How do we know the characteristics of Baroque fashion? There were no computers during the 17th century. In addition, there were no televisions or movies. In fact, photography would not be invented for about more two centuries.
We can learn about Baroque fashion through writings, drawings and artwork that have survived through time to today. While drawings and paintings can give us vivid images, these images are somewhat limiting. This is because artists had to be paid for their work and the poor didn't have any money. Existing portraits are usually of those from the wealthier classes.
During the early Baroque period, men might have hair down to the shoulders and a Van Dyke beard and mustache. Women's long hair would be drawn upwards into a wire frame.
Men's clothing was quite fancy. A man might wear a hat with a plume to a ball or a beaver hat with a cocked brim. His collar could be a cartwheel ruff. Think of a bunch of layers of fluffy fabric sticking out from your neck. Otherwise, the collar would be a falling ruff, which is similar to a cartwheel ruff except the collar lays on the man's shoulders. A man's shirt might have laced cuffs. His pantaloons would end below the knees. He could also wear stockings and his boots might have spurs.
Women's collars could also be cartwheel ruffs. She might wear a smaller version of the falling ruff. Her dress might have large puffy sleeves. She might wear as many as eight petticoats under her skirt. Necklines could be low, but not indecent.
Men continued to out-fashion the ladies during the late Baroque. Men's hair grew below the collar, with curly hair being particularly popular. Men would also wear wigs and sport goatees. As the Baroque era progressed, women's hair came down, was parted in the middle and had bangs. During the end of the Baroque period, women built their hair up again into do's that might be almost 24 inches tall.
It wasn't men's hair that really outdid the women, it was men's clothing. Men started to wear wider breeches or petticoat breeches, which resembled women's skirts. The petticoat breeches might be trimmed with ribbon. Men could choose to wear a short coat that ended before hitting the waist, leaving part of the shirt underneath visible. Men would wear stockings and high heeled shoes decorated with rosettes or bows. They might have a cravat instead of a collar. While some men continued to wear beaver hats; others chose tricorn hats.
Women's gowns were more colorful and looser than in the past. The dresses could be laced up the front. The manteau gown was particularly stylish. This gown had a bodice with a decorated panel that ran from the neckline of the dress to the waist. The dress would also include the robe, or overskirt, and petticoat, or jupe. The sleeves would end below the elbow.
All in all, styles for both men and women both appeared rather uncomfortable in comparison to today's fashion. But then, there weren't flip-flops and tee shirts during the Baroque era.