the instep. This evolved into an elaborate lace or ribbon rosettes (also known as shoe roses) worn by fashionable men and women.
Heeled boots were popular during the 1620s as indoor and outdoor wear. They are usually turned down below the knee, and the boot tops became wider, just like the boots associated with The Three Musketeers. This type of boots first appeared in the 1630s. Some boots feature decorative butterfly shaped spur straps over the instep. The butterfly-shaped leather is meant to reduce chafing from the spur straps. When going outdoors, wooden clogs or pattens were worn over boots to prevent the heels from sinking to mud or any soft dirt.
Elaborate wigs / periwig
The periwig is an essential wardrobe item of men’s fashion during the century. Throughout the period, men let their hair grow long way past the shoulders with curls. They wore wigs to cover up baldness or thinning of hair, but later on the wig became a standard item for wardrobe. The popularity of the periwig is credited to King Louis XIV of France, who started wearing wigs at a young age to cover up baldness. His early wigs imitated the popular men’s hairstyles of the day, but they gave a fuller and thicker appearance than natural hair. Eventually, other men started to wear wigs as well, even if they aren’t suffering from baldness or thinning.
By 1680, wigs are a norm. That time, the wig was divided to three parts: the front, which includes the center part and the long curls that fell well past the shoulders; a mass of curls that flowed from the shoulders and the back; and the back which was combed rather than made close to the head. During the 1690s, wigs had two high pronounced points on the forehead. Curls are loose – the tighter curls on wigs only became popular during the 1700s.
The capotain is a tall-crowned, slightly conical, narrow-brimmed hat that is usually black. It is fashionable for both men and women from the 1590s and into mid-1600s. By the 1630s, this hat started to have shorter crown and wider brim, often worn pinned up on one side and decorated with feathers or ostrich plumes. This hat is associated with the Pilgrims and Puritans, and it’s also commonly called a pilgrim hat or a flat topped hat. The Puritans wore it during the years leading to the English Civil War and during Commonwealth.
Hats with feathers
The capotain was popular until the end of the 1650s, but by the 1660s, a small hat with low crown, small brim and a lot of feathers was popular among the French courtiers. Later that decade, hats with very large brims and moderate crowns became popular.