Court Dress, 1539-1547


History of Costume III 1500-1660

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The early 16th century left a bigger legacy than any other in our modern tradition. Costume associated with university and robes and jewels of civic office are souvenirs from that time. Printing led to scholarship and the ability to read. The Schaube gave dignity; Erasmus is seen wearing two on top of each other. Learning was encouraged so clothing of wisdom was retained at universities. The mortar-board follows the shape of the head-dress of this period. Chains of office had been worn before but German fashion enlarged them so great gold chains with decorated rings were worn by men and women, hung round the neck in rows. The wearing of official robes and insignia was no longer exclusive to the nobility. Today these chains are part of civic life. Austere Spanish influence crept over Europe in the 1530s. Costume was in transition. The wide silhouette continued but breeches could now show under the jerkin following the baggy German style, full under-breeches billowing through vertical bands (panes) of a stiffer material. Buttons were profuse (Spanish buttons especially beautiful and treasured). The codpiece remained most prominent until the Spanish fashion dispensed with the skirts of the jerkin altogether and breeches were better cut. Shirts became high, their fullness gathered closely to the neck. In the late 1540’s men’s clothes became narrower and became more uncomfortable as Spanish styles became popular. Stockings were introduced with knitted wool. From sweeping forward to leaning back women arrived at a straight stance in a cone-like skirt the same length all round. Anne of Cleves introduced this style from Germany which may have contributed to Henry VIII’s uncharitable remarks about her looks. The dress the young Princess Elizabeth wears was sumptuous and shows the long, pointed bodice. The neckline is open and square. The French hood became general wear, like the halo hat of recurring popularity. A tiny bonnet, set well back over hair, covered the head, and the hood became a padded cap or tubular bag with bejewelled edge curling round the head and hugging the ears. These clothes were only possible with the right materials to hold the shape or give the glow we see in portraits. The weavers of Italy were encouraged to continue their craft despite the continuous ravages of war and invasion. Italian merchants brought their Venetian cut-velvets and Milanese silk brocades to Nüremberg, a market for selling all over the continent. There was no competition before sober Spanish velvets were introduced.

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Dimensions 38.1 × 25.5 cm