Power Dressing: Courts of France and Italy

Rennisance Italy 


Catherine de Medici.  Born 1519 – Died 1589

Married to the Duke of Orleans becomes King 1547

In 1559 the Duke dies, and Catherine is thrust onto the political stage.

Period Renaissance.  France and Italy

Huguenots:  Protestants in France





Wedding of Catherine and Henri II 1533 Uffizi Gallery


Catherine as a young woman



Book of Hours of Catherline .  Catherine de Medici is creted with inventing ruffs.


Costume Descriptors:

  • Bodice (bod-is):   a tight-fitting, sleeveless garment covering the torso. The bodice is most often stiffened with boning and cross-laced, worn over a blouse or chemise. Commonly front-laced in peasant dress and side-laced or back-laced for the upper classes.
  • Bum Roll (buhm rohl):   a padded roll tied around the waist underneath a lady’s skirts to provide support and to take the weight of the fabric off the lower back.


  • Busk (buhsk):   The center bone in an upper-class lady’s corset. Often made of wood, ivory, or bone and elaborately carved. It would be slipped into a special pocket in the corset and secured in place with ribbons.
  • Chemise (shuh-meez):   the basic foundation garment of all women’s renaissance clothing; a large, full-sleeved blouse with either a high or low neckline.
  • Corset (kawr-sit):   a close-fitting undergarment meant to enclose the torso and provide shape and support to the body. Stiffened with stays made of bone or steel and worn laced up, most often in the back.
  • Doublet (duhb-lit):   for women, a high-necked, front-closing bodice which mimicked the men’s close fitting jacket of the same name.
  • Farthingale (fahrth-ing-geyl):   a five to seven bone conical hoop-skirt of Spanish invention, originally with hoops made of cane or whalebone. The French farthingale of the late English Renaissance was characterized by a barrel shape.7019a63fdbde9affccb4d6eb43ba7ac3.jpg
  • Forepart (fohr-pahrt):   an underskirt which shows beneath the opening in the overskirt. In upper class garments, it is often made of a sumptuous fabric and highly trimmed and jeweled.
  • Gown (goun):   a long, fashionable overgarment which could provide extra warmth. Various styles, including the Spanish Surcote, were possible and could range from close-fitting to loose. The garment could be sleeveless, have cap sleeves, or could feature decorative hanging sleeves, even floor-length ones.
  • Guard (gahrd):   a wide band of less expensive fabric which could be added to over and underskirts to take the wear of weather, dirt, and dragging on the ground. These could be removed and replaced when soiled or worn out, preserving the more expensive skirts.
  • Night Rail (nahyt reyl):   a loose garment, similiar to a chemise, which was worn as a nightgown.
  • Overskirt (oh-ver-skurt):   a skirt worn over another, or over the skirt of a dress and either split in the front, or draped and tucked, to reveal the skirts beneath.
  • Peplum (pepluhm):   a short skirting or tabs extending from the bottom of the bodice at the waistline. Several variations of style are possible.
  • Petticoat (pet-ee-koht):   any skirt may be called a petticoat when discussing renaissance costumes. Most often, this term is given to an underskirt.
  • Ruff (ruhf):   a seperate garment consisting of a circular collar made from linen to which a series of figure-eight pleats are sewn, often edged in fancy lace. Early in the Elizabethan period, ruffs were modest in width, but by the late period they could measure close to 2 feet in diameter.


  • Skirt (skurt):   a garment which extends in a circular fashion from a waistband. See also overskirt, petticoat, and underskirt.
  • Tippet (tip-it):   A short, cape-like garment which covers the neck and shoulders, quite possibly lined with fur.
  • Underskirt (uhn-der-skurt):   a skirt worn as the bottom skirt in a combination of skirts. Or, a skirt worn under an overskirt, presumably as a forepart, with a noble woman’s gown.





Duke of Orleans /  Henri II

Costume Descriptors:

  • Cassock (kasuhk):   a long coat, hip-length or longer, with a close fitting waist. Often worn in formal occasions or as part of ceremonial or liturgical dress.
  • Coat (koht):   an outer garment worn over a man’s doublet, with armseyes, though the garment may be sleeveless or may feature long, decorative sleeves.
  • Codpiece (kod-pees):   a triangular flap on breeches used as a fly. In fancier garments, these could be elaborately decorated and padded to draw the eye.
  • Cuirass (kwi-ras):   a piece of plate armor designed to protect the torso consisting of a breastplate and backplate. Sometimes worn over a doublet in ceremonial dress.
  • Doublet (duhb-lit):   for men, a close-fitting waist-length jacket, either sleeveless or featuring tie-in sleeves, with a short peplum (see below) extending from the waistline. Doublet’s could be front or side closing.
  • Falling Collar (fawl-ing kol-er):   a lace-trimmed turned-down collar, worn late in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean periods in the place of a ruff.
  • Garter (gahr-ter):   a clothing accessory used to hold up stockings. Garters can be small leather or fabric belts, or even ribbons tied cross-ways (called cross-gartering) over the stockings to secure them to the leg.
  • Gorget (gor-zay):   a piece of plate armor designed to encircle and protect the throat. Often worn with a doublet on formal or ceremonial occasions
  • Hosen (hohzuhn):   made from wool, cut on the bias, these close-fitting stockings were the base undergarment for most men. Noblemen might have knitted silk hosen, but these were prohibitively expensive.
  • Jerkin (jur-kin):   a waistcoat, or sleeveless vest, worn as an outer garment. In the case of a nobleman, it would likely be worn over his doublet for an extra layer. For peasants, it would likely be worn over the shirt as the outer garment in warmer weather.
  • Pansied Slops (pan-sied slops):   round hose characterized by the addition of a layer of panes, or strips of fabric running from the waistband to the legband. These are often referred to as “pumpkin” pants.
  • Peplum (pepluhm):   a short, decorative skirting or tabs attached at the waistline of a doublet or jerkin.
  • Round Hose (round hohz):   very full short breeches which varied in length from the upper thigh to just above the knee, giving a rounded look to the hips and showing off the leg.
  • Ruff (ruhf):   a seperate garment consisting of a circular collar made from linen to which a series of figure-eight pleats are sewn, often edged in fancy lace. Early in the Elizabethan period, ruffs were modest in width, but by the late period they could measure close to 2 feet in diameter.
  • Schuabe (schwab):   an open coat with a turned back collar and revers, often lined in fur. The garment would feature a yoked back with pleated fullness across teh back.
  • Shirt (shurt):   the basic men’s undergarment. Shirts were commonly constructed of linen and featured a standing band collar and cuffs. Ruffles may be sewn into the bands in fancier versions and they could be elaborately embroidered with blackwork.
  • Slops (slops):   wide, loose fitting breeches, similar to round hose.
  • Surcote (sur-koht):   a loose, waist-length sword cape with attached sleeves and a standing collar which was most often worn as a decorative overgarment.
  • Tabard (tab-erd):   a ceremonial garment, often decorated with the coat of arms of a nobleman and worn by his servants as livery on formal occasions.
  • Tunic (too-nik):   a knee-length garment worn belted at the waist. Considered unfashionable by the late renaissance, the garment would be common amongst the very poor.
  • Venetians (vuhnee-shuhns):   knee-length breeches with a full gather at the waist band and tapered to the knee, popular amongst the middle and upper classes. Often these feature decorative ties at the leg bands.











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