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To some of the various coverings for the hair our poet refers in the Merry Wives of Windsor, when Falstaff, complimenting Mrs. Ford, exclaims, “thou hast the right arched bent of the brow, that becomes the ship-tire, the tire-valiant, or any tire of Venetian admittance.” *
The ship-tire appears to have been an open flaunting head-dress, with scarfs or ribands floating in the air like streamers, or as Fenton himself, in the fifth act of this play, describes it,
“ With ribbons pendant flaring 'bout her head.”
The tire-valiant, if the text be correct, must mean a dress still more shewy and ostentatious; and we know that feathers, jewels, and gold and silver ornaments, were common decorations in these days of gorgeous finery. Nash, in 1594, speaks of “ lawn caps” with “snowresembled silver curlings t;" and a sarcastic poet in 1595 describes
“ flaming heads with staring haire, 6 With'
turnde like horns of ram To peacockes I compare them right, That glorieth in their feathers bright.”
Venice and Paris were the sources of fashion, and both occasionally furnished a more chaste and elegant costume for the female head than the objects of Falstaff's encomium. The “ French hood,” a favourite of the times, consisted simply of gauze or muslin, reaching from the back of the head down over the forehead, and leaving the hair exposed on each side. Ś Cauls, or nets of gold thread, were thrown with much taste over their glossy tresses, and attracted the notice of the satirist just quoted :
“ These glittering caules of golden plate
Wherewith their heads are richlie dect,
In judgment of the simple sect.” Il
• Reed's Shakspeare, vol. v, p. 128.
“ Christ's Tears over Jerusalem,” 4to. 1594. † “ Quippes for upstart new fangled Gentlewemen: or a Glasse, to view the pride of vain glorious Women,” 4to. 1595.-Vide Restituta, vol. iii. p. 255.
Vide Strutt's Customs, vol. üi. plate 22. fig. 9. | Restituta, vol. iii. p. 256.
Another happy mode of embellishment consisted of placing gracefully on the hair artificial peascods, which were represented open, with rows of pearls for peas.
The lady's morning-cap was usually a mob*; and the citizens' ' wives wore either a splendid velvet cap t, or what was called the · Minever cap,' with peaks three inches high, white, and threecornered.
Paint was openly used for the face:
“ These painted faces which they weare,
Can any tell from whence they came;" I
and masks and mufflers were in general use; the former, according to Stubbes, were made of velvet, “ wherewith when they ride abroad they cover all their faces, having holes made in them against their eyes, whereout they looke. So that if a man that knew not their guise before, should chaunce to meet one of them, he would think he met a monster or a Devil, for face he can shew none, but two broad holes against their eyes, with glasses in them ļ;" the latter covered the lower part of the face only, as far as the nose, and had the appearance of a linen bandage. So common were these female masks in Shakspeare's days, that the author of Quippes for newfangled Gentlewemen, after remarking that they were the offspring not of modesty but of pride, informs us that
“ on each wight now are they seene,
The pudding-red, the dapple-graie.” Il
The ruff, already partly described under the dress of Elizabeth, was common to both sexes; but under the fostering care of the ladies, attained, in stiffness, fineness, and dimensions, the most extravagant
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 154.
+ Strutt's Customs, vol. iii. plate 12. ♡ Anatomie of Abuses, 4to. p. 59.
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assuming the form of a beautiful young man, made his appearance under the character of a suitor, and enquiring the cause of her agitation, “ tooke in hande the setting of her ruffes, which he performed to her great contentation and liking; insomuch, as she, looking herselfe in a glasse (as the devill bad her) became greatly inamoured with him. This done, the young man kissed her, in the doing whereof, he writhed her neck in sunder, so she died miserably; her body being straight waies changed into blew and black colours, most ugglesome to beholde, and her face (which before was so amorous) became most deformed and fearfull to looke upon. This being knowne in the citie, great preparation was made for her buriall, and a rich coffin was provided, and her fearfull body was laide therein, and covered very sumptuously. Foure men immediately assayed to lift up the corpes, but could not move it; then sixe attempted the like, but could not once stirre it from the place where it stood. Whereat the standers-by marvelling, causing the coffin to be opened to see the cause thereof: where they found the body to be taken away, and a blacke catte, very leane and deformed, sitting in the coffin, setting of great ruffes, and frizling of haire, to the greate feare and woonder of all the beholders." *
The waist was beyond all proportion long, the bodice or stays terminating at the bottom in a point, and having in the fore part a pocket, for money, needle-work, and billets, a fashion to which Proteus alludes in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, when he tells Valentine
“ Thy letters
shall be deliver'd Even in the milk-white bosom of thy love." +
Gowns were made of the richest materials, with velvet capes embroidered with bugelles, and with the sleeves curiously cut $; the
* Anatomie of Abuses, 4to. p. 43.
+ Reed's Shakspeare, vol, iv. p. 248. See Katharine's Gown, in Taming of the Shrew, Reed's Shakspeare, vol. ix. p. 157. VOL. II.
fashionable petticoat was the Scottish fardingale, made of cloth, taffety, satin, or silk, and of enormous bulk, so that when an Elizabethan lady was dressed in one of these, with the gown, as was usually the case, stuffed about the shoulders, and the ruffe in the first style of the day, her appearance was truly formidable. Over all was frequently thrown a kirtle, mantle, or surcoat, with or without a head, formed of silk or velvet, and richly bordered with lace.
Silk-stockings, which were first worn by the Queen in 1560, Mrs. Montagu, her silk-woman, having presented her with a pair of this material in that year, soon became almost universal among the ladies, and formed one of the most expensive articles of their dress.
Shoes with very high heels, in imitation of the Venetian chopine, a species of stilt sometimes better than a foot in height, was the prevalent mode, and carried, for the sake of increasing the stature, to a most ridiculous excess. It never reached, indeed, this enormous dimension in England, but seems, from a passage in Hamlet, to have peen of such a definite size, as to admit of a reference to it as a mark of admeasurement, for the Prince remarks, “ Your Ladyship is nearer to heaven, than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine."
Fans, constructed of ostrich feathers, inserted into handles of gold, silver, or ivory, and wrought with great skill in various elegant forms, were so commonly worn that the author of “ Quippes for upstart newfangled Gentlewemen," 1595, exclaims,
“ Were fannes, and flappes of feathers, found
The wit of women we might praise,
In house, in field, in church, in street;
I judge they are for wives such tooles
* Reed's Shakspeare, vol. xviii. p. 144.- Mr. Douce has given a plate of the chopine, in his second volume on Shakspeare, p. 234.
+ Restituta, vol. iii. p. 257.