What 16th Century Flemish Working-class Women Wore

That IS a really specific topic, isn’t it? I’m not exactly sure why this topic took my fancy, but for the last 9 months it has been a bit of an obsession.  I wanted a project that was big, but not so intricate that it took years to finish. And there is something pretty in the simple styles of the lower/middle class women in Flanders.

Towards the end of the 15th century in a mid-sized city in Flanders, Antwerp, became a leading financial and commercial center of Europe. By early years of the sixteenth century, the upper class copied the fashions of the times and dressed in very Tudor-like clothing.

The working class could not afford to copy the expensive clothing, but they developed style of their own that is, although similar to the working class women of England, different.

As the lower/middle class grew, and a larger group of people were now able to afford artwork, especially original paintings. A large number of artists came from this increase in demand. At the same time, the popular trend was to paint the working class – to show common people doing common everyday things. You also see a similar trend going on in Italy at the same time.

If one studies the paintings of Pieter Aertsen (1508–1575), his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer (1533–1574), and a few other 16th century Antwerp painters, a clear picture forms of the women of the working class and their style of attire.


Beuckelaer, Joachim. Kitchen Interior. 1566. Musée Du Louvre, Paris. Commons.wikimedia.org. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. .

It looks awfully similar to the outfits of working-class Tudor women. Chemise, gown, apron, partlet, comfy hat. The styles of each, though, are slightly different from their English counterparts. I’ve worked this year on picking apart those differences and making a Flemish outfit. I have the details all saved up, but I’ll post them a little at a time.


On the Left: Beuckelaer, Joachim. The Four Elements: Fire. A Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary in the Background. 1570. National Gallery, London. ‘Joachim Beuckelaer | The Four Elements: Fire. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. . On the right: Me.


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