All the bloody wars aside, fashion remains to be an interesting aspect of history for every era. Each era has its own distinct trends, and the Elizabethan era is no exception. Known for its complex hairstyles, bold colors and elaborate trims not something like custom printed t shirts in modern days. The Elizabethan era got everyone in the 1600s looking glamorous. Let’s get to know more about this era in this article.
The Elizabethan Era Silhouette
The Elizabethan era favored a unique silhouette that became the basis for the type of clothes worn by people during the period. Broad shoulders with narrow waists were the ideal female silhouette, which is why women opted for puffy sleeves and corsets around the torso. Upper class ladies wore farthingales to give a poofy shape to their skirts while poor women were content with simple straight dresses. On the other hand, men preferred padded doublets with additional stuffing as well as puffy sleeves to emulate a bigger, stronger-looking physique.
The Kind of Cloth for Every Class
Unlike in modern-day fashion where anyone could wear anything and even create custom printed t shirts to better express oneself, the 1600s had the Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws that regulated what each person of a particular social class could own or spend on in terms of food, jewelry, clothing and other necessaries. As such, only members of the upper class were allowed to wear clothes made of more expensive materials such as satin and silk, while the rest were limited to linen and sheepskin. Ermine trims were reserved for royalty and only the queen and a few other people could wear cloths made of gold. Certain colors were off-limits to the general populace as well such as purple, which was only reserved for the royal couple and their parents, children, aunts and uncles.
Ruffs and A Generous Helping of Frills and Lace
A signature piece of clothing in the Elizabethan era was the ruff, a garment worn around the neck made of several yards of linen cambric or lace bunched up together to a voluminous shape. Men and women, young and old all wore ruffs back in the day. Stiffer ruffs required more cloth and were associated with the upper class.
In addition to ruffs, clothing in this era was generously decorated with lace, and hems almost always had frills. Strange as it may seem, women were not the only ones who wore clothes with lacy designs—men rocked the look, too.
Hair, Makeup, Shoes and Accessories
Women’s hair during this period were either piled up high like towers over their heads or left flowing freely. On several instances, both men and women dyed their hair or wore wigs not because they wanted to cover up their graying locks but simply to complement the color of their clothes. In fact, according to the Records of the Wardrobe, Queen Elizabeth herself owned over eighty wigs during her lifetime.
Outdoors, men wore brightly-colored velvet hats decorated with large feathers while women donned a light scarf or veil over their heads and wore silk masks to prevent sunburns. Jewelry was popular across several social classes, too. Rich people wore diamonds, rubies and other precious gems whereas common folks resorted to colored glass beads.
Shoes were often made of velvet and silk, and smaller feet were considered a ladylike quality. Women also used ceruse, a poisonous mix of white lead and vinegar on the face to achieve the desired pale-faced look and to hide wrinkles.
Knowing the fashion trends of an era is one way of taking a peek into the way of life people led back in the day and giving one an idea of their values, morals and overall culture. The Elizabethan fashion scene was indeed a life of crazy excesses and vanity – an interesting reflection of people’s lives during that time. Regardless of how quirky your sense of fashion may be, the only thing that matters is that you feel confident in what you put on because in the end, you are what you wear.