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Drawing 19

Women's Fashions of the 17th Century - Hollar Engravings


In the mid-17th century, Wenceslaus Hollar published this series of engravings depicting the costume of women in England.
Drawing by Wenceslaus Hollar, women's 17th century fashion history

Drawing by Wenceslaus Hollar, circa 1645, illustrating women's fashion history, 17th century, from life subjects.

Digital image © 2003 Jone Johnson Lewis. Licensed to About.com.

(Click on the image to see a larger version.)

These images record a contemporary view of the costume of women, a subject which fascinated the artist. Wenceslaus Hollar was a 17th century engraver who published over two thousand of his drawings. He was born in Prague, Bohemia, and spent most of his career in England.

Because these drawings were done from life subjects, they are quite valuable as resources for researching the clothing that women wore in the 17th century. There are few such resources available for any other time before the 19th century, when women's magazines began to feature drawings of fashions and when pattern books were published with many illustrations of contemporary costume.

Later images in the set show the rising trend in England towards Puritanism, which included a simplicity in dress, headgear including simple caps or large hats as head coverings, and dark colors in dresses accompanied by white collars and aprons. As Calthrop points out in accompanying text about this period of costume, the "frippery" is gone, or at least reduced.

These illustrations were adapted from copies reprinted in English Costume: Tudor and Stuart by Dion Clayton Calthrop, London, 1906. Calthrop's only comment on these illustrations was this:

"These excellent drawings by Hollar need no explanation. They are included in this book because of their great value as accurate contemporary drawings of costume."

Calthrop obviously thought that readers would be familiar with Hollar's work.

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