Women of the Mauritshuis
This is Maria of Orange at the age of 19, with her cousin and a servant. She is not wearing the usual attire of a wealthy 17th-century woman. The colours of her costume are pretty bright, for one thing. Women usually wore black. What’s more, the outfit is much too big, and she is wearing her hair loose. Women never wore their hair loose – only men did. Is this actually a woman? Yes it is, but in this painting she is wearing men’s clothing: a loose-fitting riding suit with a cravat – the forerunner of the necktie – plus a red bow and a man’s wig. We do not know why she is dressed like this, but we do know that such outfits caused an outcry at the time. It was simply not done for a woman to dress this way!