Woman being fitted with a bolster

Galle, Theodoor, 1571-1633
Vos, Maarten de, 1532-1603
Date Depicted:
1500 AD - 1699 AD
A variation of the hoops, this sausage-like bolster is tied around the hips just below the waist. It changes the form of the skirt from a cone to a cylinder.
In the history of Western civilization, Elizabethan dress is the most artificial and ostentatious. The bodice is a separate, cut to fit tight and flat across the chest. It has a low, square neckline and a waistline which extends in front to a very low V. A corset is under the bodice. It is stiffened with whalebone, strips of steel or hardwood, or made entirely of pierced steel. A stomacher (plastron) is over the bodice. Shaped like a shield or triangle, it has a very long, boned point which extends below the waist. A chemise is under the bodice. The fashionable sleeve is tied with ribbons into a series of puffs down the arm. Another important sleeve, the leg-o'-mutton is stiff and voluminous. At the top it is boned and quilted into a rounded shape. It tapers to the wrist and is finished with a cuff or small ruff. Early in Elizabeth's reign the gown is shaped and supported by a Spanish hoop, the verdingale or farthingale. It is made by inserting steel or whalebone into casings in a funnel-shaped petticoat. Gradually the French wheel or cartwheel becomes stylish. Shaped like a wheel, it attaches at the hip and looks like a shelf with sharp edges. At its widest it is 1 1/2 yards from side to side and 20 to 24 inches from back to front. A pleated ruffle of the dress fabric often extends to the hoop edge. Eventually the bolster, a very large padded roll, replaces the French hoop in England. There is another under-structure made of two wide and arching wires on each hip. The skirt for the French hoop is quite wide and full, and gathered or pleated into a waistband. It is made both with and without an opening at the center front. Since the width of the hoop makes movement difficult, the skirt is shortened to the instep.
Costume -- Europe -- History -- (LC)
Prints -- Netherlands -- 16th century -- (YVRC)
Accession Number:
costume (mode of fashion) (AAT)
prints: engravings (AAT)
Content Type:
Clothing & Accessories
Prints & Photographs
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Access Restrictions:
Yale Community Only
Source Creator:
Button, Jeanne and Sbarge, Stephen
Source Title:
History of Costume, In Slides, Notes and Commentaries: Volume 3
Source Created:
New York, NY
Theatre Arts Slide Presentations
Call Number:
GT513 +B87 3 (LC)
Orbis Barcode:
Yale Collection:
Visual Resources Collection
Digital Collection:
Visual Resources Collection
Original Repository:
Paris, France: Bibliotheque Nationale de France