Wikipedia describes Western European women’s fashion in 1500-50, writing:

“Women’s fashions of the earlier 16th 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 high-waisted gown of the late medieval period evolved in several directions in different parts of Europe. In the German states and Bohemia, gowns remained short-waisted, tight-laced but without corsets. The open-fronted gown laced over the kirtle or a stomacher or plackard. Sleeves were puffed and slashed, or elaborately cuffed.

In France, England, and Flanders, the high waistline gradually descended to the natural waist in front (following Spanish fashion) and then to a V-shaped point. Cuffs grew larger and were elaborately trimmed.

Hoop skirts or farthingales had appeared in Spain at the very end of the 15th century, and spread to England and France over the next few decades. Corsets (called a pair of bodies) also appeared during this period.

A variety of hats, caps, hoods, hair nets, and other headresses were worn, with strong regional variations. Shoes were flat, with broad square toes.”

Saint Catherine

Fig. 1 - Fernando Yanez de la Almedina (Spanish, 1475-1536). Saint Catherine, ca. 1510. Oil on panel; 212 x 112 cm. Madrid: Museo del Prado, P02902. Source: Museo del Prado

Sts. Dorothy and Apollonia from the St.Sebastian Altar

Fig. 2 - Hans Baldung Grien (German, 1480-1545). Sts. Dorothy and Apollonia from the St.Sebastian Altar, 1507. Private Collection. Source: Pinterest

St Lazarus with Martha and Mary

Fig. 3 - Master of Perea (Spanish). St Lazarus with Martha and Mary, Primer cuarto del siglo XVI. Oil on panel; 177 x 165 cm (69.7 x 65 in). Madrid: Museo Lázaro Galdiano, 02882. Source: Wikimedia Commons


Wikipedia describes Western European men’s fashion in 1500-50, writing:

“Early in this period, men’s silhouette was long and narrow, but gradually it grew wider until by the later reign of Henry the VIII the silhouette was almost square, with shoulder emphasis achieved through wide revers and collars and large sleeves.”

“Throughout this period, fashionable men’s clothing consisted of:

  • A linen shirt or chemise, originally low-necked but with a higher neckline by mid-century. The neckline was gathered into a narrow band or adjusted by means of a drawstring; the tiny ruffle formed by pulling up the drawstring became wider over time, and then evolved into the ruff of the next period.
  • A doublet with matching sleeves, often slashed or cut to allow the fabric of the shirt beneath to show through.
  • A jerkin, usually cut low to the waist in front to reveal the doublet beneath, with full skirts to the knee.
  • Hose, now usually ending above the knee, with a prominent codpiece (both sometimes hidden under the skirts of the jerkin).
  • Separate nether-hose or stockings held up with garters.
  • A front-opening overgown, often fur-lined for warmth and slashed, with sleeves. The overgown was ankle length early in the period, but knee-length overgowns were fashionable in the 1530s and 1540s. Scholars, judges, doctors, and other professionals retained the ankle length gown throughout the period.”


Piper and Drummer

Fig. 1 - Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471 – 1528). Piper and Drummer, ca. 1503 – 1504. Limewood; 94 x 51 cm. Cologne: The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, WRM 0369. Collection of Ferdinand Franz Wallraf. Source: The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud

Portrait of a Man with a Rosary

Fig. 2 - Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 1472–1553). Portrait of a Man with a Rosary, ca. 1508. Oil on oak; 47.6 x 35.2 cm (18 3/4 x 13 7/8 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29.100.24. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Portrait of Charles d'Amboise

Fig. 3 - Andrea Solario (Italian, 1460 -1524). Portrait of Charles d'Amboise, 1507. Oil on canvas; 52 x 75 cm (29.5 x 20.5 in). Paris: Louvre Museum, INV 674. Source: Louvre Museum



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1500-1509

Map of Europe, 1500. Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1501 – Antwerp became Portugal’s trade center
  • 1502 – First reported African slaves in The New World
  • 1503 – Spain defeats France at the Battle of Cerignola. Considered to be the first battle in history won by gunpowder small arms.
  • 1506 – Leonardo da Vinci completes the Mona Lisa.
  • 1509 – Marriage of Catherine of Aragon to Henry VII of England starts a trend for geometric blackwork embroidery on linen clothing. Designs are inspired by patterns popular in Spain from Moorish culture.
  • 1508–1512 – Michelangelo paints the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
  • 1500-1560s- Men begin layering clothes to give bulk and width, especially at the shoulders, creating a square outline. They start wearing hose to show off their shapely legs, suggesting athleticism.
  • Primary/Period Sources

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