Tudor Fashion: Dressing Within Limits

The Tudor period was a very dynamic time in history.  Ruled by a series of monarchs, one of the most popular being Henry VIII, who brought about a great deal of drama with his many wives.  But there’s always a sunny side to every situation.  And for the Tudor era, that manifested its self in fashionable clothing.

First thing to know about the Tudors is that fashion mattered to them!  Be it rich or poor, male or female, these people prided themselves in looking hip with the times!  However, this was not necessarily the easiest of tasks to accomplish, unless you were of royal blood.  As is typically the case in historical periods and today, clothing said something about who you were.  It indicated social and economic status and made clear class distinctions.  To ensure that there was no confusion about this, good old King Henry VIII came up with the brilliant idea of implementing Sumptuary Laws, or Laws of Apparel, which dictated the types of clothing and colors that Tudor people could wear.  Thus, there would be no mistake about who was boss.  For those who decided to push the envelope and pull a fast one, dire penalties were in play, even as severe as death.  Bottom line…these clothing confines were no joke!

Courtly Ruffle Collar Shirt:

Courtly Ruffle Collar Shirt

For the lower Tudor class, their options were limited.  Their garments were made primarily of wool, linen, and sheepskin, as these were the cheapest and easiest materials to produce and because that was all the Sumptuary laws would permit.  They were, however, able to have trimmings of silk, velvet, and taffeta along with buttons and facing of caps, cloaks, and coats.  The colors of these garments were of a natural hue and were limited to brown, beige, orange, yellow, green, blue and grey.  And these shades were subdued rather than bright and bold.

Moving up the totem pole was the wealthy class who had a bit more wiggle room in their wardrobe.  Their attire was quite elegant and commonly made from silk, satin, velvet, and fur.  Because these fabrics were not the norm, they were more costly than the lower class materials.  And naturally, only those with a full pocketbook could afford them.  In addition to the colors permitted for the lower classes, upper class people could also flaunt gold, silver, black, and crimson.  The most esteemed color of all was purple, reserved exclusively for royalty.  Needless to say, this was a nearly untouchable hue for most!

As for pieces worn, there was a decent range and each fashionable look had many layers.  Tudor men commonly were seen in doublets or shirts with breeches and stockings, as well as codpieces, cloaks, and hats.  Tudor women had a variety of styles of dresses and gowns to draw from and other garments consisted of chemises, bodices, stockings, kirtles, farmingales, and petticoats for underclothes.  Like the men, women also roamed about in cloaks and hats.

Tudor French Hood:

Tudor French Hood

While the Tudor period had its style setbacks, the people were good sports about it all and made the most of it, leaving us with many pleasantries of apparel that paved the way for future trends.  To see our collection of Tudor clothing and other selections, go to http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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