OVERVIEW

Womenswear

Wikipedia writes of 15th-century womenswear:

“Women’s fashions of the 15th century consisted of a long gown, usually with sleeves, worn over a kirtle or undergown, with a linen chemise or smock worn next to the skin. The sleeves were made detachable and were heavily ornamented. The long-waisted silhouette of the previous period was replaced by a high-waisted style with fullness over the belly, often confined by a belt. The wide, shallow scooped neckline was replaced by a V-neck, often cut low enough to reveal the decorated front of the kirtle beneath.

Various styles of overgowns were worn. The cotehardie fitted smoothly from the shoulders to the hips and then flared by means of inserted triangular gores. It featured sleeves tight to the elbow with hanging streamers or tippets. The tight fit was achieved with lacing or buttons. This style faded rapidly from fashion in favor of the houppelande, a full robe with a high collar and wide sleeves that had become fashionable around 1380 and remained so to mid-15th century. The later houppelande had sleeves that were snug at the wrist, making a full “bag” sleeve. The bag sleeve was sometimes slashed in the front to allow the lower arm to reach through.

Around 1450, the dress of northern Europe developed a low V-neck that showed a glimpse of the square-necked kirtle. The neckline could be filled in with a sheer linen partlet. Wide turn-backs like revers displayed a contrasting lining, frequently of fur or black velvet, and the sleeves might be cuffed to match. Sleeves were very long, covering half of the hand, and often highly decorated with embroidery. Fine sleeves were often transferred from one dress to another. The term robe déguisée was coined in the mid-1400s to describe garments reflecting the very latest fashions, a term which endured into the 16th century.

In Italy, the low scoop-neck of the early decades gave way to a neckline that was high in front with a lower V-neck at the back at mid-15th century. This was followed by a V-neckline that displayed the kirtle or gamurra (sometimes spelled camorra). Sleeveless overgowns such as the cioppa were popular, and the gamurra sleeves displayed were often of rich figured silks. A lighter-weight undergown for summer wear was the cotta. A sideless overgown called the giornea was worn with the gamurra or cotta. Toward the end of the period, sleeves were made in sections or panels and slashed, allowing the full chemise sleeves below to be pulled through in puffs along the arm, at the shoulder, and at the elbow. This was the beginning of the fashion for puffed and slashed sleeves that would last for two centuries.

The partlet, a separate item to fill in a low neckline, appeared in this period, usually of sheer fabric (linen or possibly silk) with an open V-neckline. Some partlets have a collar and a back similar to the upper part of a shirt. Burgundian partlets are usually depicted worn under the dress (but over the kirtle); in Italy the partlet seems to have been worn over the gown and could be pointed or cut straight across at the lower front.

Two uniquely Spanish fashions appear from the 1470s. The verdugada or verdugado was a gown with a bell-shaped hoop skirt with visible casings stiffened with reeds, which would become the farthingale. The earliest depictions of this garment come from Catalonia, where it is worn with pieced or slashed sleeves and the second new style, a chemise with trumpet sleeves, open and very wide at the wrist.

The sideless surcoat of the 14th century became fossilized as a ceremonial costume for royalty, usually with an ermine front panel (called a plackard or placket) and a mantle draped from the shoulders; it can be seen in variety of royal portraits and as “shorthand” to identify queens in illuminated manuscripts of the period.”

Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus (detail)

Fig. 1 - Francesco del Cossa (Italian, 1436-1477). Allegory of April: Triumph of Venus (detail), 1476. Fresco; dimensions unknown. Ferrara, Palazzo Schifanoia. Source: Pinterest

The Annunciation

Fig. 2 - Hans Memling (Netherlandish, 1433 - 1494). The Annunciation, ca. 1465–70. Oil on wood; 186.1 x 114.9 cm (73 1/4 x 45 1/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.190.7. Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Birth of the Virgin

Fig. 3 - Fra Carnevale (Italian, 1416–1484). The Birth of the Virgin, 1467. Tempera and oil on wood; 144.8 x 96.2 cm (57 x 37 7/8 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 35.121. Rogers and Gwynne Andrews Funds, 1935. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Menswear

Wikipedia writes of menswear in this period:

“The basic costume of men in this period consisted of a shirt, doublet, and hose, with some sort of overgown (robe worn over clothing).

Linen shirts were worn next to the skin. Toward the end of the period, shirts (French chemise, Italian camicia, Spanish camisa) began to be full through the body and sleeves with wide, low necklines; the sleeves were pulled through the slashings or piecing of the doublet sleeves to make puffs, especially at the elbow and the back of the arm. As the cut of doublets revealed more fabric, wealthy men’s shirts were often decorated with embroidery or applied braid.

Over the shirt was worn a doublet. From around the mid-15th century very tight-fitting doublets, belted or tailored to be tight at the waist, giving in effect a short skirt below, were fashionable, at least for the young. Sleeves were generally full, even puffy, and when worn with a large chaperon, the look was extremely stylish, but very top-heavy. Very tight hose, and long pointed shoes or thigh-boots gave a long attenuated appearance below the waist, and a chunky, solid one above. The doublet was often elaborately pleated, especially at the back, the pleats being achieved by various means. In Italy both shirt and doublet were often high, tight and collarless at the front of the neck; sometimes they are shown higher at the front than the back.

Men of all classes wore short braies or breeches, a loose undergarment, usually made of linen, which was held up by a belt. Hose or chausses made out of wool were used to cover the legs, and were generally brightly colored. Early hose sometimes had leather soles and were worn without shoes or boots. Hose were generally tied to the breech belt, or to the breeches themselves, or to a doublet.

As doublets became shorter, hose reached to the waist rather than the hips, and were sewn together into a single garment with a pouch or flap to cover the front opening; this evolved into the codpiece.

The hose exposed by short tops were, especially in Italy late in the 15th century, often strikingly patterned, parti-coloured (different colours for each leg, or vertically divided), or embroidered. Hose were cut on the cross-grain or bias for stretch.”

Portrait of a Doge

Fig. 1 - Gentile Bellini (Italian (Venetian), 1429-1507). Portrait of a Doge, 1460-62. Tempera on panel; 53.3 x 42.5 cm (21 x 16 3/4 in). Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 36.934. Anna Mitchell Richards Fund. Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Francesco d'Este (born about 1430, died after 1475)

Fig. 2 - Rogier van der Weyden (Netherlandish, 1430-1475). Francesco d'Este (born about 1430, died after 1475), ca. 1460. Oil on wood; 31.8 x 22.2 cm (12 1/2 x 8 3/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 32.100.43. The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tapestry: "The Martyrdom of Saint Paul" (from the series "The Life of Saint Peter")

Fig. 3 - Anonymous (French or Franco-Flemish). Tapestry: "The Martyrdom of Saint Paul" (from the series "The Life of Saint Peter"), about 1460. Wool warp, wool, silk and metal-wrapped wefts; tapestry weave; 286 x 205 cm (112 5/8 x 80 11/16 in). Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 38.758. Francis Bartlett Donation of 1912. Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

CHILDREN’S WEAR

References:

Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1460-1469
Rulers:

Europe during the 15th Century. Source: University of Texas Libraries

Events:
  •  1461 – Battle of Towton: Edward IV defeats Queen Margaret, to make good his claim to the English throne (thought to be the bloodiest battle ever fought in England).
  • 1466 – Louis XI of France introduces silk weaving to Lyon
  • 1469 – Ferdinand and Isabella united Spain

Primary/Period Sources

Resources for Fashion History Research

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Digitized Primary/Period Sources

Secondary Sources

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