What Not To Wear

While many things have changed over the centuries, some things remain the same.  Take fashion, for example.  True, the styles have changed, but the nature of clothing defining social status still remains today, just as it did back in the Elizabethan era.  And to enforce this idea, there were even laws that dictated the colors and types of clothing that individuals were permitted to wear.  These laws were called “Statutes of Apparel” and were delegated by Queen Elizabeth in an effort to maintain social structure and regulate people’s expenditures on clothing.  Therefore, Elizabethan clothing was quite telling of a person’s wealth and social reputation.

Upper class clothing was luxurious and made from silk, satin, fur, velvet, and taffeta, which was imported from around the world. The dyes used to color the elegant clothing were the brightest of colors.  These colors were very expensive and were only available to the upper class.  In addition, only the Royal family was allowed to own and wear robes.   The lower classes (peasants and working class) were distinguished by wearing clothes made from cotton,  wool, leather, and sheepskin, and were prohibited from wearing silk, velvet, and the like.  The colors worn by these classes were not as brilliant as the upper classes and commonly consisted of yellow, orange, pink, green, pale blue, and russet.

High Collared Elizabethan Blouse:

High Collared Elizabethan Blouse

Wealthy Elizabethan women wore petticoats, accompanied by a corset and skirt.  Skirts were usually held up by hoops and padded at the hips.  Added to that was an outer layer, which included a bodice and nice dress.  And to finish it all, women wore a coat or dressing ground, which reached to the ground.  This attire was no doubt hot and hard to move in.  Also, Elizabethan women would accessorize themselves with fine jewelry and the upper class would have rich ornamentations on their apparel.

Men of the Elizabethan era wore embroidered shirts with buttons down the front, known as “jerkins”.  Men would also wear shirts under the jerkin, which were gathered and full sleeved, as well as loose fitting on the body.  Both upper and lower class men also wore breeches, knee high garments with lining inside, which were accompanied by stockings that were pulled up to the knee.  Stockings were first made of fabric and later were knit.  For the upper class, men wore a silk hat with a single feather and shoes made of the finest leather.  As time progressed, cloaks and tall hats were also introduced.  For both men and women, doublets were worn, placing emphasis on the hip and shoulder area.  Another commonality among both genders was ruffs on the neck and arms of the shirts.

Elizabethan Leather Vest:

Elizabethan Leather Vest

With all of the clothing do’s and don’t’s, there was a lot to keep track of!  Yet, the Elizabethans, in all classes, managed to remain stylish and left us with a great array of elegant and respectable fashion.  It is a relief to know that we have fashion freedom today and thus, any Elizabethan garb we choose to wear is unrestricted.  Check out our Elizabethan wardrobe, as well as other period clothing at:  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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