Costume History/Charles and the Commonwealth

Charles & The Commonwealth edit

Historical Period

The Charles and Commonwealth period refers to the period of English history between 1625 and 1660. It is a term that relates to England under under the rule of King Charles I from 1625 to 1649 and the English republican government that ruled the country from 1649 to 1660. Under Charles, England engaged in the two Bishops Wars with Scotland, then suffered through two civil wars as the English Parliament and the King clashed over the direction of the monarchy. England after Charles I's deposition and execution was ruled first by the Rump Parliament (1649-1653), then by the Barebone's Parliament (July-December 1653), then by Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector (1653-1659), and finally by Richard Cromwell (1659-1660).

Clothing and Style

Under the rule of Charles I, perhaps as a reflection of the escalating conflict between Charles and the Parliament, the clothing of the period separated into two distinct and polarized styles. Royalist supporters termed 'Cavaliers' were often noble in status, and wore extravagant, colourful clothes. Charles' enemies, the middle-class Puritans, wore clothing that was much more modest.

Royalists (Cavaliers and their Ladies)

Men's Clothing:

During the English Civil War, Royalist men were termed 'Cavaliers' by the Parliamentarians. The word Cavalier comes from the Spanish word caballeros, which itself originated in the Vulgar Latin word caballarius, meaning horseman. Cavalier clothing was famed for its magnificence. Men's hats were boldly feathered, and their doublet jackets revealed great expanses of white linen shirting, laced at the neck and wrist. The Doublet also became shorter as it slowly transformed into a coat. Clothing fabrics were beautiful and ornate. Ruffs had given way to a more casual, wider, falling collar of linen or lace over the shoulders. Men's hair was longer in comparison to previous eras. A "lovelock" of hair fell loosely to one side of the head. Breeches were shorter than in previous eras, and also narrower and fringed. Boot tops were often very large and loose. Even before Charles I's reign, since 1618 (the start of the Thirty Year's War), boots had often been fixed with spurs. Men wore jerkins, and their feathered hats were cocked to one side. Sometimes cloaks were worn. This style of dress became distinct and popular, and was even represented in France by the Three Musketeers. The Van Dyke beard, a tuft of facial hair beginning just below the lower lip and extending to the chin, was popular. Mustaches were also popular.

Women's Clothing:

Women largely abandoned the padding and slashing techniques that had gone into their garments since the Gothic era. Instead, female clothing became more loose and casual. Long series of highly-laced collars sloped down over the shoulders, and a sort of vest was cut to reveal a great expanse of bosom, or decollete. Sleeves were wide, elbow length, with a laced cuff, and the skirt was full. Hair was casual, almost messy, as if it had been mussed about over the course of some activity.

In an expression of political and moral disapproval, Puritan men wore black high-crowned, wide-brimmed felt hats. They wore somber coats slightly relieved at the neckline by the wide, plain collar of the shirt. Puritan men wore woolen stocking and clipped their hair short. In many ways, their style was reminiscent of the Dutch style of the time.

Women's Clothing:

Women's dress corresponded to the men's style, but their long, dark gowns revealed stiff underskirts.