episode #99 European fashion in between 1500 and 1800

Until about 1510 the style was generated from Italy. After this the Germans and Flemish set the pattern, but from about mid-century it was Spain that dominated the scene.  Young men wore white silk shirts, frilled and embroidered at the neck and wrists. Over this they wore an abbreviate tunic and close-fitting hose. Older men covered the tunic and hose with a long gown, open down the centre front, the edges turned back to display the contrasting lining. 

Whereas the humanist concept of the Renaissance had led to figure display and elegance, the new modes were influenced by the Reformation of northern Europe, giving rise to darker colours, heavier materials, and bulky garments padded to conceal the figure.

The feminine figure was artificially controlled by a tight underbodice with metal or whalebone strips in the seams to give a small waist and slender torso. This was the precursor of the corset. The costume worn from mid-century until about 1620 was the richest ever seen in the history of European dress. During these years Spain was enjoying the wealth yielded by the New World, and Spanish dress—which was elegant and tasteful, formal and restrictive, and doubtlessly uncomfortable to wear—was paramount. Paradoxically, when other nations adopted Spanish modes they mostly took them to excess, the Spaniards themselves remaining restrained in their dignified black garments.

By the 1620s the Netherlands was emerging from Spanish control and extending its trade dramatically to become wealthy and influential. The garments worn by the well-to-do were still made from beautiful fabrics, but these now included fine wools as well as velvets and silks – large lace collars covering shoulders.

Louis XIV of France established France as a great European power, and from about 1660 France became the unchallenged leader of European fashion, a position it held until 1939 and even later. The mode was set in Paris, and new styles were disseminated by mannequin dolls sent out to European capitals and by costume plates drawn by notable artists from Albrecht Dürer to Wenceslaus Hollar (born in Prague—died in London). The last mentioned Bohemian etcher works are a rich source of information about the 17th century.

Until the early 1770s, French control of fashion was complete. It was in France where the trades and professions vital to fashion were established: dressmaking, tailoring, wig making, haberdashery, millinery. Furthermore, the Enlightenment caused fundamental changes in society during the 18th century. Men, for hundreds of years the peacocks of fashion, gradually ceded their position; men’s garments became less ornamental and changeable while women’s dress became the vehicle for fashionable display.

For centuries children had been dressed as miniature adults, but in the 1770s there was a marked divergence from this established custom. Children, especially boys, began to be dressed in more comfortable garments suited to their age. Girls’ dresses were rather like the easier styles of their mothers at this time, but boys were dressed in a shirt and ankle-length trousers, the waistband of which was buttoned to the shirt. This costume, in which the wearing of trousers as fashionable dress antedated its introduction for adults by a generation, was oddly entitled a skeleton suit.

Music

Jamiroquai: King For a Day

Robyn: Dancehall Queen

Maze feat. Frankie Beverly: Joy And Pain

John Barry Orchestra: Kingston Calypso

Rhythm & Sound feat. Cornell Campbell: King In My Empire

Bobby McFerrin: Thinking About Your Body

Thundercat: King of the Hill

Alena Diane: Lady Divine

Nat King Cole: Unforgettable 

A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Requiem For The Static King Part One


A community radio midnight show Through the Bohemian Looking Glass is aired Sunday, Tuesday and Friday night at midnight (GMT), that means you stay late on Saturday, Monday and Thursday. A new episode is aired every Sunday midnight (the night between Saturday and Sunday) on Wirral Wave radio or AirTime. Later on SoundCloud for some time.