Renaissance Clothing and Corsetry

Women of the Renaissance — the years roughly between 1450 and 1650 — were a fashionable bunch. The kings and queens of Europe were making lavish fashions popular with those who could afford them, and the result is that we now look back on that time and its rich beautiful dresses, Renaissance inspired corsetry, and headpieces with romantic awe.

Our fascination with this time period shows itself in televisions shows like Reign and movies like The Other Boylen Girl, Ever After, and Elizabeth I. There is something undeniably sexy and beautiful about the elaborate modes of dress practiced during this era, when great puffed sleeves and ruffed collars and sumptuous fabrics decorated the courtiers and the common folk alike.

vixen ren corset

The styles of this era are marked by their extravagance — how over the top and outlandish they could be — literally larger than life as in the case of such trends as the wide skirts and funneled sleeves that women adopted. So it feels glamorous now to mimic some of those styles and channel the aristocrats who used to wear them.

And, as is still the case today, beneath all these beautiful clothes were undergarments that were just as intricate and lovely on their own. Although the Tudors were a bit more shy about showing off their underthings than we are!

The Shift

An ankle-length shift or chemise would be put on first. Outer garments were not washed very often, and the shift acted as a soft, comfy barrier between the skin and the clothes. It also provided extra warmth during cold weather.

Detail of a shift worn beneath the outer dress
Detail of a shift worn beneath the outer dress

The cuffs and sleeves would very often be gathered up into billowy mounds or embroidered with intricate patterns, the better to accentuate the jackets and bodices that would be worn over them.

And something was always worn over the shift. It was as much like underwear to the Renaissance lady as a bra and panties are to us today. A simple sleeveless bodice at the very least would have been put on over the shift before a woman even thought of going outside the house.

The Corset

Corsets of this era were first worn underneath the dress, and it wasn’t until the 1530s that they began to make their move into the spotlight. By late in the 16th century it wouldn’t have been uncommon to see an elegant lady dressed in an elaborate gold patterned skirt with a green corset and matching jacket.

Corsets were referred to as a “pair of bodies” by the English ladies who wore them; it is the French term “corps pique,” meaning “quilted bodies” that we take the word corset from.

During the Renaissance, reeds, whale bone, and even strong lengths of cord would have been used to achieve the stiff shape that the corsets were valued for.

It wasn’t the style in the Renaissance to have a tiny waist and hourglass figure, so corsets were not tied as tightly as they would be later by the Victorians. Because of this they weren’t as painful as their reputation has made them out to be, and in fact the boning and stiffened boards that gave the corsets their shape could actually help give support to well-endowed ladies suffering from back pain.

ren corset 1

Materials like satin and velvet were popular for all types of garments at the time, in lush, deep hues such as crimson, gold, emerald, and black. In addition, a stomacher — a false covering decorated with ornate designs — was often place over the bodice in order to accentuate it even more.

The Headpiece

Both men and women wore hats as part of their every day dress during the Renaissance, with one or two styles becoming the most popular due to their use by the reigning kings, queens, and royals of the time.

The Gable headdress and the Stuart cap were two of the most popular options for women, both of which served to mostly conceal and protect the hair. Men often wore berets made of velvet that were adorned with feathers and jewels.

Renaissance corsets were very different from their more famous Victorian sisters, but there were just as lovely and intricately made, and, yes, just as sexy!  And though our lingerie may have changed quite a bit since those times, a gorgeous corset never goes out of style. We still love a sculpted body shape and corsets are a stylish way to get that look while also adding some sizzle to our wardrobe.


Terms used with Lingerie

15 Denier Denier is a unit of measure that denotes the thickness of the fiber used in a garment. 15 denier fabric is very thin and transparent.
Adjustable back The back has more than one set of eyelets for an adjustable fit.
Adjustable garters Adjustable (in length) elastic straps which attach to stockings to hold them up.
Adjustable shoulder straps Shoulder straps can be shortened or lengthened to provide the best fit.
Animal print A pattern printed onto fabric to resemble an animal, usually a leopard or tiger.
Attached garter belt Stockings which have a garter belt permanently attached.
Baby Doll A garment usually consisting of formed cups with an attached, loose fitting skirt that falls anywhere between the belly button and the hips.
Back seams Stockings with a seam running up the back of the leg for those that like a more old fashioned (and sexy) look.
Bikini A low cut panty.
Black light glow Fabric glows under a blacklight.
Bloomers An old fashioned form of feminine underwear consisting of loose fitting trousers or shorts.
Boa A long scarf made of feathers.
Bodice That portion of the garment which covers the breasts. The upper part of a dress.
Bodystocking Snug fitting hosiery that offers coverage from the neck or upper body down to the ankles or toes.
Bodysuit Snug fitting one piece garment similar to a leotard.
Boning Rigid supports sewn vertically into a bustier or corset that help to maintain a slim, shapely look about the torso. Originally made from bone (hence it’s name), but now made of plastic.
Boxers Loose fitting under shorts.
Brocade Rich oriental fabric consisting of raised patterns, often in gold or silver.
Brushed back A material backing made from brushed cotton often used in pajamas to give a warm, flannel feel against the skin.
Burnout Alternating patterns of sheer and opaque fabric.
Bustier A bra that extends beneath the breasts to the waist to provide additional support, control and sex appeal.
Button front Garment buttons/unbuttons in the front.
Attached garter belt Stockings which have a garter belt permanently attached.
Camisole A short top usually offering little support for the breasts.
Camouflage A fabric pattern characterized by random patches of earth tones. While camouflage clothing is typically worn for concealment, wearing our camouflage items in public will hardly make you less noticeable!
Chantilly lace Delicate lace made from an open, six-sided mesh background with floral designs.
Charmeuse An opaque (i.e., not see through), shiny fabric.
Cheek-a-boo A tongue-in-cheek (pun intended) term we made up to describe a skirt so short that the bottom of the buttocks may peek out below the hem line.
Chemise Short under dress or slip.
Chenille Chenille fabric used in lingerie is an imitation of chenille yarn. The fabric has patterns of soft, protuding loops of fiber that look and feel similar to the chenille yarn used to make sweaters, throw pillows, blankets and other such items.
Chiffon A lightweight, sheer fabric.
Choker A snug fitting necklace.
Chopper bar lace An open net lace background that has been embroidered with a slightly raised, shiny pattern.
Corsage A floral fashion accessory.
Corset A snug fitting garment designed to cinch the waist and lift the breasts. Lacing in the back allows the corset to be adjusted for comfort.
Criss-cross straps Straps which cross in the back.
Crochet knit A large, open knit pattern that resembles crocheting.
Crop top A very short top extending to just below the breasts.
Crotchless A convenient slit or opening in the fabric covering the crotch area.
Demi cups Demi cups, or half cups, have a lower line which reveals more of the upper breasts.
Dot net Sheer net fabric decorated with evenly spaced opaque dots.
Dotted swiss Evenly spaced raised dots on sheer material.
Drawstring waist A string or strip of fabric sewn into the band which draws the waist up for a snug fit and is then tied into a bow.
Embroidery Decorative designs sewn into fabric by hand or machine.
Eyelash lace Lace garment with strands at the edges that resemble eyelashes.
Faux fur Man made fur (i.e., not taken from animals)
Faux leather Imitation leather.
Fence Net A large, thin open net.
Fishnet Coarse, open mesh fabric noted for its sex appeal.
Fit and Flair A dress style characterized by a form fitting top which flairs out towards the hem line, often resulting in pleats (folds).
Flounce A piece of material gathered and attached at one side, such as a large ruffle.
Flutter A panty style with a strip of fabric around the sides that is elastic on top, but loose on the bottom.
French cut Pantyhose with sewn in decorative panty.
French net Very coarse, six sided open mesh fabric.
Fringe Decorative thin strips or strings, usually hanging from the hem line.
Garter An elastic leg band originally designed to hold up stockings but now just used for added sex appeal.
Garter Belt A belt worn around the waist with straps, called garters, that clasp onto stockings to keep them from falling down. Usually the back of the garter is adjustable to fit different waist sizes and the garter straps can be adjusted for length.
Gown A long dress usually extending to the ankles.
G-String A panty consisting of a triangular patch of fabric connected with thin, elastic straps in back and around the waist completely exposing the buttocks.
G-string back Only a thin piece of elastic is used in the back and around the waist, exposing all of the buttocks.
Halter neck Garment wraps around the neck for support and, optionally, may be tied behind the neck (halter tie) or include a clasp (halter closure).
Halter top A short top held up at the neck usually exposing the shoulders and upper back.
Hook back Garment closes in back with one or more hooks.
Hook front Garment closes in front with one or more hooks.
Hook side(s) Garment closes at the side(s) with one or more hooks.
Hot Pants Very short pants.
Inner cap A lining inside of a wig that prevents tangling and if adjustable, allows the wig to fit virtually any size head.
Iridescent Fabric which appears to change color or sparkle as it moves.
Jacquard Fabric characterized by an intricate weave or pattern. Originally named after French inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard who invented a loom capable of producing this fabric.
Kick pleat An inverted pleat, often used at the bottom of a skirt to give it more breadth.
Lace-up Back Garment laces up in the back for decoration and/or for an adjustable fit.
Lace-up Front Garment laces up in the front for decoration and/or for an adjustable fit.
Lace-up side Garment laces up the side for decoration and/or for an adjustable fit.
Leather Cowhide.
Lining An extra layer of fabric sewn into the inside of a garment for added comfort or modesty.
Long line A bustier that extends further down, usually to the hips.
Marabou Soft fluffy feather-like material.
Matte Smooth, even, non-glossy look.
Mesh A knit or woven fabric consisting of small, evenly spaced holes.
Microfiber An extremely fine synthetic fiber usually woven into soft, light weight, washable, breathable fabrics.
Miniskirt A very short skirt with a hemline that can extend anywhere from just below the buttocks (micromini) to mid-thigh.
Net A knit or woven fabric with an open-mesh pattern of evenly spaced holes.
Open bust / tip Little or no coverage is provided over the breasts. In general, open bust means there is no cup whatsoever while open tip usually means there is a cup, but with an opening over the nipple area.
Open rear No fabric or elastic covers the area between the buttocks.
Padded cups Cups that contain padding, sometimes removable, for those with smaller breasts that might not otherwise fill out the cups.
Panty Women’s underpants.
Pantyhose Close fitting hosiery offering coverage from toes to waist.
Patent leather Real or synthetic leather with a smooth, shiny surface on one side.
Pecupsek-a-boo Cups with a slit or other opening that partially exposes the breasts or nipples.
Peignoir From the French word which translates to “garment worn while combing the hair”. A negligee or dressing gown.
Piping A decorative cord sewn along the edges of a garment.
Pouch A man’s g-string.
Princess line Visible seams which resemble an hourglass shape for a figure flattering look.
Push-up cups Cups containing padding, sometimes removable, designed to push the breasts up to create a more flattering cleavage.
Regal lace While it sounds like lace fit for a queen, in reality, this is just a particular pattern of lace that was arbitrarily given the name “Regal” by the fabric manufacturer.
Removable garters Elastic straps which attach to stockings to hold them up, but which can be removed if stockings won’t be used.
Removable pads Pads which can be removed from the cups, if desired.
Ribbed Fabric with raised vertical ‘ribs’ usually made into form fitting designs
Rigid Does not stretch.
Robe A loose fitting coverup.
Satin A particular type of shiny, woven fabric.
Scallop edges A decorative fabric edge shaped similar to a line of scallops (or shells) lined up edge to edge.
Seamless An item manufactured without seams. Seams can be a source of discomfort, so a seamless item will tend to be more comfortable versus a similar item made with seams.
Sequins Small shiny discs used to reflect light and add interest to a garment.
Shawl A wide scarf worn about the shoulders.
Shelf cups Cups which only provide support and coverage underneath the breasts exposing the nipples.
Silicone cups Cups which are padded with silicone instead of fiber. Silicone tends to provide a smoother, more natural look and a more comfortable fit.
Silk A natural fiber produced by silkworms that is revered for its luxuriously soft feel.
Silk Knit Silk fabric which stretches and clings to the body.
Slinky Knit A soft, elastic knit fabric which conforms to the shape of the body.
Slit(s) A narrow vertical split in the fabric usually added for ease of movement or sex appeal.
Snap Crotch Crotch snaps/unsnaps for convenience.
Spandex/Lycra Spandex is the generic term for fabric created from elastic thread which helps a garment to stretch for a better fit and added comfort. Lycra is a well known brand of spandex.
Stay up Stockings with a rubber grip inside the top that helps to prevent them from slipping down the leg.
Stockings Hosiery providing coverage from over the knee or mid-thigh to the toes.
Strapless A garment without shoulder straps.
Stretch lace Lace which stretches (providing a better fit and more comfort).
Suspender style Stockings, pantyhose or bodystocking where the legs are held up by an attached waist band, sometimes styled to look like a garter belt. The front and back are usually open, so some may prefer to wear a g-string or thong underneath.
Taffeta A crisp plain-woven lustrous fabric.
Tailored Styled to look as if custom made by a tailor.
Tank top A sleeveless shirt.
Tap pant Pants with a slightly gathered, elasticized waistband and very short, loose-fitting legs.
Tapestry Rich looking fabric similar in appearance to the heavy, handwoven designs used in making curtains and upholstery.
Teddiette A teddy with attached garters to hold up stockings.
Teddy A one piece garment with high cut legs and usually a thong back.
Thong back Only a thin strip of material is used in the back exposing most of the buttocks.
Thong panty A panty with only a thin strip of material in the back that exposes most of the buttocks.
Tie back Garment ties/unties in the back.
Tie belt A strip of fabric used to keep a robe closed.
Tie front Garment ties/unties in the front.
Tie side(s) Garment ties/unties at the side(s).
Tricot Plain, close warp-knitted (produced by machine with the yarns running in a lengthwise direction) nylon fabric.
Tube top A strapless, body hugging top made from a rectangular piece of fabric.
Underwired Adds extra support and lift for the breasts using a thin wire sewn into the base of the cups. Especially desirable feature for larger breasted women.
Veil A decorative headdress worn by brides.
Velcro side(s) Garment attaches at the sides using Velcro allowing quick removal.
Velvet Fabric with a short, soft, dense pile noted for its luxurious feel.
Venice lace Firm, heavy lace with an open background, usually in floral leaf patterns.
Wristlet A decorative, elastic band worn around the wrists.
Zipper front Garment closes/opens in the front with a zipper.