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Cavaliers Versus Roundheads

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Gentilhomme Et Jeune Élégant, 1670., Digital ID 811680, New York Public Library In the seventeenth century, something interesting started to happen with clothing and dress. Men (and women) began to wear clothes that expressed what they believed in or stood for. A prime example of this can be found in Europe with the division between those who dressed in a sober manner and the more gaudy fashions of the upper classes. Whether from religious or social scruples, a rather puritanical mode of dress gained a powerful foothold with the professional and middle classes. In England, the civil strife of the times took a bloody turn. Sir Thomas Wharton, Seigneur Anglais., Digital ID 811791, New York Public Library King Charles I was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell and his Commonwealth followers. Dress played a role in the conflict of the ensuing years. Even the Restoration of Charles II couldn’t erase the indelible mark of the plainly dressed Roundheads. Their clothing was a statement of ideology. As a consequence, this strain of plain versus elaborate adornment entered Western dress. It would go through countless permutations over the years, until it reached George “Beau” Brummell and became part of the modern men’s wear code. Dressing like a Cavalier would be remembered as something strictly for playtime or posturing. Another intriguing twist of the seventeenth century: while Cavalier men dressed like peacocks, their women more often resembled peahens. Don’t you think this was rather unfair?

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