17th century clothing and dress fashions

Written by shae hazelton
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17th century clothing and dress fashions
17th Century clothing was complicated and formal. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The fashion of the 17th century in Western civilisation was bright and intricate as opposed to centuries past, which was dull and reserved. Unfortunately, comfort wasn't a major concern for the fashion designers of the 17th century, so in most cases the common clothing choices of the time were awkward and very structured.

Lady's Clothing

During the 17th century, it was unheard of for a woman to consider wearing trousers or anything as casual as a simple shirt. In the daytime, women would wear a simple white shift (a simple one-piece gown) under their clothing. On top, they would wear a bodice (a firm piece of fabric that covered their chest and torso, and that had whalebones or wood to help form a certain shape) along with a long skirt that came in below the bodice. Ladies of wealth would often add a large ruffled collar to the outfit that flared out around the throat.

Gentlemen's Clothing

Men of the 17th century wore outfits that generally consisted of tight leggings that went as high as the mid thigh. Above the leggings, they wore breeches, which were a loose equivalent of modern trousers. The top half of the outfit consisted of a doublet, which was a formal coat with long sleeves. The doublet could have either a small, conservative collar or a large, ruffled collar.

Major Influences

The flamboyant clothing of the 17th century came from the free spirited fashion of the French. Before the French influence swept through popular culture, the clothing tended to have a Spanish influence, which was stiff, dull and formal. The change didn't happen by accident. French King Louis XIV made a concentrated effort to bring his country to the forefront of the popular culture frontier. The ladies and gentlemen of his court would often try to outdo each other in matters of extravagance in fashion.


Wealthy men and women would often wear opulent pieces of jewellery. In the 17th century, it was common for men to wear highly ornamental rings and necklaces like the women of the time. In the early 17th century, wealthy or noble men would also wear intricate powdered wigs. Women started to wear decorative patches on their faces with interesting shapes such as stars. Most peasants could not afford such fine accessories, so they sufficed with little or no extra clothing than what they needed to stay warm.

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