Fashion in the Time of William Shakespeare: 1564-1616 (Shire Library)

Fashion in the Time of William Shakespeare: 1564-1616 (Shire Library)

Sarah Jane Downing

Language: English

Pages: 72

ISBN: 074781354X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Garments and accessories are prominent in almost all of William Shakespeare's plays, from Hamlet and Othello to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night. The statement 'the apparel oft proclaims the man' was one that would have resonated with their audiences: the rise of England's merchant class had made issues of rank central to Elizabethan debate, and a rigid table of sumptuary laws carefully regulated the sorts of fabric and garment worn by the different classes. From the etiquette of courtly dress to the evolution of the Elizabethan ruff, in this vibrant introduction Sarah Jane Downing explores the sartorial world of the late sixteenth century, why people wore the clothes they did, and how the dizzying eclectic range of fashions (including ruffs, rebatos and French farthingales) transformed over time.

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small. Most people revelled in their disposable income and were desperate to wear the finest their money could buy – from glamorous gilded rebatos and fans down to the silkiest peach stockings – even if that meant breaking the law. Sumptuary laws that dictated what each social class was allowed to wear were relaxed somewhat from earlier reigns, but still issued periodically between 1559 and 1597. Some were clearly defined to promote English industry over foreign imports, but most were aimed at

custom in England that when noblemen or knights die, they leave their finest clothes to their servants, who, since it would not be fitting for them to wear such splendid garments, sell them soon afterwards to the players for a small sum. The masque became hugely popular at court and beyond; it was an interesting way to alleviate the boredom and ennui of a purely decorative life and to express oneself while showcasing a talent for poetry, dance or tournament skills. Most of all, it was a

transcendent when she shackled it to her country, making it glorious as she made herself Gloriana. Her feminine leadership was deeply opposed from all sides, and for decades she had to make herself available on the marriage market as her advisors prayed for an alliance with a suitable prince. Walking the uneasy line between pretty potential bride and indomitable leader she styled herself to highlight her beautiful features and flatter the tastes of her prospective suitors. Her vast official

well as Queen Elizabeth I. The construction of the main kind of women’s ensemble was a bodice or ‘pair of bodies’ with a separate skirt known as a kirtle or petticoat. The bodice was rigid and strengthened with busks of wood or whalebone that were slipped into channels stitched into the lining and tied into place with ‘busk points’ to stop them working their way out and digging into the wearer. The main busk centre front was often a piece of wood ornately carved as a love token from a beau to be

the wrongs perpetrated in the theatre, assuming – sometimes correctly – that the young men made beautiful in women’s apparel would be a source of lustful fascination to the more experimental or less discerning of the audience. Sir Philip Sidney (unknown artist c. 1576). As befits a man of military honour, he wears a gorget edged with gold engraving, complemented by the gold braid decorating his black velvet paned trunk-hose and codpiece. The codpiece was in shrinking decline by Shakespeare’s

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