Wikipedia writes of 1550–1600 in Western European fashion:

“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.”

Of women’s fashion in the 1570s, Wikipedia writes:

“Overall, the silhouette was narrow through the 1560s and gradually widened, with emphasis as the shoulder and hip. The slashing technique… evolved into single or double rows of loops at the shoulder with contrasting linings… The fashion for wearing or carrying the pelt of a sable or marten spread from continental Europe into England in this period; costume historians call these accessories zibellini or “flea furs”. The most expensive zibellini had faces and paws of goldsmith’s work with jewelled eyes. Queen Elizabeth received one as a New Years gift in 1584. Gloves of perfumed leather featured embroidered cuffs. Folding fans appeared late in the period, replacing flat fans of ostrich feathers… Jewelry was also popular among those that could afford it. Necklaces were beaded gold or silver chains and worn in concentric circles reaching as far down as the waist. Ruffs also had a jewelry attachment such as glass beads, embroidery, gems, brooches or flowers. Belts were a surprising necessity: used either for fashion or more practical purposes.”

George, 5th Lord Seton (about 1531-1585) and his Family

Fig. 1 - Frans Pourbus (Netherlandish, 1545-1581). George, 5th Lord Seton (about 1531-1585) and his Family, 1572. Oil on panel; 109 x 79 cm. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, NG 2275. Bequest of Sir Theophilus Biddulph 1948; received 1965. Source: National Galleries of Scotland

Anna of Austria

Fig. 2 - Alonso Sánchez Coello (Spanish, 1531-1588). Anna of Austria, 1571. Oil on canvas; 176 x 98 cm (69.3 x 38.6 in). Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum, GG 1733. Source: Pinterest

Gargoyle of the Palatinate Dorothea Sabina Italy

Fig. 3 - Designer unknown. Gargoyle of the Palatinate Dorothea Sabina Italy, late 16th century. Silk, velvet, metal thread. The Bavarian National Museum, München. Source: Pinterest


Of men’s fashion in the 1570s, Wikipedia writes:

“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… Through the 1570s, a soft fabric hat with a gathered crown was worn. These derived from the flat hat of the previous period, and over time the hat was stiffened and the crown became taller and far from flat. Later, a conical felt hat with a rounded crown called a capotain or copotain became fashionable… Late in the period, fashionable young men wore a plain gold ring, a jewelled earring, or a strand of black silk through one pierced ear.”

Boy with a Greyhound

Fig. 1 - Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (Italian, 1528-1599). Boy with a Greyhound, 1570s. Oil on canvas; 173.7 x 101.9cm (68 3/8 x 40 1/8 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29.100.105. H.O. Havemeyer Collection. Source: Pinterest

Henry III before his ascent

Fig. 2 - Jean de Court (French, 1530-1584). Henry III before his ascent, 1573-1574. Oil on panel; 35 × 25 cm (13.8 × 9.8 in). Chantilly: Musée Condé, PE 256. Source: Wikipedia


Fig. 3 - Designer unknown. Doublet, 1570s. Breeches a la sevilla, stocking and cassock made of tabby silk. Private Collection. Source: Pinterest


George, 5th Lord Seton (about 1531-1585) and his Family

Fig. 1 - Frans Pourbus (Netherlandish, 1545-1581). George, 5th Lord Seton (about 1531-1585) and his Family, 1572. Oil on panel; 109 x 79 cm. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, NG 2275. Bequest of Sir Theophilus Biddulph 1948; received 1965. Source: Blogspot

Portrait of a Gentleman and His Two Daughters

Fig. 2 - Giovanni Battista Moroni (Italian, 1522-1578). Portrait of a Gentleman and His Two Daughters, ca. 1572-75. Oil on canvas; 125 x 97 cm. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Source: Royal Academy

A Little Girl with a Basket of Cherries

Fig. 3 - Unknown artist (Netherlands). A Little Girl with a Basket of Cherries, 1570. Oil on canvas; 52.1 x 79.4 cm (20.5 x 31.3 in). London: The National Gallery. Source: Arts Heaven


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1570-1579


1570 Map of Europe. Source: Fine Art America

  • 1572 – Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre: The marriage of Margaret Valois to the Protestant Henry of Navarre leads to an attack by the Catholics upon the Protestants across France, killing thousands of Huguenots.
  • 1574-89 – Reign of Henry III marked by religious civil war
  • 1577 – The first clock with a minute hand appears, developed by Jost Burgi, a Swiss clockmaker.
  • 1579 -The population of China reaches 60 million. (It will be 22 times that in 2005).
  • 1570s – Introduction of the French, or “wheel,” farthingale, with a stuffed roll around the hips and a hoop with horizontal stiffeners tied around the waist that makes the skirt stick out from the body.
  • 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.