In Tudor times, laws governed the clothing people were allowed to wear. The offence of wearing the wrong colour clothing was a crime punishable by death. Colour played a major part in upholding the class system, which clearly defined the economic levels of citizens. The Statutes of Apparel were designed to keep the classes separate. From basic beige to cobalt blue, popular Tudor clothing colours span the colour spectrum.
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Colours of royalty
Rich people in the Tudor period wore expensive clothes in vivid colours, including purple, gold, silver, crimson and deep blue, all dyed by natural dyes. Purple, a colour permitted to be worn only by the highest royalty, was a sign of prosperity and wealth, and was common to those interested in showcasing their affluence. The outer garments, including doublets, sleeves and gowns, exposed contrasting coloured linings beneath.
Those who couldn't afford expensive brightly-coloured clothes wore brown, beige, yellow, orange, russet, green, grey and pale blue. Instead of the thick, rich cloth and fabrics of the upper class, their clothes were made of sheepskin, linen and wool.
Colour and the law
Tudor Sumptuary Laws, or Statutes of Apparel, were designed to control spending by the poor on costly clothing. Clothing rich in material, structure and colour was more costly. Drab clothing, dyed from basic pigments in common plants, was deemed more appropriate. Deep blue -- a popular colour worn by the rich, in contrast to pale blue warn by the poor -- was more costly to produce, due to the method and source of the dye.
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