Note - not dollshouse size

Here we come to styles that most people will recognise. Having their portrait painted was the latest status symbol for the wealthy, so research becomes rather easier from here on. However, the dress of these people was often so elaborate and costly to produce that it could bankrupt the wearer.

1540 in the reign of Henry VIII

The Lady in Court Dress wears a gown with low square neckline to the stiff bodice and elaborate sleeves. Her headdress is known as the 'gable' and was only ever worn in England. You can see it represented on any deck of playing cards today as worn by the Queens.  

The Gentleman wears many layers of clothes that add to his bulk. The result is probably the most aggressively masculine costume ever worn.   

1556 in the reign of Mary I

The Lady wears a hooped petticoat for the first time. It was known as the Spanish farthingale and gave a formal cone shape to the skirts.  

The Gentleman looks a little slimmer, having lost some of his layers, but because his breeches are now on show they have to be decorated with 'panes' - strips of fabric laid over a lining.    


1601 in the reign of Elizabeth I

The Lady in Court Dress has skirts supported by the French farthingale, which gives them a drum shape. Her bodice has a long point at the front that rests on top of her skirts. Her fan is new and probably made necessary by the bulk of her clothes.     

The Gentleman wears short, padded breeches and doublet with 'peascod belly'. A short Spanish cloak is worn over one shoulder and a tall crowned hat set a a rakish angle on his head.  

There is no other period in history where the shape of the human figure was so much distorted as this.

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