OVERVIEW

Womenswear

Wikipedia writes of fashion in the 1550s:

“Fashion in the period 1550–1600 in Western European clothing was characterized by increased opulence. Contrasting fabrics, slashes, embroidery, applied trims, and other forms of surface ornamentation remained prominent. The wide silhouette, conical for women with breadth at the hips and broadly square for men with width at the shoulders had reached its peak in the 1530s, and by mid-century a tall, narrow line with a V-shaped waist was back in fashion. Sleeves and women’s skirts then began to widen again, with emphasis at the shoulder that would continue into the next century. The characteristic garment of the period was the ruff, which began as a modest ruffle attached to the neckband of a shirt or smock and grew into a separate garment of fine linen, trimmed with lace, cutwork or embroidery, and shaped into crisp, precise folds with starch and heated irons.”

Lady and Gentleman with their Daughter

Fig. 1 - Paris Bordone (Italian, 1500-1571). Lady and Gentleman with their Daughter, 1550. Oil on canvas. Derbyshire: Chatsworth House. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Mary I of England

Fig. 2 - Hans Eworth (English, 1520-1574). Portrait of Mary I of England, 1554. Oil on oak panel; 41 x 31 in cm. London: Society of Antiquaries of London, LDSAL 336. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Catherine de' Medici

Fig. 3 - Workshop of François Clouet (French, 1515-1572). Portrait of Catherine de' Medici, 1559. Oil on panel; 23.9 × 19.1 cm (9.4 × 7.5 in). Carnavalet Museum: Carnavalet Museum. Source: Wikimedia

Portrait of Catherine of Medici (1519-1589)

Fig. 4 - Anonymous. Portrait of Catherine of Medici (1519-1589), 1559. Oil on canvas; 194 × 110 cm (76.4 × 43.3 in). Florence: Uffizi Gallery, Inv. 1890: inv. 2448. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Menswear

Wikipedia writes of fashion in the 1550s:

“Men’s fashionable clothing consisted of a linen shirt with collar or ruff and matching wrist ruffs, which were laundered with starch to be kept stiff and bright. Over the shirt men wore a doublet with long sleeves sewn or laced in place. Doublets were stiff, heavy garments, and were often reinforced with boning. Optionally, a jerkin, usually sleeveless and often made of leather, was worn over the doublet. During this time the doublet and jerkin became increasingly more colorful and highly decorated. Waistlines dipped V-shape in front, and were padded to hold their shape. Around 1570, this padding was exaggerated into a peascod belly.

Hose, in variety of styles, were worn with a codpiece early in the period. Trunk hose or round hose were short padded hose. Very short trunk hose were worn over cannions, fitted hose that ended above the knee. Trunk hose could be paned or pansied, with strips of fabric (panes) over a full inner layer or lining. Slops or galligaskins were loose hose reaching just below the knee. Slops could also be pansied. Pluderhosen were a Northern European form of pansied slops with a very full inner layer pulled out between the panes and hanging below the knee. Venetians were semi-fitted hose reaching just below the knee. Men wore stockings or netherstocks and flat shoes with rounded toes, with slashes early in the period and ties over the instep later. Boots were worn for riding.”

Portrait of a Gentleman, probably of the West Family

Fig. 1 - British School. Portrait of a Gentleman, probably of the West Family, 1545-60. Oil paint on oak; 133 x 78.5 cm. Millbank, London: Tate, N04252. Presented in memory of R.S. Holford and Sir George Holford by nine members of their family 1927. Source: Tate Britian

Portrait of Edward VI of England

Fig. 2 - Circle of William Scrots (Flemish-English, 1537-1554). Portrait of Edward VI of England, fl. 1537-1554. Oil on oak; 39.3 × 32.1 cm (5.5 × 12.6 in). Private Collection. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bartolommeo Bonghi

Fig. 3 - Giovanni Battista Moroni (Italian, 1524-1578). Bartolommeo Bonghi, 1553. Oil on canvas; 101.6 x 81.9 cm (40 x 32 1/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 13.177. Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1913. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

CHILDREN’S WEAR

Iseppo da Porto

Fig. 1 - Paolo Veronese (Italian, 1528-1588). Iseppo da Porto, 1556. Oil on canvas. Florence: Uffizi Gallery. Contini Bonacossi. Source: Wikipedia

Portrait of a Young Man

Fig. 2 - Bronzino (Italian, 1503-1572). Portrait of a Young Man, 1550-5. Oil on wood; 75 x 57.5 cm (29.5 x 22.6 in). London: The National Gallery. on loan from private collection. Source: The National Gallery

Portrait of Maria de' Medici

Fig. 3 - Bronzino (Italian, 1503-1572). Portrait of Maria de' Medici, 1553. Tempera on canvas; 52.5 x 38 cm (20.6 x 14.9 in). Florence: Uffizi Gallery. Source: WikiArt

References:

Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1550-1559
Rulers:

Europe 1550. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Events:
  • 1547-59 – Henry II persecuted Protestants
  • 1559 – France surrendered claims to Italian territories
  • 1556-98 – Philip II ruled Spain, the Spanish New World, the Netherlands, Milan, and Naples
  • 1550s – The chopine, an early platform overshoe, has been popular since the late 15th century. At this time, they reach the peak of their height (20in/50cm)
  • 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 16th-century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.

    Online

    Books/Articles
    Pinterest