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History of women’s costume during the Renaissance

Generalities about costume at the 16th century


Also see into this site :


The ruff

The head-dresses and shoes

The farthingale

The materials



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In the sixteenth century, the costume was particularly nice and luxurious.


Laces, embroideries in relief, rich and thick materials, jewellery, all of those parts of costume contributed at the same aim : amplifying the beauty of the people who wore them.


The fashion of black clothes came from Spain but ladies often wore some colors more pleasant like green, blue or dark red. At the end of sixteenth century, the influence of spanish fashion increased. The figure was rigid and geometric. The "corps" gave at the bust a triangular shape, made waist look taller and made breast flat.


In almost all of european countries, the women's clothes were made up of a petticoat called "gamurra" or "simarre" and a gown put over, longer than the previous one named "sottana". Each of those two gowns were made of rich materials and decorated with pieces of embroidery.


The sleeves could be fitted with some shoulder pads or having puffs. The train of gown was turned up and long in numerous cases. Of course, there were variances in the women's costume.


If the costume was often determined by spanish fashion, we mustn't forget that it was been modified by fashions coming from different countries :  the grandeur of Burgundy's court played a part in the clothing wealth ; the german fashions were introduced by teutonic knights. The main characteristic of spanish fashion was its great austerity that one found in all parts of the society. But that severity wasn't so important for the other countries.


From the beginning of sixteenth century, in France, ladies wore a gown opened on the front which let to see the petticoat by a triangular opening. The square neck was covered by a light material. At the end of reign of François Ier, the spanish fashion modified the french clothes. Henri III also influenced the french fashion by his women's habits.


France introduced a kind of typical fancy without changing fashions of other countries but which created the french style that will become a reference later.


The english costume was also influenced by spanish fashion. Ladies wore tight bodices with tight sleeves. On the other hand, the skirts were very large. At the end of the reign of Elisabeth I, the costume became more simple. The bell dresses were put in place of farthingale. The ornaments of lace and embroidery were more and more present. In Holland, the spanish costume dispeared with the Reformation.

Woman costume Renaissance

Portrait of Christine de Lorraine

Woman costume Renaissance

Portrait of Marie Stuart

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