Clothing Gallery – Shirts

Tent maker, Detling 2011


All men and boys wore shirts next to the skin, it was thought to keep the body clean and protected the outer clothing from oil and sweat. The quality and size of the shirt depended on the status and wealth of the wearer. Extant examples are few and far between and tend towards the gentry, ditto illustrations. All were made with a series of rectangular and square pieces of linen, to ensure the best use of the fabric available. See books below for patterns.


‘Perfect Linens’ ­­ (40 pages), Shirts and smocks from medieval to 19th century. Very easy to follow instructions. Includes stitching instructions. Available direct from Sarah Thursfield, highly recommended.

Patterns of Fashion 4: The cut and construction of linen shirts, smocks, neckwear, headwear and accessories for men and women c. 1540 – 1660 Janet Arnold. Macmillan; 2008. ISBN-10: 0333570820. For various shirt patterns.

Clothes of the Common Man 1580-1660. Robert Morris. Uses illustrations, wills, inventories and other sources to establish who was wearing what clothes, cuts, fabrics and colours.

Clothes of the Common Man 1580-1660 part 2: Making the Garments. Jane Hugget. Takes the information in part 1 and produces a reasoned interpretation of how to reproduce the garments worn. Includes patterns.

Textiles and Materials of the Common Man and Woman 1580-1660 Provides detailed information on the fabrics used by common people identified in the works above.

See also: The 1640s Picturebook


Labourers and Cottagers:

Canvas shirt, Dutch, 1590. Zoomable image:

Detail of print of haymakers from The Roxborough Balads. Labourer in shirt and breeches turning hay.

Blacksmith’s apprentice.


















‘Posh’ Shirts:

Miniature of an unknown man painted by Nicholas Hilliard, c. 1600

Nathan Field, actor c. 1615

James Stuart Duke of Richmond and Lennox, Van Dyck, 1634.

Still under construction!


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