Costume History/Printable version

Costume History

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Egyptian Costumes edit

Materials edit

Ancient Egyptian linen.

Although exact dates will differ from source to source, the ancient Egyptian Empire is generally believed to have begun around 3000 BC and lasted until 300 BC. Unlike later civilizations the clothing of ancient Egypt was largely determined by the climate of the region and styles changed very little over the 2700-odd years. For lack of better words, Egypt was hot and in the winters, chilly at best. As a result, linen—made by spinning and weaving fibers of the Flax plant, was largely used in most forms of clothing because it was readily available and more importantly, it was light and breathable. During colder periods woolen coats would be worn. Leather were also featured but received less use and privileged individuals sometimes purchased silk, cotton, and other textiles from foreign merchants.

Caste edit

Illustration of Ancient Egyptian clothing.

The Caste System in ancient Egypt not only defined the costumes of the various social groups but also served as rough historical guide to the evolution of clothing in Egypt. Slaves were generally naked as were children in summer months, while the commoner class wore loin cloths made from animal skin and linen. A linen kilt or tunic called a ‘c(k)alasaris’ was also often part of the ensemble for everyone from this social class upwards. In the Old Kingdom, calasaris were short, only reaching down to the knees. The Middle Kingdom period of ancient Egypt saw them extend slightly further until they cut off at the calf as well as pleating of the material in some cases.

Women normally had linen calasaris that extended to their ankles, featuring shoulder straps and decorative collars for those who could afford it. Most of the time their breasts were covered but once in a while, hanging out came back into fashion. At times, women may also wear circular capes around their shoulders and in the later New Kingdom, shawls. Clothing for both sexes was usually secured by a belt. Footwear was avoided whenever possible and the ancient Egyptians preferred to move about barefoot, carrying their sandals in case of situations when they truly might need them. These situations predominantly consisted of A) Cases where they might injure their feet and B) Parties. The sandals in question were made thong-style with upturned toes. Materials varied from palm fiber to leather.

Upper class Egyptians frequently preferred thinner, transparent linens, the degree of transparency indicating how finely woven the linen was and thus, the wealth and status of the wearer. Needless to say, the Pharaoh stood atop this fashion pyramid with his clothes being the most see-through. Curiously, although it is featured in many paintings and films, it is unknown if the Pharaoh actually wore an ornate headdress frequently or if it was only meant for special occasions. Gold was also worn as a status symbol, with more indicating a greater position of power, though jewelry in general knew no social boundaries and were frequently worn by even the poor lower class. Besides gold, said jewelry featured blue lapis lazuli stones, beads, and turquoise. The most common forms of jewelry were ear studs, rings, and necklaces.

Illustration of Ancient Egyptian clothing.

During religious ceremonies, priests of certain sects would wear leopard skins, but otherwise had very little with the exception of the standard linen calasari. The reason for this being that as a link to the gods, they were required to be cleanest of the Egyptians, meaning frequent baths a day, no body hair whatsoever, and aside from the afore-mentioned leopard robes, no animal parts as things such as leather or wool were considered unclean.

Illustrations of various ancient Egyptian personal items.

Second to the priests in cleanliness were the women who washed every time prior to dressing themselves, but overall all Egyptians prided themselves on frequent washing as well as scented oils which they rubbed upon their skin. At parties, a particular favor of women was a cone of scented FAT, which melted over the course of the evening, eventually lathering her hair in lard-laden goodness. Makeup was a staple for both sexes and all classes, it was common to see heavy amounts of the stuff on their eyes and lips. The famous black eyeliner was called kohl and came in the form of a black powder, which ochre reddened their cheeks and henna did the same for nails and hair.

Wigs edit

Contemporary museum display depicting an ancient Egyptian applying cosmetics.

Wigs were also the big thing throughout Egypt and each day called for a different wig, made from either wool, vegetable fibers, or human hair. Both sexes wore wigs, which were usually straight, but special occasions called for curly ones; the only individuals who didn’t were the priests, again for the sake of cleanliness. Bald was never a preferred look, but the reason being that wigs were favored was that in such a hot climate, it helped to take your hair off to get cool. During the times that actual hair was in fashion, it was usually worn straight and short, though curling was not unheard of. Women tended to have their hair a bit longer than men so that they could be intricately braided with more jewelry, in some cases, the sheer quantity of which would have made them appear to be wearing entire headdresses.. As previously mentioned, priests stayed hairless regardless and were actually required to shave themselves every three days to avoid risking lice and uncleanliness in the temples. Little Egyptian girls had their hair worn in pigtails until they were older and boys had their heads shaven with the exception of a small lock of hair. Often, they also had beads or pendants to decorate their scalps.

References edit

  1. Strouhal, Eugen. Life of the Ancient Egyptians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.
  2. Wilkinson, John Gardner, Sir. A Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians. New York: Crescent
  3. Houston, Mary G. and Hornblower, Florence S. Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, and Persian Costumes. And Decorations. New York: Macmillan Co. 1920
  4. Digital Egypt for Universities. Grajetzki, Wolfram. Quirke, Stephen. Shiode, Narushige. 2000-2003. University College of London. 13 Sept. 2008. <>
  5. Magnus, Hirschfeld. Women east and west: impressions of a sex expert. London: W. Heinemann (medical books), 1935. ACLS Humanities e-book

Further Reading edit


Greek Costume Design edit

Types Of Clothing edit

Depictions of Greek Costumes.

Peplos- The peplos was a made of a large square piece of cloth. The cloth was folded double on the upper body, and the entire piece of cloth was folded around the body, and fastened over each shoulder. The ionic or laconic peplos was open on the side of the body, while the Doric peplos was sewn shut like a tube. Usually a belt was worn over the peplos. In Greece the peplos was mostly worn before the 5th century BC.

Chiton- the chiton was a large square of cloth. During the Doric era the cloth was folded and then wrapped around the body then held in place with pins. During the Ionic era the cloth was first sewn into a tube. Both eras used bets around the waist.

Himation- the himation was a large piece of cloth that was placed over the left shoulder and around the back then under the right arm. The cloth usually reached the knees but could be longer, and it was usually very heavy and used as a cloak against cold weather.

Chlamys- the chlamys was a shorter version of the himation worn only by men and soldiers.

Colors- contrary to popular belief Greek clothing came in many different colors and shades not cream or white.

Women edit

Polychrome restoration of statues depicting Artemis and Athena wearing Peplos.

Women would wear any of these items except the chlamys. They also wore cosmetics. Using ashes as eye shadow, white lead was used to make skin paler, the juice of the alkanet root was used like rouge, they even used lipstick. Perfume was also very important. Hair was styled to show marital status and held in stylized locks by diadems or headbands.

Men edit

Men, in general, wore simpler clothing than women. They did not wear the peplos and their chiton was shorter and only wrapped around one shoulder.

Shoes edit

At home the Greeks generally went bare foot but in public they would strap a piece of leather to their foot to make a sort of sandal.

Accessories edit

Jewelry was seen as a form of art to wear and had no class standing but was limited by what one could afford. It was also used as offering to the gods and was sometimes buried with the dead.

Time Periods edit

There were three main time periods during ancient Greece; the Doric era which took place in the sixth century BC, Ionic in the Fifth, and Hellenistic during the Fourth. Doric and ionic set the stage for Greek fashion while Hellenistic was the time during which Greek culture was at its peak.

Gallery edit

References edit



Roman Costume Design edit

Early Romans more than likely wore few articles of clothing because of the hot climate of Italy and the effect of their high levels of physical exercise. Romans were largely lawmakers and agriculturists. Rather than creating their own inventions, they typically took over those of the people they conquered, then build upon what they learned. They also took other aspects of the societies they came across. This includes the Greeks, which is when they began paying more attention to beauty in architecture and clothing. Roman style clothing is very similar to Greek in design and concept. The main difference is that clothing is not pinned, but sewn closed on both sides. Garments feature few patters or decorations.

Romans, contrary to common misconceptions, were pretty practical, upright and uptight people. They believed in civil services, customs duties, and such technological advancements as interstate highways, they were also very ambitious and competitive. This was expressed in the military honors that the men strove to earn and the large amounts they spent on clothing, housing, and entertainment. It is expected that, because of such elaborate ideals, Roman wear was actually considerably more elaborate, dignified, and thus cumbersome then that of the Greeks. Because of the independence of Roman women due to men being away at war, women were very learned, clever, and actually inherited property. Laws were established to limit the amount of accessories women could ware on their person at a time, but they did not actually last that long. The family slaves were in charge of weaving and constructing garments for the family out of wool, linen, and silk (which was introduced after silk worms were brought from the East).

Men's Clothing edit

Male Roman clothing.

When at home, Roman men’s clothing included the Tunica (or Tunic), a simple T-shaped, woolen tunic that was shirt-like made of two pieces sewn together at the sides with short sleeves and a skirt that extended down to about the mid-thigh – two of these were often worn together. In cold weather, articles made of heavier wool would be worn as well. Early on, the subligaculum was worn under the tunic as a sort of trunk. These were dropped as the society advanced, as Romans began to look down on races and societies that wore trousers (or pants), often depicting their captives in art pieces as wearing pants, which they began to see as barbaric.[1]

The Toga was essentially a wool mantle, about eighteen feet long. The actual shape is of some debate. It is thought to be an extra long half-circle, with one straight edge, or a circle doubled over at some point forming two semi-circles with one smaller than the other. In sculptures and other art pieces, corners do not show in the draping, though hems of both straight and curved fashion are seen. It is unknown if the shape of the Toga is from the way it is draped or the way components may fit together. Tacks or fastenings are not noticed in depictions of Togas. It appears in early to mid Roman history and is the most commonly thought of article of clothing. It was worn by everyone in the Roman society, men, women, upper and lower class, in the city and country, and inside and outside. It wasn’t a permanent installment in Roman wear, though. Women discontinued wearing the Toga first, more then likely for the sake of novelty or because of its weight and complicated arrangement. Next to discard it was the lower class for the sake of convenience since it was a heavy and cumbersome article of clothing. As the Roman society became more easy-going, even the patrician men shed the Toga. It remained the costume of state with the upper-class and emperors even until the end of the Roman heyday. When the empire moved to Constantinople in 330, the toga fell to a more Greek dress, the pallium. It could not be worn by any foreigner, and was not duplicated in any other nation in material, color, or arrangement.[2]

It is agreed on by most Roman scholars on how to rap a toga. An end is placed on the left shoulder so the point just touches the ground. It is drawn around the back, under the right arm and over the shoulder, from where it is brought again over the left shoulder, the long end being draped over the left arm at the wrist. Ends would hang in plaits in the front and back. To tie the Toga, one would use a sinus, a long loop or bag would be pulled in front and hung over the drapery. For religious ceremonies or rain, the drapes in the back could be used as hoods.[3][4]

Other articles of clothing sometimes worn by Roman males include the Gallium, worn over the tunic, similar to the Greek chalmys. Clasped on right shoulder or fastened on breast with fibulae, cords, or rings. The Paludamenturn, which is the Gallium when worn over armor, bright red. Synthesis: “Gay-colored,” comfortable lounging-robe worn by men at banquets over the tunic. Cucullus: Brown woolen cloak with hood worn by the lower class.

Military Clothing edit

Roman military clothing.

The military also has different decorations for individuals to indicate achievements such as the first man to scale the wall of a city or saving a citizens life.

Armor: Roman Armor probably didn’t shine. Some pieces were chainmail; others were scale armor (metal plates 3 inches long and one inch wide sewn to leather or linen backing). Leather armor was also popular, which included a lining of metal and linen.

Women's Clothing edit

Female Roman clothing.

Clothing included the Stola, a female version of the tunic, which descended from the neck to the feet, long and full, and was fastened at the shoulder with pins. Some scholars believe a sort of flounce was added as a lower section because of the length in the back. Sleeves were pretty long, reaching to the wrists, or short. Underneath women wore a linen tunic and vest. Foreign women and girls were forbidden to wear the Stola. The Palla was a large, long (8 yard) drape/scarf that covered the entire body except the hands and face. Individuality showed through the way it was displayed and the arrangement of the garments folds. Vestal virgins (who kept the sacred fire burning at altars), wore white Pallas with a thick band (similar to a diadem) around the fore-head. While in processions or during sacrifices, the head and face would be covered with a veil or white. [5]

Hair Styles edit

Often worn in over-elaborate styles, especially by the woman of the house. Elaborate arrangements of curls in a variety of different styles were bedecked with jeweled pins and decorative coronets (kind of like a crown) to hold the hair in place. Female slaves were in charge of actually doing the hair. These slaves were very adept in using oils and tonics to keep the martens hair soft and lustrous. They also handled the cosmetics (powders and paints) which were a daily necessity for these women.

For men, distinct head dresses were used for different occasions and to distinguish ones position. When in mourning, men would grown their hair and beard out as a public display of their sorrow. Young children also would wear their hair long, but when boys came of age, it would be cut short.[6]

Footwear edit

Romans made advancements on the footwear of the Greeks. Knowledge of construction and decoration is what sets apart Roman shoes from those of the Greeks. Both men and women wore boots, sandals, or shoes. Boots, called togati, were short with straps crossed over the instep, and were worn by both men and women in the earlier Roman days. Later on women adopted Greek sandals, especially when inside.

Color of footwear was another aspect of Roman clothing that dictated the status of its wearer.

  • Red: Consuls
  • Black with Silver Crescent: Senators
  • Wooden: Slaves
  • Black: Poorer Classes

Shoe decorations were made by piercing or cutting patterns into the leather. Nobility had precious stones inset into the leather, or shoes made of gold or silver all together.[7][8]

Jewelry edit

Roman mosaic of tragic and comic theatre masks, a common element in Roman and Greek theatre.

Jewelry early on was rather crude when compared (and even not compared) to Greek pieces. Later on, advancements were made. Jewelry included rings, brooches, pins, jeweled buttons, coronets, bracelets and necklaces. Pearls where highly prized as jewelry pieces as well. Women at one point began carrying glass and amber balls; glass to cool the hands in warm weather and amber, when heated, would act as a perfume. Men would wear a least one ring that they would use to apply seals to important documents.


Color edit

In early times, Togas were made of white or natural colored wool. As time went on, the upper class began using silk. Plebeians could only afford wool, dyed to colors other than white (for they were prohibited to wear such a color). Color of a Toga denoted the class or office its wearer was in, or even the occasion for which it was being worn.

  • White: Candidate for public office. Had garments bleached (with fuller’s earth, a claylike earthy material used to decolorize and purify) and immaculate before being seen in public.
  • Black: Worn by those in mourning or not worn at all.
  • White with Purple Border: Priests and magistrates, called Toga-pretexta. Also worn by high ranking boys, with who a bulla (a small round box or amulet hung around the neck) was worn until 15, when they switched to the Toga pura (without the rim or border).
  • Purple and white stripes: Varied in thickness extending from the shoulder to hem, called trabea, worn by Knights.
  • Purple: Generals, especially on huge victories.

Economy edit

Roman society was divided into to levels, known as casts: patricians (the upper class people that first settled a city or town with the large tracts of land they were given), and the plebeians (the lower class people that were forced to sever the patricians). Because of these contrasting economic levels, there was naturally continuous conflict between the two classes involving government, land and costume.

Historical Timeline edit

Painted replica of the statue Augustus of Prima Porta, depicting the first emperor of Rome.
  • 509 BC – Roman Republic established
  • 281 BC – Last Greek threat to Roman Empire eliminated
  • 100s BC – Rome becomes dominant society throughout the Mediterranean Sea
  • 91-88 BC – Social War (Conflict over Roman citizenship)
  • Mid 1st Century BC – First Triumvirate (secret pact to take control of Republic, Julius Caesar involved)
  • 44 BC – Caesar assassinated
  • May 11, 330 – Constantinople established
  • 410 – Visigoths sack city of Rome itself
  • September 4, 476 – Last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, forced to abdicate (The end of rule of Rome in West)
  • 1000 AD – Eastern Empire at its height
  • 1095 AD – East calls for help from West, which responded with the Crusades
  • 1204 AD – Conquest of Constantinople, beginning of fragmentation of empire
  • May 29, 1453 – Eastern Empire ends after being conquered by Mehmed II

Gallery edit

References edit

Pictorial References edit

Additional References edit

Maginnis, Tara, comp. "Acnient Rome Dress." The Costumer's Manifesto. 25 Sept. 2008 <>.


Byzantine Costumes edit

Regional Historical Background edit

The Byzantine Empire was formed in the fourth century A.D. shortly after the Christian emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and relocated the government from Rome to the city of Byzantium,(modern day Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey). Byzantine had once originally been part of a unified Roman Empire, and it was not until the Roman Empire was divided into two separate empires—Roman in the west, Byzantine in the east—that the Byzantine Empire was finally formed. Although the fall of the Roman Empire occurred in the late fifth century A.D., the Byzantines continued to be heavily influenced by their neighbors to the west. In fact, it is rare for discussion about the Byzantine Empire to occur without some reference to Roman tradition. From the basic garments they used to the armor for their soldiers, Byzantine dress continued to be immensely influenced by Greco-Roman culture.

Byzantium, the empire capital, was soon renamed Constantinople after Constantine established the city as his permanent home. Situated between the European and Asian continents, Constantinople was located in the ideal location for economic prosperity. In an area where the East and West constantly met to trade, Constantinople became a center where Roman (Western), Persian, and Oriental influences heavily converged.

Constantinople edit

In the manner that Paris is known as the fashion capital of the contemporary world, Constantinople was regarded as the fashion capital of feudal Europe. Its renown for being an epicenter of luxury began in about 400 A.D. and lasted up until about 1100 A.D. Its status declined during the twelfth century mainly due to the fact that Crusaders had returned bearing gifts such as silks and spices that were valued more than what Byzantine markets offered. It was at this time that the transfer of the title of Fashion Capital from Constantinople to Paris was made.

An important fact to consider is that while the Byzantine Empire was established in the fifth century and flourished for many subsequent centuries thereafter, Western European civilization experienced the Dark Ages from 400 A.D. to 1000 A.D. This is significant in the fact that Western civilization had endured the Dark Ages for almost the entirety of the period when the Byzantine Empire had prospered.

Characteristics & types of Clothing edit

Examples of Byzantine clothing.

Clothing in the Byzantine Empire was characterized as rectangular (pallium or palla, sagum, paludamentum or chlamys) or semicircular (paenula) in shape. They used the Roman toga as a basic clothing template and soon began developing it further—replacing it with more elaborate fabrics displaying distinct patterns and embroidery—and almost completely replacing it with the development of the cope. The sleeved tunics—tunica, stola or long chiton and dalmatica—developed in Imperial Rome and in ancient Greece also served the same purpose. Some of the main style differences between the Byzantine and Western (Roman) empires include styles of headdresses, use of fur, types of adornments, and garment length. In addition, the Byzantines infused their styles of dress with aspects—“stiff brocades, jeweled and embroidered fabrics, and structured, heavy clothing” (Knight 1998)—of the Persian court costume.

Something to take note of while observing Byzantine dress is the frequency of Christian symbols, including the cross and animals symbolic to Christianity. For example, many of their clothes and adornments included images of eagles, doves, peacocks, fish, and vines. The high prevalence of Christian symbols can be explained by the religious significance of Constantinople. When the Roman Empire divided into two empires, Rome became the religious capital of the Roman Empire, leading to the rise of Roman Catholicism and the establishment of Vatican City as the residence of the Catholic pope. Constantinople, on the other hand, became the religious capital of the Byzantine (Eastern European) Empire and led to the rise of the Orthodox church. The splitting of the empire is the main reason why there are two popes: one Catholic, one Orthodox. The Roman Empire had grown so vast that a single pope could not suffice. As a result, observations of many of the styles of religious regalia between the two churches have always yielded many similarities.

Color Use edit

Analysis of mosaics show that colors used in daily Byzantine clothing included green, brown, blue, red, black, white, gray, and plum. In Byzantine court dress, gold was the dominant and most important color, followed by purple. Purple in Byzantine was divided into violet and a reddish-purple, the latter which was officially designated solely for the emperor. Clothing of this purple could only be worn by others if imperial members gave it as a gift. In the tenth century A.D., however, this color was to only be worn by the emperor’s subjects, and clothing of this purple was furthermore forbidden from leaving the empire.

Everyday Wear edit

A fashion trend that developed was covering the arms. This trend differed remarkably from those of other Mediterranean cultures, posing itself as a rather unusual trend because climates near the Mediterranean are typically warmer than the rest of Europe. Another trend that may pose as bizarre considering the warmer temperatures of the region was high necklines. Neckline designs varied, and it was not uncommon to see necklines dip into a slit or V-neck to allow a garment to slip over the head easily.

*Although I am unsure as to how and why these trends developed, a deeper look into the climate of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) offers several answers. Istanbul today, although temperatures do reach the eighties in the summer, sees rainfall year-round. It is also known for being a windy city. The combination of rain and wind is sometimes the formula for conditions that incline individuals to opt for more coverage. In addition, a quick look into some of the styles from the East also show that a similarity that many of them share is high necklines, a trend that would of course permeate into an empire known for its renowned trading city. Other research says that the covering of the arms may have been due to the growing Christian trend of not viewing the human body as beautiful.

Men edit

The chemise was a long-sleeved undergarment worn by both sexes, and its purpose was similar to today’s undershirt. After the chemise, the garment most prominently worn was the belted túnica ir long chiton. It is modeled after the Roman tunica manicata or talaris (and to the greek chitón used in the hellenistic world), a garment with long sleeves cut in one with the garment or sewn and attached at the shoulders. The tunica fell into a straight-lined skirt, and the length of the skirt varied from below the knee all the way to the ankle. Another type of tunica, the dalmatica, was also widely worn and has been noted as the most recognizable Byzantine garment. Looser in the sleeve area, it originally was worn over another tunica. Wearing a dalmatica came to represent those who were priests or rulers.

In addition, historians believe that underneath the tunic, nearly all Byzantine men wore hose or stockings. What is not known is whether the stockings were gartered, but what historians do know is that the top of the hose was always to be concealed by the tunica.

Women edit

The tunic and chemise were worn slightly different from the men. When worn, the chemise would peek out from under the tunica at the wrists, skirt, and neck. The silhouette of women’s tunics themselves was also slightly different from that of men. Women’s tunicas were more form-fitting and, thus, more often required the use of girdles instead of belts. However, when a belt was worn, Byzantine art shows that the belt was worn at least in three different levels: just below the bosom), at the natural waistline, or just below the waistline. Women’s necklines, too, were different. They still wore tunicas with the slit and V-neck styles like men did, but they also had a third type: the scoop neckline. A garment often worn and only worn by women was the stola, the same garment that many women in the Roman Empire wore as well (refer to previous chapter on Rome).

Materials edit

Although various weaves of linens, cotton, and wool were the basic materials used to make clothing, the Byzantine Empire’s geographic location and status as the trading capital of the known world allowed it to be exposed to the many resources that merchants and traders brought from afar. As a result, Byzantine clothing was relatively luxurious in comparison to its surrounding regions. Clothing would be adorned with borders, pearls, jewels, and even gold. Weaving strips of gold into fabrics, a technique dating back to biblical times, was practiced only amongst nobility.

The silkworm was introduced from the East during the reign of Justinian in the sixth century A.D. Soon, silk became one of the most popular clothing materials to wear. One particular use of silk was to create the large, rectangular veils (mentioned below in the hair section) that noble women often wore. Byzantine clothesmakers would add embroidery, gold, and jewel appliqués to a specific type of strong, thick silk called samite for garments.

Patterns characteristic of Byzantine clothing included those with dots, stars, and circles. Egyptians copts took the Egyptian practice of weaving complex patterns with multiple colored threads and incorporated Byzantine styles specifically for the Byzantine trading sphere. Patterned embroidery often appeared near the wrists, waist, and skirt hemline.

Outerwear edit

Their most important item of outerwear was the cloak; or, at the least, a basic draping garment. It should be noted, however, that cloaks were not necessarily utilized for protection or practical uses. The fact that they used cloaks indoors seems to suggest that is true.

Cloaks were divided into two basic types. The everyday cloak was usually rectangular in shape. Its dimensions were typically the length double the width, though length differed depending on what the wearer would be doing. In contrast, the more formal cloak, or cope, was semi-circular and was worn by draping it across the chest left to right and securing it with a brooch at the right shoulder. A tablion, or square patch, was sometimes used as an ornament. The cope steadily began to replace the toga so vastly that the toga was only widely known as the official garb of Byzantine consuls until the late sixth century A.D. Slightly different from the Roman toga, the Byzantine toga was stiffer and more ornate. The process of assembling it is as follows:

“’The band (its end Aa just above the hem of the tunica) is placed on the front of the body and passed over the left shoulder; then it is brought diagonally across the back, under the right arm and across the breast. It is then brought again over the left shoulder and across the back.’ Secure it with a pin on the right shoulder. The rest of the drapery (the wide, apron-like part) over the wearer’s left wrist. Be sure to draw the lower edge AF tightly across the back, so that E will hang in a point in front” (Baker 100).

This toga eventually evolved into the pallium, the robe of the state consisting of a stiff 6-8 inch lined band “worn around the neck and hanging down or wrapped around the person in various ways” (Baker 100) by Byzantine and Western European kings. Another garment borrowed from the Romans, the paenula, was used and developed into two versions: the (1) closed and unhooded chasuble and the (2) hooded raincoat, which was simply a cucculus and chasuble that opened in the front.

Women wore many of the same cloaks men did, including the chasuble and cope. Although both genders wore the cope, the practice of draping the fabric from left to right and securing it on the right shoulder seemed to be a distinctly male practice. The only woman exempt from this rule was the empress. Outer garments that were worn by women, but not by men, included large rectangular veils and shawls.

Footwear edit

Shoes were constructed out of soft materials, believed by many historians to be leather and cloth. The softness of the fabric used for Byzantine footwear allowed for shoes that molded to the shape of the individual’s toes or sometimes came to a subtle point. Although shoes were often adorned with silk, gold, and jewels, something unique about Byzantine shoes is that they did not have heels.

Jewelry & Accessories edit

For those who could afford it, jewelry consisted mostly of collars, rings, earrings, armlets, brooches, girdles, and crowns [for nobles and imperial members] that were adorned with gold, pearls, and/or rough, uncut jewels. Similar to the consuls of the Roman Empire, Byzantine consuls also carried the mappa (a large handkerchief) and a short scepter. The tablion, mentioned earlier, was worn only by men and was noted as an ornament that was distinctly Byzantine.

Class Differences edit

Costume historian Lucy Barton notes that there is not much known about the dress of common men and women. However, Barton goes on to speculate that common dress may have been merely plain and basic versions of the clothing already discussed. Materials used to make common wear were often less vivid in color and of lower quality fabric. The linens for clothing were coarse and the leather for shoes was considerably stiffer. The frequent manual labor that characterized the lives of many commoners required shoes made of sturdier materials.

In addition, Barton notes that headwear differed between commoners and nobility. Where nobles were more likely to wear fillets and gold circlets (refer to Hair section), commoners would have been more inclined to make use of the petasos (sun hat) and cucculus (hood). At this time, many commoners held jobs requiring them to spend vast amounts of time outdoors.

Hair edit

Men edit

Men’s hairstyles in Byzantine were very simple and often mirrored hairstyles worn in Rome. Hair was either kept cropped or bobbed with bangs swept across the forehead. Men adorned their hair very infrequently; but when they did, it was most often using fillets or gold circlets that became more elaborate (jewel-encrusted, for example) as status increased. Other known types of headwear included the petasos (sun hat) and cucculus (hood), though these were worn more for purposes of service.

Women edit

Women’s hair is ideal in exemplifying the extent of how Byzantine was a high-flow area of converging East and West influences. Like the hairstyles of men, women’s hair also reflected the strong influences of Imperial Rome but in a more decorative fashion. Women wore their hair in elaborate updos and sometimes wore large rectangular veils, particularly when attending church, much like the women of Rome did. It was also not uncommon for women to weave pearls and other ornaments into braided updos. Where they differ is that Byzantine women sometimes incorporated “turban-like wrappings” (Baker 1963), most likely a result of Byzantine’s constant contact with East traders.

Gallery edit

References edit

  • Barton, Lucy. Historic Costume for the Stage. Boston: Walter H. Baker Company, 1963.
  • Baynes, Norman Hepburn. The Byzantine Empire. London, Oxford University Press, 1949.
  • Knight, Margaret. Fashion Through the Ages: from Overcoats to Petticoats. New York: Viking, 1998.
  • Marginnis, Tara, Ph.D. Byzantine Costume Links The Costumer's Manifesto. 1 October 2008.
  • [1]
  • Ostrogorski, Georgije. History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1969.
  • Runciman, Steven, Sir. Byzantine Civilisation. London: Edward Arnold, 1966.
  • Vasilev, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich. History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1952.


Medieval Costumes edit

Background edit

The exact dates of the fall of Rome are heavily debated by historians. Many place it at about 476 A.D. The Empire of Rome had been invaded by many Germanic or northern cultures including, Visigoths, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Huns, Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Franks. During these invasions many shipping and highway networks that had allowed for communication and trade between the eastern and western parts of the Empire where destroyed, dividing and segregating it. As a result of this division the artistic and cultural life of Rome was wiped out and replaced by the cultures of these waring tribes. The only unity between these provinces existed solely in the Christian church.

This period is known as the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages. Life in the Middle Ages, even for the nobles, was tough. Food was not good, disease spread, there were no efficient and clean ways of heating homes. Towards the beginning of the Middle Ages the feudal system was developed which was a hierarchy of classes that formed a social structure. In the 11th century a cultural revolution began as a result of the Carolingian Dynasty (771-987) beginning with Charlemagne. Communication avenues opened and became more efficient, an emphasis was again placed on art and culture, and national monarchies were forming in France, England, and Spain; a more modern Europe was developing. There was a general increase in prosperity during this time. However it was still not a great time - The black death reigned for two years in this period wiping out a third of the population in western Europe. Also the crusades were underway in this time period and as a result there was a lot of eastern influence that was brought back and integrated into western culture. The church and state were working together. The 13th century witnessed an emergence of a middle class - trades and guilds developed (like modern day unions in some ways).

Costume edit

Gothic style peaked in the period between the 10th - 11th centuries and the 14th century. At the beginning dress was heavily influenced by the Byzantine culture in the east. However, due to the slow communication channels, styles in the west could lag behind by 25 to 30 year. towards the end of the Middle Ages western Europe began to develop their own style. one of the biggest developments of the time as a result of the crusades people began to use buttons to fasten clothing. Another addition to the clothing world that is credited to the Middle Ages is the development of the tailor. Clothing construction, which had previously been a woman's job was becoming more and more dominant by men. The Middle Ages also saw the birth of individual clothing style, the more wealthy began to wear clothing with individualized patterns and crests that represented their family. (WHY) Soldiers in battle would often have their family crest on their helmets or shields so they could be identified in battle ( possibly because the armor shielding them made them anonymous, they wanted their deeds and their bodies to be identifiable, this was also the time of knights who would want to gain respect from valiant battles.) Most people however, it seems did not wear elaborate costumes on a day to day basis. People wore cloths that were functional and protected them from the sometimes harsh climate. in fact, until the 14th century people of all classes tended to wear very similar clothing. Royalty or nobles would have ceremonial garb for special occasions but would not wear this day to day. both men and women of all classes wore pretty much the same thing in summer and in winter. They typically wore long flowing cloths. They were completely covered ( Christian influence no doubt). And as in Bysintine it was the choice of fabric used to make the cloths that distinguished social class. Both sexes wore a long cloak as an outer garment. Both sexes wore an under tunic and a short over tunic that was belted at the waist (believed to be the origin for the modern skirt or blouse)The rich wore cloaks lined with fur, silk, or gold cloth. Peasants and lower class often wore shorter garments or breeches to ease movement while they worked and people who belonged to guilds would sometimes wear garments or emblems that advertised their trade.

Vocabulary edit

Blaiud - long sleeve tunic - at the beginning went to the knees for men and feet for women. Slowly the Blaiud lengthened to the ankles for men and then shortened again by the end of the Middle Ages.

Pallium - A cloak fastened at the front by a large broach(Frodo Baggins style!)

Chainse - under tunic - made of wool, linen, hemp, or silk and fastened at the neck and wrists by buttons ( a result of the crusades) or tied with tassels. Later it became a piece of lingerie - was made sheer and decorated with lace on the colar and neck. Hot right?

Ermine- Type of fur that lined garments. - made from a weasle- type creature.

Miniver or Menu vair - another fur - gray and white - small skins made from a Russian or Siberian squirrel.

Mantle- type of cape or cloak - loose - draped over the head 9 Madonna and child paintings).

Chaperon- hood - always had a point.

Liripipe - the point on the Chaperon. Varied in length.

Men edit

Men's cloths of the time were defined by class and trade. Typical pieces in the 13th and 14th centuries included a long sleeve tunic that hung to the knees, worn under a loose gown with wide sleeves that could be belted. they also wore over this and ankle length and sleeveless garment that hung loose around the body called a surcote. other garments included the ganache - loosely fitting with a slit in the sides from shoulder to hip. and the berigault which was a cloak-gown.

Women edit

Women began by wearing the same style clothing as the men gradually manipulating them to suit the female form. Wealthier women wore more elaborate clothing. dresses that were long and dragged on the ground. skirts drug on the floor and were made of heavy fabrics ( probably to show off their wealth like weight and skin color in other periods). Waits became higher and higher and settles right underneath the chest where there would be an elaborate belt that accentuated that area of the body. sleeves were either fitted or would be very large and some would reach all the way to the ground. In the years where the black death threatened western Europe clothing became more flamboyant. one source claims this to be a typical result when faced by a political or social disaster and compares it to the oil crisis and the immersion of disco in the 1970's. Hemlines rose, necklines dropped, and cloths became more fitted and elaborate and would have a jagged edge, a technique called slittering. By the end of the Middle Ages however, women's cloths returned to being more modest and became absolutely about function. Skirts no longer drug on the ground and sleeves only went to the elbow.

Fabric:The most popular fabric for clothing at this time was wool. By the 15th century there were looms created for the sole purpose of weaving wool. Other fabrics that were used depending on class were linen, various types of fur, and sometimes silks. Fun fact: garments and various household items and tools were stored in oak chests - these were very functional and could double as luggage for wealthy people.

Jewelry:My research on this subject was limited - one source devoted a paragraph to it that merely said it was made of gold and could not compare in the slightest to Byzantine jewelry and so was not really worth talking about.

Footwear: The pointed toe was introduced in the medieval period. these shoes were called poulaine. The point of a show was originally seen as a status symbol - The points grew longer and longer until they reached about 18inch in length. Eventually, they assigned lengths based on classes - commoners with the shortest and so on.

Using clothing to distinguish status in this way I think probably had a lot to so with how people of the time viewed the world - the feudal system is part of this. It is easier to label people in a category by looking at them and what they are wearing so having these indicators would help. I feel as though status had a more strict structure in this time and a set code of behavior so in order to achieve this more efficiently - displaying your status in your cloths would be a must (like getting pinned in the 50's)

Head dresses: as the Middle Ages drug on head dresses became more popular and people began experimenting with the shapes and styles. many head dresses would be combined with a hood, veil, mantle or some other adornment that protected the head from the elements or draped in a way that framed the face. in the 13th century women began to wear crespine or hair nets. Shapes of women's hats of the time included heart-shaped, horn shaped, and conical head dressed. These con-like hats grew in length based on the status of the woman who wore it. One source claimed that there is evidence of it having reached four ft. in length.

Good to know: France became the center of fashion in the middle of the Middle Ages - France has a more stable economy and monarchical system in place and were able to devote their time to fashion. As a result, French people of the time wore more elaborate costumes often lined and adorned with expensive furs, silks, and embroidery.

Gallery edit

French edit

Italian edit

German edit

English edit

Spanish edit

Slavonic edit

Other edit

Resources edit

  • Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The complete history of costume and fashion New York; Octopus publishing group, 2000.


Renaissance edit

The Renaissance period encompasses several centuries, so the focus in this article will be the Renaissance before Elizabeth (since we have Elizabethan fashion covered later)

Historical Period

The Renaissance is a historical era and cultural movement in Europe that spanned from the 14th to 17th centuries. The term Renaissance is a French word that means "rebirth". The Renaissance started in Italy and spread throughout Europe through the 14th through 17th centuries. While the period included great leaps in intellectual, educational and socio-political pursuits the period is probably best known for the artists and great thinkers of the time, which include Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo, and Michelangelo.

Clothing and Style

Clothing played a large role in Renaissance society, as clothing in the Renaissance was all about defining and showing off one's social status. Germanic, Italian and French fashions heavily influenced the rest of Europe in the period. Clothing was one of the main ways that the wealthy displayed their wealth to the world, and so it was the wealthy that set the fashions and trends that were to be followed. Because of the great difference in wealth and class in Renaissance Europe there are several different fashions, ranging from what the wealthiest would wear to what peasants might wear. Because of the ever-changing times of the Renaissance, fashions also changed more rapidly in this era than in eras before it.

The wealthy displayed their wealth by wearing expensive fabrics such as silk, brocade, velvet, and cotton (Cotton was at this time in history kind of hard to come by in and was thus a 'wealthy' fabric). Furs were also popular among those who could afford them, and oftentimes furs were used by the wealthy as lining on the inside of their garments. Darker colors were the fashion as elaborate embroidery and jewels were often sewn into the fabrics, and dark colors were able to show those features off more. For the wealthy, style was much more important than function.

The lower classes wore much simpler garments than the wealthy, though often trying to imitate the style of the wealthy. Wide sleeved chemises and tight bodices were common. While many fashions stemmed from the upper class, one very popular and recognizable fashion, especially among commoners, was a fashion and technique called "slashing" and was created by the common class. Because clothing was such a status symbol, the ruling class at one time established a rule that only the wealthy could wear multiple colors of clothes, peasants and common people were only allowed to wear one color. People did not like this law as style was just as important to them as anyone, and to rebel against it people would take their shirts (for example) and slash long holes in them and wear them on top of a another shirt, puffing it out through the holes of the first. The technique ended up becoming a very popular Renaissance fashion.

Women's Clothes: Women's style was extravagant and multi-layered. A wealthy woman's attire would often have at least five layers (a skirt, underskirt, bodice, over-bodice or vest, hoop and collar are standard pieces to women's wear). While the early Renaissance period had women wearing fewer layers that consisted usually of kirtle (frock) and gown, by the mid 1500s the women's silhouette was stiff but puffed out and padded with layers. One reason for the layers was simply that layers was a status symbol. The more clothes you were wearing, the wealthier you probably were. One popular fashion was the "Spanish Farthingale" which was a long cone shaped hoop skirt that women would wear with a corset to complete the cone shape. The corset, or 'stay' as it was sometimes referred to, was a garment that was stiffened so that it cinched the waist in and flattened the breasts as part of the thin, cone shape. The era gave rise to the corset as fashion.

    Examples of Women's fashions: - Earlier Renaissance gown
 -- Spanish Farthingale

Men's Clothes: Like women's clothing in the Renaissance, men's clothing changed a few times with fashion. Men's fashions were centered around a "square" silhouette that was achieved by widening the shoulders on vests and coats and padding them. Padding was often made of horsehair. On their legs they wore padded breeches and hosiery with square toed shoes. Very wide sleeves are also an easily recognizable Renaissance fashion, and in men's clothes sleeves often had long vertical slashes down them with another layer of fabric puffing out through them to create the "slashing" technique and style.

    Example of Men's Fashions: - Henry VIII, very square - Square fashion -- puffed and slashed fashion

Headwear: No outfit was complete without headwear in the Renaissance. Women had a variety of headdresses, including the "Pointed Cone" style that played to the cone fashion for women, as well as lace trimmed veils and various headdress, such as the popular French Hood style. Some headdresses had a woman's usually long and braided hair completely concealed, while others allowed some or much of the hair to show along with the headwear. Men's headwear included wide brimmed hats to finish off their 'square' look.

    Examples of Headwear: - Women's English headdress -- Women's French Hood style -- Henry VIII modeling a men's wide brimmed hat - Mens wide brimmed hat

All of the visual examples are pictures that I found on


Elizabethan edit

The Elizabethan Era! The Golden Age of English culture under the reign of Elizabeth the First, for which it was obviously named. From 1550 to 1625, peace reigned through much of England. This was the time of the English Renaissance, of Shakespeare and Elizabethan Theatre. The first official playhouse was built in 1576 by James Burbage [2], and by ’74, performances were made legit and became a weekly event. The performers in theatre gathered their costumes wherever they could, and usually used the handmedowns of the aristocracy, so while they did not strive for historical accuracy in their work, the dress of Elizabethan actors may be seen as a loose, warped reflection of fashions in an era known as the Peacock Age.

Elegance—that was the theme that echoed throughout this period of peace, and in the minds of the British, no one so perpetuated the definition than Queen Elizabeth herself [3], with her accentuated small head, long legs, and long body. At the start of the era, sleeves were worn large and complicated. Ruffled, and puffy, they were often comprised of many segmented pieces held together by jeweled clasps. Eventually, changing fashions slimmed these sleeves until they were tight fitting to accentuate the desired slender appearance. Shoulder Rolls and Crescents protrude out to enhance this slimming effect. One of the most memorable fashion additions popularized by the Elizabethan era is the ruff from 1550, a massive ruffled collar of fabric that rings the wearer’s neck like a frilled lizard [4][5]. Pleated ruffs were more common and encircled the entire neck, and upstanding ruffs drew more attention with “Seduction Value” as they arched high up behind the owner's head in a regal, peacock-like appearance while exposing the front of the neck as well as a hint of blossom. Like the corset, this item was renowned for being difficult, and at an average of 8 inches in radius, but styles varied and some had a full eighteen yards of linen. They were more a status symbol than practical wear, starched to enhance their stiffness.

In keeping with the styles of previous ages, women literally disfigured their internal organs with corsets, turning their waists into narrow triangular points, though as time went on, the bodice was altered to allow a straight line along the hips rather than a sharp point [6]. The bottom portion of the dress became a separate piece altogether: heavily embroidered and padded with bombast to the point where they ballooned outwards thanks to additions like the French Farthingale [7]. Pumpkinhose, cannions, and roundhouses served a similar purpose on men [8][9]; this was the age of huge hips and the hoop. Abandoned were the past's boxy designs and heavy buttoned jerkins, in favor of the Queen's slender elegance, with tights, breeches, makeup, and jewelry. The Gorget, a piece of battle armor worn over the neck and shoulder, might have seemed at the height of fashion impracticality, but Elizabethan England was the land of quick tempers and fierce honor. With virtually every man carrying a rapier or sword, the gorget may not have been all that ridiculous [10]. Slashing was still popular, and soap was introduced in 1524, but of course, it was expensive so bathing was not frequent and to top it off, the intricacy of the Elizabethan clothes meant that they also, could not be washed, and so perfume was an almost mandatory addition, even men's gloves were perfumed! Because their massive gowns tended to drag across the floor, women did not have much of a fashion for shoes as they were most often covered up. Perhaps the high heels were born at the end of the Elizabethan to deal with this. Usually, they were made of fine leather—much to the chagrin of the peasantry who considered such things a waste since they themselves, needed to make shoes out of leather. Men's shoes had far greater variety:

     Boots - Boots were made of smooth or wrinkled leather, fittings were loose or tight, used for riding and walking
     Gamache - A gamache was a high boot
     Buskins - Buskins were calf length shoes / boots
     Startups - Startups were leather shoes worn as protective coverings for outdoor use
     Pumps - Pumps were light, or single-soled slip-on shoes
     Chopines - Chopines, or Chapineys, were slip-on over shoes made of wood and covered with leather
     Clogs - The clog was an outdoor, wooden shoe
     Corked Shoes - Corked shoes featured a wedge of cork between the foot and the sole
     Galoche - A Galoche, or Galage, was a protective overshoe
     Pantofle - A Pantofle came in two styles - a protective, outdoor overshoe and a slipper for indoors
     Pinsons - A pinson or pincnet was a delicate shoe


Both sexes indulged in a variety of hairstyles and blonds and reds were back in fashion, as was the ‘frizzy’ look, leading many to dye their hair or take on wigs. Strangely, although pale was still the favorite color of skin, women could be seen exposing themselves to the sun under the belief that it added a gold tint to their hair. Their hair was drawn away from the ears and fluffed out at the temple. Pompadours were popular, and widow's peaks were fashionable details to the hairline. Long and flowing hair screamed virgin and was swept upwards after marriage [11]; although it remained long, fashion dictated that it was covered by a hat, veil, or some other piece of clothing. Hair nets—called Cauls, were decorated with jewels and gold trim and were popular accessories while hairpins, combs, and even enhanced their appearance [12]. Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn introduced the French Hood, while the Atifet was favored by Mary, queen of the Scotts. Plain white coifs, or “biggins” were generally worn by children, who otherwise did not really have a fashion of their own—their clothing was often a miniaturization of the adults, including that of infants. Men generally kept their hair at shoulder length, sometimes curled with hot irons into “love locks” [13]. Beards were attractive and as such, required special care, from daily brushings from wooden cases at night. Men's hats varied from small flat hats made from velvet or silk, to tall crown hats, covered by fine fabric or feathers. Copotains—high, inverted-bell hats were popular, and the brims were turned up to be attached to the crowns with jeweled broaches. Hat bands were largely decorative as well, often being made of scarves and fine materials such as satin or silk. Some of the more distinguished men wore crowned beaver hats alongside small capes. Like so many things, hats were a symbol of status and the taller/longer a hat, the mor important the wearer. Flabby headwares such as mutton caps were a peasant's clothing but as usual, peasant fashions have a trickle up effect and Flat Caps and Torques became popular with a variety of classes [14][15]. This was also the era of the Fool's Cap, adorned by horns and bells and trademarked by jesters.

Although Elizabeth herself passed away on March 24, 1603, the era in her name continued onwards for almost two more decades, a testament to her rule and the trends she established. It is no wonder why then, that people continue to refer to the Elizabethan Period as the Golden Age of British rule.

Works Cited

<> Britannica Online

Bergan, Thomas G. and Jennifer Speak. The Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1987.

Dorner, Jane. Fashion . London: Octopus Books Limited, 1974.

Cassin-Scott, Jack. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Costume and Fashion 1550–1920. New York: Blandford Press, 1971.

Ford, Boris. 16th Century Britain. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

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.


Restoration edit

The period known as the Restoration refers to the time in Western Europe from 1660-1700. Sometimes referred to as the English Restoration, this period received its name when Charles II restored the English monarchy (which included those of Scotland and Ireland) after the country had undergone a Protectorate state under Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell. Following the execution of his father King Charles I in 1649, Charles II and the followers of his court lived in exile for 12 years in France and the Netherlands. There, Charles II had acquired the latest trends of Western Europe, particularly while in France. At that time, France was under the rule of Louis XIV, who had dominated European fashion during his reign. Upon Charles II’s return to the throne, he replaced the drab and simple Puritan styles that had dominated England during its commonwealth and Protectorate periods. The ushering in of magnificent fashion and art was Charles II’s way of asserting the Stuart dynasty over that of the Puritans just the decade before. The beginnings of the Restoration involved two dramatic events: (1) the Plague of 1665 and (2) the Great Fire of London just a year later in 1666. Although both events caused drastic devastation in England, they contributed greatly to the Restoration—they provided Charles II with the need to rebuild and the opportunity to infuse English culture with the new tastes he acquired while in exile.

Restoration fashion is also known as Carolean fashion and is easily identified by excessive curls, ribbons, bows, puffs, flounces, feathers, and the shortening of sleeves. Ribbons and lace, in particular, appeared everywhere from shoes to sleeves and even on men’s walking sticks. Their excessive use has come to define fashion of both sexes during the period. Lace was so valued, in fact, that pirates stole large amounts of lace exports from ships sailing to the US colonies. Sleeve-length began to change as people now viewed longer sleeves to be obstructive and impractical.

Color Use
Bright and vivid colors were extremely popular and boldly combined with one another in outfits. Charles II was nicknamed the “Merrie Monarch,” and the color palette of the Restoration highly reflects this. People often preferred lively and vibrant colors over the dark and subdued hues popular with the Puritans when England was a Protectorate. The flood of bold colors during the Restoration was not only a reflection of the latest European fashions, but may have also been Charles’ effort to reaffirm the end of the Puritan period and the return of the Stuart line of rulers.

--Men's Clothing--
What many find intriguing about men’s fashion in this period is that according to today’s standards, men of the Restoration were cross-dressers. They wore heels and hose, valued long-haired wigs, and even applied makeup. Moreover, some argue that men’s fashion during the Restoration was even more extravagant than women’s. They favored cravats, or wide pieces of cloth that tied around the neck. A popular variation was called the steinkirk and was twisted instead of tied. Men began to wear an adaptation of the doublet, the cassock. It featured a slightly flared skirt, a lower waistline that extended to the knees, and shortened sleeves. Doublets opened down the middle and revealed the legs, allowing for breeches to evolve from the tubular form to petticoat breeches, which looked exactly as their name suggests. They were essentially petticoats paired with hose and were ornamented with ribbons and other decorations the higher the class of the wearer. Long trousers were passed over for close, “knicker-type” breeches and hose. Men performed daily work in short loose leather jackets and variations of vests also became popular.

--Women's Clothing--
The female silhouette grew vertically. Among the rich (the most fashionable), the décolletage was bared even more so than before. Necklines plunged and were even off-the-shoulder. A mere scarf or chemise poking out from under the neckline was the only thing to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions. It was considered sexy for women’s dress to appear disheveled, a hint at wanton behavior. This may have been the result of two aspects. Firstly, this was perhaps a rebellious response to the rigid, conservative Puritan styles of the period before. Secondly, this could have also been because of the fact that mistresses became some of the most powerful women at this time. In fact, Charles II himself had several mistresses and publicly acknowledged several of his illegitimate children largely because his wife, Catherine of Braganza, was barren. Sleeves rose so that the lower arms were almost always shown, and bodices were lowered and came to a point both in front and in back. In court dress, women pulled back the over-gown and gathered the trailing fabric in the back in a bustle.


The periwig became essential to men’s attire, especially after Louis XIV began experiencing premature baldness. When periwigs became so popular, men began to simply carry their hats tucked under their arm as a sort of accessory instead of actually wearing it. Periwigs came in natural hair colors, not the white that many people today are so accustomed to seeing. Periwigs were worn draping the sides of the face until the wide neck-bow came into style in about 1690, pushing the locks back behind the shoulders. Facial hair was no longer preferred, and many paintings of the time show men with clean-shaven faces. Cavalier hats fell to ones with higher crowns and narrower brims, which then fell to hats with lower crowns and wider brims that were cocked up on one or two sides. Later, all three sides were cocked up, giving way to the tricorner hat that was introduced in the 1690s. It became the most popular type of men’s headwear in the region and even in the colonies.

Use of the fontage, a wired and tiered lace headdress¸ became widespread as the female silhouette became more vertical. Over time, fontages would include 2 or even 3 tiers. The nosegay was replaced with bundles of ribbons, as was the period’s obsession at the time. The theme for women’s hair was “careful negligence”; and although women could have long hair, they arranged it so that it did not pass the area just below the shoulders. The popular hairstyle was to have small, tight curls parted down the center and gathered away from the face.

The Restoration is famous as a period when men wore heels. Paintings of Louis XIV, the trendsetter of Europe during the time, often show him wearing the high-heeled shoes that became popular among men in England when Charles II returned. Shoes at this time were almost always black, square-toed, and initially had high tongues and a red heel. Women’s shoes were similar to men’s shoes save for the higher heels and additional adornment. Styles evolved from high tongues and ribbon latchets to shorter tongues and a single square or round buckle to secure the shoe on the foot. Women’s shoes were often concealed from sight beneath their dresses, but shoes were adorned nonetheless with lace, ribbons, embroidery, and many other types of materials.

For women, the long necklaces popular during in the previous period were now passed up for pearl chokers. Gloves were no longer popular for men to wear and were now used only to signify that one was a soldier. Women, on the other hand, kept to using elbow-length gloves. Muffs became increasingly popular with both sexes. The only difference seems to be their sizes. Women’s were small enough that they could easily slide up the wrist, whereas men left their muffs to hang from their necks or belts when not in use. Ornamented walking sticks were popular among men. Initially during the petticoat breeches period, both tall and short walking sticks were used, but tall sticks fell out of style and only short canes were popular. On another note, the walking stick was to men as the folding fan was to women. These fans were often made with wispy ostrich feathers.

Barton, Lucy. Historic Costume for the Stage. Boston: Walter H. Baker Company, 1963.
Braun & Schneider. “The History of Costume.” 4 September 2007. 23 October 2008.
Marginnis, Tara, Ph.D. “17th Century Fashion Links Page.” The Costumer’s Manifesto. 2008. 23 October 2008.


Georgian edit

Historical Period

The Georgian period is the period of British history that ranged from 1714 to 1830, encompassing the rule of the British kings George I-IV of the house of Hanover. It was during this period that the Jacobite rising was crushed, the Seven Years' War took place, the American Colonies gained independence from Britain, and the French Empire under Napoleon waged war on most of Europe.

Clothing and Style

Near the beginning of this era, French fashions dominated much of Europe. Clothing around this period was characterized by a widening, full-skirted silhouette for both men and women. Wigs remained essential for men of substance, and were often white; natural hair was powdered to achieve the fashionable look.

Distinction was made in this period between full dress worn at Court and for formal occasions, and undress or everyday, daytime clothes. As the decades progressed, fewer and fewer occasions called for full dress which had all but disappeared by the end of the century. Eventually a long-simmering social movement toward simplicity and democratization of dress took hold in Britain under the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the American Revolution. This led to an entirely new style of British tailoring following the French Revolution.

Women's Clothing

The richly decorated gowns worn by women of the Georgian period were often adorned with an "eschelle stomacher", which was an ornate, triangular piece worn at the front of a corset. Women wore petticoats (underskirts that hung from the waist) under skirts that were often made from cane or rattan. Under the dresses, skirts and corsets of the period, women often wore "shifts", which were lace-trimmed, knee-length undergarments. Embroidered silk stockings gathered at the knee were fashionable, and high-heeled shoes were in style at this time. Women often carried around flashy, ornate fans. Hairstyles were enormous near the turn of the century, with flat, frivolous caps coming into style. The general aesthetic favored smooth curves with a conical torso and large hips.

Men's Clothing

Men of the Georgian era dressed differently for courts than for everyday life. High fashion was reserved for court appearances. Their suits were made from velvet, silk, and satins, and were often adorned with intricate braiding or embroidering. Buttons on suits were particularly flashy, being made of silver or gold, and occasionally set with jewels. Suits consisted of long, flared coats, sleeveless waistcoats, and shirts adorned with ruffles at the neck and wrists (although ruffles, frills and collars fell out of style near the end of the period), and knee breaches. Like the women of the time, men also wore embroidered silk stockings and high-heeled shoes (although riding boots with spurs were still popular in some areas). Often, a man's outfit was complimented with a cravat or neckcloth. Hair was shoulder length and tied at the neck, or it was powdered with tight curls. Powdering involved applying a sticky substance and flour that was dyed in various colors. For formal occasions, men wore wigs and wore makeup. Some men carried around silk handkerchiefs drenched in perfume. Eventually, the practice of carrying around patch boxes full of snuff became commonplace.

Later in the period, the style for men was to look as thin and straight as possible, and so, men often wore corsets (girdles) under their clothes.



General Information edit

Romanticism was an attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature, painting, music, architecture, criticism, and historiography in Western civilization over a period from the late 18th to the mid-19th century. Romanticism can be seen as a rejection of the precepts of order, calm, harmony, balance, idealization, and rationality that typified Classicism in general and late 18th-century Neoclassicism in particular. It was also to some extent a reaction against the Enlightenment and against 18th-century rationalism and physical materialism in general. Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental.

Among the characteristic attitudes of Romanticism were the following: a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature; a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect; a turning in upon the self and a heightened examination of human personality and its moods and mental potentialities; a preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general, and a focus on his passions and inner struggles; a new view of the artist as a supremely individual creator, whose creative spirit is more important than strict adherence to formal rules and traditional procedures; an emphasis upon imagination as a gateway to transcendent experience and spiritual truth; an obsessive interest in folk culture, national and ethnic cultural origins, and the medieval era; and a predilection for the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the monstrous, the diseased, and even the satanic. Also, intellectuals and artists of the Romantic prized emotion and sentiment, which contrasted the strait reasoning that drove the 18th century revolutions, include

  • Ludwig van Beethoven (Composer during Romantic and Classical eras)
  • Washington Irving (American writer during Romantic era)
  • Mary Shelley (British writer)
  • Victor Hugo (French writer)

Nationalism: A key to the Romantic movement, Nationalism was a central theme in art and political philosophy. Nationalism focused on the development of national languages and folklore, and the importance of local customs and traditions.

Historical Background edit

  1. March 1 1815 - Napoleon returns to France from his banishment on Elba.
  2. June 18 1815 - Battle of Waterloo: The Duke of Wellington decisively defeats Napoleon, ending the Napoleonic wars.
  3. December 14 1819 - Alabama is admitted as the 22nd U.S. state.
  4. January 29 1820 - George IV of the United Kingdom ascends the throne, ending the period known as the British Regency. There will be a gap of 21 years before the title Prince of Wales is next used.
  5. July 19 1821 - George IV is crowned king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
  6. May 7 1824 - One of Beethoven's greatest masterpieces, Symphony No. 9, premieres in Vienna.
  7. February 12 1832 - Cholera breaks out in London, claiming at least 3,000 victims. It spreads to France and North America later this year.

Men edit

Men’s clothing is on a fairly steady course towards increasing dullness. Fashion magazines push men's dress towards foppish extremes, but men who actually count in the fashionable world tend to push for plainer styles. Beau Brummell, the leader of male sartorial fashion in England in this period was noted for wearing only black with a white shirt for formal evening wear, a marked departure from the style of the previous century. Tubular and fitted trousers also move from a radical fashion statement to everyday wear for most men of the upper classes. The few outlets for male fashion expression (boots, hats, collars and neckties) go to extremes. Neckties in this period were especially important. This period was one where men's fashion was completing a transition from the elaborately decorated but simply cut styles of the eighteenth century to the carefully cut plain fabrics of the early nineteenth. The double-breasted waistcoat, broad lapels, and surprisingly short coat point up the experimental period. Everyday attire for a boy or man of the early 19th century included a vest. Rarely would someone appear without one, even on a hot day.

A wide variety of breeches, pantaloons and trousers and hat styles were fashionable during the Romantic era. Knee breeches, or culottes, had been used as a symbol of the French ancient régime and were seldom worn outside mandated court styles. A longer style of tight-fitting breeches reaching the calves, the pantaloons, became extremely popular. Trousers also became fashionable. Revolutionaries known as sans-culottes had adopted working-class trousers as a sign of political allegiance. Their acceptance was also aided by the earlier trend of looser trouser styles for boys and adopted by certain individuals in the upper classes. Another great item that emerged in this period was the wide-brimmed riding hat, which would go through numerous changes before becoming the ubiquitous top hat of the second half of the nineteenth century. Cotton Trousers, 1815 (of sand coloured thick-ish cotton, fall front with three buttonholes, central front opening beneath with two buttons and buttonholes, a further two to the centre front waistband, two either side to secure the fall front, a small slit pocket to one side, both sides with further buttons and buttonholes holding the deeper pocket flaps, back with two eyelet holes with white tape flanked by two buttons, central back V gusset and two asymmetrical seams, large bottom area and tapering legs, slits to the bottom and stirrups, secured by two buttons inside trouser leg, the waistband and fall front lined with white linen, the waistband lined and pockets made from white cotton. The stirrups would have kept the trousers taut and creaseless.) Pants, and unbuttoned Pants (Trousers) Example of Hat Neck Ties Vest Men’s Shirt Tail Coat Frock Coat Tail Coat 1839 – Frock Coat Coat

Women edit

Women’s dress becomes more and more finicky and decorative. Skirts are fuller and the waistline lowers to the natural waist. Corseting returns as does the layering of petticoats. Women were pushed back into the position of the “weaker” sex, taking on a more modest role. Women at this time were described as delicate, fragile, and decorative. Women were seen as being more emotional then men so were thus idealized as muses of artists. Few women, including Elizabeth Barret Browning and Mary Shelley, were able to achieve artistic recognition for themselves. Women were expected to achieve the highest moral level by being the guardians of family and community virtue and educating children. Women’s clothing of this era reflected the perception that women were weak and decorative, shown through the slope-shouldered, full sleeved silhouette.

Most bodices worn by women had the skirt attached in gathers at the bottom. Bodices themselves often showed gathers as the top layer, but the under construction was generally tightly fit to the body. Bodice gathers and decorations emphasized a V look and as the period progressed the base of the V dipped to slightly under the waist.

Throughout the years, 1825 to 1840 the skirt continued to widen. The skirt hem did not touch the floor until 1835 and for the ten years preceding that there was great attention to the bottom edge of the skirt. Decorations and trims such as the padded rouleau were often stiffened to help hold out the ever widening skirt. Applied stuffed cords of decorative silks acted almost like hoops on the outsides of the skirts. Small bustle pads tied on with tapes were in use by the mid 1830s to help hold out the upper part of the skirt as well. When the hems sank to the floor in the mid 1830s and the decorations on the bottom edges were less popular, women wore numerous petticoats to hold out the skirts. Petticoats were stiffened and it was common to wear three. Six petticoats worn at a time were not unusual. Flannel was the favored fabric for the material closest to the skin with the layers of stiffened petticoats following. Stiff horse hair underskirts were first sold in 1840. Bone hoops were developed in 1856 and were hailed as a major improvement).

Perhaps the most obvious features of the period were the sleeves. At various times, from 1825-1840 the sleeves were puffed at the top with a tapering lower sleeve, puffed in a huge billow from shoulder to elbow, puffed only at the elbow, puffed from shoulder to wrist in a tapering billow, and puffed in suspension from a dropped shoulder. This dropped shoulder turned into a full epaulette collar or jockeis around 1839. The sleeves which were very wide at the shoulder and tapered gradually to the wrist were called the gigot sleeves and required their own set of underpinnings. A strip of gathered glazed cotton with whalebone at the edge usually held out the sleeves although stuffed pads and even hoops on the arms were occasionally used. No matter where the puff was placed armholes were small and high, so despite the volumes of material used arm movement was restricted.

As a balance to the large puffed sleeves, collars were also enormous. The pelerine en ailes d'oiseau collar covered the sleeves like a bird's outstretched wing. Sometimes the collars were split at the top of each sleeve and often there were two layers of a collar. The bertha became popular near the end of the period. Lace and embroidered collars were widely made and worn.

Bonnets, gloves and parasols were the staples of a woman's accessory wardrobe in the period 1825-1840, but sashes, ribbons and bows were at the peak of their popularity. It was difficult to find a coat to go over the gigantic sleeves so shawls, mantles and stoles were popular wraps for day and evening wear. Dress/Sleeve/Hat examples Dress and Sleeve – 1839 Dress/Handbag – 1825 Bodice – 1830 Sleeve and Dress – 1829 Gloves Women’s hats

Hair edit Women’s hair styles Men’s hair styles

Shoes edit

Shoes were sensible in shape and fragile in construction. They tended to be flat heeled with a wide square toe area. Women’s Shoes (leather ladies shoes with squarish toe and front with small rosette, edged with brown silk, lined with fine ivory kid and both with printed labels gauche and droit) With square toes, small black silk ribbon rosette, lined with linen and cream kid, the tops with black silk ribbon binding, right and left slap sole

Jewelry and Accessories edit

Women often carried such items as Chatelaine (clips to waist band and holds seal, watch, scissors, thimble and other items needed throughout the day in the home), fan, vinaigrette (a little tightly sealing box with a second pierced lid inside to contain a bit of gauze soaked in vinegar, lavender water, or other scent) and reticule (a hand bag). Jewelry of this period was made in the popular styles following the trends in architecture and interior decoration, including Rococo, Greek and Roman, Pompeiian, and Gothic. Throughout the era ladies wore a limited amount of jewelry. They liked dainty necklaces and other pieces including combs of jeweled hair ornaments all modeled on original Greek items. Chatelaine Fan motions:

  • Placing your fan near your heart = I love you.
  • A closed fan resting on the right eye = When can I see you?
  • A half closed fan pressed to the lips = You may kiss me.
  • Touching the tip of the fan with a finger = I wish to speak to you.
  • Letting the fan rest on the right cheek = Yes.
  • Letting the fan rest on the left cheek = No.
  • Dropping the fan = We will be friends.
  • Fanning slowly = I am married.
  • Fanning quickly = I am engaged.
  • Carrying a open fan in the left hand = Come and talk to me.
  • Twirling the fan in the right hand = I love another.
  • Twirling the fan in the left hand = We are being watched.
  • Shutting a fully open fan slowly = I promise to marry you.
  • Drawing the fan across the eyes = I am sorry.
  • To open a fan wide = Wait for me.

Fabric edit

Men edit

Shirts were commonly made of linen, cotton and osnaburg. Pants or trousers were of cotton or wool. Occasionally different articles of clothing would be made of silks, but all pieces of clothing were usually made of linen, cotton or wool.

Women edit

The thin muslin favored in before the Romantic period lingered into the beginning of the period itself. When muslin was used after 1825 it was used in greater quantities per dress. There was so much muslin used, in fact, that it is said that if a woman were to douse herself in water in a dress made of muslin, that the amount of folds would still be able to conceal her body in a modest fashion. Muslin did not remain the fabric of choice for the entire period, though. There is evidence that dresses dated to the 1815-1840 period show signs of having been remade from gowns of earlier eras. In 1825 white was the favored color for evening dresses with cream and yellow gaining in popularity by 1830. Colors and figured materials grew more popular in this period. White dresses survive in the largest numbers both because the lack of dye helped preserve the fabric and because white material was less likely to be reused later in the century. Muslin, gauze over satin and rich silk fabrics were always favored for evenings and used whenever economically possible but even among well-to-do Americans homespun was popular day wear. The majority of the day dresses which survive from 1825-1840 are those made of fairly heavy cotton. Many of the dresses of the best quality fabrics were destroyed when the fabric was reused a few years later.

Side Notes edit

Women’s clothes became confining and some styles were injurious to the health. Corsets restricted the development and functioning of internal organs and prohibited deep breathing. The placement and structure of the sleeves barred many arm movements. The weight of the numerous petticoats discouraged much exercise. The total wants of fabric over the neck and an upper chest exposed women to the cold. The complicated and frequently changing styles meant that most women spent vast amounts of time on clothing preparation. About such hours spent sewing early twentieth century novelist Elizabeth von Arnim wrote, “I believe all needlework and dressmaking is of the devil, designed to keep women from study.” For many women alive in 1825 to 1840, however, the changing clothing styles were a delight and period diary and letter references indicate that most women enjoyed the challenge of each season's innovations.

References edit

  1. Andrews, Meg. "English Costume: Costume 1800-1830." English Costume. Antique Costumes and Textiles: Collectable, Hangable, Wearable. 25 Oct. 2008 <>.
  2. Bissonnette, Anne, and Debbie Henderson. "Of Men & Their Elegance." Kent State University Museum. 25 Apr. 2003. Kent State. 25 Oct. 2008 <>.
  3. Bissonnette, Anne. "Nineteenth Century: 1800-1825." Bissonnette on Costumes. 29 May 2007. Kent State University Museum. 25 Oct. 2008 <>.
  4. Jirousek, Charlotte. "Historical Dress: Romantic (1815-1840)." Art, Design and Visual Thinking. 1995. 25 Oct. 2008 <>.
  5. Palmer, Heather. "Antique Women's Fashions 1825-1840." Victoriana. 2005. 25 Oct. 2008 <>.
  6. "Romanticism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 25 Oct. 2008 <>.


Crinoline edit

I. History A. 1840~1865 (ish) B. II. Men A. Hair Curly hair was the most popular. Fixed in many ways it was mostly slicked with perfumed macassar oil. Sideburns were still popular. The stovepipe top hat was in fashion for formal occasions while the short wide brimmed hat was worn for sport and outings. Neck wear ranged from bow ties, long ties, and cravats to string ties, ascots, and stocks. B. Bodies Tail coats and frock coats were popular during this time. For casual wear sack coats were worn. The collars diminished greatly in height from the thirties. Shoulders dropped to elongate the neck. Sleeves were kept tight. C. Legs Long tubular pants were the fashion for men. Shoes were kept small and unassuming. III. Women A. Hair Hair was kept close to the nape of the neck and in large masses. Women either wore bonnets or pinned small hats on their heads if they wore them at all. B. Bodies Neck lines varied a lot but generally stayed bellow the pit of the throat. The sloping shoulder was emphasized and the women’s figure emphasized to look especially feminine. Shawls became the outer garment of choice. C. Legs The crinoline period is so called for use of crinoline in making women’s skirts puff out. Crinoline is a fabric made of a mixture of horse hair (crin) and linen (lin). This fabric was used to make petticoats. Eventually so many layers were used that it was impossible to use more when W.S. Thomas perfected David Hough’s invention of the hoop skirt. People continued incorrectly to call the crinolines but they causing skirts to continue to travel outward. Causing women to look like bells. Slippers were fashionable for indoors well ankle boots were fashionable for street ware. Flats were fashionable at the beginning and heels came into fashion slowly.

Materials General clothing • Muslin • Lawn • Tarlatan • Gingham • Calico • Percale • Dimity • Merino • Grenadine • Flannel • Serge • Broadcloth Fancy clothing • Silk • Taffeta • Crepe • Brocade • Velvet • Grosgrain • Satin • Moiré Antique

Colors Men • Generally bright colors were avoided Women • Nothing was unused

Jewelry Men wore rings and cuff links. The also wore shirt studs. Women wore cameos, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and large broaches. Lockets were also popular. semiprecious stones like turquoise and garnet were popular along with pearls.


Bustle edit

The Bustle period in history tends to blend into fashion eras directly preceding and following it, and is therefore sometimes called a part of the Crinoline era or the early Victorian period. The dates for this time in fashion tends to run from 1865-1890, although most experts agree that there are two very distinct Bustle periods. The first runs around 1873 and the other around 1887. Both of these will be discussed later in the article.

Historical Context
While some previous fashion eras have been brought on simply because everyone was copying a royal (such as Marie Antoinette), this is one of the first eras of fashion change that is brought about solely by economic and social change. The period begins (in American history) right at the end of the Civil War in 1865. Times were harder in both parts of the country and clothing became much more practical and less fanciful than the fashions of less than a decade earlier.

Another very important factor in the change in fashion was the Industrial Revolution. This allowed a change for so many different aspects of fashion, especially its creation. Sewing machines were invented, which caused a drastic change (especially in women's clothing); and there were new modes of transportation which allowed for materials and fabrics to be moved from one end of the country to another at a much faster rate than in years past. Tailoring and ready-made clothes were also part of this movement in society. It was much easier in general to find clothes as it became an actual profitable industry.

All of these facets were creating a new American society and new attitudes, and the fashion during this time reflected that change.

Men's Clothing

Silhouette & Style
- Men's clothing in this era is particularly interesting just for the reason that it is so incredibly uninteresting. Men, whose styles in the past have been flashy and sometimes even more flamboyant than women's, now dull down immensely. There are some theories as to why this happened. Many have cited the drastic changing of the times, especially in commerce. Capitalism was coming into play a great deal and men lost interest in frivolity and focused on earning money much more than before.
- Men's fashions during this time (unlike the women's, which will be discussed later) were not particularly loud or colorful. Usually they were the exact opposite. Dark colors were favored but eventually it was poor taste to wear something other than black and white. Most men were almost always carbon copies of each other as well. There were strict guidelines for men's fashion, and they all pretty much tended to look the same.
- To make distinctions, however, it became necessary to put little details into their garments to show their wealth. A pocket watch and chain was always a good bet. Different fabrics and patterns were also able to show off a man's personality a bit. However, fashion changed drastically at this time because men, instead of using their fashion to show their wealth, placed more emphasis on bigger things, such as material goods and land ownership. An amusing quote said that many people held the standard that men who were "fraudulently respectable betrayed their ulterior motives through a doubtful haircut, inappropriate trousers or a too perfect demeanor."
- Neckwear was also very important and there were many different ways to tie a tie around one's neck. Although many men wore their jacket collars so high that neckwear wouldn't even be visible, men still took great care in tying their neckerchiefs.
- The overall silhouette of the man at this time was fairly natural. Trousers still fell from the natural waist, though some men preferred a slight flare at the bottom of their pants. The cinched waist look was discarded and more natural shirts and jackets took its place, though attention was still drawn to the waist by a little line around almost all men's jackets.
Men's general fashion
Man in "walking costume" (1868)
Men's Greatcoat
Guide to men's fashion and acceptable materials

Hair, Hats & Accessories
- Hair was nearly as uninteresting as men's clothes. They tended to keep their hair from growing past the nape of the neck and would often simply keep it combed back. They wanted it as neat and out of the way as possible.
- Facial hair was rejected by most men, though some still favored large sideburns and others went with a simple mustache. Again, neat and simple.
- As for hats, top hats were still the order of the day and were considered to be the classic look and did not fade from fashion in the bit at this time. Some men, though, did begin to favor the bowler-style hat, which was just beginning to come into fashion.
- Men kept their accessories to a minimum, preferring a pocket watch of some kind to be their only obvious adornment. Jewelry for men in general was frowned upon.

Materials & Patterns
-Some men cheated the system by incorporating different patterns into their wardrobes, such as checks and plaid. These outfits were usually only worn casually, and the checked man's suit eventually became simply a lounge suit.
- Popular materials at the time were cotton, tweed and worsted, which is like a heavy yarn. Men preferred heavier materials over light ones, because it was so much easier to move in their clothing than women, who preferred lighter fabrics. This kept them warm in colder months but still able to move freely.

- Buttoned and laced shoes were more popular than boots, in general
- Some men's work boots were made of sturdier stuff and came in colors such as brown instead of black, but for most men it would have been tacky to wear anything besides a black shoe
Typical men's button-up shoe

Women's Clothing

Silhouette & Style
- The namesake of this era is named for the style of dress in which the earlier hoopskirt was essentially pulled from the front and gathered in back, creating a literal bustle of fabric, enhancing the woman's backside. It is for this reason that so many people say that the bustle period in fashion is actually quite a bit more sensual than the overbearing crinolines preceding it because the woman can be seen in her "natural form" from the front. From the side and back, on the other hand, is a whole different story. The fact that the backside alone was the one being showed off (instead of the usual decollet, which is normally covered up in this period) was quite scandalous before it became the normal fashion
- There are many theories as to why the hoopskirts and crinolines disappeared and the bustle appeared in their stead. Here, let me tell you them. - America started to really develop its own fashions in the 1870s as opposed to France - who was undoubtedly the fashion capitol of the western world - because of the war between France and Germany. The French were more interested in wartime activities and thus America's fashions were no longer dictated by them.
Mesh bustles

- Like men's fashions, much attention was paid to detail for women's dresses (and other accessories including hats), but were much more noticeable than men's. Extravagance was the MO of the day, and lots of different colors as well as different patterns (e.g. plaids, stripes, checks). Hair dying started to become popular.

- Fashionable "aprons" and trains on dresses began to become increasingly popular. The train was meant to elongate the female silhouette even further. Extra fabric was often sewn into the train specifically so it wouldn't get dirty as it trailed on the ground. Because they could become cumbersome, most trains were left to fancy dress and evening wear.

Bustles: First and Second Eras, and the Princess cut

First Bustle Era (late 60s - early 70s)
This part of the era shows the traditional bustle how we usually think of them. This was a period when the bustle idea was so popular that it caught on like wildfire. Because of this, and especially because material was much easier to come by, women's dresses were extravagant. They had lots of adornments, buttons, ruffles and fringe; the more the better. The woman's silhouette for first-era bustles was, funnily enough, the easiest on women as most dresses still carried a slight bell shape that echoed the recently outdated hoopskirts.
Colder-weather clothing, including the very popular shawl (1973)
Trains became increasingly popular
Hairstyles in 1870s

Princess aka "Fishtail" cut (late 70s - early 80s)
The bustle, because it gained popularity so quickly, was also quick to fall out of fashion. The mode that came into acceptance around 1877 was the "princess line" or "fishtail" cut. The woman's silhouette is called "natural form" by some people, because it is a very form-fitting look. The dresses were pulled tight around the legs and the bustle itself was reduced greatly and tended to sit lower on the dress, on the back of the thighs or even knees instead of the backside. The bodices also changed - they used a cuirasse, which fitted over the hips. The whole silhouette for women at this time was very slender.
Women in princess-cut dresses, showing the "apron" (1879)
Notice "fishtail" look on woman on right; others showing the "apron" look
Cuirasse bodice

Second Bustle Era (late 80s)
Then, for whatever reason (I believe women realized that they didn't want to wear princess line dresses when they found they couldn't walk in them), the princess line fell out of fashion and the bustle returned. This time, however, the bustle itself was very stiff and tended to stick out from the lower back horizontally. Perhaps because they had grown tired of the excesses in the fashion in the first bustle era, most dresses in the second were much more conservative and had fewer adornments.
Early second-era bustle look, showing boots and "casual" wear
Women with parasol and fan; apron look
Fancy women showing tightly corseted waists and distinct second-era bustle look
Woman wearing popular silhouette and pattern of the time; also children's looks
Popular women's hairstyles and headwear of second-era bustle look
You might recognize this one...

Buttons, buckles and belts were abundant and used gratuitously. Women also often carried a fan or parasol. Jewelry "consisted of sets of pin, earrings, and bracelets. Many lockets were worn, usually containing a picture of some loved one or a curl of baby's hair." For the most part, however, actual jewelry worn on the body was kept to a minimum. Almost all of a woman's ornamentation was kept on her dress.

Popular hairstyles for women during the early bustle era still carried the ringlet style of earlier fashion eras, but tended to wear the majority of their hair up, usually twisted. Most women wore some kind of hair adornment (usually a hat) that would sit on top of the head, usually tilted slightly forward. This tended to show off the rest of the hairstyle and was mostly just for show. Many hats had a string of fabric (often silk or whatever material the hat was made out of) that would hang down the back of head. Either that or the hairpiece itself would extend all the way to the nape of the neck.
Women in popular clothing and hairstyles (1974)

- Shoes for women, which used to be square, now became pointed and more simple but elegant overall.
- Boots came into fashion as well, but were usually only worn during the day and outside as casual wear. Many children, who were too young to wear heels, wore boots.
Black lace-up boots
Black button-up heeled boot

- Silk was a very popular material for all parts of a woman's dress. Even lower-class women would repair their only silk dress just so they would still have one.
- Flannel was a common material used for petticoats in the winter months, cotton for summer. The same fabrics were also used for shawls and sometimes some undergarments.
- A new material, foulard silk was introduced.
Foulard silk (still very popular today, especially in men's neck ties)
Carrick lace (used in women's mantles)
Corset-waist (or hourglass corset), worn by girls starting around age 12
- Women's waists, to be in fashion, were said to have been between seventeen and twenty-two inches. - In Boston, the National Dress Association was formed and gave lectures about current fashion and warned women about health risks

--- --- --

Works Referenced
Bernstein, Aline. Masterpieces of Women's Costumes of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Minneapolis: Dover Publications, Incorporated, 2003.
Breward, Christopher. The Hidden Consumer: Masculinities, Fashion and City Life 1860-1914. New York: Manchester UP, 1999.
Fashion Design, 1850-1895. New York: By Design P, 1997.
Hall, Carrie A. From Hoopskirts to Nudity. Caldwell, ID: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1938.
Olian, JoAnne, ed. Full-Color Victorian Fashions, 1870-1893. Minneapolis: Dover Publications, Incorporated, 1999.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900. New York, NY: Theatre Arts Books, 1964.
Yarwood, Doreen, ed. Costumes of the Western World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1983.

20th Century

20th Century edit

Beginning of 20th century
Typical "Gibson" girl
Molly Brown, 1912


Influence of cinema, Hollywood, and the "celebrity" were greatly apparent.
20s undergarments
Popular 20s hairstyles

Wedding party, 1930
Evening wear
1934 Women's ready-made frocks

1940s - 1950