This man and woman (left) date from about 1050, just before the Norman Conquest in 1066. They wear the basic medieval garments: a tunic, probably of wool, slightly fitted with a high neck and long sleeves, usually worn over a linen shirt.
The lady's tunic, similar to the man's but longer, has a semi-circular mantle fastening on the shoulder. The lady covers her long hair with a hood held by a band, and carries a travelling pouch; the man wears loose hose and leather shoes.
The Anglo Saxons were known for their skill in embroidery and braid weaving, like that trimming the man's tunic.
Day and Travelling Clothes about 1150
Fashion changed slowly in medieval times. This man and woman (left) still wear the semi-circular shoulder fastening mantles and tunics like those of a century earlier, differing only in being more closely fitted and having long flowing cuffs.
Long hair was an Anglo-Saxon fashion borrowed by the Normans, and the woman has hers braided into cloth-covered plaits beneath her hood. The man is dressed for travelling in a hooded fur cloak and pointed hat. He wears cloth bound leggings instead of hose. His feet are bare here, but some contemporary shoes were quite decorative.
Travelling Clothes about 1250 (left)
By 1250 men's and women's tunics were cut with a wide upper sleeve. Most men, except the elderly, preferred tunics short. Cloaks were usually held by a cord at the shoulder. A variety of loose over-gowns were also popular, and these had sleeves with two openings, allowing them to hang loosely like the university gowns based on them and still seen today.
The woman's plaits are coiled in a bun at each ear sometimes covered with a net, and the flat headband is kept in place by a veil or 'wimpole' drawn closely under the chin.
Day clothes about 1300
The young man (left) is wearing a shorter tunic and pointed shoes. These shoes were characteristic of the 14th century and were called crackowes or poulaines, and are believed to have derived from Poland. The length of the toe was said to indicate the rank of the wearer and became more and more exaggerated by the end of the 14th century.
Lady's Day Dress about 1490This lady of about 1490 wears a rich gown of thick material brocaded with gold. This line foreshadows the severe styles of the court of the early Tudors, with a low waist and high neckline. Her skirt has a train but is pinned up at the back for convenience when walking and to show off the fur lining. Her sleeves are in a new fashion, funnel shaped, and faced with fur. She wears a hood, with cape dangling like a curtain, front turned up and stiffened, and worn over a wired and jewelled undercap almost concealing her scraped back hair. Her shoes have very broad toes. Materials are rich and heavy, many imported from Flanders and Italy.
Man's Day Clothes about 1490This young man wears clothes in the 'Italian Fashion', much less enveloping than those those of his lady above. His doublet reaches only to his waist and is very tight, with slits on the chest and sleeves giving room to move and an opportunity for his fine shirt to be seen. His hose are tied to the waist with 'points' (laces) and and fasten in the front with a 'cod piece' (flap). For riding he wears protective leather stockings, and his shoes have broad toes. This style replaced peaked shoes in around 1480. His short loose gown with long hanging sleeves is cut to hang open and show the contrasting facings. His hair is shoulder length and his flat hat has a jewelled rim.
16th and 17th centuries - Tudors and Stuarts
Man's Formal Clothes about 1548
This gentleman wears an over-gown with full upper sleeves adding breadth to his shoulders, fashionable from about 1520. His doublet is loose with a seam at the waist and skirts, and his upper stocks (breeches) are separate from his hose for greater comfort.
He has a padded 'cod piece' and his shirt is embroidered in black silk with small frills at the neck, which eventually will develop into the ruff. His cap is softer and wider and his shoes are less broad in the toe than in the early years of Henry VIII
Man's Formal Clothes about 1600 (left)This gentleman (pictured left) wears a padded doublet with pointed waist and short padded breeches, with tapering 'canion' at the knee, over which the stocking is pulled. His 'Spanish' cloak is heavily embroidered. Possibly Sir Walter Raleigh threw down a similar one to protect Queen Elizabeth from the mud! He wears a starched and gathered ruff, developed from the shirt neck frill after about 1560. His jewellery includes the collar of the Order of the Garter. His hat would have been conical.
Lady's Formal Dress about 1610This lady shows the dress which first appeared in the later portraits of Queen Elizabeth about 1580 and remained fashionable in the reign of James I. The bodice is very long, pointed and stiff, and the wide skirt is supported by hip 'boulsters' of the 'drum farthingale'. The sleeves are wide and the neckline low, with ruff open to frame the face. It is trimmed with lace newly introduced from Flanders and Spain. Her pleated fan is a new fashion from China. Fashionable ladies no longer wore a cap and her uncovered hair is dressed high with ribbons and feathers.
Lady's Day dress about 1634This lady wears a soft satin walking dress with the short waist and full flowing skirt fashionable from around 1620. Her bodice is cut almost like a man's doublet and equally masculine are her wide-plumed hat and long 'lovelock' on her short hair. She wears a fine wide Flemish lace collar veiling the gold braid on her bodice. For formal occasions the neck would be left bare, and the hair dressed with jewels. Ordinary women's dress was similar but they, except when riding, wore a close lace-trimmed cap.
Man's Day Clothes about 1629
This gentleman wears a suit with the new softer line. The short-waisted doublet with long skirts has slits on the chest and sleeve, allowing for movement. The knee-length breeches, full but not padded, are supported by hooks inside the waistline. The ribbon 'points' at waist and knee are decorative survivors of the lacing hose supports of late medieval times. The lace-trimmed ruff falls to the shoulders and the hair is long with a 'lovelock'. Boots and gloves are of soft leather.
Man's Day Clothes about 1650This gentleman wears a suit based on the Dutch fashions then popular. It has a short unstiffened jacket and wide breeches hanging loose to the knee. Dark colours were generally worn and not confined to followers of Parliament. Matching braid provides trimming. About 1660, ribbons became popular trimmings and hundreds of metres could be used on a suit at shoulder, waist and knee, and for the bows on the square-toed shoes. He wears a fine square lace collar fashionable around 1650 - 70, a cloak and a narrow-brimmed conical hat.Lady's Formal Dress about 1674
This lady wears a formal dress showing how long the waistline had become since 1640. Her bodice is low and stiffened and the short sleeves show much of her lace and ribbon-trimmed shift. The skirt is made to wear open, displaying the elaborately trimmed petticoat. False curls were sometimes added to the wide-dressed hair.
Lady's Formal Dress about 1690
Late 17th century dress had become stiff, formal and based on French court fashions. The dress has become an over-gown pinned over the stiff corset to show the 'stomacher' and gathered back at the hips to show the embroidered petticoat. Lace frills on the shift show at the neck and sleeves. The most characteristic feature is the hair, beginning to be dressed high in the 1680's. This style was named after Mlle. de Fontanges, a favourite of Louis XIV, who is believed to have originated it. This tall headress was formed of several rows of folded lace and ribbons, rising one above the other and supported on wires.
The fashion of wearing on the face black patches of various shapes was still in fashion, small circular patch-boxes being carried so that any that fell off could be replaced. This fashion was ridiculed at the time: "Here's all the wandring planett signesAnd some o' the fixed starrs,Already gumd, to make them stick,They need no other sky."
18th and early 19th century - The Georgians / Regency
PeriodMan's Day Clothes about 1738 This gentleman wears a smart summer suit, with the coat more tightly fitting than at the end of the 17th century. It is made of plain cloth embroidered on edges and pockets, which are raised to hip level. The waistcoat is plain and the breeches are tighter and fasten below the knee. The shirt is frilled at the cuff and around the neck is a knotted muslin or lace cravat. He wears his own hair. For formal occasions a powdered wig tied back with a bow would be worn and his coat and waistcoat would be of patterned silks. Lady's Day Dress about 1750 This lady wears a 'sackback' dress developed from the flowing undress gowns of 17th century. Beneath are a stiff corset and cane side hoops supporting the skirts. The frills of her shift show at the neck, veiled in a muslin 'kerchief' and at the opening of her wing-like cuffs, which are typical of the 1750's. She wears a round muslin cap, the central pleat recalling the 'fontange' (1690 - 1710). For formal dress she would wear richly brocaded or embroidered silks.
Man's Day Clothes about 1770 (left)
This gentleman wears a plain coat, tightly fitting and cut away, forming curving tails. The waistcoat is shortened to just below the waist and the breeches are longer and tighter than before. His coat has a band collar and he wears a rather stiff stock instead of a cravat. He wears his own hair, but for formal occasions he would have a powdered wig, dressed high and tied at the back. Embroidery and trimming were no longer fashionable except for formal wear.Lady's Day Dress about 1780
This dress is typical of the simple countrified styles which became fashionable towards the end of the century. It is a 'redingote' or riding coat, modelled on a man's coat. The waist has become shorter and the bosom is padded by a muslin 'buffon' neckerchief and the hips by a 'false rump'. The hair is dressed in a mass of loose curls and the lady wears a huge hat inspired by a mid-17th century riding hat. Woollen cloth, cotton and linen had become fashionable materials, while silks were worn for evening, as were small hoops since wide ones were only worn for court.
Lady's Formal Dress 1802There was great interest at this time in ancient Greece and Rome, and this lady wears 'fashionable full dress', the style based on the drapery of classical statues. The waist is high and uncorsetted, and the materials light in colour and texture. Muslin had become a fashionable fabric. Her gown is still 18th century in cut, but for day wear it would have bodice, skirt and petticoat in one piece. Her accessories are varied: she carries a huge swansdown muff, wears long white gloves, has a tasselled girdle and a feather-trimmed turban.Man's Day Clothes 1805Informal day dress is shown here, the illustration taken from a sketch portrait of George (Beau) Brummell, the fashionable ideal (and famous dandy) of his age. He persuaded men to think that dark, well cut and fitted clothes were smarter than colourful ostentatious ones. He usually wore a cut-away cloth coat with brass buttons, plain waistcoat matching his pantaloons (which replaced shorter breeches in about 1805), hessian riding boots and a hard conical riding hat, introduced in the late 18th century. Great care was taken in the laundering and tying of his stiffly starched cravat. For evening he wore a black coat and silk pantaloons instead of old fashioned knee breeches.'Beau' Brummell is credited with introducing and bringing to fashion the modern man's suit worn with necktie; the suit is now worn throughout the world for business and formal occasions.
Evening Clothes about 1806The lady wears a one-piece dress introduced at the end of the 18th century. Its design was inspired by the new interest in classical works of art. It has a high waist, straight skirt unsupported by petticoats and very short sleeves. Contemporaries found it daring and immodest! The material is light and striped. For warmth she has a shawl, wears long gloves and carries a muff.The gentleman's cut-away tail coat of fine cloth with velvet collar, silk stockings, tie wig and bicorne hat recall day clothes of the 18th century and anticipate the evening styles of the 20th century. Formal dress is usually a day style which persists, remaining unchanged though long since out of fashion.
The period after 1811 is known as the Regency period, as the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) ruled as Regent from that time until the death of his father George III in 1820.
The fashions of this era are quite familiar to us, as these are the styles of dress portrayed in the popular TV adaptations and films of Jane Austen novels, such as the 1995 Andrew Davies adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice' for the BBC. ITV's Sharpe is based in this era too, during the Peninsular and Napoleonic Wars.
Day Clothes about 1825The lady's dress assumes a new outline. The waist has dropped to natural level and the sleeves and skirt are wide and full. The colours are bright, trimmings elaborate and much jewellery is worn. Accessories are varied, the most noticeable being the vast hat trimmed with many ribbon bows.The man wears elegant walking dress also with a slight fullness at the shoulder and a waistcoat with lapels. He wears tight pantaloons acceptable for day wear after about 1805 and wears a higher 'top' hat.
Welsh Country Dress about 1830
This Welsh girl from a painting of about 1830, shows how fashion lags behind in remote places. She wears a gown of 18th century cut, over a stiff corset, a printed neckerchief and a petticoat protected by a check apron. Her dress is probably made from Welsh woollen material, her mittens and stockings being knitted. Her high crowned hat can be traced back to 17th century fashions. Many wore a red, caped cloak no different from that worn by English countrywomen in the 18th and 19th century. This and the hat are the two essentials of Welsh national dress as we know it today.
19th century to 1960's - The Victorians, Edwardians,
Roaring Twenties, World War II to the Swinging
SixtiesDay Clothes about 1848/9
This restrictive and demure line is typical of the early Victorian period 1837 - 50.
The lady wears a dress with a long, tight, pointed bodice and full skirt supported on many petticoats. The sleeves are tight and she also wears a shawl. She carries a parasol. The gentleman wears the new-fashioned short lounge jacket with wide trousers, introduced for country wear around 1800. His collar is lower and a bow replaces the starched cravat.
Lady's Day Dress about 1867 Modern industrial inventions entered fashion in the 1850's. This dress has its wide triangular skirt supported on a steel wire 'artificial crinolin', introduced around 1856 to replace the starched petticoats. The dress was probably stitched on the sewing machine which came into general use in the 1850's. The bright green owes much to the aniline dyes introduced at this period. The dress is plain with a high neck and long sleeves. The hat had completely replaced the bonnet.Day Clothes about 1872 This dress is described as a 'seaside costume'. A gathered 'overskirt' supported on a 'crinolette' makes the back the most important feature. The materials are light and the sewing machine has made it possible to attach quantities of pleated trimming. The jaunty hat perches on a huge bun probably made in part from false hair. Evening dresses only differed in being low necked and almost sleeveless. The man wears an informal lounge suit, the shape based on a cut-away coat. He wears the more comfortable turn-down collar with knotted tie and low-crowned 'bowler'-like hat.
Lady's Day Dress about 1885 (left)
This day dress has a bustle to support the weight of the heavily-trimmed overdress. The skirt, pleated and fairly wide, was thought to be an advance in comfort, although the corset was still very tight and the dress bulky. The high hat, tight collars and sleeves further restricted movement. Many women preferred the masculine-styled, plain 'tailor-made'. Indeed the Rational Dress Society was founded in 1880 with the aim of making dress healthier and more comfortable.
Day Clothes 1896
The lady wears tailored 'walking dress'. Typical of the middle of the 1890's is the great 'leg-of-mutton' sleeve, the tight bodice, the small back frill (all that remains of the bustle) and the smooth flared skirt.
The gentleman wears the top hat and frock coat that have become established formal dress for over forty years. Black is established as the standard colour for formal dress, and little else has changed except details like the length of the lapel and the curve of the tails. He wears a high starched collar.
Above left: Mourning Dress, 1901
Above right: Detail from a photograph taken around 1905. Please note the gentleman's top hat (right) and the boater (gentleman, left). The ladies are wearing hats perched on top of the head, the hair worn very full.
Lady's Day Dress 1906This summer dress, though worn over a 'hygienic' straight-fronted corset, is far from plain. It is made in soft pale material, trimmed with much embroidery, lace and ribbon. Since 1904 there had been new emphasis on the shoulders, and until 1908 sleeves were to be puffed out almost square. The smoothly flowing skirt is supported on petticoats almost as pretty as the dress itself. Hats were always worn, perched on the puffed-out coiffure. The parasol was a popular accessory. She carries a leather handbag, a fashion introduced at the beginning of the 19th century and revived at the end.
Lady's Day Dress 1909The line has changed in this summer dress. It is straighter and short-waisted with a new severity of outline. The most important accessory was the hat, very large and much trimmed. The band of trimming at the ankle of the narrow skirt suggests a 'hobble' and makes it look difficult to walk, which was rather an odd fashion for women who were fighting for freedom and equal rights
Day Clothes 19201920 saw the introduction of the shorter, low-waisted dress, loosely cut and concealing, not defining, the figure. Flat-chested women were about to become fashionable. Hats were small, worn over neatly coiled hair. Evening dresses were often low cut, supported only by shoulder straps and made in exotic materials and colours. The man's lounge suit fits tightly and still retains its long jacket. The trousers are straight but shorter, generally with the turn-up, introduced about 1904. He wears the new, soft felt hat and spats protecting his shoes, introduced in the middle of the 19th century.Day Clothes about 1927
This lady shows how plain the straight, loosely-fitting, low-waisted dresses had become. They became shorter from 1920, and by 1925 legs clad in beige flesh-coloured stockings were visible to the knee. Flat figures and short 'bobbed' hair-styles reflect the boyish styles of the time.
The man's suit is still high waisted with a rounded jacket. Men's trousers were full, sometimes widening at the turn-up to form 'Oxford bags'. Contrasting sports jackets were beginning to be worn at this time.
Day Clothes 1938
In 1938 outfits had become square at the shoulder, with a fairly tight, natural waist and full, flaring skirt. Styles were varied and inspired by French designers like Elisa Schiaparelli and Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel, and by what the film stars wore. Evening dresses were 'classical' in satins and sequins or 'romantic' with full skirts. Hats were still small and worn tilted over the eye. Men's suits had become much broader and more padded at the shoulder, with a long jacket and wide straight trousers. Narrow 'pin'-striped materials were popular. The soft felt hat generally replaced the bowler.
Clothes Rationing The Second World War made the importation of cloth for clothing virtually impossible and so clothes rationing was introduced on 1st June 1941. Rationing books were distributed to every man, woman and child in Britain.Clothing was rationed on a points system. Initially the allowance was for approximately one new outfit per year; as the war progressed, the points were reduced to the point where the purchase of a coat constituted almost an entire year's clothing allowance. Inevitably styles and fashion were affected by the clothing shortages. Fewer colours were used by clothing companies, allowing chemicals usually used for dyeing to be used for explosives and other much needed resources for the war effort. Materials became scarce. Silk, nylon, elastic, and even metal used for buttons and clasps were difficult to find. The turban and the siren suit became very popular during the war. The turban began life as a simple safety device to prevent the women who worked in factories from getting their hair caught in machinery. Siren suits, an all-enveloping boiler suit type garment, was the original jumpsuit. With a zip up the front, people could wear the suit over pyjamas making it ideal for a quick dash to the air raid shelter.
The end of clothes rationing finally came on
15th March 1949. Photographs Above: The
Day Clothes 1941 The lady's suit was designed in 1941 when materials were restricted because of war. Modelled on the soldier's battledress, the jacket is waist-length with flapped pockets. The line is still pre-war with its square shoulders, natural waist and flaring skirt. Hair was worn curled, sometimes in a long, eye-covering style. For comfort and warmth many wore 'slacks' and headscarves. The man's suit has a new longer waist and fits more loosely. Sports jackets with contrasting trousers gave variety and economised on the 'coupons' that were issued to everybody when clothes were rationed.Photographs Right and Below: Kentwell HallWW2 Re-Creation.
"The New Look" 1947In 1947 Christian Dior presented a fashion look with a fitted jacket with a nipped-in waist and full calf length skirt. It was a dramatic change from the wartime austerity styles. After the rationing of fabric during the Second World War, Dior's lavish use of material was a bold and shocking stroke. This style became known as the 'New Look'.Day Clothes 1967 (left)
By 1966 Mary Quant was producing short mini dresses and skirts that were set 6 or 7 inches above the knee, making popular a style that had not taken off when it made its earlier debut in 1964. The Quant style became known as the Chelsea Look. The girl (left) has a simple natural hairdo with exotic makeup. She is very slim and wears a short, mini-skirted semi-fitted tunic made of linked colourful plastic disks, one of many new materials. The cut is simple and variety of texture, pattern and colour are all important. Short hair, dark coats and trousers and plain white shirts had been worn by men for a hundred and fifty years. Now however men's hair is worn longer, and there is a return to flamboyant materials, bright stripes, velvet trimmings and flower patterns on shirts. He blends a Georgian style cravat, mid-Victorian tail coat and military trimmings.