Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Elizabeth I and Style

Fashion under the Virgin Queen.
In private Elizabeth dressed quite plainly, in simple gowns, and I love to imagine her retiring to her chambers and throwing off layers and layers of official finery before collapsing by the fire. However, in public Elizabeth always dressed to impress and carefully cultivated an image that spoke of power, majesty, splendour and generosity.

The Queen’s coronation portrait clearly shows her iconic red hair (which she later maintained using wigs) and her love of luxurious fabrics and jewels. As well as being enjoyed for their own sake, such materials were an obvious way of demonstrating class and status. The Elizabethans lived within a strict framework of ‘sumptuary laws’ designed to control behaviour and maintain a rigid class system. These laws reserved some fabrics and colours for royalty alone (including ermine and scarlet outerwear), allocated some to lesser nobles (such as fox and otter fur), and then prescribed further restrictions for each class of person. (Read entire article.)

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