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Fashion Timeline (Europe in the Fifteenth Century)

Europe in the 1400s, the period just before the Renaissance, just after Medieval period. Dressing still defines status, from serfs at the bottom of the pyramid, peasants, lords, nobility, clergy and royalty. It seems like a lot of fairy tales probably are perhaps set in (or near) this time period.

Inspiration: Cinderella (peasant), Little Red Riding Hood (peasant), Cinderella (peasants meets nobility/royalty), etc.

At the bottom of the fifteenth century, the arts experienced an insurgence in popularity and funding, leading to further interest in fashion. The economy also experienced some stabilization at this time, increasing  accessibility to resources, like textiles, to the masses. Fashion became more less focused on utilitarian needs and more on artistic expression.

Early Fifteenth Century: Long flowing robes (houppelandes, to be technical) were in, from neck to toes, for men and women. Men were just starting to choose hose, breeches, and tunics, and light capes and overgarments were common with men and women.

Earlier Fifteenth Century clothing featured more flowing robes with billowing skirts and arms.

Late Fifteenth Century: A better selection of textiles was available. Men started wearing more fitted hose and doublets, and the codpiece and shoulderpads were in ““ actually, men started wearing a lot of padding to prove they were buff. (Kind of like in that episode of Modern Family where Mitchell wears the padded superman costume to work under his suit.) Women’s dresses lost the front gather and billow, and became more fitted in the waist and arms. The skirt hoop starts to make an appearance.

Later fifteenth century clothing was was more fitted.

Slashing and dagging were in. That is the slashing of an outer fabric to reveal a fancy contrasting fabric beneath, sometimes taking the fabric underneath and poking it through the outer slashes for dramatic effect. Dagging being the cutting of patterns in the outer fabric for the same decorative peak-a-boo result.

Hairstyles: Men rocked the bowl cut with a clean shave. Fun fact: it was illegal for men to rock a moustache according to 1447 English law. The sugar-loaf hat was where it was at. Women covered their heads once married, but prior to wore it super long, braided and piled up. In the late fifteenth century men started wearing their hair a bit longer (risque!) and feathers became popular (in hats). Women slowed the wearing on their conical hats (as seen in old fairy tales), in favour of smaller headdresses, while hairstyles became more complex, with fake hair added, hair dying, and wigs increasing in popularity.

Makeup was understated, perfumes were natural powder-based, and bathing as infrequent. Necklaces, jeweled collars, rings, belts, and gloves were worn, and shoes varied from simple moccasins to ornamented pointed shoes and boots. Shoe competitions to see who had the longest shoe were not unheard of. Near the end of the fifteenth century, more chunky shoes were where it was at, squared toes were in, decreasing odds of winning a pointed shoe competition.

So, what do you think, could you embrace fifteenth century fashion if you were sent there in a time machine? Or would you want to come back to the present and wear the current clothing a la mode? I feel like there was an increased style accessibility, choices, and colours during this time ““ I could dig that. Lack of plumbing ““ couldn’t dig that, especially knowing what we have today, I would be ruined.

“Europe in the Fifteenth Century.” Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. Ed. Sara Pendergast and Tom Pendergast. Vol. 3: European Culture from the Renaissance to the Modern Era. Detroit: UXL, 2004. 445-464. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web.

Ed – This post originally appeared on Interrobangs Anonymous.

6 replies on “Fashion Timeline (Europe in the Fifteenth Century)”

Total historical fashion nerd here- loved this article! I love the late 15th century style, but I live in Arizona. It’s finally in the 70s and 80s(back to the 90s next week), but seeing as how the past 5 months were around 110-115, I’m afraid I would die.

Flattering was my first thought. I am well endowed, but much more in hip/butt way, and you could totally hide those extra 5 stress pounds much more easily with those dresses and still be fine when they came off at the end of the semester/mid-term/stupid boss gets fired. It’s clearly very cost-saving in terms of wardrobe expenditures.

As a history buff with a special interest in culture, I must admit: I read this article through three times. So fascinating! You know, I would love to see a regular article on the fashions of the past and across multiple cultures.

The hats make me chuckle. But we need to get our hands on those awesome dresses. I love the slashing!

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