Rate the dress

Rate the dress: James I of England (or VI of Scotland)

Last weeks ‘Rate the Dress’ was fantastic.  Just what I hoped for.  You put aside your respective prejudices or preferences for mantuas, and considered the blue and silver mantua I presented on it’s own merits.  The result was either unabashed adoration, or the niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  The dress rated an 8 out of 10.

Let’s see what you think of this week’s offering.  I thought it was high time I gave you another man and his dress to consider.

James was James I of England and James IV of Scotland.  As the heir to the Virgin Queen and the ruler of two countries, James had a lot to live up to.  In 1606 John de Critz painted the (presumably not virginal, as his wife had three kids) James in a suit of virginal white relieved by gold trim and a rich fur coat.

James I, VI by John de Critz

What do you think?  Does James look suitably regal?  Or is he fated to be as overshadowed for his sartorial choices as he was for his political choices.

Rate James’ ensemble on a scale of 1 to 10


  1. Wow what a fab blog. I stumbled upon it after reading a comment you left on another blog. My dream job would have been curating the fashion/costume department of a museum, so I’m already in awe of you!

    I would rate this costume as a 8/10, as I have a love of slightly (totally) theatrical clothes. Think he could’ve done a bit more with the tights and shoes (James VI for me).

    p.s. love the lamb in your earlier post.


  2. MrsC says

    Is it just me or is this one of the silliest periods in male clothing ever? Instead of emphasising the breadth of a man’s shoulders and the slminess of his hips, which is the ideal through much of history, the close fitting jerkins and jackets and full pantaloon skirt do the opposite. I think it feminises men and I don’t like it. The only thing I do like is those collars. I love how they frame the face and I love the little pointy beards. A 3 from me, not sure why it’s not a 0 but I cannot be absolute about not liking things like I can about loving them!

  3. Paul Miller says

    I love the fur and the roguish hat, but I am not a fan of pumpkin pants. Like Mrs. C I think that this period of fashion was the least suited to most men. Having said that, when a man did overcome the fashion [not this case, but I’ve seen other examples] it was because he had enormous shoulders and powerful, shapely legs, two traits that are inherently sexy. This poor bloke had legs one can most kindly call…unfortunate. They look like old lady legs poking out under the pumpkin pant/skirt middle. I do love that the painting shows so much of the the construction of the tunic, because the outfit is a work of art from that perspective. Overall, I give it a 5/10.

  4. I have to agree with Mrs. C’s assessment of this period of history and its sartorial abuse of men. However–this is one of the least offensive pieces I’ve seen. The subdued color palette helps, as does the sumptuous but not simpering fabric choices. Could he loose the shoe bows and the dainty little decorative garter? Heck yes, he could.

    The fur and rakishly tilted hat…I’d prefer them on a woman, to be honest (so feminizing, this era’s men’s clothing!) but I do, objectively, like them very much.

    7 out of 10. And seriously, James–lose the beard, or at least trim it up–it’s not doing much for you.

  5. Must agree with all previous comments, those shorts/trousers look ridiculous and, in my opinion, always do. I dont massivley like the fur coat thing either. Overall i would say…a 3. I think the outfit is saved to a certain extent by the background colours and pattern being so warm, offering a contrast between the white clothes. Also, the fact they are all in white adds a simplicity that royal portraits sometimes lack.

  6. MrsC says

    Oh, ick! I’ve really got it in for this outfit. The sleeve heads – I just noticed them and they look ribbed, like the armholes of a sleeveless jersey, and suddenly I can’t help seeing his jerkin as a sleeveless knitted vest!! Not helping his testosterone rating at all! LOL

  7. Zsuzsanna says

    I actually like that men used to be able to wear lace and little bows back then. Better posture would make him look more regal, but the outfit is not bad by the standards of the time. I would rate it a 5 – not bad for its time, but the pantaloon made it an unlucky period for men’s fashion.

  8. I thought I’d give it a 5, but I can’t help and the more I look at it, the less I like it on him… 3 it is. Not regal at all, he looks like an overgrown pageboy who grew a beard to look older… Badly proportioned for him all over. It gets plus points for colour coordination and toned-down-ness. It might look better if he wasn’t leaning on that table in that awkward angle and if the background wasn’t such a violent shade of red – some green foliage could have been better, but this was apaprently before the time of green-foliage-background portraits. How many hyphenated compound words are allowed in one comment?

    (BTW, I think my favourite era – and place and class – for menswear is late 14th-early 15th century Germany, namely merchants and townsmen in their fur-lined coats. The all look like noblemen. Noble men.)

    • How many hyphenated compound words are allowed in one comment?

      As many as you want! (Parenthesis too)*

      * and footnotes

  9. “apaprently”
    Huh. My misspellings were just taken to another level. It sounds like a made-up word out of the books of someone who I should know but do not. What kind of thing is apaprent, I wonder?

    Also, I find it funny how our ideas of what is wrong with the portrait differ so dramatically.

  10. One more P.S. : I think the problem with that leaning posture is the position of his legs. His torso is leaning, his legs are not. Leaning is supposed to be comfortable, right? With the stiff position of his legs, this posture actually looks awfully uncomfortable.

  11. (Good! I love parentheses! And every Terry Pratchett fan* likes footnotes. Hyphenated compound words are a must at times. Like when you realise your thinking is running faster than your typing fingers.

    *Not that I’ve read all of his books – far from it – but some of them are deeply rooted in my heart, like Unadulterated cat. I’m a proud co-feeder of four unadulterated cats at the moment, who are, in the best vein of that book which suggests naming your cat a name you wouldn’t be afraid of shouting at midnight while banging into a pot – as I was saying, they are named Bisha, Yksi, Kaksi and Lemmi. *insert deep irony* Perfectly conventional names for Czech cats, you see, every cat is named like that around here.)

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