The Vale Islanders
The clothing worn by the Vale Islanders represents the styles worn by the everyday people of mid-17th century England, in particular, the time of the English Civil War. We try to show authentic styles and colours within the refines of cost and availability and consider our garments to be clothes not costumes as they have to be practical in order to enable us to perform the dances. In order to recreate the correct styles we use, we either buy our clothes from re-enactor’s fairs or use historically researched patterns from specialist suppliers and make our own garments.
17th Century clothing
During the 17th century there were dramatic changes in the styles of both men’s and women’s clothing. Individual status was clearly shown by clothes people wore. The richer you were; the brighter the colours, the greater the decoration and the better the cut. Fashions originated from Court Dress and for the common people the styles worn were often decades behind current fashion. The clothes were well looked after and kept in good repair for as long as possible, when this was no longer possible the garments could be taken apart and the fabric reused.
The fabrics used would have been mainly wool and linen, coloured using natural dyes. Strong colours were available but they would have faded quickly. Some colours, including purple and black, were expensive to produce and would have only been used by the wealthy. Lace was also expensive and was generally only worn by the rich.
Both women’s and men’s everyday clothes were practical in design and could easily be adapted to suit the weather; basically layers could be added or removed as necessary. Both sexes wore long hose (stockings) held up by tapes tied either to the breeches or by using garters tied at the knee. Footwear varied in style ranging from “latchet” shoes to “bucket topped” boots.
Women would begin by wearing a linen shift which could be ankle or knee length with sleeves that covered the elbows. Stays (corset) provided support and gave a conical silhouette. These were worn under a bodice which may have had detachable sleeves. More than one petticoat (skirt) was generally worn, the fullness indicating the wearer’s status. It was not considered indecent to show your ankles and was practical as it avoided hems dragging on the ground. The outfit was completed by the wearing of a collar (neckerchief) and a coif (scarf or headdress). These gave the wearer a degree of modesty and kept the head and neck protected from the weather. Women wore their hair covered at all times unless they were rich enough to have their hair dressed in the fashionable styles.
Men wore a linen shirt, similar to the women’s shift, tucked in to woolen breeches. The breeches reached from the waist to just below the knee and could be fastened at the knee using buttons or tapes. The outer garments consisted of a doublet and a singlet. The doublet was a close-fitting, waist length jacket and a singlet was similar but without the sleeves. Men would also have their heads covered, including in church.