The American West (Costume & Fashion Source Books)

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These are invaluable to the researcher. We can also glean much from the theater. This suggests that his audience, both high- and low-born, would be immediately familiar with the references. Unfortunately, many of these fascinating references are often cut from productions today because they have become obscure.

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However, most of the cloth went to the Netherlands, which at that time was a province of Spain. Since political relations between England and Spain were precarious at best, the stability of the wool trade was of constant concern throughout the Elizabethan period. This explains some of the strange laws and statutes compelling people to wear wool clothes, and especially caps, in order to boost trade.

There were only about three million people—fewer, in fact, than years before, when the Black Death had claimed the lives of about 40 percent of the population. The largest city outside London was Norwich, with 15, people. Most of the English population lived in the countryside or, increasingly, in one of the 8 00 or so market towns scattered around the central and southern part of the country.

Northern England was still a wild region, poorly served by trade and inaccessible for travel.

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London, however, was a city booming with commerce. Trade of all kinds, especially in cloth and clothing, was flourishing. In the background of this painting are scenes showing England defeating the Spanish Armada. All these changes had an effect on clothing. As more people could afford better fabrics, they were imported in greater quantities than ever before. The home production of some items was also being established, thanks to foreign craftsmen who had settled in English towns, bringing their skills with the m.

A gown of similar design could be worn over this. Most Europeans wore more or less the same kind of clothing, made from the same fabrics, as they had throughout the medieval and early Renaissance periods. Fabrics ranged from the staple wool and linen, worn by all classes, to luxury fabrics such as silk, velvet, and brocades, imported from the East or Italy and worn by the wealthy. The title of medieval style leader had passed between the various princely courts— mainly those of Burgundy in France and wealthy Italian dynasties such as the Medici in Florence.

By the first half of the sixteenth century, German fashions were all the rage, with an emphasis on bright, even garish, colors.

Publisher Series: Costume & Fashion Source Books

The younger women, at the front, are dressed in the height of fashion. It commissioned items from specialist craftspeople, including tailors, hatmakers, furriers, embroiderers, jewelers, and those who made garments for hunting, riding, and playing sports. One of these was Philip Stubbes c. His work The Anatomie of Abuses includes attacks on the extremes of Elizabethan fashion— extravagant farthingales, overdecorated shirts, and enormous ruffs—aimed particularly at the aspiring middle classes.

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  • Right: This illustration shows a Spanish noble couple from about Heavy, large-patterned fabrics, often woven with metallic thread, and fur trimmings and linings remained popular. At court, at least, the flowing kirtle was replaced by a cone-shaped skirt, held out from the body by hooped undergarments, and a stiffened bodice. Crucially, the one-piece gown was now separated into several distinct items—bodice, skirt, sleeves—and would remain so for at least a century.

    This was already the case in much of Europe, where courtiers had been eager to imitate the style of the S panish Holy Roman emperors. Suddenly, the youth of England were wearing short, tight doublets that revealed equally brief breeches and hose. And almost everyone wore black, favored by the famously austere Philip.

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    Her long reign was a period of relative prosperity that gave people the opportunity to amass fortunes and to concentrate on clothes, fashion, and enjoying themselves. Fashion began at court, then rippled outward through the aristocracy and minor nobility to the socially aspiring middle classes.

    Working folk, on the whole, had neither time nor money for fashion. The speed at which fashions changed at court was The costumes for the movie Shakespeare in Love astonishing. Although the basic shapes remained the were well researched. This was true for men even more than women. Consequently, these clothes are a little harder to reproduce than the earlier styles. However, many online agencies offer patterns and advice on fabrics.

    Monarchs wore crowns, for example, and a shepherd might carry a crook, while a man wearing a long gown was probably a doctor. However, an Elizabethan stage gown was made of expensive fabric and often cost more than the child actor wearing it was paid in a year. This involved some effort on the part of her wardrobekeepers. Each item had to be kept clean and in top condition in case the queen decided to wear it.

    The defining elements are the square neckline, deep bell sleeves, and the angular gable headdress. A typical gown has sleeves that fit close at the top of the arm and hang wide at the wrist, revealing the closer-fitting sleeve of the kirtle. The neckline is square, cut very wide to the shoulder and edged with a band of e mbroidery or gems.

    The bodice is fitted to the waist and the skirt bell-shaped, usually open at the front to reveal an undergarment of contrasting pattern. A girdle, made of silken rope or padded silk, was hung low around the waist. It was tied in a knot at the front and had various items attached to it. Trains, popular throughout the medieval period, gradually shortened and were looped up at the back until, by about , they had disappeared completely.

    Below: In Elizabeth R, Glenda Jackson played the queen at all stages of her life, from teenage princess, seen here in her late-Tudor fashions, to old age. Both headdresses were made of stiffened buckram wired into shape and covered with fabric, which was then edged with strips of pearls or other jewels, called billiments. A black veil, attached to the back, hung down to the shoulders in both cases, but whereas the gable sat on the forehead, hiding the hair completely, the French hood sat farther back on the crown of the head and revealed the hair, parted in the center.

    Both could be covered with fabric to match the gown, although a discreet black velvet was very popular for the French hood. The winter fur of the stoat, it is usually sewn together so that the white coat and black tail give an impression of black spots on white. The fur in most common use was miniver, the blue-gray and white fur of a squirrel.

    However, fur was hardly ever worn alone as a luxury item as it is today. It was mostly used for trimming or lining in cloaks and gowns or, in the case of beaver, for use in hats. Depending on class, a person might make do with rabbit, fox, or even cat skin.

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    Right: In this portrait from c. Note also her elaborate hairstyle and feather fan. The earliest was the Spanish version, which gave the bell shape of Tudor and early Elizabethan skirts. It was a series of concentric hoops sewn into an underskirt, increasing in size from waist to floor.

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    Originally, these would have been made of wire, rope, or, a little later, whalebone. The first two, at least, could be used today, but hoopskirt boning is now available from suppliers. This was a wheel-shaped structure whose metal spokes held the skirt straight out from the hips so that it fell sharply to the floor. Queen Elizabeth liked this fashion, but it was much mocked by writers of the time, who made jokes about women with skirts too wide to pass through doorways.

    During pregnancy—a significant part of their lives—women left off the stomacher but still laced the gown, as one sees from many portraits.


    The breasts were completely flattened but often visible above the neckline. Skirts were often open from the waist to reveal the kirtle skirt in contrasting fabric. For simpler re-creations, a sewn-in panel of contrasting fabric will do.