Wikipedia describes 1590 women’s fashion:

“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.”

Double portrait of Sir John Harington (1560-1612), of Kelston, and Mary, Lady Harington (c. 1571-1634)

Fig. 1 - Anonymous. Double portrait of Sir John Harington (1560-1612), of Kelston, and Mary, Lady Harington (c. 1571-1634), 1593. Oil on panel, transferred onto board; 94 x 77.8 cm (30 5/8 x 37 in). Private Collection. Source: Christie's

Maria Christina, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Transylvania

Fig. 2 - Anonymous. Maria Christina, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Transylvania, ca. 1592. Oil on canvas; 110 × 91 cm (43.3 × 35.8 in). Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum. Source: Pinterest

Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham

Fig. 3 - Robert Peake the Elder (English, 1551-1619). Catherine Carey, Countess of Nottingham, 1597. Oil on canvas. London: The Weiss Gallery. Source: Pinterest

Dorothy, Lady Dormer

Fig. 4 - Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (Flemish, 1561/1562–1635/1636). Dorothy, Lady Dormer, 1596. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. Source: Pinterest


Of 1590 men’s fashion, 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.”

Family Portrait

Fig. 1 - Gortzius Geldorp (Flemish, 1553-1618). Family Portrait, 1598. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. Source: Pinterest

Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex

Fig. 2 - Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (Flemish, 1561/1562–1635/1636). Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, ca. 1597. Oil on canvas; 218 x 127.2 cm (85 7/8 x 50 in). London: National Portrait Gallery, 4985. Purchased, 1974. On long-term loan to Montacute House, Somerset. Source: Pinterest

Portrait of a Man, Possibly an Architect or Geographer

Fig. 3 - Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640). Portrait of a Man, Possibly an Architect or Geographer, 1597. Oil on copper; 21.6 x 14.6 cm (8 1/2 x 5 3/4 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1982.60.24. The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982. Source: The Met


[To come… ]

Two Children Teasing a Cat

Fig. 1 - Annibale Carracci (Italian, 1560–1609). Two Children Teasing a Cat, 1587–88. Oil on canvas; 66 x 88.9 cm (26 x 35 in). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.142. Purchase, Gwynne Andrews Fund, and Bequests of Collis P. Huntington and Ogden Mills, by exchange, 1994. Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An Unknown Girl, aged four

Fig. 2 - Isaac Oliver (French, 1558-1617). An Unknown Girl, aged four, 1590. Watercolour on vellum stuck onto a playing card and set in an ivory frame; depth: 6 mm, diameter: 64 mm cm (depth: .24 in, diameter: 2.5 in). London: Victoria and Albert Museum, P.145-1910. Source: Victoria & Albert

Anne, Lady Pope with her children

Fig. 3 - Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger (Flemish, 1561–1636). Anne, Lady Pope with her children, 1596. Oil on canvas; 2036 mm x 1217 mm cm (80 1/4 in x 47 7/8 in). Washington, D.C: National Portrait Gallery, NPG L231. Lent by a private collection, courtesy of Nevill Keating Pictures, 2003. Source: National Portrait Gallery


Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1590-1599

Religious Divisions in Europe after the Reformation, 1590. Source: The Norton Anthology of English Literature

  • 1590 – Shakespeare wrote his first play
  • 1598 – Boris Godunov seizes the throne of Russia, following the death of his brother-in-law, Tsar Feodor I; the Time of Troubles starts.
  • 1598 – The Peace of Vervins ends the war between France and Spain.
  • 1599 – The Italian city of Pompeii is rediscovered more than 1,500 years after its burial, following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79.
  • 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

    “Códice de Trajes / Costume Book.” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 16th century. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000052132&page=1.
    Heere, Lucas d’. “Théâtre de tous les peuples et nations de la terre avec leurs habits et ornemens divers, tant anciens que modernes,” 16th century. https://lib.ugent.be/en/catalog?q=rug01:000794288.
    “Triunfo Del Emperador Maximiliano I, Rey de Hungría, Dalmacia y Croacia, Archiduque de Austria.” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 1501. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000012553&page=1.
    Erasmus, Desiderius. De Ciuilitate Morum Puerilium. De Civilitate Morum Puerilium. Parisiis Paris: Ex officina Reginaldi Calderij, & Claudij eius filij, 1547. http://hdl.handle.net/10111/UIUCUNICA:erasde0001ciumor.
    “OMNIUM FERE GENTIUM nostraeque aetatis nationum Habitus et Effigies...” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 1572. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000099490&page=1.
    Ockings, Joost van. “Alba Amicorum,” 1576. https://www.kb.nl/kbhtml/alba/frameset9.html.
    Amman, Joost. “Habitus Praecipuorum Populorum, Tam Virorum Quam Foeminarum Singulari Arte Depicti...[Texto Impreso].” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 1577. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000099924&page=1.
    Alcega, Juan de. “Libro de Geometria, Practica y Traça / Tailor’s Pattern Book.” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 1580. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000022768&page=1.
    Bruyn, Abraham de. “Omnium Pene Europae, Asiae, Aphricae, Atque Americae Gentium Habitus.” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 1581. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000099918&page=1.
    Bertelli, Pietro. “Diuersarū Nationum Habitus Centum, et Quattuor Iconibus in Aere Incisis Diligenter Expressi Item Ordines Duo Processionum Vnus Summi Pontificis Alter Sereniss. Principis Venetiarum.” Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, 1594. http://bdh-rd.bne.es/viewer.vm?id=0000016695&page=1.
    “Album Amicorum of a German Soldier.” LACMA Collections, 1595. https://collections.lacma.org/node/172051.
    Della Casa, Giovanni, and Nicholas Fitzherbert. Trattato ... cognominato Galateo, ovvero de’ costumi. Colla traduzione latina a fronte de Niccolò Fierberto Inglese, già pubblicata in Roma l’anno 1595 ... Padova: Presso G. Comino, 1728. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008965469.

    Secondary Sources

    Also see the 16th-century overview page for more research sources… or browse our Zotero library.


    “Elizabethan Costuming Page,” n.d. http://www.elizabethancostume.net/index.html.
    Watt, Melinda. “English Embroidery of the Late Tudor and Stuart Eras.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/broi/hd_broi.htm.
    Breiding, Dirk H. “Fashion in European Armor.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/afas/hd_afas.htm.
    Breiding, Dirk H. “Fashion in European Armor, 1500–1600.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/afas16/hd_afas16.htm.
    Victoria and Albert Museum. “Fashion up to the 17th Century Reading List,” January 13, 2011. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/f/reading-list-fashion-up-to-the-17th-century/.
    “Recreating 16th and 17th Century Clothing: The Renaissance Tailor,” n.d. http://www.renaissancetailor.com/research_vocabulary.htm.
    Watt, Melinda. “Renaissance Velvet Textiles.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/velv/hd_velv.htm.
    Breiding, Dirk H. “The Decoration of European Armor.” The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, n.d. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/deca/hd_deca.htm.

    Arnold, Janet, Jenny Tiramani, and Santina M. Levey. Patterns of Fashion 4: The Cut and Construction of Linen Shirts, Smocks, Neckwear, Headwear and Accessories for Men and Women c.1540-1660. Hollywood: Quite Specific Media Group, 2008. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/909294834.
    Ashelford, Jane. A Visual History of Costume: The Sixteenth Century. London: Batsford, 1983. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/748457696.
    Ashelford, Jane, and Andreas Einsiedel. The Art of Dress: Clothes and Society, 1500-1914. London: National Trust, 1996. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/759883168.
    Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Expanded ed. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1987. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/979316852.
    Brown, Susan, ed. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK Publishing, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/840417029.
    Edwards, Lydia. How to Read a Dress: A Guide to Changing Fashion from the 16th to the 20th Century. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/988370049.
    Hill, Daniel Delis. History of World Costume and Fashion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/768100950.
    Monnas, Lisa. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings, 1300-1550. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/644408684.
    Rangström, Lena. Modelejon: Manligt Mode 1500-Tal, 1600-Tal, 1700-Tal. Stockholm: Livrustkammaren : Bokförlaget Atlantis, 2002. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/464542633.
    Reynolds, Anna. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion. London: Royal Collection Trust, 2013. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/824726826.
    Richardson, Catherine. Clothing Culture, 1350-1650. New York: Routledge, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/976442537.
    Rodini, Elizabeth, Elissa Weaver, and Kristen Ina Grimes. A Well-Fashioned Image: Clothing and Costume in European Art, 1500-1850. Chicago: The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 2002. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/694844989.
    Tortora, Phyllis G., and Sara B. Marcketti. Survey of Historic Costume. Sixth edition. New York: Fairchild Books, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/972500782.
    Vincent, Susan J., and Elizabeth Currie, eds. A Cultural History of Dress and Fashion: The Renaissance (1450-1650). London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/967107605.
    Welch, Evelyn S., ed. Fashioning the Early Modern: Dress, Textiles, and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800. Pasold Studies in Textile History 18. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1004187054.
    “1500-1599 Fabrics & Textiles,” 1500s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1500-1599-fabrics-textiles/.
    “1590-1599 Portraits of Men.” Pinterest, 1590s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1590-1599-portraits-of-men/.
    “1590-1599 Portraits of Women.” Pinterest, 1590s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1590-1599-portraits-of-women/.
    “Artefacts: Armor & Shields,” 1500s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1500-1599-armour/.