Dutch Middle-Class Dress 1650-1656


History of Costume III 1500-1660

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The ordinary people in Europe looked like the Dutch. Dutch merchants travelled widely. The Dutch costume favoured by the religious sects was worn by most in England. Germans and Swiss wore clothes like the Dutch. Colonists in the New World still wore the prim styles of the Netherlands. The Netherlands painters showed the world Dutch life and costume. The taste must have been high and instinctive. The pictures show an unerring use of colour and perfect harmony in costume and decoration of those comfortable interiors. These pictures found their way into private houses in Europe through admiration of style not, as today, for speculation. Through the 16th and into the 17th century stiff and padded styles were made with heavy brocades and figured velvets, in all-over patterns of several colours augmented by metal threads. The Italians, who produced them, could use them with discretion but the same could not be said elsewhere. In mid-17th century, single-coloured plain material in glittering satin or taffeta was manufactured to make the new flowing and easy-fitting garments. Terborch caught the sun striking through high windows to light up silver-white or pale yellow of a gown and warm the powder blue or coral velvets of bodices or jackets. The luminous colours glow more against black, grey or rich reds. Gowns were now made in one piece with bodice attached to the skirt and back lacing to for a smooth front. A sloping shoulderline made by dropping the seams well down on the shoulder-blades and fitting in the sleeves below the curve of the shoulders. Sleeves were full, shorter and gathered by cartridge pleats, to prevent sharp angles, into a low armhole. Sleeves were cuffed, with bands of cloth or velvet in a contrasting colour and often in the fine white lawn that made characteristic collars. These were now cut less circularly so that they wrapped round the neck and shoulders in a cone shape. Placed over a cut-out neckline, they fastened demurely under the chin. The collar was dropped low across the bosom leaving neck and part of the shoulders bare. Caps and bonnets disappeared although women covered their heads always. Over tiny embroidered caps were pinned muslin, lace or, latterly, velvet bonnets in various shapes but always hugging the ears. Metal clips fitted round the back of the head were made for this purpose. Uncovered hair was flattened and pulled to each side, in ringlets. All that was left of the prim bonnets was a tiny pill-box or a twist of material round the bun of hair at the back. Dutch men still wore black more often than their womenfolk but even the soberly clad followed the latest cut in tubular breeches, the new square-toed shoes and the narrower collars tied with tasselled strings. Children, even in this free and sensible-looking society, still wore miniature grown-up clothes of overdress, cone-shaped collar and tiny back-sliding caps. Yet they appear to have been happy, with charming dutch dolls that are still made in the same way today.

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Dimensions 38.1 × 25.5 cm