The Austere Style of Spain

By Solomon Romney (edited by Raven Claflin 1/5/09)


The Peter Paul Rubens painting above (dated in the early 1630s) shows a society full of color and vitality. Great swathes of bright fabric flow around equally bright bodies. Necklines are low and there is a great sense of unrestrained joy about the figures. England during the Jacobean and Carolinian decades leading up to the Civil War was similarly carefree. The late 16th century Spaniards on the next page, though, look almost dead in their somber and plain blacks. Because of the simplicity of the design, the setting of The Changeling in Spain, and the neutral base that it provides, the Spanish style has been selected over the English one.


As the decades progressed, English fashion became more and more outlandish. Huge collars, cuffs and stocking laces combined with bright, almost garish colors were all the rage. Hats, capes, and muffs of the period could easily be thrown over the black Spanish base in order to show character changes. The colors could certainly be incorporated as well in to the accessory pieces.


Even when dressed in similar colors, such as the two gentlemen above, the cut of the styles differs significantly. The English silhouette is one of extravagantly large size and fullness. Spain, on the other hand, favors tightly fitted doublets and bodices. Garments utilizing an English cut can easily slip on and off over the form hugging Spanish base.

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