Rate the dress

Rate the Dress: Il Baroccio’s Young Man

Last week I showed you a red velvet spencer dress, and your reactions to it were either extremely positive, or extremely not.  I have to admit that expanse of checked velvet was pretty full on, and that can be very much a good thing, or very much a bad thing, but it was definitely VERY MUCH a thing!  The rating came in at 7.7777777777777777777777777777777777777777777777 (ad infinitum) out of 10,  which I feel nicely matched the quirkyness of the spencer!

This week we’ll stick with patterned velvet (probably – I’m guessing at what our young gentlemen’s doublet is made from) and ornamental buttons as we look at Barocci’s young man.

Portrait of a Young Man, by Federico Barocci (Il Baroccio), perhaps c. 1580-90 but possibly slightly later, ca. 1600

Portrait of a Young Man, by Federico Barocci (Il Baroccio), perhaps c. 1580-90 but possibly slightly later, ca. 1600

The Young Man is dressed in a very rich and impressive outfit, and carries an equally impressive sword, but this portrait always makes me giggle just a little bit anyway, because his not-very-impressive beard and mustache are so timeless.  You could imagine him in a T-shirt and jeans today, trying SO HARD to grow that facial hair.

So hair aside, what do you think of the Young Man?  Late 16th century fashion can be a bit hit-and-miss, but as long as you have to wear a stiffened bodice and a ruff, is this the way to do it?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10


  1. Although I like the trim with the gold added to red and black, I’m not fond of the main fabric. I don’t know if it’s the strong contrast of red to black or the actual lines of the pattern, but makes me think more of a mold infestation than fashion.

    The lace of the ruff and cuffs looks lovely, as do the buttons, and the lines of the pommel guard of the sword are particularly fine.

    6 of 10

  2. Expensive for sure, but perhaps not my favorite. I’m confused about why his buttons disappear halfway down his doublet then reappear at the bottom! And you make an amusing point about his facial hair… :)! 7/10 for trying to look nice and for using expensive materials which were gorgeous, I’m sure.


  3. I think the print is too small. It’s a bit too fussy for the doublet I think. I think if it were just 20% larger, it would have been a nicer effect. Love the black/red, though, and his ruff!


  4. Johanne says

    I think this is terrific. It’s not perfect, but the closer I look the better it gets. The gold woven through the material, the lace, the buttons that are probably decorative baubles rather than functional, the tabbed red collar reaching toward the stripes at the armhole openings. Even the pattern, which may be a vine with leaves, although busy over-all, wins the day complemented by the remaining choices. Is that a black fur hat? I would love to wear that doublet, and I’m a woman (without a moustache–today). I’m really interested in what your commenters will see in this.


  5. I like most of his outfit well enough (even hubby said he liked it) but we think the ruff is too high- it looks like his head is put on a stack of plates. And I can’t help thinking he looks too modern – like a re-enactor who didn’t bother getting the hair and beard right 🙂 7 of 10

    • Which is funny, isn’t it? We have some preconceptions of what is “right” and then we get a painting like this.
      Agree about the ruff, though, it somehow looks wrong, like it’s not part of the costume. 7/10

      • Well, if some people today have a face just perfect for such-and-such a period, I suppose it’s only logical some of the people in history had 21st century faces… 🙂

  6. I like it! It doesn’t look very comfortable, but if you have to wear a stiff doublet and a ruff this is definitely the way to do it. I love the fabric too. 9/10

  7. I agree with Leimomi that the portrait gives a strong vibe of a young man trying too hard to be fashionable.

    With that preface, here’s my take on this week’s outfit:

    Color: black and red, with touches of gold, is a deservedly classic look, and they flatter the coloring of the subject.

    Pattern: This pattern doesn’t bother me for some reason–maybe because it’s relatively small scale and the ratio of black areas to red ones is balanced in such a way that it tones down the red parts somewhat.

    Fit: There is something odd about the fit of the subject’s doublet. The top five or so buttons are unbuttoned, apparently because the collar wouldn’t accommodate the largish ruff if it were fully buttoned (the end of the 16th century was marked by an increase in the size of the fashionable ruff). So it’s definitely a holdover from earlier in the century, when small ruffs and high doublet collars were popular. But that’s not the odd thing about the fit. The odd thing is that the doublet appears to be both a little loose around the torso and a bit too long. From these details, I’m getting the impression that the young man is wearing a hand-me-down from an earlier period (and possibly from a relative who is richer than he)–which would be consistent with the “trying too hard” impression the portrait gives.

    Buttons: Another commenter wondered where the buttons in the middle are. I think the answer is that our subject did not button them (i.e., they are hidden under the overlap between the two sides of the opening–possibly to make the fit more comfortable, possibly to try to make a stylistic statement–it’s impossible to know. “Trying too hard” once again.

    Breeches: The breeches, what we can see of them, appear to match the doublet, but it’s hard to say anything more about them because of the fact that most of them are cut off by the picture frame’s edge.

    Ruff: I agree with the commenter who disliked the ruff–I think the large ones look absurd but the very small ones look elegant. This one is intermediate in size, but still gives the “head on a plate” impression.

    However, as a whole I think the outfit is reasonably attractive. Whoever chose the doublet for him had good taste, and he’s doing his best to wear it well. I’ll go up to an 8 on this one.

    • Grace Darling says

      How about a portrait painter trying too hard to make
      a nerd look fashionable? Looks like the 16-17th century
      version of a photoshop.

      6/10 for the cats pajamas print.

  8. I rather like the doublet, but I agree that it doesn’t fit perfectly. The ruff looks ridiculous– smaller would be better. And is he really able to wield such an obviously heavy sword?? 6 of 10, kiddo.

  9. plantingoaks says

    Yes, Yes it is. It almost makes him look dignified, which is a tall order for that mustache (I agree, it’s a fascinating portrait, the features look so contemporary)

    But, it is still a giant neck ruffle.

  10. Karen Austin says

    It does seem that the tailor was very imaginative with this outfit. Sometimes we think everyone back then totally stuck to proper standards for design, but apparently there were some who broke the mold. Just like they do today. It must have been a very expensive outfit, but I would have liked it more if the pants had been a solid color. And seeing ruffs always makes my neck itch.

  11. I like everything but the fit and the sleeves. If you are going to wear something so full-on (and slightly too large), why suddenly opt for boring sleeves? I see a lot of awkward teenage cockiness in this outfit. Yet, I do see potential. Perhaps his style matured and he grew to fill in the doublet better later in life. As it is, 6 out of 10.

  12. Lynne says

    I like it! I have a soft spot for young men trying to be grown-up – former secondary school teacher here. He looks a pleasant, open-faced lad, and I’m prepared to bet he would be very competent with that sword.

    I agree with Johanne about the buttons, and I like them a lot. I also like the black sleeves, which look to me as if they might have a punched decorative pattern. Yes/no? I’m sure he has good black stockings and some seriously punch-worked shoes on his lower half, too.

    The ruff does look a bit daft, but then, they often did. It is a good strong ruff, with nice lace edging.

    The hat looks close to 1600 – very Jacobean. Probably fur. These hats with their high crowns and small brims remind me of the kinds of hats men wore in the 1960s – only they were felt, and with a feather!

    9 out of 10.

  13. To be honest, his head looks pretty much like an afterthought. It’s all torso and ruff, with a creepy dark cave between (insert dagger here?). Yes, he’s trying to look impressive by wearing the clothes that signify impressiveness, but frankly, they’re wearing him. It’s a nice outfit (OK, I’m not convinced by the ruff) but maybe not on him?

  14. I can’t figure out how could they fenc with swords in these dresses! (Or how could they kiss in these big collars???!!!) I give to him 7/10

  15. Libby says

    I’d give it a 6, for reasons entirely unfair and ahistorical. The colors are lovely, but the pattern on his doublet makes me think of carpets, and the buttons look like they would jingle. The zigzag trim is really cool, though!

  16. I can handle that print on the doublet, but not being extended to the breeches as well O_O
    Love the buttons and sword, and have the feeling if he put his hat on, between it and the ruff you wouldn’t be able to see his face at all 😀

    I do think the artist has captured that young-man-trying-to-be-grown-up look very well. Even his posture looks an awkward interpretation of what would be quite powerful-looking on another person.

    I’m giving the outfit 7/10

    • But the print is extended to the breeches, though the position and the odd discoloration of the portrait makes them appear to be lighter in color than they are. I’d love to see the breeches better because that would aid in dating the doublet, but the artist cut the subject off at mid-thigh, so that’s what we have to work with.

  17. Two Friends says

    Friend 1: ‘So horrific it’s hilarious’ 6/10 because it gave me a good laugh

    Friend 2: The ruff is spectacular, but I can’t get past the pattern on the doublet. Or the sleeves. 4/10. Especially since the pants also have the terrible pattern.

    (Further comments from classmates; 2/10, 2.5/10)

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