10 Fashion Passages From The Irrationalist’s 17th Century Europe

10 Fashion Passages From The Irrationalist’s 17th Century Europe

The following passages depicting fashion in 17th century Europe are taken from the historical murder mystery The Irrationalist by Andrew Pessin. The book is available at Amazon and Open Books Direct.

“Must this hall be so drafty?” complained a man in Scandinavian-accented French, pushing past him wearing the widest reticella collar Baillet had ever seen.


“Who cares?” his female attachment answered as her cartwheel farthingale cleared a wide berth through the crowd. She was pointing at a large round fountain with multiple spigots, from which flowed akvavits of many colors and flavors. “This party may be bearable after all!”


On September 1, 1649, René Descartes boarded a ship in Amsterdam belonging to the Swedish Royal Fleet. For the occasion he was wearing his new green silk suit with its stiff white collar, his lace-spangled snow-white gloves, his crescent-pointed boots, and his extra-curly wig sprinkled with gray hairs.


“Ah, yes. Your man would sit there,” Freinsheimus, smirking, gestured to the wooden chair, “bundled in his coat, wearing his boots and gauntlets, and that ridiculous wig. He seemed more like a semi-articulate bear than a person.”


At this moment, too, a man of about thirty was approaching on horseback the Saint-Antoine gate on the eastern side of the city. Now refreshed after stopping for several days, he had also changed from his travel clothes into a more appropriate costume: the fresh green suit of single taffeta with the plumed hat, scarf, and rapier of a gentleman. His hair was clean, and long.


Even by age three the little princess loved the riding and hunting normally only for males, and had already developed her famous reputation for indifference to the cold, going bareheaded and often barefoot in the snow. By her early teens she could shoot a running rabbit in the head, from her horse, with a single bullet. She also scandalized everyone in the court by taking less than fifteen minutes to dress. This was helped by the fact that she kept her hair short and wore men’s clothes.

via Sébastien Bourdon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

And then there were those long gowns the members wore, the masks of flax and pitch, the thick woolen hats adopted because someone believed such hats had been worn by members of some earlier secret society.


They were a study in contrast. The girl was wearing a plain white servant’s frock with thin stockings while Descartes wore his tailored taffeta suit, with silk hose over the warm wool ones he sported all winter long.


Hoping to be made King by the Orthodox, Prince Maurice of Nassau, of the famous bright orange scarves, generously murdered Liberal Dutch leader Johan van Oldenbarnevelt for them.

via School of Michiel van Mierevelt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It was too cold. His greatcoat was too thin. His beaver hat was nearly useless for warmth. The North Sea waves seemed especially unfriendly today, angry. Threatening him, even. He kept his distance from the water as he walked. He thought he heard whispering in the wind then realized that he did: he was whispering to himself.


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