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In the late 15th Century the distinctive bell shaped silhouette of the Tudor era appeared. The wonderful shape was influenced by the Spanish court and become the hallmark of the English during this period.

The Spanish farthingale was responsible forthe beginning of the hooped petticoat craze that would come in and out of fashion until the early 20th century. The petticoat of gradating circles of whalebone or bamboo eliminated the need for masses of petticoats to achieve the desired fashionable shape. The Spanish farthingale provided a stable framework for the richly quilted heavy underskirts and the elaborate three-quarter circle overskirt. The whole bell look was finished off by the introduction of the corset. There had been corset-like garments in the previous eras but this was the beginning of a long reign of whalebone torture. The general opinion that was the corset was introduced in France by the Queen, Catherine de Medici. The corset of the time flattened the bust and nipped in the waist giving the torso a distinct triangle shape.

Originally hailing from Spain, the farthingale fashion spread to Germany and most recognisably to England. Worn by the most fashionable women from the reign of Henry VII carrying through to Henry VIII's reign. It is his wives who give great insights into the many ways that fashion was worn through the many royal portraits. It was during the reign of Elizabeth I the shape changed.

With the insertion of bum rolls the cone shape began to slowly develop more into a cylindrical shape. As the width of the cylinder increased the bum roll was not up to the job and the farthingale changed shape to accommodate the fashion. The English farthingale has to be one of the more extreme moments in the history of fashion, given its other name the cartwheel farthingale is anything to go by. The whole shape really looked as if you were smuggling a round table under your skirt. The famous later portraits of Queen Elizabeth I show this amazing shape. Naturally there was a corset under the whole outfit to give that tiny waist look. The stomacher of the time came down so low that it made it nigh impossible to sit in the ensemble. Woman daintily perched on the edge of chairs, hence why Queen Elizabeth is always standing in her portraits.

The farthingale disappeared not long after during the Jacobean period only for the hooped petticoat to be return later in a new form, the pannier.

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Far"thin*gale (?), n. [OE. vardingale, fardingale, fr. OF. vertugale, verdugade, F. vertugade, vertugadin, from Sp. verdugado, being named from its hoops, fr. verdugo a young shoot of tree, fr. verde green, fr. L. viridis. See Verdant.]

A hoop skirt or hoop petticoat, or other light, elastic material, used to extend the petticoat.

We'll revel it as bravely as the best, . . . With ruffs and cuffs, and farthingales and things. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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