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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Ancient Roman Weddings: Lasting Impressions

Weddings of today didn’t get to where they are on their own.  Much inspiration through the ages has aided in shaping the attire and customs of the modern day ceremony.  Among these influences is that of ancient Rome, which has given us many customs that have stuck through the generations.

In examining the attire worn at ancient Roman weddings, the first piece that comes to mind is obviously the wedding dress.  Similar to modern times, the bride’s dress was set apart and was only a one-time wear.  Also, like wedding wardrobe of today, the dress was pure white and comprised of a flannel or muslin tunic held together with a belt of wool.  It was tradition for the bride to put on the dress and attentively wait for her man to come take her away.  When the bridegroom came, he swept the bride away from her parents’ arms.

Mi’Lady Tunic:

Mi'lady Tunic

And what would a wedding dress be without a veil?  And the one of ancient Rome was of rectangular shape and called a flammeum, which left the bride’s face uncovered.  Interestingly enough, speculation surrounds the color of this veil, as the Latin word for flammeum is “flamma”, meaning flame.  Due to this fact, some believe the veil to be red.  But then other Roman literary sources point to the veil being a deep yellow dye, as likened to a candle flame.  Either way, it is safe to say that the flammeum was not the pure white color of the wedding dress.

As for the groom’s apparel, there really isn’t a lot of information on what exactly he wore.  So, let’s move on to the wedding ceremony.  The big event was typically held at the father of the bride’s place.  A priest and witnesses (at least ten) were required to certify the marriage as legal.  Resembling weddings of today, the two love birds held hands and stood in front of the priest.  The bride and groom would consent to their union by reciting a chant and then an offering was lifted up to the god, Jupiter.  This offering was typically a cake which the newlyweds ate, after it had been offered up.  Then, a grand dinner with guests followed.

Roman Tunic:

Roman Tunic

The wedding attendees, no doubt, were also dressed to impress.  For the men of ancient Rome, the formal garment was the toga and most likely, a pure white one, as was the custom for special events.  For women, the fancy choice was probably the tunic.  Both men and women were also known to wear cloaks over their primary garment for celebrations.

To see our collection of Roman attire fitting for special occasions, visit http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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Fashion 101: Victorian Style

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again!  That’s right, it’s time for fashion 101! And today’s topic is…the Victorian era, so let’s jump in!

One of the distinguishing aspects of Victorian era fashion was the colors used in apparel.  If you were a female, you could most likely be spotted from miles away during this period, as garments were quite bold, flaunting such vivid colors as bright green, deep red, and royal blue.  These shades emerged from analine dyes, which were inadvertently stumbled upon by a British chemist, who was concocting a purple color.  Analine is an organic compound that is poisonous, oily, and clear.  As for colors of men’s garments, they were typically vivid, but dark shades.

Victorian Top Hat – Black:

Victorian Top Hat - Black

In terms of style, Victorian men had it good with clothing being comfortable and loose-fitting.  This was a change from the proper form-fitting looks of past periods.  Men’s fashion was characterized by trousers with marked creases, vests, and coats.  Because it was considered indecent for people to reveal their bare arms in public, coats were a big trend.  Waist coats were often worn, as well as single breasted, small collared day coats called sack coats, which had rounded hemlines.  And of course, the finishing touch…you guessed it…the top hat.  This tall, cylindrical hat took over the powdered wig practice of earlier periods and was a symbol of elegance and refinement.  To add to their appearance, men accessorized their look with pocket watches, canes, gloves, and ties.

As for those of the female species during the Victorian era, their wardrobe didn’t pan out to be quite as loose-fitting as the men.  Like past periods, their dresses were stiff, long, and bulky.  A boned corset with a weighted skirt, due to adornments, supported by metal hoops made up the composition of the garment.  Day dresses possessed wide, loose sleeves with silk or cotton under sleeves while evening dresses had short, puffy sleeves.

Victorian Boot:

Victorian Boot

Other accessories of women’s fashion included bonnets, capes, gloves, and shoes.  Just as men had top hats, the feminine headwear was the bonnet, made of either straw or horse hair, decorated with ribbon or lace.  The equivalent for the men’s coat was the cashmere cape for the women.  They came in various lengths and could be hooded or unhooded, sometimes with a clasp.  Because Victorian society valued softness of hands as a sign of breeding, gloves were essential for all women.  These hand coverings were often fingerless.  And last, but not least, were shoes.  As dresses were long, shoes were not anything special, usually a soft, flat0footed kid boot.

To see our collection of Victorian clothing, top hats, and more, visit http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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Gladiators: Beyond Media Misconceptions

When it comes to gladiators, popular culture depictions often involve a lot of death, a lot of lower class scum, and are void of women.  While elements of these portrayals are correct, they are not completely spot on.  Curious now?  Well, then, it’s time to go a bit deeper into the gladiator world to straighten out a few things.

Gladiator Armor: http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/armor-roman-armor.html

To gain an accurate picture of gladiators, let’s first explore who exactly made up this group of fighters.  It is often incorrectly assumed that these fighters were solely comprised of slaves, criminals, and prisoners of war.  While a good number was comprised of these types, there were also some who freely volunteered for the job.  It is crazy to think that anyone would put their life at risk in such a dangerous and potentially life threatening way, but sometimes a little adventurous behavior is exciting.  Indeed, some chose to be gladiators simply for the thrill of it while others saw it as a career.  Like athletes of today, gladiators who proved to be victorious in the arena could rise to great fame and fortune and essentially achieve celebrity status.

Gladiator Tunic:

Gladiator Tunic

Another falsity in who joined the gladiatorial ranks is in the area of gender.  Because gladiators in media are usually depicted as men, the idea of women taking part in arena matches seems unlikely.  However historical evidence, including ancient writings supports the little known fact that female gladiators did exist.  Obviously, arena bouts with women were not the norm, but were considered more of a novelty act.  It can also be inferred that women took a lot of flack for their participation since the arena was deemed a male domain.  Thus, it would have been considered a disgrace for females to perform in it.

As for the fights themselves, some light needs to be shed on them as well.  It is a common interpretation that gladiator matches were fights to the death.  Once again, media has reinforced this idea, which is not quite true.  While deaths did transpire, not every gladiator bout ended an opponent’s life.  A Roman scholar’s study of gladiator games in the 1st century reports that out of 200 arena battles, only 19 deaths ensued.  Considering the money and training time gladiator owners had put in to their fighters, they were a valued presence.  In fact, gladiator owners were usually compensated if one of their combatants died in the arena.  More often than not, gladiators were spared, even in an instance of a severe wound or when they were at the hand of their opponent, especially those that fought boldly and bravely.

Gladiator Armor Complete Set:

Gladiator Armor Complete Set

So, to recap, gladiators were valued commodities.  They were of both genders and made up of both captive and free people.  They put up a good fight in the arena and survived their matches most of the time.  And thus, the air his cleared on some of the most common gladiator misconceptions.

To see our gladiator collection of costumes, armor, and accessories, visit http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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The Inside Scoop: Medieval Fabric Linings

Medieval times brought about a stylish array of fashions for women.  As is the case in historical periods, attire reflected social status and said a lot about a person.  While the outer appearance changed over time, the inner garment linings remained fairly consistent.  And the higher a woman was on the social ladder, the more options she had to select from when it came to the feel of the fabric on the skin.  Let’s take a look.

Beginning in the early Middle Ages and carrying on straight through the late Midle Ages, homespun linen was the way to go.  It provided a cost effective way for women to line their garments and create undergarments.  This was done by gathering flax and turning it into long fiber strands, which were spun into thread, and then the thread was used to weave fabric.  Thus, this fabric served as the basis for underdresses and chemises.

Another form of linen brought about in the early Middle Ages was fine linen.  This material was delicate and smooth, in contrast to coarse homespun linen.  By the late Middle Ages, fine linen was being produced widely in sewing shops.  Fine linen was quite intricate with 200 threads per inch and ranged from dark and thick to thin and see through.  This cloth was featured in dress, sleeve, and bodice linings, as well as undergarments, and was seen as a wealthy commodity, although it was fairly affordable for all women.

Medieval Chemise (Linen):

Medieval Chemise (Linen)

For the elite and nobility, there was yet another option besides homespun and fine linen.  This was a linen and silk blend, which combined both fibers together to make a luxuriously soft material.  This fabric was light and sheer and made its way into linings for upper class dresses and undergarments as well.  In some areas, linen and silk blend was legally banned from anyone except for those of high social status.

Going one step higher and one fabric richer was pure silk, reserved exclusively for nobility and royalty.  Because this fiber was imported from the Far East, it came at a steep price.  As it was not easily washable, it was used mainly for sleeve and bodice linings and to accent color or embroidery on dresses.  It took on several variations from thick and sturdy to thin and delicate.  Silk was indeed a lavish fabric that was desired by all.  Unfortunately, not everyone could get their hands on it.

Detachable Sleeves Linen Blouse:

Detachable Sleeves Linen Blouse

One last fabric that is worth mentioning is cotton.  While it seems like everything is made of cotton today, this was not the case in the Middle Ages.  In fact, cotton was extremely rare back in the day and imported from the Middle East to Europe.  Over time, cotton started to spread and was used for garment linings.

To see our collection of medieval women’s clothing including bodices, chemises, and linen and silk linings, visit http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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The Medieval Wedding: Today’s Traditions With Different Dress

In the vein of weddings during historical periods, the medieval ceremony wins the prize for the one giving rise to some of the modern day customs.  For example, the fancy and layered wedding cake of today’s receptions was brought about, in large part, to the medieval custom of guests bringing small cakes to honor the bride and groom.  Another modern day practice emerged as a result of the Church being a central component of society during the Middle Ages.  Thus, a wedding ceremony was deemed sacred and held in the confines of the Church.  In 1076, the Council of Westminster declared that a bride must be given away with the approval of the clergy.  Otherwise the marriage was not valid.  From this came the concept of the bride being given away and a pastor performing the ceremony, both of which hold true in today’s marital tradition.

Similar to the reception that follows modern day ceremonies, medieval weddings were indeed a time to raise the roof and bring party “A game”!  Many ceremonies, especially those of nobility, ended with a procession of musicians, jugglers, and other entertainers, as well as a tournament featuring the most daring knights.  And of course, what would a celebration be without a feast?  Rest assured that medieval weddings did not disappoint here!  Boasting of such delicacies as turtle dove, roast peacock, and quail, good eats were sure to be had!  Many of these medieval era customs have also morphed into modern day wedding nuptials such as a processional and aspects of the reception.

Midnight Fantasy Cloak (Blue):

Midnight Fantasy Cloak (Blue)

In addition to traditions directly pertaining to the wedding day, the Middle Ages also inspired present day rituals surrounding marriage preparation as well.  Take, for instance, the modern proposal where a man gets down on one knee to ask that nerve-wracking question.  This idea arose from tournaments where knights would kneel before their ladies, in hopes that the women would give their colors to the men.  And then there’s the engagement ring, which was born by Italians of the time, who believed the diamond to be filled with the flames of love.

As for differences between medieval and modern weddings, one of the most noticeable was the attire.  Back then, blue was the color of purity and that was the dominant hue for wedding garb, including the bride’s dress.  Blue ribbons were also tied around the couple’s wrists.  The white wedding dress did not make an appearance until the Victorian era.  The wedding veil also did not come into play until the Crusades, so brides before that time would wear flowers in their hair or period headgear.

When it came to wedding attire for men, it was grand!  Consisting of breeches, tunics, stockings, and cloaks, men also flaunted fur, belts, and etchings of gold and silver thread.  They were truly dressed up to the nines.  And in a departure from current custom of groomsmen matching the groom’s clothing, this was not the case in medieval times.

Medieval weddings were truly an event to behold, but fortunately, the grandeur and finesse of these ceremonies is still reflected to a certain degree in today’s culture.  To get your hands on the finest of medieval clothing, fit for weddings or other refined events, go to http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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Celtic Clothing: It’s Complicated

Gaining an accurate picture of Celtic clothing tends to be a bit tricky because the majority of material used for apparel construction has decayed over the centuries.  The best that historians can do is piece the evidence together from manuscripts and other documents, as well as tracking styles from nearby civilizations.  Based on what has been found, it can be deducted that ancient Celts wore garments derived from natural fabrics such as wool and linen.  Perhaps other types of fabrics were also on the scene, but who knows for sure.

Starting with the basics, Celtic women would have worn layers consisting of ankle-length tunics known as leines, dresses, and cloaks.  Celtic men would have worn leines and cloaks, but it would be a safe assumption to say that they skipped the dresses.  Generally, these were the primary pieces of a Celtic wardrobe, pretty simple.

Celtic Chemise:

Celtic Chemise

Taking a deeper look at these pieces, let’s begin with the leine (or tunic).  As the main cloth for this garment was linen, it was lightweight and often sleeveless.  The neckline was round, square, or V-shaped.  Maybe the Celts were the ones who inspired the modern day V-neck trend.  A belt accompanied the leine, which allowed the attire to be shortened by pulling it up above the waistline…a very resourceful way to adjust the length!

As an outer layer, the Celts sported a rectangular shaped cloak, also known as a brat.  Resembling a shawl, it had multiple layers of fabric folded over at the shoulders.  These articles of clothing provided warmth when climates got cold and sometimes they even came with a hood.  Cloaks came in bright colors and were usually accented with a trim of contrasting color.

If you were a Celtic woman, you had a bit of variety when it came to dress selection.  One could choose a formal style with long sleeves and a v-shaped neckline, made of wool.  Then there was the casual dress with half sleeves and an open v-shaped bodice.  And last, but not least, was the high necked modest dress with full sleeves and a skirt.  Each of these dresses was reflective of a woman’s social status.

Celtic Decorated Chemise (Linen):

Celtic Decorated Chemise (Linen)

And thus concludes the overview of Celtic clothing.  With little information to go on, there is not much more to be explored in terms of fashion.  However, the minimal amount of historical findings on these people and aspects of their lives does indeed make them intriguing and a continual hot subject of interest.

To see our collection of Celtic clothing and other offerings, visit http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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Manly Style For Women Pirates

What do Mary Read, Grace O’Malley, and Anne Bonny have in common?  If you guessed that they were all infamous female pirates ruling the seas, you are right on the money!  These women managed to ascend the ranks of piracy due to their intelligence, drive, and believe it or not, the clothing they chose to wear!

When it comes to women pirate attire, you may be disappointed to know that they did not flaunt anything that would distinguish their gender.  In fact, it was quite the opposite-they blended in with their male counterparts.  After all, you must remember that women were not initially embraced during the Golden Age of Piracy.  If they wanted to have a career on the high seas, they had to come aboard in a clever disguise.  That being said, a typical female pirate outfit would consist of leather, linen, or wool breeches with a velvet waistcoat and of course, the sash tied around the waist and running diagonally.  As with pirate men, pirate women were also crooks and would strip their captives of their clothes and add them to the wardrobe.

Pirate Lady Complete Costume:

Pirate Lady Complete Costume

Their clothing colors also resembled those of pirate men, boasting of deep red shades and blue.  These colors were reserved primarily for upper class and nobility on land, but pirates were riding the waters and paid no mind to these apparel edicts.  After all, who was going to catch them?!

In addition to the base attire, women pirates also flaunted doublets, coats made of brocade and ornamented with braids.  They also sported big, puffy shirts which probably aided in keeping their identities hidden.  Their long hair was covered by a bandana and accompanied by a tri-cornered hat.  For footwear, leather boots were the style of the day with silk or satin stockings underneath.  To top off the look, women pirates came armed and dangerous with daggers, pistols, and cutlasses.  Needless to say, these women pirates were not the gals you would want to mess with!

Though there was little to distinguish women pirates, from the men, there were a few accessories that made them stand out.  These accessories included gold hoop earrings, chains, and necklaces.  As jewels and jewelry were a symbol of wealth, it would not be uncommon for these tough girls to be spotted with a lot of these beauties.  They also sometimes went about in wigs and scarves too.

Mary Read Pirate Shirt:

Mary Read Pirate Shirt

While women pirates didn’t necessarily grab attention because of their feminine attire, they certainly gained attention because of their fierce and aggressive attitudes.  To see our line of clothing inspired by pirate women, check out http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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Cloaks: Comfort And Style Through The Ages

You know these garments from fantasy characters such as Harry Potter or superheroes such as Batman, but before these guys got the reputation for being masters of the cloak, let’s take a look back at where these garments began.

Cloaks: http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/men-s-clothing-capes-and-cloaks.html

Dating back to Roman times, the cloak made its first appearance primarily as a blanket or bed covering.  It was also sported as an outer garment, but that was not its main function from the get go.  With the cloak conveying so much comfort, it is no surprise that it quickly spread to the likes of the Scots and Arabs, as well as making a splash in the Middle Ages.  Cloaks before this period were most likely made of wool, as was most clothing back then.  With medieval cloaks came a bit more variety, as they were constructed from fleece, satin, or velvet, according to what each person could afford.  These cloaks were also quite long, reaching to the ground.

Medieval Cloak (Reversible):  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/c1058.html

Medieval Cloak (Reversible)

Up until the Renaissance era, cloaks were worn solely for warmth and to protect against inclimate weather.  The initial shape was circular with a hole in the middle for the head, similar to a Mexican poncho.  The Renaissance period brought about more definition to the cloak as they introduced tailored garments, fitted at the shoulders to balance its length and secure it.  To this day, a cloak is known for its fitted shoulders and full length, which is not to be confused with a cape, a shorter, more casual piece.  Cloaks are commonly associated with formal events, such as operas and evening parties.

Through the centuries, the cloak has manifested in various types.  For example, the 18th century introduced a true cloak luxury to Britain that became very popular.  Known as the cardinal or scarlet cloak, this ¾ length garment was crafted of double-milled scarlet wool with a hood of silk lining and a quilted collar.  Skip ahead to the 1850s where mantelets emerged and stayed trendy until the 1890s.  These cloaks were hip length and made from a wide array of material including taffeta, silk, and pleated chiffon.  During the late 1890s, cloaks became even more elaborate with the addition of beads and lace trim.

Hooded Cotton Cloak:  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/c1055.html

Hooded Cotton Cloak

Moving ahead to modern times, cloaks became slimmer and more form fitting in the early 1900s.  However, the Victorian era revived bigger cloaks to mask such things as pregnancy.  By the 1930s, cloaks were worn mainly as evening wear and in the 1950s, cloaks made a small comeback as day wear.  Today, cloaks continue to be popular for special occasions and costumes.  Seeing as how some variation of the cloak has been around since the dawn of time and still are going strong, it is safe to say they have a few more centuries of wear left!

To view our collection of cloaks, check out http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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Velvet: The Softer Side

Looking back on fashion history, there have been several types of fabrics that have been introduced, but perhaps none has been as coveted as velvet.  It has been deemed a luxurious material that was once very exclusive, but in modern times, has made quite a splash in the clothing industry.

What makes “velvet” velvet?  Common misconception is that this fabric is classified by its content.  However, the truth of the matter is that it is given its name because of its pile weave, which produces loops on one side of the material while the other side remains plain.  What makes this fuzzy fabric stand out in the crowd of pile weave material are the cut loops that create a soft texture across an entire surface.  Other fabrics with loops are not always cut and do not cover the entire area, thus distinguishing velvet as one of a kind.

Velvet Pants:

Velvet Pants

Within the realm of velvet, different types exist, based on the fibers the material is made from.  Common fibers used for velvet are cotton, silk, and rayon and the result of each yields a bit of a different result.  For example, the strongest and most solid type of velvet is derived from cotton and possesses a soft sheen.  Rayon velvet is slightly lighter than cotton and gives off a shine.  And on the other end of the spectrum is silk velvet, which is the most costly and elegant of the bunch.  This type boasts of a soft drape and a bright, shimmering appearance.  Sometimes the fibers are also mixed.  Bottom line is that a variety of velvet exists fitting for any occasion.

Throughout history, velvet has been used in clothing to indicate status and often, only royalty and nobility were allowed to wear it.  The fabric was also known to be dyed with rich, deep colors.  Because of this, velvet was extremely expensive and was out of reach of the middle and lower classes.  While velvet is more common today, it still tends to be used to show status to a certain degree.  Silk and rayon velvet are still put into play for flowing gowns and evening dresses while cotton velvet is seen in vests, coats, and shirts.

Velvet Bodice:

Velvet Bodice

As velvet is easily accessible and affordable today, it is something to truly be thankful for, as this was not always the case.  To see our collection of velvet attire, check out http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/.

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