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The 1660s
Restoration Costume Comes to Life

Part 1, Page 2
Lower Class Women

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Lower Class Women and Men Gentry and Aristocracy, Women Gentry and Aristocracy, Men The Whole Look: Accessories Costume Focus: Women's Headwear & Neckwear

Beauty and Fashion were back in 1660 with the accession of the throne by Charles II, son of Charles the first, the king who was executed by the followers of Oliver Cromwell, after the victory of the parliamentarians over the royalists in the English Civil war. The protectorate did not last long though. With the death of Cromwell in 1658 it took only two years and an inept rule of his son Richard Cromwell for parliament to realise they needed monarchy back and therefore Charles II, rightful heir to the throne who had been in exile in France during the protectorate. With the glorious entry of Charles into London via Rochester in Kent, and the coronation in the following year, all processions being the grandest affairs any human eye had ever seen and will ever see - according to Samuel Pepys - did fashion take on greater importance than ever.

Not only courtiers and genteel folk strove to look as fashionable and dashing as they could in their silks and velvets and fine worsted wools, but everyone, particularly in London, seemed to try to adorn themselves and even if it is just with a coloured silk ribbon. Indeed, there are accounts of many foreign travellers to England who were surprised at the neatness of the ladies, and even more surprised at the as fashionable as possible attire of servants and maids, even street criers and hawkers if they could possibly afford a fashion item at all.

On the other hand it was not all splendour and gaiety, many paintings of the 1660s show peasants in rural areas dressed in the late 16th century fashion of doublet and long hose and even in simple turnshoes, not even cut out latchet shoes of the first half of the 17th century, mainly the 1630s and 40s. This is something we should never forget, that fashion changes were much slower in areas which were not central like London or other large cities, with a rural population lacking fashionable models to aspire to.

To understand the clothing of the rich and genteel people and their functioning and importance as symbols of social status, a general understanding of the working or common people is of essential importance. Clothes in the rural parts of the countries were often not only 20 years back, but sometimes up to 60 or 70. As can be seen on the next page, many, particularly older people, still wear the fashionable attire of the Jacobean area.

Sources for garments though varied as much as style and old or new fashioned cut and can be specified in a number of ways:

By Inheritance
Wills often specified who was to inherit specific garments. They were left to relatives and friends of the family, or to servants. They thus passed vertically as well as horizontally through the strata of society. Acquiring clothes by inheritance would be relatively unimportant though in regards to acquiring one's wardrobe, since it did not occur that often.

As part of contract of employment
These could either be second hand garments or items supplied by an employer. This would usually apply to servants who would normally be women in their teens and twenties, though most of the time they had to supply their own clothing or had it from their parents when they went into service. There is a wide range and variety of dress for female servants. Compare on the next page the clothes of some maid servants to others and to their mistresses, the housewives. Often they received the cast offs of their mistresses, depending on their own status of servant or maid servant, the latter taking care more personally of the mistress and thus being of higher status. In a Royal setting it would be equivalent to a Lady in Waiting.

Home made
Home production must not be over emphasised. Repairs would generally be done in the home but sewing entire garments is unusual. Samuel Pepys mentions in his Diary how his wife Elizabeth stayed up all night, sewing on new lace onto a older petticoat, because she wanted to wear it the next day. Alterations, embellishments and repairs were done. Tusser implies in the early 17th century:

Good semsters be sowing of fine pretie knackes,
Good huswife be mending and peecing their sackes.
Though making and mending be huswifely waies,
Yet mending in time is the huswife to praies...
Though Ladies may rend and nuie new ery day,
Good huswifes must mend and buie new as they may.

Randle Holmes in 1688 implies that generally seamstresses made the less complex and linen items while tailors, the full time professional male clothiers, made the woollen garments. Generally it seems probable that many smaller linen items might be home produced, especially by servants for their own use although they could be purchased from chapmen.

Purchased new
Quite self-explanatory and depending on the available money of the individual.

Purchased second hand
By the end of the 17th century there was a flourishing established trade in second hand clothes particularly in London.


Lower Class Women | Lower Class Women Study Gallery
Lower Class Men | Lower Class Men Study Gallery



Nicole Kipar 1998