Middle Ages








wedding dresses

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In the first two decades of the 17th Century, while Spain largely dominated fashion, a very small, emerging country increasingly asserted its position in the European scenario: Netherland.

Netherland, which was spared from the ravages of the 30-year war, has become a leading economic and trading power. Much like during the Renaissance, art bloomed in all its forms on the wake of Netherland's rise. Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, etc. produced their masterworks during this period. Garments are lush and impressive, collars enormous, skirts, richly layered on top of each other, are extremely wide. Black is initially favoured only to be superseded in the 30s by brighter colours.

On the men's side, the doublet is by and large the favourite albeit it loses its stiffness. Sleeves are - as in the Renaissance - wide and baggy, also slitted and often provided with lace cuffs.

Although the millstone ruff was still worn, lace collars are increasing seen and favoured. Trousers are cut tighter and flow down to the knee, decorated at the ankles with lace cuffs.

Initially, men wore Spanish-like hats, which later developed an increasingly broad brim, adorned with ostrich feathers or an amaranth.
As regards women's clothing, the padded, rigid forms of Spanish fashion still linger for a while. This shows in the importance attached to the hips, i.e. hip pads are initially retained. On the other hand, bodices drop their extreme tapered shape and sometimes feature a peplum.
Sleeves, which in the first two decades of the 17th Century remained rather narrow and featured long upper sleeves, gradually became ample and bulky, and sometimes gathered at the elbow. All sleeves forms usually feature a top cuff.
Women retain the ruff far longer than men do. Thus, we see quite often paintings of couples, where she still carries the millstone ruff while he dons a fashionable lace collar.
From the mid-30s, however, lace collars definitely enter women's fashion and with them the cleavage.
The initial rectangular cut slowly evolved into a wide oval variation by mid-century. Concealment was accomplished through veil-like cloths or cleavage collars.
At this time, black garments are replaced by pastel-collared items, which are richly decorated with ribbons and laces.
Women also don wide-brimmed hats, much like men’s. Dutch women, however, find it difficult to leave their bonnets behind, which they continue to wear in the form of wing or diadem hoods.
A typical Dutch invention, the matinee, an originally crafted, simple jacket to be worn usually indoors. Over time, it will be "refined" - made of soft velvet and trimmed with fur.
In 1661 in France, King Louis XIV acceded to the throne and thus assumed the political and cultural leadership in Europe. Within 10 years, all European princes seek to emulate the looks of the "Sun King".
Doublets transform into small, front open jackets, while trousers resemble ample skirts. These "divided skirts" became known as Rhingrave. King Louis XIV loved this kind of trousers and, needless to say, all European Courts followed suit.

Shirts become the most fashionably relevant item, protruding between the jacket and pants and under the sleeves. For the first time, soldiers are provided with uniforms.

The uniform coat, also worn by the king - understood here as an overly sumptuous replica of the same - loses its width and is gradually trimmed at the waist; it becomes a "juste-au-corps" or close-fitting skirt. Under the Justaucorps, people wore the doublet, which is freshly dubbed the veste.
We are in 1780 and the Rhingrave (divided skirt) starts its slow decline over the last two decades of the century. Thus, it is gradually replaced by normal width knee-breeches, the culotte.
Lace collars can no longer mix with the ever-lengthening hair or wigs, so that only two narrow strips remain, which are knotted at the front or tied together with a bow. In any case, the wig becomes the most important sign of status and representation.
Also representative were the fabrics used for clothing: Courts will only allow silks, velvets, and brocades. In turn, these were so richly covered with gold and silver embroidery, decorated for festivities with diamonds and precious stones, and provided with laces that the fabric as such was hardly visible at times.

Women's fashion followed the Dutch example much longer than men's fashion.
Towards the end of the century, however, women return to the courtly tradition: skirts feature trains again, whose length - as in the Middle Ages - is indicative of the rank of the wearer. The waist is tied very closely and fitted with a bow.

The corset becomes an independent item of clothing, i.e. it can be worn instead of the bodice, fitted with sleeves, and made of precious materials. The corset is profusely decorated with bows and ribbons, and the cleavage is extremely generous.

The upper skirt, usually from the same fabric as the bodice, is open at the front, can be gathered at the hips and pinned up at the back. Fabrics are preferred in bright colours and red becomes commonplace.

Over time, striped and floral fabrics grow in popularity. Women also wears a wig since the 80s, the so-called Fontange, a towering structure growing higher and wider by the day, and eventually surpassing the head by one to two head lengths.

Costume examples from our workshop


Period: 1670, Netherlands,

The following Baroque dress has been commissioned work for the Langenfeld museum.

After a skull find in 1964 that was pointed at the execution of a woman during the second half of the 17th century, numerous renown researchers spent the last decades on investigating the case. With the help of modern technology they were able to create a ...



Period: 1655, Netherlands

The Dutch painter Gerard ter Borch created his work "A Woman Washing her Hands" around 1655. No other painter of this period paid such attention to the clothing of his customers as ter Borch did. As member of the same social class as his sitters he did not need to adulate them. His paintings are ...


Period: 1618, Netherlands,

The portrait art of the 17th century offered the commissioner a number of possibilities: bust, half-length, knee-length and full-body portraits. The latter was one of the most expensive pieces of painted work and was long reserved for princes. During the Baroque these portraits were also luxury only the ...