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Baroque fashion was flamboyant, with large, ruffled collars and oversized, balloon sleeves. Clothing was made of rich fabrics, such as velvet, silk, and brocade. Vivid colors, ribbons, and beaded embroidery were typical of baroque fashion. Overall, clothing became looser than previous styles to allow more freedom of movement, with the exception of corsets worn by women.
The corset showed off the female figure by creating a narrow waistline. Many corsets were decorated with embroidery, ribbons, and bows. There were no stretchy fabrics available like there are today, and when the laces were pulled together tightly, corsets were uncomfortable, with rigid stays. Collars on women’s clothing were smaller than men’s collars since female necklines were lowered to enhance the bustline.
Baroque fashion was very different from the clothing styles worn today in many ways. Women during the Baroque period hid their legs, while men showed theirs off. Women’s dresses reached the floor so that even their ankles were covered. Men wore tight breeches ending at the knee and silk stockings that were often decorated with embroidery to bring attention to their legs. Breeches often had ribbons or other decorations at the bottom.
Men’s styles were generally more ostentatious than women’s, employing plumed hats, laced cuffs, and brighter colors. They frequently wore powdered wigs to demonstrate their wealth and position in society. The high-heeled shoes worn by men were often decorated with bows. Men’s hairstyles were long, reaching their shoulders and sometimes flowing down past the waist. Goatees and mustaches were both popular.
Women often wore elaborate headdresses or piled their hair on a wire frame to give it height. They also decorated their hair with ribbons and gemstones. As the baroque period progressed, so did the height of women’s hair, with some hairstyles taller than 20 inches (51 centimeters).
Much of what is known about baroque fashion was determined by studying paintings from that period. Since only the wealthy could afford to commission portraits, more is understood about the fashion of the upper classes. The color orange appeared frequently in these paintings, and pearls were worn by many women and used as beading on their clothing. Gold and silver embroidery were often used on the elaborate costumes worn by both sexes.
Although Baroque fashion was glamorous, the standards of grooming during that time would be considered unacceptable today. Undergarments were only changed around once a month. People often wore fur collars so that fleas and other vermin would be attracted to the collar and not to the person.