A farthingale is a type of underskirt that was popular during the Renaissance period in Europe. It was worn by women to create a wide silhouette by adding volume to their skirts. The farthingale was typically made of stiff materials, such as whalebone or steel hoops, which were sewn into channels within the fabric. This structure allowed the skirt to maintain its shape and stand out from the body.
The use of farthingales became increasingly fashionable during the 16th century, especially in Spanish and Italian courts. The size and shape of the farthingales varied depending on the current trend, ranging from a more modest cone shape to an extravagant drum shape. They were primarily worn by upper-class women, as the materials used to construct these underskirts were expensive and required skilled craftsmanship.
While the farthingale provided a stylish and fashionable look, it also had some practical uses. The wide, bell-shaped silhouette created by the farthingale allowed women to move more freely, as it provided extra space for their legs. Additionally, the structure of the farthingale helped protect delicate fabrics from getting dirty or wrinkled while walking or sitting.
Over time, the popularity of the farthingale declined as fashion trends changed. Skirts became slimmer and more fitted to the body, and women shifted towards a more natural silhouette. However, the farthingale remains an important part of fashion history, representing the desire for grandeur and exaggerated shapes during the Renaissance era.