Styles & Fashion of the Elizabethan Period

Written by tessa holmes
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Styles & Fashion of the Elizabethan Period
Queen Elizabeth was a fashion trendsetter. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Style and fashion were of great importance during the years of Queen Elizabeth I's reign. From the years 1558 to 1603, British men and women donned their most fashionable clothes before being seen at the Elizabethan court. Greatly influenced by French trends, Elizabethan styles reflected shifts in the monarchy and often symbolised social status and religious persuasions.

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Women's Dresses

At the start of the Elizabethan Era, women wore modest gowns that exposed little to no skin. The gowns consisted of fitted bodices and square shoulders, which made the waistlines appear narrower. If the women were of higher classes, they often wore ruffled yokes around their necks to show their status. Style changed as the Era continued, and the "princess cut" waistlines went from angling downwards to being cut straight across the waist.

Women's Accessories

Wealthier women and women of higher classes wore large gold pendants with their gowns. Make-up was also rather common, and extravagant hairstyles, usually updos, were considered stylish. Women also wore snoods on their heads. Snoods were essentially hair nets, usually decorated in gold and made of the same cloth as their gowns. Shoes were not so important in fashion during this era because they were hardly ever seen beneath the yards of fabric used to make the gowns.

Women's Undergarments

Instead of wearing underwear that is commonly used today, women of the Elizabethan Era wore smocks. Smocks, also called shifts, looked very much like nightgowns. The smocks were customisable, and different smocks were used for different gown styles. Women also wore stockings, which went as high as the knee. Stockings were often made of wool, linen or silk and were held in place by a garter or ribbon.

Men's Fashion

At the start of the Elizabethan Era, men wore jerkins, which were vests decorated with buttons or snaps down the front; they also wore loose, knee length trousers. For accessories, they wore leather shoes and flat hats made of silk or velvet. As the period's fashion changed, however, men began to wear cloaks or capes and crucifixes, as well as feathered bonnets and silk stockings.

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