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Elizabethan Clothing

Updated on November 15, 2011

Elizabethan England's Renaissance

Elizabeth Tudor, was born September 7, 1533. She would have to wait 25 years and two siblings before would acsend to the throne of England. In November 17 1558, Elizabeth became to a bankrupted country.

So before 1558? Any clothing is not considered "Elizabethan", the styles changed a little during King Edward and Queen Mary, her siblings from her Father's reign. So people who create this era are now calling the time previous to Elizabeth from King Henry to Queen Mary's reign "Henrician" clothing period.


Changes in Clothing During Elizabeth's Time

I guess I need to back track? We need to visit 'Henrican' clothing before we get into what specifically changed for Elizabeth.

A Walk In time

This is a Gable Hood, and a Transistional Gown, we are moving towards Henricians.
This is a Gable Hood, and a Transistional Gown, we are moving towards Henricians. | Source

1520~ Tranistional Gowns and Hoods

Here you will see both men and women, the gowns are getting more intricate in the sleeves, and some of the ladies gowns are showing ties in the front, this could have been to help with pregnacy space.
Here you will see both men and women, the gowns are getting more intricate in the sleeves, and some of the ladies gowns are showing ties in the front, this could have been to help with pregnacy space. | Source

Anne Boylen

I wanted you all to see how glorious a gown looks to the modern eye, when done well! Anne brought the French Hood into fashion, she brought out lace and jewlled edges. More is more was her motto.
I wanted you all to see how glorious a gown looks to the modern eye, when done well! Anne brought the French Hood into fashion, she brought out lace and jewlled edges. More is more was her motto. | Source

Edward VI of England c. 1546

Here is a Male in fashion, showing the heavier over coat of his late Father's reign
Here is a Male in fashion, showing the heavier over coat of his late Father's reign | Source

1540's Jane Grey~ Queen of Nine Days

over sleeves are very full, undersleeves very opulant, and French Hood is back in fashion.
over sleeves are very full, undersleeves very opulant, and French Hood is back in fashion. | Source

1540's to 1550's Queen Mary 1

Here is Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Henry Tudor.  This obviously is not the Elizabethan figure. The undersleeves are lovely and her oversleeves were amazing.
Here is Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and Henry Tudor. This obviously is not the Elizabethan figure. The undersleeves are lovely and her oversleeves were amazing. | Source

A Walk in Time~ The Tudor-Henrician Period

Above shows the progression through 1500 to 1550's England. I am only working with England in this venue, I will not show you other countries in this section. I am showing King Henry VII wife Elizabeth who helped calm the country from the Wars of the Roses (Lancaster vs York) Elizabeth York, was actually more royal than her husband. She is wearing what is termed as the 'Transistional Gown', allowing for ease of movement and a departue from the 1400's voluminous gowns, such as the Burgundian.


England has many influences as this time, Catherine of Aragon who was a strawberry blonde, and light eyed not like she has been portrayed as a more swarthy woman. She brought Spanish influence to the clothing of England, she adopted the Gable Hood.


Elizabethan Age

Clothing has changed from the Henrician, women are using closed doublets and Fitted Gowns.  You will not see large oversleeves anymroe and the Gable and English hood is pretty much gone.
Clothing has changed from the Henrician, women are using closed doublets and Fitted Gowns. You will not see large oversleeves anymroe and the Gable and English hood is pretty much gone. | Source
Sleeve work is still awesome, jewels and French Hood
Sleeve work is still awesome, jewels and French Hood | Source
Here you see a change in our clothing, no more large over hanging sleeve. Emphasis on the waist being small.
Here you see a change in our clothing, no more large over hanging sleeve. Emphasis on the waist being small. | Source
Another version of the Coronation Gown, ruff is made more apparent in this gown, notice the Tudor Rose, so that Elizabeth is showing her heritage in this gown
Another version of the Coronation Gown, ruff is made more apparent in this gown, notice the Tudor Rose, so that Elizabeth is showing her heritage in this gown | Source

1560's Styles

While this is an Scotts lady, I think it is still a prime example of the English Fitted Gown, so popular during this time period.
While this is an Scotts lady, I think it is still a prime example of the English Fitted Gown, so popular during this time period. | Source
This lady is showing a gown in the French Fashion, with the round curve for the front of the bodice.  Her wide hips and small waist was what ladies of this time period tried to attain.  Her pallor as well, her red hair and gray eyes as well.
This lady is showing a gown in the French Fashion, with the round curve for the front of the bodice. Her wide hips and small waist was what ladies of this time period tried to attain. Her pallor as well, her red hair and gray eyes as well. | Source
I wanted to show men's clothing was changing as well without the huge Henrician overjacket and the doublets are more fitted and detailed.
I wanted to show men's clothing was changing as well without the huge Henrician overjacket and the doublets are more fitted and detailed. | Source
Here is Elizabeth in one of the Fitted Gowns, looking quite smashing. You will note all of the embellishments.
Here is Elizabeth in one of the Fitted Gowns, looking quite smashing. You will note all of the embellishments. | Source
Stark gown probably in black velvet, either wool or silk, puffs and slashes with pearls.
Stark gown probably in black velvet, either wool or silk, puffs and slashes with pearls. | Source
Men's costume is looking pretty good, notice they also have embroidery and slashing to thier clothing.
Men's costume is looking pretty good, notice they also have embroidery and slashing to thier clothing. | Source
This kirtle or undergown is covered in jewels. the sleeves are stunning to the actual gown and her jewels are fantasical.
This kirtle or undergown is covered in jewels. the sleeves are stunning to the actual gown and her jewels are fantasical. | Source
Take a look at this portrait and notice all of the children and adults, what kind of fabrics?
Take a look at this portrait and notice all of the children and adults, what kind of fabrics? | Source

1570s England

Here are various ladies of England, Genteel, Worker and Good wives all.  You do not see anyone looking like the Renaissance Faire 'wenches' because that is not historical.
Here are various ladies of England, Genteel, Worker and Good wives all. You do not see anyone looking like the Renaissance Faire 'wenches' because that is not historical. | Source
All of this pearling and jewelled attire would have been done by embroidery guilds. Coats or Gabardines or Jutes, there are many names come into fashion.
All of this pearling and jewelled attire would have been done by embroidery guilds. Coats or Gabardines or Jutes, there are many names come into fashion. | Source
Blackwork Embroidery is all the rage in England, and France, Spain.  I think this Hat is outrageous!
Blackwork Embroidery is all the rage in England, and France, Spain. I think this Hat is outrageous! | Source
Men begin to have a fake pounch called a Peascod.
Men begin to have a fake pounch called a Peascod. | Source
French Gown is very popular during the 1570's Partlets are decorated with pearls and loads of embroidery.
French Gown is very popular during the 1570's Partlets are decorated with pearls and loads of embroidery. | Source

England in the 1580's

I think this is an exaggeration on how wide the skirts are in this gown to how tall this lady is, but the widening of the skirts is happening in the 1580's
I think this is an exaggeration on how wide the skirts are in this gown to how tall this lady is, but the widening of the skirts is happening in the 1580's | Source
Ruff is now completely framing the face and is a good 6 to 8 inches
Ruff is now completely framing the face and is a good 6 to 8 inches | Source
Notice the Sleeves now are huge.  Dress to impress, Lettice was the cousin of QEI and married without permission to one of Elizabeth's favorites.
Notice the Sleeves now are huge. Dress to impress, Lettice was the cousin of QEI and married without permission to one of Elizabeth's favorites. | Source
Mens fashions the Peascod is very pronounced and there are pannions or cannions with the puff pants.  Still opulent and stockings not boots.
Mens fashions the Peascod is very pronounced and there are pannions or cannions with the puff pants. Still opulent and stockings not boots. | Source

Fibers & Fabrics in Elizabeth's England

Fibers were not man made but natural to include

Wool ~ Most popular fabric, worn by every class and woven into all types of fabric. From twill to broadcloth to fine veil work to velvet. It was dyed and cross dyed in many colors, rich deep colors. It was a staple for England as an export.

Silk~ By the 1450’s silk weaving was established in the Mediterranean figured silks, velvets and weaved with precious metals like silver and gold,

Linen~ From what we have currently was used primarily as under clothing and lining during summer or warmer weather.

Hemp~ Used for the lower classes.

Fur~ Again as a lining for winter or colder climates, as time went on it became more of a fashion statement.

Cotton~ Egyptian very long strands hard to work with, and very valuable. It was said that Queen Elizabeth had 1 Smock made with cotton and she never used it due to it’s costliness


Fabrics

So how the fibers are weaved into Fabric or Material, all or any of the above could become the Fabrics. Since Queen Elizabeth I, inherited a bankrupt country with a lot of men who were injured during the skirmishes and wars and scourges of religious nature. England did have loads of wool for production. By Elizabeth's time~ there was taxes against importing of fibers, and everyone was encouraged to work with woolens.

Plain Weave~ Plain weave is a basic style of weaves, which have the weft and warp threads intertwined in an alternate way to produce a checkerboard effect.

Twill~ has more warps than the wefts floating on the face of the fabric is called warp faced and those with wefts predominating is known as weft faced.

Satin~ the interlacing of the threads are arranged in such a way that the face of the cloth is covered with the warp yarn or filling yarn and no twill line is distinguishable, which means it has a smooth texture to the fabric.

Damask~ is a woven fabric which is self patterned.

Brocade~ Typically has a cloth that is embroidered with a Precious Metal thread to add an additional design to the cloth, if you picked out the metallic thread you would still have a good piece of cloth.

Velvet~ has cut loops from warp pile, which makes the pile stand away from the cloth.



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    • Cilean profile image
      Author

      Cilean 6 years ago from Fettuburg, Cynagua in the West Kingdom

      Thank You!

      I have spent the better part of 26 years working at this knowledge, knowing what is and what is not English. Because while people love to call something "Elizabethan" it is not when it is from some other part of the world.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Cilean - hi there and welcome to HubPages. I enjoyed your explanation of fabrics used during the Elizabethan period. I especially liked the fact that the famous queen was thrifty as my grandmother, 'saving' the expensive cotton garment, not wearing it because it was so expensive.