Dressing up in the 17th century is very different from our modern habits in clothes. But the more interesting it is to learn how to do it. Today, we’re going to find out what layers of clothing women wore in 1690. In particular, we’ll talk about the early mantua as a part of a court dress, as well as a riding/hunting outfit for a lady.
Let us start with the court outfit and see what layers went into it. As always, a linen chemise first. They were becoming more visible so could get quite fancy.
Stockings next – wool or silk, depending on the season. These are finely woven thin wool, held up by handwoven garters. For winter, a much cozier pair would have been worn – thick, soft wool kept those ladies nice and warm.
Stays (corset) next. Stays started to change a bit at the time – these are an earlier model, still worn at the time, though new designs were coming in, too. The fashionable silhouette was long – so stays could have a lower than natural waist, creating the popular elongated torso illusion. Stays would have been boned using bundles of reed – flexible, light, and breathing well, primary function – bust support. Well fitted stays were comfortable and durable, not hindering movement. For pregnancy, they would be gradually unlaced. Real lacing time: 2-3 minutes.
Red silk petticoat – never really out of fashion.
Silk skirt with fringe, gold lace, and band decoration – the skirts could get very ornate at the time.
And a silk mantua, originally a loose silk gown, worn for undress. Cut in simple rectangles, it was shaped by elaborate draping pleated to fit the body. As a court dress, this one sports a long train. The front is secured by ties, and then a stomacher is worn. Ever popular pins, for attaching the dress to the stomacher. For extra security, stomacher could have been pinned to the stays, too. Pins could keep the fabric in place very securely – and once you are used to them, you can do the deed without drawing any blood.
A decorative gold belt next. It provided a handy place to hook the sides of the dress to.
The long skirts are folded back – often revealing a contrasting lining. If unlined, the mantua skirt was stitched on the right side to hide the seam.
Hiding the ties…
And a rather crazy headdress – the Fontage. Stiffened and boned linen folds, with lace lappets and a cap. The taller the better. Keeping it, ahm, erect, must have been fun! The ties provided the tension, but it must have flopped occasionally, I bet.
But what if the king suddenly calls for a hunt or a ride? A quick transformation is needed. Shedding the courtly silk in favor of a more masculine style.
The chemise is drawn higher up.
Girly curls need to go, too. That’s my real hair – this one stays, just repinning it differently.
Cravat with lace is adorning the neck (and protecting it, too). Could be additionally decorated with a ribbon bow.
Riding skirt! In thin but strong high-quality wool, with a lot of decoration, and a train to drape nicely over a horse.
Silk waistcoat next. It was basically a men’s item but fitted to be worn over the stays. And a bonus – it had pockets!
A wool coat (justacorps), lined with silk – also a male-specific item, and a precursor of the modern business suit. Heavily decorated with lace, and without voluminous skirts – and had pockets, too.
Silk sash with a fringe decoration… never enough fringe, apparently. Or silk, for that matter…
By comparison, a gentleman’s justacorps and waistcoat. And look at those manly locks! Awesome.
So awesome, I am getting some! Men’s style wigs would often have been worn by women for riding.
The hat is a must! As are gauntlets – fine leather with lace.
And we are ready to go.
A masculine outfit – but damn fine for a woman, too.
And a gun! Many paintings of the era picture women with guns – they not only rode but shot as well.
(c) Prior Attire