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Market woman wearing a black partlet with a white lining over a reddish kirtle, Netherlandish, 1567.

A partlet or partlett is a fashion accessory of the sixteenth century. The partlet was a sleeveless garment worn over the neck and shoulders, or to fill in a low neckline.[1][2]

The earliest partlets appeared in late 15th century fashion. They were made of silk or linen, and were worn to fill in the low V necklines of both men's and women's Burgundian dress. Men continued to wear partlets, usually of rich materials, with the low-cut doublets of the early 16th-century.[1][3]

Early 16th-century women's partlets were made in a variety of fabrics and colors, although black was most popular. Black partlets worn over the gown, usually of velvet or satin for the upper classes are an early style.[4][5] A wardrobe warrant of June 1538 ordered black velvet for a "French partlet" for Princess Mary[6] These black partlets may be seen in a number of portraits of Tudor court ladies by Hans Holbein the Younger, as well as in Dutch paintings of market women throughout the sixteenth century.

Fine lawn (linen) partlets, with small standing collars and ruffles, could be worn directly over a low-necked smock, or over the kirtle. The "Pelican Portrait" of Elizabeth I shows the Elizabethan fashion for matching partlet and sleeves worked with blackwork embroidery, in this instance covered with a sheer layer of cypress decorated with narrow stripes of gold lace.[7] Such sets of partlet and sleeves were common New Year's gifts to the queen. In 1562 Lady Cobham gave her "a partelett and a peire of sleeves of sypers wrought with silver and black silke".[8]

Elaborate lattice-work partlets were made of gold and jewels or pearls, such as that worn by Eleanor of Toledo in the portrait by Bronzino. This was called "Caulle fashion" in England.[9]

The origin of the term partlet (attested from 1515) is uncertain, but it may derive from Dame Partlet, a traditional name for a hen, perhaps in reference to the ruffle of feathers on some hens' necks.[10] For similar garments, see guimpe and chemisette.


  1. ^ a b Cumming, Valerie; Cunnington, C. W.; Cunnington, P. E. (2010-11-23). The Dictionary of Fashion History (Reissue ed.). Oxford ; New York: Bloomsbury Academic. p. 150. ISBN 9781847885333.
  2. ^ Johnson, Caroline (2011-12-01). Jane Malcolm-Davies; Ninya Mikhaila (eds.). The Queen's Servants: Gentlewomen's Dress at the Accession of Henry VIII. Lightwater, Surrey England: Fat Goose Press Ltd. p. 22. ISBN 9780956267412.
  3. ^ Picken, Mary Brooks (1957). A Fashion Dictionary. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 244.
  4. ^ Hayward, Maria (2007). Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds, UK: Maney. pp. 16616–7. ISBN 9781904350705.
  5. ^ Mikhaila, Ninya; Malcolm-Davies, Jane (2006-04-01). The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress (1st ed.). Hollywood, Calif.: Costume and Fashion Press. p. 70. ISBN 9780896762558.
  6. ^ Hayward (2007), p. 166
  7. ^ Arnold, Janet (1988). Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe unlock'd: the inventories of the Wardrobe of Robes prepared in July 1600, edited from Stowe MS 557 in the British Library, MS LR 2/121 in the Public Record Office, London, and MS V.b.72 in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC. Leeds [England]: Maney. p. 22. ISBN 0901286206.
  8. ^ "Six Wills Relating to Cobham Hall" (PDF). 1877. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  9. ^ Hayward (2007), p. 167
  10. ^ "partlet". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)