While the English Renaissance is a thing of the past, the period was a very fashion-forward time. Everyone knows what the quintessential Renaissance garb of classic Shakespeare looks like, but not everyone knows the name or the reason for these articles of clothing. Here are a few examples of the standard fashion.
The ruff, which was worn by men, women, and children, served as an interchangeable piece of cloth that could be laundered separately, while keeping the persons doublet or gown from becoming soiled at the neckline. The stiffness of the garment forced upright posture, and their impracticality led them to become a symbol of wealth and status.
A doublet is a man’s fitted jacket that is shaped to the man’s body at hip or waist length and worn over the shirt or drawers. Until the end of the 15th century, the doublet was usually worn under another layer of clothing such as a gown, mantle, or jerkin when in public. Throughout the 300 years of its use, the doublet served the same purpose: to give fashionable shape and padding to the body, to support the hose by providing ties, and to provide warmth.
Hose are men’s clothing for the legs and lower body, worn from the Middle Ages through the 17th century. 15th century hose were often made having each leg a different color, or even one leg made of two colors. These early hose were footed, in the manner of modern tights, and were open from the crotch to the leg. When very short doublets were in fashion, codpieces were added to cover the front opening.
Women wore gowns comprised of a tight-fitting bodice and a skirt that would hang down to the ankles. Dresses cut to expose much of the neckline were acceptable and fashionable. Clothing of the upper classes was heavy and cumbersome, and restricted movement for the wearer. Women of the lower classes wore much less restrictive styles, both for freedom of movement, and because they did not have servants to help them dress.