Restoration Review: 1660-c.1710 (Part 2)

Early Restoration-Women

The politics of the Restoration bring with it a new fashionable attribute for women--feminine sensuality. The true position of power for a woman comes not from the status of being the wife of a powerful man, but from being his mistress.

As a result, for a brief time, it becomes fashionable for a lady to be portrayed as if she has just taken a tumble in the broom closet. This trend in 17th century fashion of ladies being painted in reclining positions and appearing somewhat unkempt and disheveled is referred to as dishabille/deshabille (translated as "undress").

This 17th century mistress presents herself in a very careful, deliberate state of undress. Everything about her appearance is soft, sensual, and powerful. These are the qualities that characterize the most fashionable women of this era.

Pay particular attention to the fullness and line of her chemise. Notice that not only is the neckline of her bodice rather low and plunging, but it is just barely perched upon the shoulder. Much more skin is exposed above the bust line.

Notice her red lips and fingernails. These are not naturally this hue, but painted with cosmetics. Her cheeks are rouged. She may also be wearing foundation in order to enhance her much desired paleness.


I include these images here, solely because I find their history interesting.

Some dishabille images, such as the one on the left, go to new extremes. The bare breast (an artistic convention, I assure you) does not imply that she is a lady of ill repute. Instead, it indicates that she is the mistress of a very powerful man. The presence of the spaniel on her left (the observers right side) reinforces this notion. This particular breed is symbolic of the Stuart royal family.

The woman on the right is Elizabeth Jones, eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Raneleagh. She was considered one of the greatest beauties of the Restoration court. She was King Charles II's mistress in the 1670s at the time this painting was created (c. 1679). Interestingly, the portrait bears the title Elizabeth, Countess of Kildare. She did not marry the Earl of Kildare until 1684. The title of the painting may have been changed in order to divert attention from her life prior to her marriage.

Logic tells us that it would be rather difficult to walk around with our clothes falling off our bodies, such as the previous paintings suggest. However, the softness and sensuality of the dishabille look did influence the slightly more conservative, yet undoubtably fashionable wives of the day.

Notice the low and wide neckline perched upon the shoulders and the soft, rumpled looking silk satin used in her gown. Again, we see red lips and rouged cheeks.

Late Restoration-Women

Just like masculine fashions, the silhouette tightens up again during the second half of this period. Much of the softness (particularly in the torso) disappears from women's wear during the later decades. The silhouette is much more architechtural.

Two new fashion innovations that propel this new stiffness are the fontange/commode headdress and the new mantua/manteau gown.

The fontange began as a bow used to draw bangs (growing out now from the trend of cutting them short) up out of the eyes. The bow quickly grew into a series of lace ruffles supported on top of the head with a metal frame. It generally featured a length of lace in the back that hung down and covered the hair.

The manteau gown was initially rather unfitted, and was cut in one peice from shoulder to hem. It was inspired by an Eastern fashion. It quickly evolved into a dress that featured shaping through darts and vertical seams. A horizontal seam connecting bodice and skirt does not exist. The gown takes on a jacket-like appearance. It is generally worn with the skirts pulled toward the back (revealing the modeste) and often piled upon the rump. This creates a silhouette that ominously foreshadows the 19th century Bustle period.

Due to their jacket-like construction, the manteau gown often left the busk of the stays exposed. A decorative stomacher was attached to the front of the gown or stays in order to hide the undergarment. These stomachers were interchangable, and one could easily change the appearance of the gown simply by changing the stomacher.

As we see here, the fashionable waistline placement for the Resoration period returns to a more natural placement.

Three examples of manteau gown skirts and the modest petticoats that are revealed due to the pulling back of the skirts.

I cannot help, but think, "Bustle, bustle, bustle," when I see these images.

Full cut coat-like garments such as the one shown here in red are pictured in a number of portraits from the period. They are most often portrayed in scenes within the home. It is assumed that they were garments worn at home to provide relief from the tightly laced "street" garments and/or pregnancy attire. Their fullness hides a bulging belly quite nicely.

She is wearing:

He is wearing:


stockings and heeled shoes

at least one secret

stays-cut to match the fashionable silhouette--low neckline, and natural waistline.


manteau gown-with skirts pulled to the back and waistline returning to a "natural" location.

some sort of hat


shirt-collar has shrunken back to a natural size.

cravat-Tied around the neck over the collar--loose ends hanging below the chin.

stockings and heeled shoes

waistcoat-cut in a similar manner to the justacorps, hem hangs a few inches shorter. It is most likely sleeved.

justacorps- 3/4 length sleeves with a large cuff, has the ability to button from neckline to hem.

breeches- moderate fullness, ending just below the knee.

long wig

feathered hat



These three ladies demonstrate the three principle female silhouettes seen across Europe during the Restoration period.

I've been referring to these silhouettes as:

(from left to right)

Fashionable, Spanish, and Plain Dress.

The countries listed under each lady in this image indicate the regions where these silhouettes are most prevalent.

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