In my first post introducing the 17th century and the Baroque, I left off after reaching the 1660's. By that time, the relaxed style of off the shoulder gowns with large sleeves in simple but luxurious satins had taken a firm hold over the followers of fashion. Today we say goodbye to the 17th century (at least for now) by continuing our study of portraiture from the 1660's to the turn of the 18th century.
The standard styling mentioned above held on into the second half of the 17th century. The problem for us studying clothing through contemporary portraiture is that allegorical portraits were all the rage. Women painted in loose chemises, barely wrapped in a swathe of shining silk, don't exactly represent the actual clothing of the time. After all, one cannot simply wander around in her chemise and a scarf and retain her reputation as a lady. Most gowns of the time did have a structured bodice that was either itself stiffened, or as the age went on, increasingly a pair of stays worn underneath the bodice to support the shape. The stomacher began to return to fashion near the turn of the century as a decorative panel pinned to the front of the stays. The new style of gown forming at the end of the age was called a mantua, a gown cut in one (as opposed to a separate bodice and skirt) with the front skirt open to show off the underskirt. After all the relaxed fashion popular in the middle of the age, more structure and formality began to return to women's wardrobes.
|Fig. 1 Fig.2 Fig.3|
|Fig. 4 Fig. 5 Fig.6|
|Fig. 7 Fig. 8 Fig. 9|
In fig. 5 we get our first real good look at a mantua. Here the unnamed countess is in full court dress to attend the coronation of James II. Her red velvet mantua is trimmed (or possibly lined) in ermine fur. With the gown she also wears a matching velvet and fur robe which is tied on at the shoulders with golden cords. The mantua's skirt is pulled back in front in swags with jeweled clips to show off her magnificent underskirt. The skirt looks to be of white silk with three rows of incredible golden lace. Her bodice clasps are graduated, with the top one being rather large. Her other accessories include wide lace cuffs, a long golden cord belt with large tassels, and the ever present pearl jewelry.
Interestingly, fig. 9, though wearing a gown of gold brocade, has blue silk sleeves. I haven't seen another gown like this example with completely different colored sleeves. She is painted with whom the National Portrait Gallery describes as a servant girl. This unnamed girl is also very well dressed, wearing an olive green mantua style dress with a lavender underskirt. The inclusion of black servants in English portraiture was a fad in the 17th and 18th centuries, as the UK website Revealing Histories describes "Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it became fashionable among the British aristocracy to have black servants who were seen as markers of wealth, status and refinement." Though of course, the act of enslaving people is the exact opposite of a mark of refinement. History certainly is not always pretty, and even when trying to study clothing alone, the darker aspects of history cannot be ignored. People are never an accessory, they are people, no matter how those in the 17th century may have thought otherwise.
|Fig. 10 Fig. 11 Fig. 12|
|Fig. 14 Fig. 15 Fig. 16|
All of the information for this post has been gathered from the textbook Survey of Historic Costume (5th edition) by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eurbank, from the links above or my own knowledge. I want to share the resources I come across with all of you as much as possible. The portraits used to illustrate today's post are credited to either the museum where they reside (whenever possible) or the source where I found them, and are linked via their fig. # underneath. Again I repeat my disclaimer that I am not a historian, and if you have corrections or additions for this post, please begin the discussion in comments as I would love to learn more!
That was a long post, thank you so much for reading through to the very end :)