Women’s Fashion

Student guest page by Tina Taormina and Brittany Wadbrook, University of Massachusetts Boston Clothing during the seventeenth century in London was a symbol of class structure just as much as refined speech, excellent mannerisms, or good breeding.  The reason for adorning the body with clothes and accessories was not simply to be covered and warm.  It was a social custom for women to express their hierarchical status through the clothes and ornaments they wore.  Well dressed women of the court set the fashion standard for all of London.

As Aileen Ribeiro states in Fashion and Fiction:  Dress in Art and Literature in Stuart England, “The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 celebrated above all the return to power of the aristocracy, and the re-establishment of the old social hierarchy that centered on the court”  (215). When Charles II returned from exile, he put the knowledge of his experiences in France to good use.  He would never again be garbed in simple country breeches and ill-fitting shoes.  Now that he was fully restored as the rightful king of England, he would celebrate with all the pomp and grandeur that he and his court deserved.  Charles II, being well known as a ladies man, father of 17 bastard children, wished to celebrate and glorify the female form he so loved.  He encouraged women to come into his court, (as his father never did with the exception of his wife’s ladies in waiting).  And if Charles II was going to have women in his court they would have to be adorned and dressed in the manner that suited his royal taste.  The ladies of the court were dressed in the finest fabrics of taffeta, lace, silk, velvet, satin and wool.  They were adorned with jeweled headdresses befitting queens. 


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