Nicole Kipar
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The 1660s
Restoration Costume Comes to Life

Part 2, Page 2
Gentry and Aristocracy, Women:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Lower Class Women and Men Gentry and Aristocracy, Women Gentry and Aristocracy, Men The Whole Look: Accessories Costume Focus: Women's Headwear & Neckwear

All of the following images open in a new window for a detailed study. All of them are details taken from paintings and they are all from the 1660s.
Please note that though there wasn't a distinction made in the 17th century between the different layers of skirts (they were all called petticoat), I make a distinction for clarification between over-skirt or skirt and under-skirt or petticoat.

The bodice was usually stiffly boned, lined and interlined with canvas, but it could also be slightly stiffened and lined and worn over a stiff pair of stays. The effect was the same, but it seems the latter version is more often found when different bodice and skirt were worn and not a matching dress. 'Dress' means never though that bodice and skirt were sewn together, but they are always separate pieces with the skirt worn over the tabs of the bodice but underneath the extending centre front busk. The boning was indeed ferocious to create the desired effect of a conical shape and a round and not oval waist. We, who have recreated these dresses and are wearing those for long days at a time can vouch that the dresses were not made to be worn for endless hours, but the heavier they are boned the more they are for evening or more important occasion wear. One gets used to the restrictive bodices after a while but one cannot raise the arms nor move them into the back nor lift anything, because the low setting of and boning underneath the sleeves makes it painful to do so. These dresses are indeed a status symbol: a lady cannot get into them without help, because they are always back laced, and so are the bodices on the next page, and they are impossible for anyone to wear who has to do any kind of physical labour. Randle Holme described them very vividly and most of all the long centre front busk that extends low below the waist and with a boned panel over the tummy:

"...a strong piece of wood or whalebone thrust down the middle of the stomacher to keep it straight and in compass, that the breast or belly shall not swell out too much. These busks are usually made in length according to the necessity of the person wearing it: if to keep in the fullness of the breasts, then it extends to the navel, if to keep the belly down then it extends to the honour."

The following four pictures are details from a large painting which hangs in Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen, Denmark. It shows the acclamation of Frederick III and is very truthful in its realistic, almost naive style. Note the stockings and bare knees of the girl that fell to the floor.
All of the clothes shown are citizens of Copenhagen, and show the 'Sunday best' clothing of the people of different wealth. Here the ladies wear fur muffs and red ribbons in the shoes. Both wear long, waisted jackets and linen and lace berthas round the shoulders, covering the usually large neck opening.
All women wear long aprons of differing width, which doesn't necessarily denote them as working women. Aprons were widely used and worn, as skirt protection and they became so popular that towards the end of the 17th c. they were worn short, in silk and embroidered over mantuas by society ladies.
The woman with the green apron is wearing the red bodice without sleeves, the other is wearing a long jacket. This very charming painting was made by the deaf-mute artist Wolfgang Heimbach and not a single woman is without a head covering, 90% with different hoods or coifs and only a very few with hats over coifs.
One of the rare examples of a split overskirt, which had been fashionable in the 1640s and 50s, but came out of fashion in the 60s to become almost compulsory in the 70s. The petticoat appears to be a silk satin with gold lacing, the bodice and skirt a black silk with black braid along the seams of the bodice.
One of the few views of a dress from the back. The woman has pinned the skirt up, which can be seen in the back, similar to the girl on the picture on the left. It is impossible to say if the skirt could be split.
Ivory knife handle, beautifully showing the details of a dress. The lacing can be seen in the back view, another proof that criss cross lacing was not used, which doesn't provide enough strength of pulling tight as this method. A lace bertha is worn around the low shoulder line of the bodice. The petticoat is decorated but not the skirt, which is worn tucked up, another method, which could have been used by the woman in the preceding picture.
Ivory/white silk satin dress decorated richly with several rows of broad goldlace. Two rows on the skirt, running down the centre front and then all along the hem. Three rows down the outside of the sleeves, and rows all along the typical seams of the bodice. Centre front and along the outside curving seams.Lace Bertha worn with jewel in the centre front. No chemise shows neither at neckline nor at lower arms.
Red dress with charcoal or black petticoat. The sleeves are wide and gathered in the fashionable short length and appear to be split down the centre front, which is a rare occurrence. The petticoat is richly decorated with two rows of lace. It is important to note that skirts always show the lace running down the centre front and from there along the hem, but if the skirt is not split and not decorated, but the petticoat is instead, there are never centre rows down the front, but only along the hem. The chemise sleeves have several tires of lace. Two ladies from the same painting. Interesting to note that in this English painting all ladies have undecorated bodices but split sleeves, it seems this is more an artistic rendition than reality. In my opinion the artist shows the same style of dress and showed it in different colours, red, blue, rose, yellow, grey and black. The lady in blue has rows of lace on her skirt and is wearing a rolled neckerchief along the neckline of her bodice, held down with pearls. The lady in pink has lace flounces attached to the sleeves, probably on the inside. It is unlikely the first row of lace flounce is attached to the chemise.
More ladies from the same painting. The red petticoat is decorated with lace, while the lady in grey with white petticoat shows understated elegance without lacing. Another of the few split skirts. Ribbon bows on the centre front at the tip of the bodice busk and the along the edge of the bodice. Black silk ribbons are tied around the sleeves of the chemise, emphasising the lace frills.
Barbara Palmer by Lely. Note the difference in clothing between what she is wearing and the others so far. This is a fine example of clothes which are worn for the famous portraits of the court painter Lely, who painted all the beauties of Charles II's Restoration court. This means that what she is wearing is not an actual dress, but a means of showing her beauty in casual undress. Most beauties wear yellow / yellow golden / brown golden silk robes, proof that the look and beauty was not individual but what was considered to be beautiful. Lady in black silk dress with numerous black silk ribbon bows along the centre front of her bodice. She is holding a closed ivory fan and a sheer translucent silk neckerchief casually knotted around the neckline of the bodice. The difference in colour between the linen of her chemise and the neckerchief shows that it must be silk. A pendant on a necklace is tucked half away in the linen of a bertha or inset.
Narrow gold lace adorns the bodice and skirt of this yellow dress. Red ribbons on the sleeves and along the bodice at the waist line. The skirt appears to be red inside and might be lined. She is wearing ribbon adorned gloves.
Mary, sister of Charles II dancing at the ball in The Hague on the evening of his embarkation to England. Her blue dress is decorated with many roes of narrow silver lace and salmon coloured ribbon bows on her gloves, waist and lace bertha. A doubled string of pearls is suspended from a brooch to a ribbon bow.
One of the fewer examples of a bodice with tabs or skirt worn over the skirt. In this elegant ensemble gold lace decorates the skirt and bodice. Broad lace on the skirt, narrower on bodice and along the hem of its skirt. A sheer silk neckerchief is worn along the neckline.
Another view from behind, and she, too has pinned up her skirt. This time it is pinned up in the front, falling elegantly in a curved line, the skirt is probably tucked under the busk of the bodice and held in place.
The bodice shows very vividly how the silk fabric lies in horizontal folds, being so tautly stretched over the rigidly boned bodice, which has a curious little flounce along its edge. The split sleeve is not gathered but falls open, revealing a fine chemise which is gathered with a jewelled band. It is not certain if this type of dress was actually worn or is more like the portrait-garments
The lovely peach coloured skirt is adorned with only one row of narrow gold lace and worn with a yellow fur edged jacket. The fur imitating ermine, a common practice.
Undecorated silver silk dress with wide sleeves gathered in knife pleats on top and bottom.
The wife of the 9th Earl of Argyll wears an elegant undecorated dress with very wide chemise sleeves, gathered into deep flounces. There is no drawstring, the gathers are static.
Elizabeth Nodes wears one of the rare brocaded bodices and petticoat. In the 1660s brocades were not worn often, and usually, if they are, in France or after the French fashion. Her shoes are embroidered with slap soles, and the skirt is embroidered as well, it doesn't seem to be a lace, which is once again out of the ordinary. She also wears jewels along the waistline of her bodice. It doesn't seem to be a portrait-garment, because of her pose and the setting, the whole portrait as well as the dress are different from most others.
Dutch lady sitting with her skirt hiked up revealing a gold laced petticoat. Her sleeves have narrow turn back cuffs lined in red and the silk ribbon on her upper arm gathers the chemise in an additional place and is of the matching red colour. She appears to have some red piping at the neckline of her bodice.
The sister of James Stuart, the 'Old Pretender' wears still the childhood wings, these are the streamers hanging from her shoulders. The blue dress is actually made from a silver blue brocade or silver tissue woven with blue silk and richly adorned with white lace which seems to be a Binche, a bigger patterned bobbin lace or even a needle lace.
Lady Knatchbull wears a dress similar to that of Elizabeth Nodes insofar that she is wearing t made from brocade, and even a striped one There are not many examples of striped dressed, a few in the 1670s and 80s and more towards the later period, but it is very rare in the 1660s. It might be that she is wearing rather an informal gown than a dress.
Skirt with train and understated decoration with lace. Red ribbons on the sleeves and a red silk ribbon tied around the sleeve of the chemise. 1665
Child in a silk dress with apron and carrying a doll which is clad in the latest fashion of the day.
Very narrow goldlacing on the bodice, but several roes of it. Broad lace on the skirt. She is wearing a black shawl or cape over her shoulders. Frances Stewart, one of the most famous of all court beauties, courted by Charles II, but legend has it she never gave into his advances. It is highly unlikely that any of these pearl fastened dresses with flowing silks everywhere were ever worn outside of sessions for paintings. Interesting to note that Samuel Pepys remarks in his diaries he saw Lely painting Lady sandwich, and that there was no resemblance, the painting of Samuel's wife by another artists showed a lot more resemblance and he was happier with it.
This larger lady has her red dress richly decorated with very wide goldlace on the skirt and three rows of it. She is wearing a linen and lace bertha. Marquise de Sevigne in another of the portrait-gowns which are open in the front and held together by pearls. The question with those is, they always ever show a chemise underneath but at the same time show the typical rigidity of a pair of stays or boning in the garment, how this is physically achieved with flimsy pearls as closing is uncertain. She is wearing a jewelled bow, probably enamelled and jewelled brooches at the sleeves.
Dutch Protestant lady in the typical black gown. It is interesting to see that she not only wears a grey petticoat but a bright red one beneath it.
Lady with broad brimmed head and blue dress on her horse. The only time ladies are seen wearing hats, which copy the male fashion with their plumes.
Lady wrapped in a long, simple semi circular shawl with the train of her skirt held by a page who also carries her parasol.
Backview of a bodice with skirts in a very fine glazed wool, showing how the sleeves are set in very low and the deep pleats.
Dress very similar to the one from 1662, it might even be the same one. Painters often used the same clothes and props when they chose to paint interior scenes. Mademoiselle de Valliere, mistress of Louis XIV here shown as Diana, goddess of the hunt. She, too wears a bodice held closed in the front with jewels while the bodice is very heavily boned. Her head dress is purely fantastical and tying in with the theme of the painting.
The rich bright colour of her dress is adorned with gold lace on the bodice but not on the skirt. She wears a linen inset in her neckline to cover the cleavage.  

Overview | Dresses | Bodice & Skirt | Jackets | Stays | Chemises | Decoration
Extant Garments | The Making of... | Underpinnings | The Dressing of a Lady

Nicole Kipar 1998