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Jacobean lady avaThe outfit of a wealthy English lady from Jacobean period was rather extravagant and posh. The Jacobean era in England and Scotland lasted from 1567 to 1625, when King James VI of Scotland reined. But talking about this period’s fashionable clothing, let us have a closer look at the layers comprising the formal daywear for a wealthy Englishwoman in 1615. A little spoiler: the most interesting part of a Jacobean female attire is diverse accessories.

A linen chemise and wool stockings (knitted) are the first layer. For summer, silk stockings could be worn instead.


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Let us get the shoes out of the way – these are in lovely red leather with a heel, and they tie in front. Heeled shoes were worn by men and women.

Petticoat next. The cut and style were fairly generic, and they were made in silks and wools. Here, a silk one is used.


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A pair of bodies (stays) is next. Made in linen canvas, often with silks and decorative patterns, they were boned with reed or whalebone.


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Stays were a relatively new arrival, and their purpose was bust and back support, as well as creating a fashionable silhouette. Properly fitted, they are a very comfy and supportive garment (though it takes about 3 min to lace up).

3 main styles were in evidence – based on the Elizabeth effigy, the Sabina Dorothea, and the Elizabeth Vernon pairs.

A bumroll. Whereas more dramatic shapes created by French and Spanish farthingales were still in evidence for courtwear, a bumroll works for a more casual look.


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The next petticoat – this one is in nice English wool. It could be worn as an outer layer for a less affluent woman or, as here, for an extra layer adding warmth.


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The silk petticoat. This fancy one is made in silk grosgrain and decorated with metallic lace. It is voluminous and cartridge pleated to the waistband.


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And for the top – a waistcoat. This was a jacket fitted to the body, with gores inserted at the lower edge to make it lie nicely over the skirt.


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They were very fashionable and worn by the lower and middle classes too, with the materials and decoration showing one’s social position. Ladies wore theirs richly embroidered and embellished with metallic lace and spangles. The most famous belonged to Margaret Layton, currently in V&A museum.

This one is made in brocaded linen fabric, lined with silk and decorated with metallic lace. It closes with brass hooks and eyes.

It could also close with ties – here, decorative velvet ties were used, and could be made into bows.

Time for the accessories. A Jacobean woman would have quite a selection of styles to choose from.

A linen cap with lace was a popular choice – simple, pretty, and easy to wear. Or maybe an understated velvet bonnet with a shaped, stiff brim and decorative detail.


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If it was cold, or for outdoor wear, a loose gown would be worn. Made in wool or, for the better off, in silks, and decorated with lace, it was a comfortable garment that fell in folds to the floor.


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Note the higher waist at the back – the waistline will be moving up in the next decade.

More accessories. Although ruffs were in decline, a softer ruff was still popular. Styles varied a lot, depending on the occasion and region/country.

Or we can make a bigger statement with a suportasse and a darted collar. The suportasse was a wire frame supporting the collar. It could be laced and/or pinned onto the collar of one’s jacket or robe. The collar would be laid flat on the frame and tied/pinned as well, resulting in a rather striking look.


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And all complete.


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Including a fan.


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The late Elizabethan ideal of white skin and red lips was slowly going out of fashion, but makeup was still used to help nature along a bit. White powder (usually, lead-based and rather toxic) and red lip paint (oils, beeswax, and ochre mixed) were used to great effect.


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And here is a close-up of stays.


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Every culture has features and peculiarities, familiar only to the people of this nation. And it’s very interesting to learn about traditional clothing from natives. That’s why if you have something to say about your national costume, please, do it using comments. Tell us things which you know about your country’s cultural heritage. Other people will discover something new for them thanks to you.

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