17th Century Wardrobe


Over the last couple of years I’ve been rethinking my take on high status women’s clothing of the mid 17th Century. Now I want to put my ‘thoughts’ into action and make a wardrobe of typical clothing items that a lady of the time might own and wear – and how she might have worn them.


Portraits from the 1620s and 30s clearly show ladies of fashion wearing open fronted gowns over waistcoats and petticoats. It’s quite difficult in many paintings to actually work out what is being worn (surely a problem common to students of all periods of fashion history), but once the connection was made, I saw this combination of garments everywhere.


Several of Hollar's engravings from the 1640s also appear to show ladies of quality wearing gowns. The presence of gowns in the wardrobes of women from this period is also supported by household accounts. The LeStrange family accounts tell us that between 1628 and 1637 nine gowns were supplied for Elizabeth LeStrange. 


The breadth of research into fashion history has never been better, or more accessible, with special mention to Stuart Peachey, Matthew Gnagy, the Tudor Tailor team, and a whole host of enthusiastic amateurs keen to share their research and creations.  But whilst there’s a whole bunch of websites and blogs devoted to exquisitely created fashions from the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries, bizarrely there’s very little 17th Century out there. When I have found a precious piece of the 1600s recreated its invariably post Restoration (1660), lovely in its own way but beyond my main area of interest.


Henrietta of Lorraine

Anthony van Dyke 1634

There are now some decent impressions of lower status mid 17th Century clothing about but to be honest, I haven’t seen high status done really well. 


There’s really no excuse as there’s an abundance of pictorial evidence to hand – portraits by Van Dyke, Cornelius Jonson, all the Dutch masters, the engravings of Hollar, Bosse and Callot. Its all there if you really look. And, certainly in the UK, there’s plenty of people reliving the 17th Century, via the Sealed Knot and English Civil War Society.


So – it looks like I have now found myself a project.