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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

15th century Ladies' Gowns

During the 15th century, ladies’ gowns were in transition, from the looser fit of earlier centuries, with an eye toward that coming age of elaborate fashion, the Renaissance.
Typical gowns were still long and full, worn over a kirtle or undergown. A chemise, made of linen or a soft fabric, was worn next to the skin.
Waists became higher, leaving behind the long-waisted look of earlier centuries. A high waist, like our “empire” waist, became popular, with fullness over the stomach.
The outermost gown usually had a V-shaped neck, cut low, the better to show the kirtle beneath. The outer gown could be trimmed with fur or velvet. Sleeves took on more importance and could be highly decorated, with embroidery or jewels. Toward the end of the century, sleeves with slits became popular. The slits enabled the full sleeve of the chemise beneath to be pulled out through the slits, making puffs along the arm, and displaying a contrasting color or fabric. Some sleeves were so elaborate they were transferred from dress to dress. Ladies must have liked the fashion, as elaborate sleeves stayed in fashion for the following two centuries.


Tiffany Green said...

Great information here, Joyce. I didn't realize sleeves could be transferred from dress to dress.

Cathie Dunn said...

A very interesting post. Thanks for posting, Joyce.

Jane Holland said...

Yes, one of the fun things about researching Tudor dress was discovering that sleeves were nearly always detachable. An odd thing for us to imagine, but I suppose it felt easier to make up a gown like that, with several matching pieces, all detachable, since when sewing by hand a one-piece gown of such weight and size, possibly also with a long train, would have been very heavy and unwieldy to make. It must also have made cleaning easier.

I have a few outfits with great sleeves that I'd love to export to other dresses. Certainly makes sense!

Jane Holland said...

Though I wonder when the fashion for detachable sleeves and bodices came in. Certainly in the early medieval period, the standard dress for women seems to have been a simple sleeved tunic, even for higher class women. So something must have triggered that change in dress-making techniques.

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