Wikipedia writes of fashion in this era:

“Fashion in 15th-century Europe was characterized by a series of extremes and extravagances, from the voluminous gowns called houppelandes with their sweeping floor-length sleeves to the revealing doublets and hose of Renaissance Italy. Hats, hoods, and other headdresses assumed increasing importance, and were swagged, draped, jewelled, and feathered.

As Europe continued to grow more prosperous, the urban middle classes, skilled workers, began to wear more complex clothes that followed, at a distance, the fashions set by the elites. It is in this time period that we begin to see fashion take on a temporal aspect. People could now be dated by their clothes, and being in “out of date” clothing became a new social concern. National variations in clothing seem on the whole to have increased over the 15th century.”

The Devonshire Hunting Tapestry: Falconry

Fig. 1 - Artist unknown (Netherlands (southern, made)). The Devonshire Hunting Tapestry: Falconry, 1430s. Tapestry-woven; 445 x 1075.9 cm. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, T.202-1957. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax payable on the estate of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Source: Pinterest

Portrait of a Woman with a Winged Bonnet

Fig. 2 - Rogier van der Weyden (Belgian, 1400-1469). Portrait of a Woman with a Winged Bonnet, 1430. Source: Wikimedia

The Arnolfini Portrait

Fig. 3 - Jan Van Eyck (Netherlandish, 1390-1441). The Arnolfini Portrait, 1434. Oil on oak; 82.2 x 60 cm (32.4 x 23.6 in). London: The National Gallery, NG186. Source: The National Gallery

A Woman

Fig. 4 - Robert Campin (French, 1378-1444). A Woman, 1435. Oil and egg tempera on oak; 40.6 x 28.1 cm (15.9 x 11.1 in). London: The National Gallery, NG653.2. Source: The National Gallery



Wikipedia writes of men’s fashion during this time:

“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.”

Madonna of Chancellor Rolin

Fig. 1 - Jan Van Eyck (Netherlandish, 1390-1441). Madonna of Chancellor Rolin, 1435. Oil on oak; 66 x 62 cm (25.9 x 24.4 in). Paris: The Louvre, INV. 1271. Source: Wikimedia

Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

Fig. 2 - Jan and Hubert Van Eyck (Netherlandish, 1390-1441, 1370-1426). Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, 1432. Oil on oak; 340 × 460 cm (132 x 180 in). Ghent: Saint Bavo Cathedral. Source: The New York Times



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1430-1439

Europa 1400. Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1430 – Hundred Years’ War: Joan of Arc is captured
  • 1430 – The conical headdress in the shape of a cone or “steeple”- the stereotypical princess hat- makes an appearance
  • 1431 – Joan of Arc leads the French armies to victory against the English. She is burned as a heretic on May 30, 1431 – One of the main charges against her was that she wore male clothing and cut her hair short–transvestitism was against church doctrine.
  • 1431 – Henry VI crowned King of France in Paris.
  • 1436 – Hundred Years’ War: the French retake Paris from the English.
  • 1437 – King Henry VI comes of age and takes over the rule of England.
  • Primary/Period Sources

    Resources for Fashion History Research

    To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
    Have a primary source to suggest?  Or a newly digitized periodical/book to announce?  Contact us!

    Digitized Primary/Period Sources

    Secondary Sources

    Also see the 15th-century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.