Falling and Standing Bands

Neckwear was an important component of dress for both men and women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and they devised many ways to decorate the neck. Most popular in the sixteenth century were the ruff, a stiffly frilled collar that encircled the neck, and the whisk, a wide fanned collar around the back of the neck. By the mid-seventeenth century, when clothing styles were more subtle and understated, the band was more popular and it came in two primary styles: the standing band and the falling band.

Both bands were forms of collars and were either part of a shirt or bodice, or attached to the shirt or bodice with small ties. A band was tied at the neck with band strings, which were finished out with small tassels or decorative knots or balls. The standing band was stiffened with starch and stood up and flared away from the neck at the sides and back; it was open in front. The standing band could be as narrow as two inches or, at its most extravagant, as wide as a foot. Many standing bands were trimmed with lace, which remained popular through the century. The larger standing bands were similar to the whisks or golillas worn earlier in the century.

The falling band was a neck decoration made of silk or linen that fastened at the neck and was draped over the shoulders, chest, and back. Painting by Karel van Mander. Reproduced by permission of © .

The falling band was more subtle than the standing band. Made of unstiffened silk or cambric, a fine white linen, it fastened at the neck and draped over the shoulders and down the chest and back. Falling bands could extend as far as the edge of the shoulder and might be either very plain, if worn by a Puritan (strictly religious person against excess in personal display), or elaborately trimmed with lace, if worn by a Cavalier (Catholics who favored ornamentation).


Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.

[ See also Volume 3, Sixteenth Century: Ruffs ; Volume 3, Sixteenth Century: Medici Collar box on p. 484 ; Volume 3, Seventeenth Century: Whisk ]

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