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Influences from Abroad

I am an English man, and naked I stand here
Musing in my mind what raiment I shall wear
For now I will wear this, and now I will wear that
Now I will wear I cannot tell what
All new fashions be pleasant to me;
I will have them, whether I thrive or thee

Andrew Boorde, The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge, 1547

The Fyrst boke of the introduction of knowledge made by Andrew Borde.../ ed. with a life of Andrew Borde, ..., by F.J. Furnivall (E.E.T.S. Extra series no. 10)©

Andrew Boorde’s indecisive Englishman characterises the popular image of the English approach to fashion throughout the sixteenth century. The English were viewed as chameleons, adopting elements of fashionable clothing from other countries and combining them in strange ways.

Adopting styles from abroad was not a feature unique to England. Close relationships between the European courts and the circulation of prints and portraiture allowed fashions to spread, while an efficient trade network facilitated the sharing of raw materials, for example silks from Italy and later France; woollens from England; and linen from Flanders. However, there were distinct differences between countries. Portraits demonstrating these links and distinctions form the last part of this exhibition.

Influence on fashionable styles abroad was closely linked to political power. Spain’s strong influence on international fashions coincided with its political dominance across much of Europe in the sixteenth century, while France achieved supremacy in both politics and fashion in the seventeenth century under the rule of Louis XIV and the court of Versailles.

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