The Language of Clothing: Part I

In the last few years, the sixteenth century costuming community has seen an explosion of interest in non-English fashions. Yet while interest in “foreign” fashions has added to our understanding of the garments that were worn and the construction methods that were used to make them, it has also increased the confusion over terminology. So my first project for this blog will be to chart the period terms for clothing in English, French, Italian and Spanish.

When this project is finished, I will create a page with a full chart of all of the terminology. In the meantime though, I need to break this down into smaller, more manageable pieces. To start with, I’m going to examine a big category: those garments that cover men’s legs, excluding shoes.


English/Category Spanish Italian French Definition
Slops Calçás/
Chausses generic term for breeches
Calzeline linen hosen
Nether Stocks Calçuélas/
Calcette Bas des chausses hose for lower legs
Calcétas linen netherstocks
Calcetti linen socks
Calçuélas understockings, small stockings
Trunk Hose/
French Hose/
Round Hose
Calze con Braconi
full, stuffed hose, usually covered with panes
Chausses a Tabourin big out-standing breeches or the Swiss round hose whose panes resemble the outside of a Taber (a drum); [breeches that are] swollen with wadding and large like a tambour (drum)
Chausses a Queue de Merlus round breeches with straight canions, having in the seat a piece like a fishes tail, worn by old men, scholars, and… needy persons
Canions Ginnocchietti Canon de Chausses breeches attached to the bottom of shorter hose to cover the thighs
Martingale Martingala Martingale (also see Chausses a Queue de Merlus under Trunk Hose) either a type of slops, trouses or breeches; or a long, narrow garment designed to conceal the opening of breeches not sewn together at the crotch, the front was attached to the codpiece and the back to cords that wrapped around the waist to enable it to be unfastened
Venetian Hose Calcioni/
Full but unstuffed breeches that reached to just below the knee
Bigotte close or straight Venetians tyed below the knee, priest’s breeches
Chausses a la Bougrine straight Venetians without a codpiece
Chausses a la Gigotte very close Venetians, old fashioned
Gregges/Gaskins/Gally Slops/
Galley Breeches
Chausses a la Garguesque full but unstuffed breeches that reached the knee
Other Terms Chaussettes short linen breeches, drawers or under-hose
Cosciali tight fitting upper hose, reaching mid-thigh to knee, or a pocket therein
Calze tirate neatly-stretched hosen
Courtes Chausses slang for Women (“belike, because many of them wear short breeches and a few of them long stockings”)



Alcega, Juan de. Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589. ed. Cecilia Bainton, Jean Pain and J.L. Nevinson. Hollywood, CA: Costume and Fashion Press, an imprint of Quite Specific Media Group, Ltd., 1999.

Cotgrave, Randle. “A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues.” Accessed Accessed October 28, 2012.

Florio, John. “Florio’s 1611 Italian/English Dictionary: Queen Anna’s New World of Words.” Accessed Accessed October 28, 2012.

Freyle, Diego de. Geometria y traça para el oficio de los sastres, para que sepan como an de cortar qualesquier generous de ropas… Seville: 1588.

Landini, Roberta Orsi. Moda a Firenza: Cosimo I de Medici’s Style. Florence, Italy: Edizioni Polistgampa, 2011.

Minsheu, John. “1599 Spanish-English Dictionary.” Research at King’s College: Early Modern Spain. Last Modified January 234, 2006.

Stubbes, Phillip. “Stubbes on Fashion: Excerpts from Phillip Stubbes ‘ Anatomie of Abuses, 1583.” ed. Drea Leed. Elizabethan Costuming Page. Accessed October 28, 2012.

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