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Elizabethan Fashion – Trends from a Distinctive Cultural Era

Elizabethan fashion is characterized by long flowing dresses with sumptuous and rich materials. The clothing items for men and women included underwear, corsets, gowns, hats, collars, breeches, shoes and ruffs. Each of the item was designed keeping in mind the Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws.


Elizabethan Fashion - Bringing Back Elegance

Elizabethan fashion was not meant for comfort, but rather to the conformity to the then established laws. All pieces of clothing were divided into two - underclothes and over clothes. The under clothes were usually fashioned from lines, which was a cheap and breathable fabric. The women wore a chemise, a bodice, stockings, a petticoat and a hooped skirt, over which the over-clothes were worn. Most women preferred to wear gowns and cloaks over them. Men wore a codpiece, an undershirt and sometimes a corset too. Over that, they wore doublets and separate sleeves, with coats, breeches, ruffs and cloaks. Elizabethan fashion made it mandatory for both men and women to wear hats. Women could choose to carry a parasol to protect their complexion in the sun.

Elizabethan Style - A Lesson in Modesty

Elizabethan clothes were highly elaborate and this is what defined Elizabethan style. For the upper class, a lot of embellishments were used and most clothing items had lots of heavy embroidery. Several layers of clothing were used to create the right look. For the lower classes, the clothing and accessories were not as elaborate. The Sumptuary laws dictated most of the elements of Elizabethan style, such as wearing of wigs, embellishments on the hats and shoes and layers of clothing. The men and women also wore their hair or used make up according to the law. Since the attire was usually very elaborate, it could take a long time for a man or a woman to get dressed for company.

Elizabethan Clothes - Defining Elizabethan Style

According to the prevailing Sumptuary laws at the time, there was a clear distinction of fashion in different classes. The clothing, hair styles and accessories worn by a person were to be indicative of the person’s class and social standing. The Sumptuary laws even governed the kind of materials used for clothing. The Elizabethan clothes for the upper classes were made of lace, satin, taffeta, silk, cotton and velvet, while the lower classes wore more of linen, sheepskin and wool which were much cheaper. However, the lower class was allowed to have silk, satin, lace and velvet trimmings on their clothes.

Written by Simon Harris

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