Elizabethan Period Costumes

Costumes . Guide . Terms . Female . Male . Patterns . Cloaks . Armor . Shoes & Boots . Knives & Swords . Retail Costumes . References

Clothing during the reign of Elizabeth always reflected the social status of the wearer. There would be no doubt in ones mind about picking out the nobility in any given crowd. Clothing was a direct indication of wealth, much in the manner of imported suits in the present. The cost of clothing was related to the type of fabric and (in the days before synthetic dyes) the color. Purple dye was extracted by crushing thousands of tiny sea snails; similarly, crimson dye was obtained by crushing a certain type of beetle. Processed fabrics such as velvet or corduroy were costly, as were satins and other fine weaves.

Cotton, although common in this day and age, was expensive and uncommon before the rise of the cotton gin. Harvested cotton was cleaned by hand, a lengthy and laborious process. Cotton was imported from India or the Americas with an associated high cost before taxation. Cotton was an expensive fabric up til the 1800s.

Flax and wool were the more common fibres. Flax (a plant called flax) is made into linen, which while expensive now, wasn't when it was homespun. Wool yarn became wool fabric of all weights, including tweed which was woven wool fabric that had been beaten on one side while wet to form a wooly, wind-proof material.

A typical man's outfit would include boots, breeches (pants), a shirt, a jerkin (vest), and a hat. A typical woman's outfit would include shoes, an over and under skirt, a shirt, a bodice, and a hat or snood. Long hair is generally braided. Children were dressed as infants only until about the age of three, then they dressed identically to adults (albeit smaller).

The best way to get an idea about costumes is to attend a faire and take careful notes about what people are wearing. Or go to your local library and find some books about the period. Of course there are always more pictures of Nobility than the peasants who actually did the work.

Suggested references:

Patterns and Sewing
Elizabethan Costuming by Janet Winter. After a Fashion by Francis Grimble is a general costumer's reference. For the avid costumer, Patterns of Fashion: c1560-1620 by Janet Arnold is an immense resource, however it is not for the faint-of-heart or the novice costumer.
The out-of-print English Costuming in the Age of Elizabeth by Iris Brooke contains a number of lovely plates but little in the way of common workers. Authentic Everyday Dress of the Renaissance by Christopher Weiditz. Vecellio's Renaissance Costume Book by Cesare, Vecellio. Medieval Costume in England and France : The 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries by Mary G. Houston. Out-of-print Rural Costume: Western Europe by Alma Oaks.

Costume Information
Guide to Costumes
Costume Definitions
Female Costume
Male Costume
Where to get boots
Where to get armor
Where to get knives
Retail Sources
Retail clothing sources
LHC Patterns for Costumes
InterNet Patterns for Costumes
Patterns for cloaks
Resource List
Costuming Resources
Costume books.

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