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One of our running jokes at Frock Flicks is about “kicky shrugs” worn in place of sixteenth-century partlets. See, partlets are (in my opinion) one of the most fabulous aspects of the era’s womenswear. But filmmakers seem very confused by the concept, and often substitute what looks much more like a modern shrug jacket instead. Let’s run down what a partlet should and could look like, and then who’s gotten it right and who’s gotten it wrong! Because yes, it’s a smaller detail than some of the other shit filmmakers get wrong about this era, but it’s a personal pet peeve.
Trystan did address this issue briefly in her discussion of the travesty that was 2018’s Mary Queen of Scots. But I feel like it’s one that needs more focus! In part, that’s because it relates to another of our repeated maxims: ruffs don’t float. Filmmakers seem to think that a ruff just ties around the neck as a self-contained item, but for most of the 16th century, it was attached to a partlet.
According to Janet Arnold’s Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d,
“Partlets were originally short jackets worn by men, but from the late fifteenth century the term was used for a garment which covered the upper part of the chest and neck. Women’s partlets were made with standing collars in material to match the gown from the 1530s to the 1550s… [They] slowly went out of fashion after about 1580…”
They could match or contrast with the gown, and sometimes matched the (detachable) sleeves — but importantly, they did NOT themselves include sleeves, but were ALWAYS sleeveless.
And this is what it is NOT:
Now, let’s take a look at films that have gotten partlets right! Because we give props to those who do:
And now, the slightly to very, very bad:
Now you too can snark the finer points of 16th-century partlets! Let us know if you’ve spotted any other shrugs instead of partlets in the comments.