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Did You Know? Both Elizabeth and her mother, Anne Boleyn are said to still "haunt" Windsor Castle.

On Queen Elizabeth I's Everyday Life pages you will find information about the everyday life of the people of Elizabeth Is' time from the queen to the common peasants. How they were punish to how they practiced medicines. Just "click-on" one of the subject titles below that you may be interested in.

Page Index

Crime and Punishment in Elizabethan England Popular Amusements Sports and Entertainment
Elizabethan Pastimes Hairstyles of the Day Fashions: Women and Men
Women's Fashions Fashions of Late 16th Century Europe Men's Fashion

Crime and Punishment in Elizabethan England

Though many of today's crimes may be similar to those in Elizabethan England, the methods of punishment have definitely changed a lot. Most of the punishments of the Elizabethan period would be deemed cruel and unusual by today's standards. The death penalty can no longer be enacted in cases of theft or highway robbery.

Some Crimes and Their Punishment.

During the Elizabethan time, crimes of treason and offenses against the state were treated with the same severity that murder and rape are today. During the sixteenth century, certain nicknames were placed upon offenders. Priggers of prancers was a code name for horse thieves, for example.

An outlaw was often taken to jail (or to his hanging, for that matter) by being strapped to the saddle of a rider, which him to run at full speed the entire trip (with occasional cantering to catch his breath). In common English towns, people would pay the turnkey two pence for a chance to jeer at whoever was on display. Often, a victim would be in the audience to identify him. On the other side of the spectrum, however, clergymen often were present to pray with the accused.

The punishment depended on the crime committed, and the price was usually a painful one. Offenses such as manslaughter, robbery, rape, piracy, and capital crimes entitled one to hanging, usually in the town square. Shockingly enough, if one dared to commit a crime against the state, he would be taken from prison on a sled or hurdle, hanged until half-dead, then taken down and quartered alive.

Nobility found guilty of treason by their peers lost their heads over it, literally. A woman found guilty of poisoning her husband was burned alive. A cook who poisoned his customers was boiled to death in a cauldron of water or lead. Further more, a servant who killed his master would surely be executed for petty treason.

The interesting thing about punishments in the Elizabethan days was that all crimes were specifically punished. For example, a correcting scold or ducking stool, invented around 1597 , was generally used for women of bad repute as a cleansing process. It consisted of a chair attached to a pole, like a teeter totter, and hung over a body of water. The criminal would sit on the chair and be dunked into the water repeatedly.

The Brank, also known as the gossip's bridle, was a metal mask placed on a woman's head. Attached to it was a sharpened mouthpiece, sometimes covered with spikes, placed on the inside of her mouth. If the woman attempted to speak she would receive a painful repercussion on the tongue.

Perhaps the worst thing about the punishments in the Elizabethan days were the physical and social conditions. When a person was being punished, it usually entailed an immense amount of embarrassment. Criminals weren't dealt with in private, they were displayed in the middle of the marketplace for all the townspeople to see. Instead of the juries, lawyers, and partisan judges of today, those convicted of crimes were subject to "no holds barred" consequences. Criminals were kept in jail for extended periods of time, and conditions inside were horrendous, with mice and rats becoming the prisoner's roommates. Overall, conditions during modern times are very humane when compared to those of the Elizabethan days

One out of the ordinary punishment of the Elizabethan Era was the drunkard's cloak. It was a punishment for public drunkenness; the name of it is somewhat misleading. The flaw in the name comes from the fact that the cloak is less a cloak and more a barrel. The drunk was forced to don a barrel and wander through town while the villagers jeer at him. Holes were cut in the barrel for the person's hands and head, causing it to become like a heavy, awkward shirt.

Yet another punishment for criminals was the pillory. The pillory was a wooden post with a wooden block on top with holes in it for the person's hands and head to be placed in. The heads and hands were then locked into place while the person was forced to stand in public display for the decided sentence. In some cases the pillory was combined with a whipping post and stocks to make a one stop, public punishment device. The person being punished would have to stand in the device in the middle of the market to be ridiculed by passersby. A baker guilty of default of weight , a butcher guilty of exposing unwholesome meat, and forgerers got the pillory.

Also among the list of Elizabethan punishment methods was the stocks. The stocks were similar to the pillory in that a part of the body was locked between two slabs of wood, but in the case of the stocks the feet were locked in the device instead of the hands and feet. The stocks were a proposed method of punishment for drunkenness in a 1605 Act. The offender would be fined to five shillings or six hours in the stocks. The Act was approved by King James I in 1623. The stocks were often used as a method of holding a criminal until a more severe sentence could be decided and carried out.

One punishment about which there is not much to say is the whipping post. It was basically what the name says, a wooden post that the person was strapped to and whipped for the prescribed number of times. This correctional method was instituted during the reign of Henry VIII and then continued through the time of Queen Elizabeth.

One more odd punishment worth mentioning was the ducking stool. Like the brank, it was a punishment for women whose speech was considered too brash and brazen or too free. The ducking stool was a wooden chair attached to a large lever system. The lever allowed the chair to be raised or lowered without the tipping of the chair, making it parallel to the ground at all times. The chair was then lowered into the water, dunking the loose tongued woman under the water. Based on the level of the offense and the cruelty of the deciding party the woman could be "ducked" any number of times, and in some cases of extreme measures, the woman could drown from the time spent under water. Some of the ducking stools were mobile and could be taken to the water's edge at the necessary time, while others were fixed into place along the coast of the water as a grim reminder to the women of the town of what free speaking could lead to.

One tool that was used as punishment was the amputation saw. Much more cruel than the axe, the saw was slower and more painful than the relative quickness of the axe blade.

Villagers of the period could be considered twisted individuals because of the crowds of people that gathered for the public punishments and executions. The people of the period relished the public hangings, and the persons to be hanged were often falsely accused of treason, which called for them to be publicly disemboweled and then cut into quartered sections to be left on display after the person's death.

In conclusion, the punishments of days past were much more cruel than would be allowed today. Private executions have replaced the public hangings and disembowelments. People are no longer executed for minor crimes like theft, and axes are no longer used to administer punishments. There are now holding cells for criminals awaiting trial instead of stocks. People of authority have gotten much nicer.

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Popular Amusements and Entertainment

Long before the invention of modern technologies, such as radios and televisions, CD's and videos, video games and the internet, the Elizabethans created an elaborate system of activities and events to keep themselves entertained. Although there was work to be done, leisure was an important part of the lives of the English people during the Elizabethan Age. Most of this leisure came either after church on Sundays or on the holidays. Much has been written about the Elizabethan people: "...they were expressive and eloquent, ostentanious and pleasure-loving, not industrious or hardworking, but bold and self-confident, markedly fearless of death, mercurial and inconsistent, loving change, above all, passionate" (Rowse 353).

During the Elizabethan Age there was great cultural achievement, particularly in the area of music and drama. In that time, musical literacy was expected in the upper class of society. Many Elizabethans made their own music. The laborers would sing while they worked, and the townspeople would sing or play music after meals. The lute, virginal, viola, recorder, bagpipe and the fiddle were favored instruments of that time. A popular form of entertainment in the countryside was the ringing of church bells. Elizabethans also loved to hear music. Since there was no access to a recording studio, the music had to be performed. In the major towns, official musicians, better known as Waits, gave free public concerts. The wealthy people hired musicians to play during dinner.

Dancing was also a popular activity. The dances were mostly performed by couples. This was one of the best opportunities for interaction between married people. Dancing varied according to social class. Dancing at court and dancing in villages were two separate things. The upper class favored courtly dances. Some of the court dances included the Brawl, the Volte and the Pavane. Morris dancing, which included the wearing of bells, was performed as part of the summer festivals. Ordinary people were more likely to do traditional "country" dances. These dances included the jig, the dump, the hay and the trenchmore. Some of the dances that were performed had foreign names, usually French or Italian. The Pavane, Cassamezzo, Lavolta, Coranto and the Galliard were just a few. Dancing in the Elizabethan Age was considered "a wholesome recreation of the mind and also an exercise of the body" (Davis 240).

In the Elizabethan Age drama was at the high peak of its cultural achievement for all time. There were a variety of plays including action, humor, violence, and plays with musical interludes. This period witnessed the first entertainment industry, especially in theater. Although the first performances were done in the courtyards of large inns, the very first public theater in London was built in 1576. Theaters were mostly to be found in London, near the court. However, plays were attended by all the people, with the audience reflecting society from the lowest to the highest levels. A constant demand for entertainment led London companies to take minor performances, like folk players, puppeteers, and acrobats, on the road. The plague often interrupted the run plays and even closed down theaters, making road performances necessary.

Elizabethan theater was the work of a few men: proprietors, actors, playwrights and workmen. The actors creating theater often received rewards, became respectable and would slowly move up in social standing. Some of the brilliant actors were the Burbages (James, Richard and Cuthbert), Philip Henstoe and Edward Alleyn. The brilliant playwrights included Christopher Marlow, William Shakespeare, and Ben Johnson. The rise, maturity and decline of Elizabethan Theater coincided with Shakespeare's dramatic career. By the year of Shakespeare's death, there was a transition from plays to literature. Elizabethan drama owed its strength and richness to the fusion of many elements. It was a mirror of the whole society.

Sports played a major role in the leisure time of the Elizabethan Age. Some of the indoor games included dice, chess, checkers and a variety of card games. The card games included primero, trump, gleek, new cut and many others. If the cards and dice were too passive for the men, wrestling was an alternative for them. With wrestling, however, came injuries like broken ribs, internal injuries, broken necks and more.

England is so far north that in the midsummer there was plenty of light late into the evening. This gave the people more time to spend outside after their work was done. Some of the outdoor games included golf, horse racing, shovel-board, sliding, swimming, fishing, hunting, fencing, dueling and cricket. In that time it was not tolerable for a man to be unskilled at tennis, bowling, archery and hunting. Tennis was a respectable sport which could be played with either a racket or hand. Bowling and tennis games were not played far from home. While the upper class enjoyed tennis, the common folk preferred football. If a field could not be found, the village street was used. All levels of society enjoyed the sport of hunting. Horses, dogs and hawks were kept and trained for hunting deer, rabbits and other wildlife.

Another major part of the Elizabethan lifestyle had to do with feasts and festivals. Every season of the year had special days that drew the people together to celebrate. In the spring, Shrove Tuesday was one of the festivals observed in the Lenten season. Feasts and a carnival were held and bell ringing, masking, gaming, and begging were among the activities. One of the greater festivals of the year was held at Easter time. The Mayday celebration consisted of the decorating of the maypole and dancing around it. In the summer, bonfires were burned and dances were held to celebrate Midsummer's Eve on June 24. Also in June, St. John the Baptist's Festival was an important civic occasion. In the fall, harvest festivals were held. On All Hallow's Eve, Elizabethans celebrated by ducking for apples, dancing and bell ringing. The winter holidays began with Christmas, ran through New Year's Eve and ended on the Twelfth Night, January 5. These holidays included gifts, bonfires, wassail, yule logs, music and jollity.

From the beginning to the end of each year, Elizabethans found ways to keep themselves entertained. They were a creative group of people who pursued leisure activities with great passion.

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Sports and Entertainment

Elizabethan Sports

Elizabethan England embraced many different customs and cultures. The customs that had the greatest effect on the rest of the world were the games of war that consumed spare time. Games of war varied from hunting, with hawks or dogs , to equestrian activities, including tournament jousts and tilts. Most of the sports of the Elizabethan era were carried over from the Medieval period.

Hunting was a favorite pastime for people, especially rich people. Queen Elizabeth herself loved to hunt. The hunt allowed the rich nobles to show off their fine horses, hawks, clothing, and weapons. Horses were shown off by their breeding, most commonly by nobles, and ranked by endurance, speed, beauty, and strength. From the hunting rounds the wealthy would often establish a breeding tree of some sort in an attempt to create the perfect breed.

Many clothing fashions were established during the hunting trips. Often a noble would arrive garbed in a new outfit which the wealthy and under class surrounding the hunt would emulate, thus spreading the style. New weaponry also appeared at such events. One such case was the adapted new arrow head that was eventually used to fell knights, due to its armor-piercing capabilities.

Hawking, otherwise known as falconry, was the sport of royalty. It was said that this was a reference to the stateliness of the birds, but it was a royal sport mainly because commoners could not afford to train the birds. They could not afford any other aspect of the sport, for that matter. The eagle was a bird reserved solely for the King and Queen, but there were no other restrictions placed upon the birds species. As was the case with the horses, there was a slight attempt to breed hawks, but interaction primarily fell upon trading, rather than breeding.

Jousting was a popular sport that involved running at an opponent with a lance and trying to knock him off his horse. Shields and armor were involved, of course. Jousting tournaments were held for the rich; they were forbidden to common folk. Jousting, like any other sport, was another excuse for the rich to show off their armor, clothes and animals. Preparation for the joust involved the quintain, which properly knocked a person off their horse if the person didn't hit the quintain just right.

Another tournament sport was archery. Outside of being a tournament sport, archery involved a skill that was used in battle. Since the common people were the most numerous in battle, the commoners participated in the sport as well. The shaft of the arrow was generally made out of wood, since metal would be too heavy. The head of the arrow was made out of iron. Archers have always held a very important place in military life. During Henry V's reign in the middle ages, 6,000 English soldiers shot down 85,000 French soldiers at Agincourt, a famous battle depicted in William Shakespeare's Henry V.

Sports and games of war took a place of importance in the society of Elizabethan England. Tournaments, whether archery or jousting, were mainly events for the rich to show off their possessions. Hunting was a favorite pastime of high society. The practical uses of Elizabethan sports were teaching and practicing skills that could be used for battle or survival.

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Elizabethan Entertainments and Pastimes

The most popular of Elizabethan entertainments and pastimes included the arts, such as literature, theater, and music, as well as sports.

The public theatre, sometimes called the most genuine form of entertainment during this period, came to London around 1576. The first theatre was built outside the city limits to avoid strict city regulations.

The earliest theatres resembled the innyards from which they had evolved. The theatres were built around courtyards, with three-story galleries facing the stage. People from every social class, from the workers to the aristocrats, attended the theatre. The aristocrats sat in the galleries, while the commoners stood on the ground around the stage, with a few young men often sitting on the stage. The most popular playwrights of the era were Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare.

Another important form of public entertainment was literature. Elizabethan writers produced all kinds of texts, such as technical works, political and religious tracts, ballads, almanacs, and histories. People were able to buy a broadside or a pamphlet for a penny, making the pleasure of reading affordable to almost everyone.

During this time period, reading was a more public activity than it is today. People sometimes held readings where the latest works were read aloud.

Elizabethans also loved to listen to music, which, of course, was always performed live. For the most part, people made their own music. Laborers and craftsmen often sang while they worked, common people sang after a meal, and the well-bred people of society often played or sang a piece by rote during recitals.

Dancing, another popular activity, provided a great opportunity for interaction between unmarried people. The preferred type of dancing varied according to social class, with those of higher social position favoring the courtly dances imported from Italy and other European countries, and the ordinary people preferring "country" dances. The European courtly dances were mostly performed by couples and involved intricate and subtle footwork, while the English country dances were danced by couples in round, square, or rectangular sets with much simpler form and footwork. Queen Elizabeth herself encouraged country dances among the aristocracy.

In addition to social dances, there were performances and ritual dances . One favorite was Morris dancing, characterizing by the wearing of bells.

Sports were regulated by the government. Those of rank were expected to take part because sporting events trained men for war, whereas the laborers had to work six days a week and could not participate. On Sundays, the working class often practiced archery.

Hunting was also very popular with noblemen and gentlemen. The animals that were hunted the most were the stag or buck, and when the prey was felled, it was always eaten.

During mid-winter, when stag could not be hunted, the Royals and their nobles engaged in hawking. Falcons were trained for this sport, and laws were passed to punish any poacher who stole their eggs. Poaching by night was a much more serious offense than poaching by day. Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, made unauthorized hunting in private forests a felony punishable by death if the offense was committed at night.

The sports most popular among the commoners were football and hurling. Football was much rougher in the Tudor times than it is today, with all sorts of injuries ranging from minor to fatal. There were no limits to the number of players, and no lines. Football was called "a friendly game of fight."

Hurling, which was played in two different versions, was as dangerous as football. The first form was played with a box ball. There were fifteen to thirty players per side, and the object of the game was to pick up the ball and run it through to the goal, passing the ball to teammates mates if tackled. This game was a forerunner of modern rugby.

The second style was played with wooden sticks and a ball. The ball was hit through the air into a goal, in a manner resembling modern-day hockey.

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Everyday Life

Hairstyles of the Day

Hairstyle was an important issue for the men and women of the Elizabethan time. Both sexes took pride and joy in making their hair look as fabulous as the next person's. The people of this time spent hours upon hours waiting in line to receive splendid hair-dos. Cost was not an issue with the wealthy people of this time. They would do almost anything to get the look that they wanted. They went through great extremes to change their hairstyles when fads came and went.

During the Elizabethan period men took as much pride in their hair as the women did. They would spend whole days sitting in the barber shop listening to music and talking to one another. The Elizabethan barber stiffened, starched, powdered, perfumed, waxed, and dyed the hair a fashionable red. The hair was worn shoulder length and curled with hot irons, which were then called "love locks." When the men of this time went bald, they depended upon wigs to help them keep up the latest fashion. The wigs worn at his time were usually a fashionable white or yellow color.

The men of this time were so facial hair-conscious that they spent a lot of money on keeping their beards trimmed to fit the fashion. Long beards needed little care except for occasional brushing. The short beards called for a hairdresser. The beards could be cut pointed, square, round, oblong, or T-shaped. In the daytime men brushed the beard to keep it in tip-top shape, and at night they often encased the beard in a special wooden press. Beards were considered to be attractive.

The women of the Elizabethan Age went through great extremes to achieve the look that was in. They dyed their hair blonde, which was the favorite hue. Women spent whole days sitting in the sun because they believed that the sun added a golden glint. Women who bleached their hair dried it from the terrace tops of their houses. When dying their hair, women wore hats without the crowns and with a brim, over which the hair was spread. The brim protected the wearer from the sun. The women also wore quantities of false hair, which was usually made from peasants' hair or formed by white and yellow silk. All of these things women did to their hair were hotly condemned, and some women were denounced for "ungodly exploitation" of themselves.

The women wore many accessories in their hair. The most popular of all accessories was the hair net. Women wore thread nets of silk, but the poor women who also wanted to keep up fashion wore nets made of crepe. Sometimes the hair was worn loose, filling in the pouch-like bag. The nets were then decorated with gold trimmings and jewels. Hairpins and hair combs were added to the net to give the hair a better look. Pointed hats were sometimes worn over the hair nets to emphasize the look.

Another hairstyle that became very popular during this same period was the Frenchhood. Altough it was a French hairstyle, it became very popular in England, and most of the woman of Elizabeth's time wore their hair in this style.

The people of this time were very hair-conscious. Their hair was their most prized possession. With their high ranking, wealth, and elaborate clothing, it was demanded that their hairstyles were elaborate as well. Many people of the Elizabethan Age were very fashionable and splendid.

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Everyday Life

Fashions: Women and Men

The Elizabethan age brought about a great development of culture in sixteenth century England. One way this great development of culture came about is through fashion and costume. Fashion in the Elizabethan age was a way of expressing one's self: the fashiotruly helped to reveal the general culture of the period. In the early stages of the Elizabethan era women generally wore clothes that covered them completely. The bodice or the top part of the gown was generally tight fitting with square shoulders. The yoke was usually of a dark color, and there was often some type of high collar. The collar would extend all the way to the chin and usually would ruffle at the top.

The sleeves were usually full from the shoulder to the elbow and then more tight and form-fitting from the elbow to the wrist. At the wrist the sleeves would open wide into a large ruffle.

The gown usually contained a v-shaped point at the waistline and then expanded into a sort of funnel shape reaching the ground. The shoes the women wore in this beginning period were not important because the gown reached to the floor; the shoes most often were not seen. As for jewelry, many woman in this period wore large pendants of gold around their necks. Earrings were not very common except among the very sophisticated, who would wear pearls.

The headgear of the beginning of the Elizabethan period was an English version of the French hood. This "hood" was placed near the back of the head and was worn with a stiff base that was very close-fitting. Many women in this period also opted for small jeweled caps decorated with jewels, pearls, or lace.

As the period went on, the women's style of dress saw a few changes. The bodice of a dress was still tight-fitting, but instead of a v-shaped waistline, the bodice was cut in a straight line around the hips. The sleeves also changed. Instead of ruffling between the shoulder and the elbow, they were tight-fitting all the way down to the wrist. The skirt became heavily embroidered, yet still remained long enough to drag the ground.

The men's style of clothing was also very distinct during the beginning of this great period. The men wore embroidered vest-like shirts called jerkins, which had square shoulders and buttons down the front. The sleeves were often decorated and loose- fitting all the way to the wrists. The pants were loose-fitting and extended to about three to four inches above the knee. They were padded with horse-hair and slashed in order to show the knitted silk stockings underneath.

The shoes of the men were generally made with the finest of leather. They contained a small leather heel and were often decorated with slashes. The headgear was either a small flat hat made of velvet or silk or a tall crown hat that was covered by fine fabric or feathers. Some of the more distinguished men wore small capes with big-edged collars.

As the period continued, so did the development of men's fashion in this culture. Stockings began to be replaced by garters, and silk stockings were replace by horse hair trunk hose. The most distinguished men began to wear crowned beaver hats and wide cloaks held by a chain and a crucifix. The tailored stockings were plain. The pumps had rounded toes and closed at the ankles. The bonnet was trimmed around the edged and decorated with a plume on one side.The men also began to carry short perfumed gloves.

There really isn't much to be said about the fashion of children in this age. They usually wore smaller versions of the adult fashions, and even the infant girls were required to wear long gowns. The boys generally wore miniature versions of clothing worn by the men. Their doublets and shirts had slashes in them, and they wore silk stockings of color underneath. The girls generally wore long braids in their hair; the braids would either be tied with ribbon or made into a crown.

Throughout the Elizabethan period there was a great development of culture in England. The influences of this culture can be seen through the fashion and costume of the sixteenth century English people.

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Women's Fashions of the Elizabethan Period

Mid 16th Century Europe (1535 to 1570ce


German mercenary soldier) with puffed and slashed clothing in Stibbert.

Puffing and slashing was the perfect visual metaphor for the 16th Century, because it suggests a society that is literally bursting at the seams with new ideas and problems. By mid Century, clothing is so stiffened and tight with the desire to constrict change that some surviving examples appear as though they could stand up on their own.

Spanish Doublet, 1570

Throughout this era clothing gets both tighter and stiffer, while being more and more puffed out with padding and slashings, giving it a dual visual message.  Women's dress in this era follows the men's dress into broadness created with stuffing and hoops, so that the wealthy in this era look a bit like walking overstuffed furniture.

Mary I in a "Spanish Farthingale"

Women mainly wore the "Spanish Farthingale", which was a cone shaped hoop skirt, in this era. It is also in this period that waist cinching undergarments (which in theory existed from around 1450, although no earlier examples survive) became boned or otherwise stiffened to the point that they rightly deserve the name "stays" or corsets.  Stays in this period cinch the waist, and flatten the breasts into a perfect cone shape, a trend continued into the following century.

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Late 16th Century Europe (1570 to 1600)

The late 16th Century is commonly and rightly associated with Queen Elizabeth I of England, and so is often referred to as the Elizabethan era.  Elizabeth herself was highly aware of how dress could be made to manipulate a public political image, and spent her public life as queen in a series of progressively larger, more decorated and more uncomfortable gowns, until she resembled an auto icon of Late Renaissance design and power.

Queen Elizabeth I 1559

>This too is the era of the ruff, an impressive combination of two under exploited costume inventions of the previous Century: starch and lace.  Ruffs had begun very modestly in mid Century on the wealthy, primarily in France and Spain, but spread rapidly, and grew in size to the end of the Century, and into the beginning of the next.

Queen Elizabeth I

Ruffs were made so wide that they often caused eating difficulties for the wearers, so much so that women had the happy thought of splitting the ruff in the front to make meals easier, and frame the cleavage.

Queen Elizabeth I, 1590

The cone shaped "Spanish Farthingale" of mid Century came to be replaced by the "French Farthingale" which began as a bell shape, and ended up changing into something resembling a mobile tea table.

By the end of the 16th Century, upper class European clothing bore not the slightest resemblance to dress of the beginning of the Century, and it stylistically was very far removed from the dress of other cultures.  This rapid change, and cultural differentiation through dress happened just as Europe was making it's big push to explore, exploit and colonize the rest of the world.  People became so aware of fashion change over time, and national differences in dress that they became very curious about dress in other countries and eras. This therefore is known as the first great era of costume books, when people began to illustrate picture books on dress in other cultures and times.
In the Elizabethan day the goal of women's fashion was to show the woman's status in society and make her as attractive as possible. Women wanted as small and petite waist as possible, so they did anything to make their waists small or appear smaller than the actual size. Women in the Elizabethan days wore ruffles to show status in society. Sleeves of women's gowns had a certain appearance of being puffy.

It was not only in the colors, or the lack of them, that the new fashions differed from those of the preceding generation. Bombast was the stuffing used in doublets and hose in order to swell them out, eliminating all folds and creases. It consisted of rags, flock, horsehair, cotton, or even bran, although bran sometimes led to disaster, since all the bran ran out if the clothes got torn. The bombasting of the doublet over the chest and the stuffing out of breeches naturally made the waist seem smaller, and the effect was increased by the use of tight-lacing. The short, bombasted breeches, especially in the form of trunk hose, exposed a considerable amount of leg, and the introduction of knitting made it possible for leg coverings to fit the limbs more neatly than they had done before.

There was a growth in the ruffle in the 1500's. A simple string was drawn through the upper edge of the shirt to form a ruffle. The ruffle was an example of the "hierarchical" element in dress. When women wore them, they always had another element to be noted. This was the "Seduction Principle," as it has been called, an attempt to exploit the wearer's charms as a woman. For example, women wore a ruffle in order to show their status in society. The Elizabethan compromise was to open the ruffle in front to expose the bosom, and to allow the ruffle to rise in gauze wings at the back of the head.This fashion can be seen quite clearly in portraits of Queen Elizabeth.

In Elizabethan times, women's fashion had a new style for sleeves in gowns. The sleeves became a complicated collection of small pieces held together with jeweled fasteners. The under-sleeve was made in vast quantities of fabric, which projected a puffy style.

Women in the Elizabethan time had many different ways of showing their fashion styles. Elements such as puffy sleeves, tight-fitting bodices of dresses, and ruffles showed status in society. The women of Elizabethan times used different types of clothing to make themselves appear more petite than they actually were. For example this "Spanish Farthingale", pictured above, worn by Queen Mary I in 1534.

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Men's Fashion during the Elizabethan Period

In the Elizabethan period, clothing was very different from the contemporary styles of Eddie Bauer. It was not at all uncommon for men to wear tights, make-up or even jewelry.

A trend called "slashing" started in Italy spread through the rest of Europe very quickly. This trend was displayed by cutting fine slits in the outer wear and pulling an undergarment of a contrasting color through. Doing so was an excellent opportunity to show how resourceful an individual was. Fine linens were very difficult to obtain. This custom was believed to have been started by mercenary soldiers who wore good clothes under their rags.

Ornamentation was a widespread trend of the time, as well. Even though the clothing could not be washed, soap was beginning to be produced in London in 1524. It was expensive and could not be used with fine cloths such as silk.

The bills of laundering must have reached their peak in 1550 when people began to wear ruffs. A ruff is a natural development of the frill formed by the drawstrings that fastened men's shirts at the neck. Some ruffs were so extravagant that they were a foot deep. The French King Henry III wore a ruff so neatly folded with an ironing stick that it had eighteen yards of linen. Ruffs were known to be so inconvenient that a royal lady used a spoon with a handle two feet long to eat a bowl of soup.

In England, ruffs were usually about eight inches wide and were open in front. The stiffness of ruffs increased when starching was introduced by the wife of queen Elizabeth's Dutch coachman, Mrs. Dingham. Mrs. Dingham made starching a little more widespread by teaching people how to do it for a small amount of currency. Men and women wore ruffs to symbolize their higher social class.

There were problems in being so proper, and the first to realize this was Cardinal Richelieu of France. He tried to put a halt to all the reckless extravagance of court functions. The clothing just made people jealous. All the snazzy dressers would go to parties and would not be able to move because the shirts were too stiff or the gems were too heavy.

Boots were very fanciful in the seventeenth century. Long boots, long enough to reach the thigh, were made of fine leather and decorated with fringed tops, ruffles and jeweled buckles. Some of these boots were turned up at the toe to such an extent that it was almost impossible to walk in them. The quality of the leather made the peasants mad because they felt that this was a waste of materials on the rich.

For all the long dresses, ruffled collars, and long hair, men of this period were known for their quick tempers and fierce sense of honor. As has been said,"Hearts were bold and men were men." To the modern eye, the clothing may seem feminine; however, we usually fail to mention the sword and rapier hanging from men's belts at this time.

Children of both sexes wore dresses. The counterpart to todays man's suit consisted of "breeches," which were kind of like long underwear. Today something like this worn to be exposed would be considered a little too revealing for most men.

Dress of this time was considered an art. People of the Elizabethan period realized this and indulged themselves when their means permitted it. People of the time probably received sweaters from their grandmothers for Christmas, as well. Clothing was not the chief concern, of course, so maybe that's why men wore dresses.

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