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Late Period Outerwear

The definitions presented below are an attempt to describe and classify the different types of outerwear used in the second half of the 16th century.

None of the definitions are absolute. Many are derived from very little information such as a single reference in a will from the period. Those we have more information for cannot be easily classified as a particular style and may have evolved from or into other garments.

Another consideration is the intended use of these garments. Some are clearly meant for travel or use in foul weather. Others were likely worn as house coats for extra warmth in-doors and may have been covered with additional garments for outside use. Garments intended to be worn at court would have been highly decorated while those meant for a humbler use would be more utilitarian.

Some examples of my cassocks.

Cassock (Dutch cloak, cassack, casaque, ropilla) – A commonly used term, possibly interchangeable with the terms coat and cloak, and often with military connotations. As this term had been in common use since the beginning of the 16th century, there are a few different forms of this garment. (Cunnington, 16C, p 109, 172; Mellin)

Alcega's Cassock Lant Roll Italian Seaman
Herreruelo cloak and cassock of cloth. Pattern from Juan de Alcega’s Tailor’s Pattern Book, 1589. From the commentary in the Alcega reprint, the herreruelo cloak seems to have referred to a short cloak with a standing collar. (Alcega, p29) A portion of the Lant Roll engraving of Sir Phillip Sydney’s funeral (1586). Text accompanying the roll identifies the soldiers as wearing black cassocks. (Tincey, p 32) Seaman from Habiti Antichi e Moderni by Cesare Vecelli, 1600. (Tincey, p 22)

The first form closely resembles the Dutch cloak and likely derived from this style. This form of cassock is cut loosely in the body, but probably not from a circle (as with a cloak) and generally had sleeves, though these could be false. See here for a pattern of this type. The second form, as shown by Alcega in his ropilla pattern, is hip length and fitted in the body. The skirting is cut partially in one with the body of the garment and this form is similar to a jacket or juppe. (Alcega, pp 26-30; Mellin)

Cloak – A garment cut from ¾ of a circle or more, flaring out from the shoulders. Often highly decorated, it was worn to the ankle, waist or fork. The longer length was more popular for travel. Variations include sleeves, a tall standing collar, a turned down collar or no collar. Sometimes seen with a tippet. (Cunnington, 16C, pp 109-110, 171; Arnold, POF, pp 5, 35-37)

Sleeved cloak with standing collar from The Three Coligny’s by Max Duval (Cunnington, 16C, p104) Engraving of Spanish rider from Diversarum gentium Armatura Equestris by Abraham de Bruyn, 1577. (Arnold, POF, p 37) An English Nobleman from Diversarum Gentium Armatura Equestris by de Bruyn, 1577. Note the tippets on the cloak.(Arnold, POF, p 36)

“They have clokes there also in nothing different from the rest, of dyverse and sundry colors, white, red, tawnie, black, greene, yellowe, russet, purple, violet, and infynite other colors: some of cloth, silk, velvet, taffetie, and such like, wherof some be of the Spanish, French & Dutch fashion: Some short, scarcely reaching to the gyrdlestead, or waist, some to the knee, and othersome trayling uppon the ground (almost) liker gownes than clokes. Then are thei garded with Velvette gardes, or els laced with costly lace, either of golde, silver, or at leaste of silke three or fower fingers broad doune the back, about the skirts, and every where els. And now of late they use to garde their clokes rounde about the skirtes with bables, I should saie Bugles, and other kinde of glasse, and all to shine to the eye. Besides al this, thei are so faced, and withal so lined as the inner side standeth almost in as much as the outside: some have sleeves, othersome have none; some have hoodes to pull over the head, some have none; some are hanged with points and tassels of gold, silver, or silk withal, some without al this. But how soever it be, the day hath been when one might have bought him two clokes for lesse than now he can have one of these clokes made for, they have such store of workmanship bestowed uppon them.”
1585. Stubbes, Anatomie of Abuses.

Coat (cote) – A general term for an outer garment, possibly interchangeable with the term cassock.
“Their Coates and Jerkins, as they be diverse in colors, so be they diverse in fashions; for some be made with colors, some without, some close to the bodie, some loose, covering the whole body downe to the theighe, like baggs or sacks that weare drawen over them, hidinge the dimensions and proportions of the body: some are buttened down the brest, some under the arm, and some downe the back; some with flappes over the brest, some without, some with great sleeves, some with small, and some with non at all; some pleated and crested behind, and curiously gathered; some not so; & how many days so many sortes of apparell some one man will have, and thinketh it good provision in faire weather to lay up against a storme.”
1585. Stubbes, Anatomie of Abuses.
A tailor from The Book of Trades. This coat with short sleeves is an interesting variation. (Amman, p 53)

Frock – Mentioned in inventories and wills, the frock was probably a loose gown, but no firm descriptions remain. Usually worn by women. (Cunnington, 16C, p 172)

Gabardine – A long loose overcoat to be worn with or without a girdle. It was used most often as a horseman’s coat and was worn with wide sleeves. It is also mentioned as a women’s garment. (Cunnington, 16C, p 109, 172)
Drawing from a brass of John and Susan Selwyn, from Walton-on Thames church. 1587. Her loose gown might be a frock or gabardine. He wears a loose coat or cassock. (Cunnington, 16C, p 147)

Gown – For men, the gown was largely professional or ceremonial. It remained broad shouldered and loosely fit with generous folds after the fashion of the first half of the century. Often worn to the knee or ankle, it had varying styles of neckline and was usually worn open in front. For women, it was often referred to as a loose gown and was worn floor or ankle length and without the emphasis on broad shoulders. (Cunnington, 16C, pp 101-102; Arnold, POF, pp 6-11, 38, 43-50)

Jacket – The predecessor to the jacket shaped at the waist with gussets popular in the early 17th century, the 16th century jacket started as a male fashion. It was form fitting without gussets, waist length and with or without sleeves. It was adapted as a female fashion around 1570. (Arnold, QEWU, pp 143-144)
Embroidered jacket without gussets. It is likely that this garment was worn as a house coat against chill and not out in foul weather. 1590-1600. V&A Museum (Arnold, QEWU, p 144)

Jerkin (base-coat) – Generally following the cut and fashion of the doublet, the jerkin was worn over the doublet for additional warmth. Sometimes worn partially or fully open in front to display the doublet, the jerkin was usually sleeveless, but could have short sleeves or elaborate wings at the shoulder. If a jerkin had matching full sleeves, they would be tied to the armhole of the doublet beneath or to the jerkin. Thus a doublet described as ‘made jerkenwise’, probably refers to a doublet with detachable sleeves. See also Stubbes quote under Coat. (Cunnington, 16C, pp 94-99; Arnold, QEWU, pp 142-144)

Juppe – A coat commonly worn by women and with a safeguard. It seems to have replaced Dutch cloaks in this use and was probably a loose form of the doublet. The juppe appears to have derived from the “gaskyn coate”, a riding coat of military origins in Gascony. It may be an alternate name for the cassock. (Arnold, QEWU, p 142)
A noble woman from de Bruyn’s Omnium Poene Gentium Habitus, 1581. She wears a mask on her face. (Arnold, QEWU, p 202)

Mandilion – A loose hip length coat open at the sides and with sleeves. Originally a military garment, the mandilion buttoned from neck to chest and was put on over the head. It was frequently worn ‘collie-westonward’ or turned sideways with the sleeves hanging front and back. (Cunnington, 16C, pp 107-109)
Mandilion worn Colley-Westonwards from a portrait of Sir Robert Sidney. 1585-90. (Cunnington, 16C, p108)

Mantle (lapmantle, bernia, sbernia) – A square blanket, rug or cloth put over a woman’s knees for warmth or worn draped around the body and attached at one shoulder. (Arnold, Costume; Cunnington, 16C, p 171)
A Genoese lady (left) and a lady of Avignon (right) from Degli Antichi et Moderni, by Cesare Vecellio, 1590. Both wear a ‘sbernia’, one draped as a mantle, and one similar to a loose gown. (Arnold, Costume, p 62)

Safeguard – A skirt used when riding to protect the skirts below from dirt. One description mentions strings attached to it which may have been tied around the foot or stirrup to hold the skirts in place when mounted. (Cunnington, 16C, p 171; Arnold, QEWU, pp 141-142)
“A kind of array or attire reaching from the navill downe to the feete” 1585. Higgins, The Nomenclator, or Remembrancer of Adrianus Junius.

Shamew – A loose coat worn open. (Cunnington, 16C, p 110)

Tippet – A short shoulder cape worn with a cloak or gown. (Cunnington, 16C, p 107)

1. Alcega, Juan de, Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589, facsimile by Costume & Fashion Press, New York, NY, 1999.
2. Amman, Jost and Sacks, Hans, The Book of Trades, facsimile by Dover Publications, New York, NY, 1973.
3. Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women c1560-1620, Macmillan General Books, London, EN, 1985. (POF)
4. Arnold, Janet, Queen Elizabeth’s Wardobe Unlock’d, W.S. Maney & Sons Ltd, Leeds, EN, 1988. (QEWU)
5. Arnold, Janet, "Jane Lambarde's Mantle" in Costume, London, #14, 1980, pp 56 - 72. (Costume)
6. Cunnington, C. Willett & Phillis, Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century, Faber and Faber Limited, London, EN, 1966. (17C)
7. Cunnington, C. Willett & Phillis, Handbook of English Costume in the Sixteenth Century, Faber and Faber Limited, London, EN, 1954. (16C)
8. Mellin, Laura, “The Evolution of the Military Cassock in Elizabethan England” in The Fencer’s, Dancer’s and Bearbaiter’s Quarterly Ten Year Anniversary Edition, Trayn’d Bandes of London Publication #8, 2002, pp 57 – 59.
9. Stubbes, Phillip, Anatomie of Abuses, 1583. Excerpts available on-line.
10. Tincey, John, The Armada Campaign 1588, Osprey (an imprint of Reed Consumer Books, Ltd.), London, EN, 1988.

This page created and maintained by Cathy Snell.