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Renaissance Costume

After 1450 there was a reversal in fashion from the pointed Gothic look to the square look of the Renaissance. The style in its exaggerated form is best represented in Holbein's paintings of the English court of Henry VIII. Men's costume had wide, square shoulders with puffed sleeves, padded doublets, bombasted upperstocks, or trunk hose, short gowns (cloaks), and square-toed shoes. The doublet, now sleeveless, was worn over the shirt (formerly the chemise) and under the jerkin.

Women wore a square-necked gown with the bodice laced up the front and attached to the gathered skirt at the hips; the front of the skirt was often open, to reveal decorative petticoats. These, together with a preference for rich, heavy materials, especially velvet, and a fad for profuse slashing and puffing of the under material seen through the slash, created a massive and bulky appearance.

In Elizabethan England (c.1550) the costume was stiffened, and the appearance was less bulky. Both men and women wore the characteristic "shoulder wings," pointed stomacher, and starched ruff and cuffs made of lace. Materials were heavy and lustrous and considerable ornamentation was used. Men wore a short cape, and their trunk hose were unpadded, longer, and generally made in sections, or paned. Women wore exaggerated farthingales, or hoops.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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