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RH103 - Collars and Cuffs

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Make Your 17th century Neckwear with our Collars and Cuffs pattern!

Buy our full-size paper patterns with complete instructions and historical notes for men's falling band, men's and women's gollila, women's collar extensions, kerchief and whisk and matching cuffs. We've taken the math out of clocked collars! All pattern pieces are complete and so easy, even a beginner can make beautiful collars and cuffs the first time. Fits necks 12" - 17½" with adjustment directions for smaller and larger necks. All neck sizes available in one envelope. Embellishment suggestions included.

If you were an RH Member, this pattern would cost you only $14.05.  Become a Member now!

Suggested Fabrics: 3½ oz - 5 oz linen, cambric, lawn, voile, silk organza, organdy

Yardage Requirements:
falling band " 1 yd
cuffs " ½ yd
golilla " ½ yd
whisk or kerchief " 1 yd
collar extension " 1 yd

all: 40/2 linen thread or equivalent
optional for all: bobbin lace, reticello, cutwork or needlelace trim

Let us help you! At Reconstructing History, we want to see you wearing the best garments you are capable of making. Call us Monday through Friday from 9am until 4pm Eastern Time (or email us at info@reconstructinghistory.com) and we will answer any questions you might have.


Below is an excerpt from the historical notes you will receive as part of this pattern:

Men’s and Women’s Collars and Cuffs in the 1630s

In the first half of the 17th century, all classes of women and men wore neck linens.  Whether you were of the highest social rank or a mere peasant, a white linen accessory was sure to bridge the gap between your face and your upper body garments. 

In the beginning of the century, the stiff ruffs typical of Elizabethan costume were still popular.  But by the 1630s, soft ruffs and falling ruffs were preferred.  Older men can still be seen wearing stiff ruffs in the period portraiture.  However the great majority of young fashionable people are wearing the soft version, called “fraise á la confusion” by the French.  Falling ruffs were another evolution of the ruff.  Like a ruff that has lost its shape, falling ruffs and their matching cuffs encased the necks and wrists of fashionable men and women in a pyramid-like pile of pleated linen.  In actual fact, the falling ruff was very different in construction from the stiff ruff.  It was made of layers of fine linen wrapped around the neck rather than wound back and forth, sewn to a neckband.  The name of this fashion item simply implied a relationship with the stiff ruff that didn’t really exist.  It was quite another item entirely.  And even this easy style was soon to give way to the simpler fashions of the mid-17th century.

Falling Bands

By the 1630s, a new style of neckwear was coming into existence.  The falling band, sometimes plain and proper, other times dripping with lace, reflected the overall change in fashion from ostentatious decoration to subdued use of costly fabrics and simple shapes.  A direct descendant of the rich wire-supported lace collars (golillas) of the Elizabethan period, the falling band was a much more relaxed version.  Similar in construction to the golillas, the intended position of the falling band was down over the neck to the shoulders, not up behind the head, propped up by a wire supportase.  Falling bands were rigidly rectangular in look, but this effect was achieved by minute dart or “clocks” sewn into the back of the collar.  This allowed the rectangle to fall smoothly around the neck without puckering.

The 1630s saw many varieties of falling bands.  Some were small and unadorned.  Others fell over the edges of the shoulders.  Some were of coarse linen.  Others were made from cambric so fine it was transparent.  The upper classes tended towards small falling bands with lace edging sometimes three times the width of the band itself.  The variety of falling bands can be seen in the sketches herein.

Falling bands were often tied in front with tasseled cords.  However, they could also be closed with hooks and eyes or invisibly sewn to the man’s shirt collar beneath his doublet.  

Collar Extensions

Collar extensions are the feminine version of the falling band.  Constructed in a similar way to falling bands, these rectangular collars were sometimes clocked at the back to provide shaping.  As we can see from the illustration at right, sometimes the collar extensions weren’t extensions at all but simply large shift collars that folded over the back of the bodice.  And sometimes they were just attached to a partlet or filler that was tucked inside the bodice.  This appears to have been the case among common French women of the mid-17th century.  

English and Dutch women, however, appear to have temporarily attached their collar extensions to the necks of their shifts or the back of their bodices.  French noblewomen also wore their collars in this manner.

Attaching a collar or cuffs to the edges of a bodice or the small stand collar and cuffs of one’s shift makes a lot of sense for the aristocracy of this period.  Expensive lace-edged collars and cuffs could be attached to a rather mediocre shift.  Since the shift was never seen, no one would notice the difference.  Also collars and cuffs could be changed with the mercurial whims of fashion without need to replace the entire shift.  Another reason why this practice made so much sense is that shirts were washed often but frequent laundering would damage expensive needle- and bobbin laces.  Removing the lace collar and cuffs before washing was a great solution to the problem.

Whisks and Kerchiefs

French noblewomen tended to wear the necklines of their bodices open without shame.  But English and Dutch ladies were more conservative.  To protect their modesty and cover their décolletage, wealthy and common alike wore whisks or kerchiefs. A kerchief is a simple square of cloth, folded diagonally and worn around the neck and shoulders.  It is usually fastened by a single pin at the throat.  Common French women also occasionally wore kerchiefs, but in that country collared partlets were more common. 

Whisks are simply stylized and more elaborate versions of the kerchief.   Instead of simply folding a square of linen in half, wealthy women had clocks sewn into the back of their whisks so they would lay flat across the backs of their necks.  Whisk edges were elaborately trimmed with bobbin lace that matched the lace on their collars and cuffs.  The lace edge of the collar extension was just visible underneath the whisk.  Some whisks were even further stylized into rectangles with the long edges hanging forward.  This rarer mid-century style hints at the long and pointy neckwear that would dominate neckwear at the end of the 17th century.


White linen cuffs almost always matched the neck linen.  There are a few exceptions in the pictorial record, but these are all cases in which the cuffs remain unadorned while the collar or neck linen was edged with lace.  Generally speaking, the cuffs were simply smaller versions of the falling band or collar and brought a sense of uniformity to the linen accessories.

Surviving Collars and Cuffs

One wouldn’t expect many linen collars and cuffs to survive to the present, but a surprising amount of them are housed in museum collections.  Many of those extant were part of the coronation costume of a king or prized possessions of other nobles.  But even these elaborate examples belie the construction techniques of their more common cousins.

Accession number 297 AB&C-1890 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is a set of Italian needlelace-edged collars and cuffs dating to 1600.  Italy was famous for its manufacture of needlelace, cutwork, and reticello, so the country of origin of this piece doesn’t necessarily dictate that it was owned by an Italian.  Many Dutch and English pieces were of Italian manufacture.

The Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich houses #49 Inv.-Nr. T.4066, a passimentarie falling band or golilla and its supportase.  The golilla is a flat piece 38cm by 33cm decorated with white scrolling braid giving a lace effect.  The entire collar is white but there is black bobbin lace around the neck.

A deep band almost entirely of lace (200-1900) adorns the neck of one of the most important items in the V&A collection, the famous “Chartreuse Satin Suit” dated 1630 (T.58 to B-1910).  Only a small amount of the linen collar can be seen under this border of lace.  The linen of the cuffs V&A T.315-1912 & Circ. 321-1921 is more visible, but the lace matches the collar almost identically.  

A similar pair of Italian needlelace cuffs is also in the V&A under accession number 281&A-1890 and 676&A-1892.

Like the first falling band mentioned, V&A T.372-1912 is almost entirely made up of lace, but this time it is Flemish bobbin lace, not English needlelace, from the 1630s and the linen collar (this time a replica) is obscured.  This falling band is shown worn with a stamped and pinked white satin suit from the same era (348&A-1905).  T.325&A-1910 are a pair of replica cuffs edged with 1630s Flemish bobbin lace worn with the suit.  The lace on the edges of the cuffs matches the falling band but is much narrower.

It is interesting to note the great similarities between English needlelace and Flemish bobbin lace of the same decade.  Needlelace was very labour intensive and bobbin lace was quickly replacing it because it was quicker to produce.  However, in order to retain the prestige of expensive lace collars, the early bobbin laces replicated the patterns of needlelace almost to the stitch.  Without close examination by an expert, they can still be mistaken for one another today.

As needlelace gave way to bobbin lace, the uppity middle class still wanted a way to ape their betters and have lacey, frilly collars too.  V&A accession number 190-1900 is their answer – a falling band of English linen cutwork from the 1630s.  This band is darted (or “clocked”) to fit around the neck.  But instead of costly needlelace or bobbin lace, scallops are cut out of the linen itself and bound with white embroidery in chain stitch and crewelwork in the shapes of flowers and vines.  Some petals and leaves have the fabric voided inside the embroidery.  Faggot stitches reinforce the spaces between the scallops.

A reticello falling band or golilla is charted in Waugh’s “Cut of Men’s Clothes”.  This small 14½” x 5¼” rectangle is darted for the neck and sewn to a 1” wide neckband.  Six inch wide reticello adorns all sides of the collar except the side attached to the neckband.  This collar may have been worn on a supportase as a golilla or down on the shoulders as a falling band.

King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden’s collar by way of contrast isn’t clocked at all.  Six small rectangles of fine linen are joined together with a bobbin lace insertion.  The four interior rectangles are all gathered at their lower and upper edges, making them blouse outwards while the rectangle on each end is smooth.  These rectangles are bordered on the bottom with a narrow linen neckband.  Seven elaborate scallops edge the outer side and would have spread across the king’s chest and shoulders.  These scallops appear to be fine punto in aria work but are, in fact, extremely fine bobbin lace.

An earlier collar of King Gustav (c1630) housed in the Royal Armoury, Stockholm, is more usual.  The linen of the collar is turned by about 10 darts and this collar is edged first with reticello and then with punto in aria, giving a two-tiered effect.  The linen is attached to a narrow neckband, but this band extends beyond the linen to stabilize the first row of reticello at the front.  It is closed by thin cords.

King Christian of Denmark is not to be outdone and his collar (possibly of a slightly later date) is more obviously bobbin lace.  The linen collar is wider and the bobbin lace less deep.  The linen is turned by around 20 darts and fits into a narrow neckband.  


Arnold, Janet.  “Three Examples of Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Century Neckwear” in Waffen-und Kostumkunde, Pt. 2 (1973), pgs 109-124.

Arnold, Janet.  Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d.  1988:  W.S. Maney & Son Ltd., Leeds.

Boucher, François.  20,000 Years of Fashion.  1987:  Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York.

Cunnington, C. Willett and Phillis.  Handbook of English Costume in the Sixteenth Century.  1962.

___________.  Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century.  1972: Plays, Boston.


Earnshaw, Pat.   A Dictionary of Lace.  1982:  Dover, Mineola, New York.

Halls, Zillah.  Women’s Costumes 1600-1750.  1969: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London.

Hart, Avril and Susan North.  Fashion in Detail.  1998:  Rizzoli International Publications, New York.

Payne, Blanche.  History of Costume.  1965:  Harper Collins, New York.

Waugh, Norah.  Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900.  1964:  Routledge, New York.


For more, purchase this pattern.

This information © 2003 Kass McGann and Reconstructing History

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