Elizabethan Fashion Essay, Research Paper
In the earlier parts of the sixteenth century, everything was changing
in England. Everything from their queens right down to fashion. The
fifteenth century was a time if simple styles, anything that would create a
simple silhouette of a woman. Now things were evolving into the shapely and
extravagant styles we call Elizabethan fashion. There are some very small
yet important items that must be worn to have a proper Elizabethan outfit.
Everything was equally important, all the way down to the make up that was
worn. During the Elizabethan times they had everything, specific outfits and
accessories, some more lavish, according to classes. There were even some
very risky home remedies for some of the common beauty problems.
Elizabethan times are times of glamour and beauty.
The first thing one must know about Elizabethan fashion in women is,
their outfits were extremely complex. They began with an under gown,
looking like a short cotton nightgown. This was called a chemise; it was one
of the first items put on, after the stockings, shoes, and any jewelry and
make up. Next would be the corset and bumroll. The corsets were worn to
give a more shapely look to the women. They would minimize the waist and
enhance the chest. Also, another thing used to enhance women?s figures was
a bumroll. It is a round crescent shaped pad, that is placed at the hip area,
that makes the skirt fall the way it is supposed to. Again, this accentuates
the hip area and makes the waist appear so much smaller. The next piece of
clothing to go on was not essential, it is called a partlet. A partlet is a
confusing piece to put on, it covers both the front and back of the chest but
it ties under the arms. Finally the overskirt and bodice and sleeves were put
on. These pieces would match; also they are the pieces that are decorated.
Some outside pieces were made of the finest silks and were often decorated
in fine gold threads and beading.
The two most important pieces were the corset and the farthingale.
These were the new changes added to the Elizabethan fashions. First off,
the corset, a very important piece, and yet we don?t even know exactly where
it originated from. Prior to the fifteenth century body shaping could only be
enhanced by seams or designs sewn on the dresses. Now they could use the
tight fitting corset that would squeeze in the waist and hold everything in
place, which is the best way to enhance ones figure, not with seams. The
oldest corset that we have proof of is one from Germany, although this could
not be part of Elizabethan fashion it is the earliest surviving corset. Corset
were usually made out of linen; although in the case of nobility silk outer
layers were used. The other important piece to a woman?s outfit was a cone
shaped hoop skirt, known as the farthingale. The style of the farthingale
came from Spain in the early 1500?s. These hooped skirts became the newest
rage for noblewomen. A basic farthingale would be an A-line skirt that would
be stiffened with hoops of whalebone. It was worn under the outside skirt
of middle and upper-class English women. The farthingale would usually be
made out of a simple fabric such as linen, unless it was meant to be seen,
then it would be a dressier fabric. Together with the corset they create the
major shapers of the new Elizabethan silhouette.
Another important part to the Elizabethan outfit was the make up.
Make up during this time was quite dramatic. The main idea of beauty in this
time was fair skin. Such as Queen Elizabeth, she bright eyes, snow-white
skin, red cheeks and lips, and also fair hair. The pale skin was a sign of
nobility and wealth, for women atleast. The most popular way to achieve
their pale white skin would be to take a mixture of white lead and vinegar.
The make up that was used was most often very heavy and even poisonous.
Women would drop something called belladona in their eyes to make them
sparkle. Blond or red gold hair was often the sign of great beauty, and most
women wanted to have those hair colors. All these things were important to
the noblewomen, the lower class women would never have time for this. The
women had many recipes for the aspect of beauty they were trying to
achieve. Such as this simple, and less harmful recipe; For chapped hands: ?
Melt three ounces of fresh butter and three ounces of suet of hart, and cut
four or five apples into it; add six ounces of white wine and boil until the
apples are soft; add half a dram each of cinnamon, camphor, cloves, and
nutmeg, two ounces or rose-water, and boil until the rose water is
evaporated; finally strain through a cloth.?
After the clothing, hair and make up, there is still something missing;
that is the essential accessories of the Elizabethan outfit. The first
accessory was a hat. There are many types of hats that the women would
wear. Some hats commonly wore were, a biggin, which is a simple tie hat,
that would be worn at the beginning of ones life. A caul which would only be
worn by middle and upper class women; the caul is somewhat like a hair net.
An attifet, which is a heart shaped cap was worn by Mary Queen of Scots.
Another type is the French hood that was brought to England by, Anne
Boleyn; this was usually worn by conservative upper class women. Finally some
women would wear a solano, which was a wide brimmed hat to protect from
the sun. All of these hats would be lavishly decorated for upper class, and
simply decorated for lower class. Another accessory was pouches, these
were used for pockets, which the outfit did not have; women used these for
spare change and even just as a decoration. Baskets were an accessory used
by the lower class women. Gloves were also worn by some women. The very
rich women would wear something called a flea fur, this was an animal that
was stuffed, and would be worn as some type of rap. The animals face, paws
or even just there snout would be gold and lavishly jeweled. These furs were
said to attract fleas to them and away from the person. Finally the last
accessory and the most distinctive of the Elizabethan times was the ruff,
this neck piece started off quite small and grew throughout the century.
These neck pieces were usually made out of linen or lace. They would always
need to be heavily starched so they would stand up straight.
Over all the outfit of an Elizabethan woman was extravagant and
elaborate. Some would say it was too much, and that it was not right to make
women wear such ?costumes?. After learning about everything from the
corsets and farthingales all the way down to the smallest accessory; it
seems that all this aggravation would be well worth the beauty that comes in
Bloom, Harold. Fashion: Then and Now. New York: Riverhead Books,