16th century clothing



To start with, women on the 16th century Scottish/English Border didn’t wear underwear.  At least, not what we would consider underwear today.  The first thing she would put on in the morning may well be what she spent the night in.  It was called a chemise, which  was basically a cotton or linen shift.  Underneath she would add stockings made  of cotton or wool – no nylons
in those days.  No pantyhose either.  The stockings would be held up by garters tied just above her knees and knotted. 


  Next she would put on her petticoats.  Depending on the weather this could be 

as many as  four or five layers.  For  more formal occasions, at  least one of those 

layers would be some sort of hooped 

petticoat that would give the desired
shape and body to her dress. 


Finally she would put on her kirtle, which was basically her 

under dress, and at least for everyday wear was sometimes 

worn without a gown or over dress. 

 It might consist of a bodice and single layered skirt, but many times the kirtle skirt would be split and the open space filled with a more decorative or contrasting half skirt called a forepart.  

Note how the top and sleeves of her chemise show.  The bodice itself would have been stiffened by buckram, bone, or reeds, serving as a corset or “pair of bodies” to produce the  desired flat, cylindrical shape of the early 16th century.  The bodice could be either laced in the back or front, but more often in the back during this period.  If the bodice was not boned or stiffened, a corset would have been worn underneath to produce the desired effect. 


For a more formal occasions, she would put on  

her outer dress or gown.  This  consisted 

 of a loosely fitting dress, 

sometimes with the skirt split down the 

front to display the forepart. 

 A stomacher, or triangular piece of material 

was sometimes inserted down the front of the 

dress or pinned to the bodice. 

 Decorative kirtle oversleeves would be worn over the sleeves of the chemise, but under the wide, loose fitting sleeves of the gown.  These outersleeves were tight fitting at the upper arm, but then flared out toward the wrist. Many times they were lined with fur and turned back so that they appeared more like a wrap.

Sleeves were sometimes slashed so that the chemise would show through and tied to the shoulder straps of the dress by points.

Topping it all off, the young lady might wear a head piece like the French Hood shown in the picture. 


 (The above photos can be found on The seamstress’ name is Catany.  Just scroll through her pages until you come to the Tudor Gown page.)