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Middle Ages

A timeline history of Shoes and Fashion

The 17th Century:

Wars. Political wars. Religious wars. Political religious wars. War continued to escalate while simultaneously, amazing advances in modern science and technology developed and new philosophical outlooks formed.  The 17th century had it all. It was the age of Enlightenment.
Musical Company 1639

<Left: Detail. Musical Company
1639. Pieter Codde, Oil on canvas.
Private collection.

The Thirty Years War raged between the Catholics and the Protestants; the Sun King blazed over France; trouble brewed in England with Charles I vs. Parliament which ended in civil war, the loss of his head and a brief jaunt into a Commonwealth Nation with Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector before The Restoration of Charles II in 1660.  Italy and Spain lost dominance while Holland and France's power increased. 

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At the beginning of the century, those pesky conservative styles were still lingering from the previous era but gradually fashion transformed into a more colorful palette and soft extravagance. Delicate fabrics were introduced that flowed gracefully out from the body and excessive decoration disappeared. Men wore doublets with rounded waists, slashed sleeves with leg of mutton breeches.  And what’s this?  A new non-neck irritating soft falling ruff. 1600's man's fashion

Right: Detail. Portrait of a Man. Sébastien Bourbon, Oil on canvas,
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

France became the center of the fashion world and everyone competed to be the best dressed. The middleclass copied royalty, so royalty branished something new to which the middleclass copied again, so royalty had to try something else, etc., etc., creating a vicious cycle.  Rank was no longer obvious by the clothes one wore and men, in the hot pursuit of elegance, dressed quite frivolous with satin suits, cloaks of silk and scented collars of flowers
petticoat breeches

<Left: Louis XIV Receiving Swiss Ambassadors. Van der Meulen 1663. Versailles, Museum. Louis and his entourage are wearing petticoat breeches along with shoes with big feminine bows.

By mid century Petticoat Breeches became the lastest rage. They were called Petticoat Breeches because they were so wide and gathered, they looked like skirts. The fact that men covered them in a slew of fancy ribbons and bows didn’t help matters much.  Yes, it was quite a dandy time for all! Men were more elegant and feminine than women!  Toward the end of the era, fashions toned down and thankfully petticoat breeches disappeared.  (Louis’ new wife was somewhat of a prude, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

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Boots became fashionable at the English court during Charles I’s reign.  Due to the probability that he had rickets as a child, Charles couldn’t walk without use of supports, thus a shoemaker designed boots to hide them.  Charles could later walk without these supports but by the time he became king, wearing boots became fashionable.  Everyone wore boots.  All classes and sorts.  Indoors and out and for every type of occasion. 
Charles I

Right: Charles I, King of England at the Hunt. 1635. Sir Anthony Van Dyck. Oil on canvas Musée du Louvre, Paris >

Later in the century, shoes and stockings became very important as the focus shifted to the lower body. Men wanted to wear flattering fanciful hose and shoes to accentuate their shapely legs.
red heeled shoes

<Left: Detail. Portrait of Louis XIV
1701. Hyacinthe Rigaud. Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris

Louis XIV also had a thing for high heels with red soles and heels. It must have been tough to be short in stature but lofty in power so I guess he thought he would even it up a bit.  Of course, what the king does, everyone else copies, so everyone who was anyone wore high heels with red soles and heels.  After all, what would be more proper to wear with Petticoat breeches, than high-heeled shoes?  Boots went out of style in favor of these new elegant heels now elaborately decorated with ribbons, rosettes or buckles.
1600's shoes

Right: Detail: Merry Company. 1620-22 Willem Buytewech. Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest>

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Unfortunately, those dreaded cone shaped, rigid Spanish styles continued into the early 17th century along with that ridiculous slashing although the farthingale transformed into a more feminine silhouette.

1600's ladies fashion

<Left: Detail. Family Portrait. 1650s. Gonzales Coques. Oil on panel. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

By mid century, gowns became lighter and softer with fitted backs, covered shoulders, a square neck edged in lace with flat flowing sleeves.  After 1680, the under-petticoat became elaborately trimmed with gold or silk embroidery and the upper skirt was gathered full with a tight fitting bodice decorated with elaborate ribbons, ruffles and lace. 

In the 1660s women began to pay more attention to their shoes and no longer wanted the same shape as men’s.  A variety of exquisitely embroidered shoes in silk, satin and velvet appeared trimmed with lace which fell in a deep flounce over the foot. Slippers developed heels often measuring six inches made of colored satin to match the costume.

1600's shoe

Right: The Red Heel, its vamp and tongue dripping with silver lace applique in the ultimate of Rococo style.>

Small feet were considered the in thing, so naturally women tried to make them smaller by binding them often times with their own hair. This, along with tight bodice lacing was so uncomfortable women fainted. It's no wonder we never took over the world.
1600's slipper

<Left: Fancy elegantly embroidered Rococo slipper. c. 1650.

For more images of 1600's shoes, please visit my Styles Gallery

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~KBCreations. Copywrite 2006.

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