History 104: Western Civilization since 1648
Lecture: 17th century Politics and Culture

FashionClick here for audio 

Cavalier costume

This is the "Cavalier Style". You may recognize it if you've every seen any "Three Musketeer" movies.

Characteristic are the long curled hair for men, close-to-the-head style with ringlets for women. Both required curling irons, bars of metal heated in the fire. Note the Van Dyck on the man, and lots of French lace on both (the result of Colbert's subsidies for the lace industry in France). Since the man is not wearing a sword, I assume the cane contains one; no gentleman would appear in the streets unarmed.

The clothes and hairstyles generally required some help from personal servants, thus indicating the status of the wearer.

These are Dutch merchant women. The things around their necks are ruffs, material starched and curled with a hot iron. The bigger and fancier the ruff, the wealthier the woman. The muff is fur, probably from New World colony trade.

Notice that the colors are not extravagant; they reflect the Spanish desire for darker hues, since the Netherlands were controlled by Spain until the Dutch Revolt of the 1640s.

The modest cut of the dresses (compare to the Cavalier neckline, above) reflects the moral conservatism of both the middle class in general, and Protestants in particular.

Dutch costume
Late 17th c costume After the puritanical styles prevalent in England during the Commonwealth (1649-1660), Charles II returned to the throne. Thus his reign overlapped that of extravagant Louis XIV of France, and the courts became the dictators of fashion for the elites. The passionate Charles liked his women in déshabillé, looking like they just got out of bed. Thus the style for elite women got more, um, casual.
costume 1693

By the 1690s, absolutists were firmly in power. The elite classes got unbelievably extravagant in their dress.

First the man. The hairstyle for men got very long, so much so that most had to wear a heavy wig. Ribbons were also the norm as well as lace. You can see the beginning, believe it or not, of the modern business suit, as the coat got shorter. High heels made men walk with a sway in their step, and here the sword is worn low for easy sitting. His face is powdered.

She is powdered also, with black "beauty patches" in various shapes. Such patches were to offset a perfect face, and were sometimes shaped like moons, stars, or even horse-and-carriages. The headress is called a fontage, and is a Spanish style. The fan was also required to go with the fontage.

See this style in action:

Film clip (with period audio) from The Draughtsman's Contract
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