Women's Elizabethan Fashion

Women's Fashion


Fashion in the period 1550–1600 reflected the hierarchical structure of society at the time. In the Elizabethan era, a person's rank, status, or social position dictated his or her living arrangements, diet, and dress. Western European clothing was characterized by increased opulence, the rise of the ruff, the expansion of the farthingale.

Culture of Fashion

An interpretation such as this goes some ways towards an explanation of those images of women, encrusted and embellished with the symbols of vanity, that form the staple evidence for a chronology of Elizabethan fashion. They both fulfill and suggest the noblewoman's role as a hollow cipher within Elizabethan society, emblematic vessel lacking any sense of individuality other than the details of dress. Presentation of women in this way, whilst illustrating an awareness of fashion's potential civilising mask, naturally left them open to familiar misogynistic accusation, as Honig states, 'Woman is the artificer, the trickster, the dealer in that which is superficial yet attractive.

Elizabethan Clothing

  • The section and era covering Elizabethan Clothing and Fashion includes extensive information regarding all elements of clothing and fashion during the Elizabethan era. The subjects range from the type of clothing regarded as Upper Class Fashion - rich, sumptuous materials and elegant styles to clothes worn by the lower classes using basic materials. Each item of Elizabethan clothing has been designed.
  • Elizabethan Women's Clothing - gowns, hats, corsets, underwear, collars, ruffs and shoes. Elizabethan Men's Clothing - doublets, breeches, underwear, collars, ruffs, hats and shoes.


The limitations of what colors and what fabrics people of the Elizabethan era could wear, led to the development of a new fashion trend called slashing. Both men and women began slashing the outer surfaces of their clothing such as doublets, sleeves and gowns, so that the contrasting colors of the linings beneath were exposed. They would even pull the linings through the slashes and puff it out for greater emphasis on the contrasting color, fabric or material.

Something to take in mind

The most interesting fact about Elizabethan clothing is that the Parliament of England passed separate laws called sumptuary laws to govern the ways of dressing! It was in 1574 that these laws were enforced by Queen Elizabeth and were termed as 'Statutes of Apparel'. It decided the types of outfits an individual should wear. The ways of clothing of a person reflected his social status, or sometimes even the colour of his cloth. Clothes with gold were reserved for the Queen and her relations. The royal class alone could wear clothes trimmed with ermine. Nobles wore clothes trimmed with fox and otter.


  • "Elizabethan Clothing." ELIZABETHAN CLOTHING. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
  • Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge - Contents." Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge - Contents. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.
  • "Citelighter Is the Fast, Fun, and Easy Way to Do Research." Women's Fashions of the Elizabethan Era. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2016.