17th Century Fashion Seen Today

When looking at the elaborate fashions of the 1600's it’s hard to imagine any garments we wear today having anything in common with 17th century style. But all fashion is recycled and sometimes it can even take 400 years for a trend to come back into fashion.

The 17th century proved an interesting period for fashion as fashion was beginning to change far more rapidly than ever before as the world “opened up” as new trade routes were established, explorers set out to discover the world, and many moved to new continents such as the European settlers who settled in America.

Here are some of the ways we still see 17th century style in our time period.


A recent fashion influenced by 17th century outerwear would be winter cape coats. Originally short hip-length capes with sleeves would have been outerwear for men. In the modern day however capes have been designed for women as outerwear. Another difference would be that in the 17th century longer cloaks would have been worn in winter, whereas today the capes have been designed as being shorter in length.

The Ruff

The wide ruff collar originated in Spain with the fashion spreading to England, France, Italy and Holland and remaining popular till the early seventeenth century. The ruff was extremely time consuming to make therefore making the item very expensive. The ruff had the effect of keeping the head held up high in a proud pose, leading it to be popular with nobility but not with those involved in manual labor. A distinctive and opulent piece, the ruff eventually fell out of fashion and came to be replaced by a loose lace collar which was draped over the shoulders. Although not a commonly worn item today, the ruff can still be seen in modern fashion. Used as a showpiece by pop icons and fashion designers the ruff demonstrates its continuing extravagance and extraordinary effect as a display of a magnificent piece of clothing.

The Van Dyke Beard

A popular style of facial hair during the 17th century was the Van Dyke beard. This style consists of a short, pointy beard, accompanied by a curled moustache. Another quality of the beard requires no hair to be on the side of the face or cheeks. With facial hair enjoying a growth in popularity in the 21st century, the Van Dyke beard can be seen on a number of actors, singers and celebrities. The beard was originally named after the Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641). However, occasionally the style was referred to as the ‘Charlie’ after King Charles I of England (1600–1649), after being painted by Van Dyck sporting the same style.

Square Pointed Shoes

This picture shows square toed shoes worn by the explorer Walter Raleigh. During the 17th century, the toes of men’s shoes began to change from being round to being square. This fashion became so prominent and associated with the 17th century that by the 18th century unfashionable men who were still wearing square toed shoes were often referred to as ‘old square toes.’ Square-toed shoes can be seen in modern fashion often in men’s formal footwear.

Turn-down Boots

A popular modern fashion that has definitely been influenced by footwear of the 17th century would be turn-down boots. These boots were soft and close fitting and could be turned down at the knee or turned back up to cover the knee. What has changed in the intervening centuries however would be that boots that were originally worn typically by men are now designed mainly for women.

Cuts in Clothing

A popular way of decorating clothing in the 16th and 17th centuries was to ‘slash’ clothes (make a small cut) to show the layer of clothing underneath. This fashion can be seen in the modern day through clothing items such as ripped jeans, which are cut to show the skin underneath.