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Elizabeth, there was a decided tendency in England to imitate the dress of the Spaniards, and that of the Low Countries. It is worthy of remark that, in both countries, France and England, this love of variety in finery is spoken of as being more conspicuous in the men than in the other sex; and this has always been the case at periods of which vanity in dress formed the especial characteristic. There is something almost grotesque in the male dress of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, more so even than in that of the ladies.
If we look at an Englishwoman of that age, we see that the Middle Ages have passed away, with all that their dresses presented of ease, elegance, and grace. The costume of the Elizabethan
ladies was stiff and very formal; the more so as they were more elevated in rank and fashion, increasing, indeed, in this respect, up to royalty itself, and they were certainly not graceful. In our second cut, we have a group of ladies and gentlemen of Elizabeth's court, taken from a contemporary painting representing the queeu's visit to Hunsdon House in 1572, which was engraved by Vertue, and published by the Royal Society of Antiquaries in the last century.
The lady in front, dressed in white, is believed to represent Lady Hunsdon herself. It will be seen at a glance that there is a general resemblance in character between the garments of the two sexes ; both wore the light close vest, which was called the doublet, and which, in the character of a somewhat looser vest of the same description, which was sometimes worn over the doublet, was called a jerkin or jacket. This doublet, as will be seen, differs little in the two sexes. It descended to the girdle, and there joined, in the men, the hose ; and in ladies, the farthingale. The hose represented the breeches of a later period: but at this time they were stuffed out with different materials to an enormous width, as shown to some extent in our cut, and they were made of costly material, often purple or scarlet. These wide-stuffed hose were commonly known by the name of trunk-hose; they were usually stuffed either with wool, or hair, or often with bran. Among the stories told of these hose by the satirists' of the time is one of a fashionable gallant, who wore hose of large dimensions; a nail of the chair on which he sat tore a hole in his hose, whereby, when he rose to bow to the ladies, the bran poured out as from a mill. A cry was raised against this fashion as carrying away the supply of hair from other more useful purposes, and making it rare and expensive, even to the destruction of the tails and manes of horses; and there is an English satirical song of the reign of Elizabeth entitled, A lamentable complaint of the pore countrymen againste great hose, for the losse of their cattelles tails.” The hose were sometimes embroidered, and richly ornamented in other manners.
The farthingales, or verdingales, of the ladies represented the French vertugale; they joined the doublet at the girdle, like the hose, and were stuffed out, not with bran, but with hoops. In fact they represented the hooped petticoats of the last century, and our more modern crinolines. They appear often to have been expanded to a very great width. From the hose, in the male sex, descended the stocking, called more usually in Elizabeth's time, the netherstocks, which also were made of rich material, and were much ornamented, and had ornamental and even jewelled garters, which was the case also with the ladies, though their stockings and garters were not like those of the men, always exposed to view. To the dress of the ladies, at this period, belongs another article of dress, the petticoat. This garment—which appears by its name to have been a petite cote-originally belonged to the other sex, and thus occurs not unfrequently during the fifteenth century. In the “Promptorium Parvulorum," an English-Latin Dictionary of that
period, it is explained by tunicula, a little tunic, and in a record of the same period, we have mention of a “petticote of lynen clothe, withought slyves,” so that it appears to have been an outer garment, perhaps having some relation to the kirtle. Its real character even during Elizabeth's reign, is not very clear, but it is spoken of as made of silk, and as rather an expensive article of dress. A short Scottish poem of this period, by a well-known poet, Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, entitled a “Satire on the Town Ladyes," speaks of a wylie coit or wylecot, as being richly embroidered and sewed with lace, as being under the gown of the ladies, and above their hose and stockings, for he remarks of them, that,
Sumtyme thay will beir up (raise up) thair gown,
This "wylecote ” must have been an under garment, and the modern petticoat is no doubt to be dated from this period. “Newfangleness” was the word now introduced to signify the rage for new fashions which had seized upon people in general, and, as stated above, was displayed more strongly by the male than by the female sex. I have alluded above to the readiness with which the English especially were accused of borrowing new fashions from all the nations around. A satirical writer, of the reign of Elizabeth, named Samuel Rowlands, in a volume of Epigrams, printed in 1600, tells us that the doublet was borrowed from France, and the hose from Germany. He speaks of “a most accomplished cavalier”
Walking the streets his humours to disclose,
Connected with the doublet I have to speak of another article in modern dress, the boddice or stays. There can be no doubt that the practice of bracing up into a slender form the upper part of the female body by means of laces, as in our stays, existed in the twelfth century, as we have satirical allusions to it in the illuminations of that period, when it appears to have been one of the “newfangled" fashions of the period, but as we have no allusion to it afterwards, nor anything in the costume of the illuminations of manuscripts down to the sixteenth century which would lead us to suspect it, we are led to suppose that it was a fashion soon laid
aside ; but the form given to the body in the dress of the reign of Elizabeth betrays at once the presence of a contrivance of this kind. In fact they are alluded to by the popular satirical writers of the day, one of whom, who wrote in 1596, Stephen Gosson, describes the stays of that time as
These privie coats, by art made strong
With bones, with paste, with such like ware,
And now they harnest gallants are ;
It is from this period, no doubt, that we derive our modern stays; but at that time they were in use equally among both sexes.
Above the doublet came the ruff, which surrounded the neck, and which also was common to both sexes. According to Rowlands, as quoted above, the ruff was derived from Italy. It was often of extravagant dimensions, and was stiffened by what appears to have been then a newly invented article, starch. The ruff was often fringed with lace, and otherwise ornamented.
Much labour and cost, as may be supposed, were expended in dressing and adorning the lady's head. The hair was curled and twisted into a variety of forms, and was further bedecked with gems, and with stars, and other ornaments of gold and silver. It was frequently dyed of the colour which suited each person's particular taste, and the fashion now became general of employing false hair, to increase the bulk of that which the lady possessed of her own. Perriwigs were also introduced at this period, and another new custom, of which we now hear for the first time, was that of wearing ear-rings, which is said to have prevailed more among the gentlemen, the gay gallants, than among the ladies. The latter, perhaps, hesitated in submitting their ears to be pierced. Above the head-dress was worn a hat, which varied very much in shape, but generally presented little elegance of form. Beaver hats were now introduced, but they appear to have been rather rare and expensive. The introduction of two other articles belonging to the toilette, may be ascribed to this period, and must not be forgotten. The first was the fan. The fan of the Elizabethan age was usually made of feathers, like the fans still in use in the east, from whence it was probably derived. The handle was often very richly ornamented, and set with precious stones, and even with diamonds. VOL. III. NO. VI.
As the lady who made any claim to dress in fashion was never without her fan, it was usually suspended to the girdle by a chain. A satirist of the day, Stephen Gosson, already quoted, approves of the fan if employed in the right time of the year, when they were useful for driving away flies, and for cooling the skin.
But seeing they are still in hand,
In house, in field, in church, in street ;
In cold, in heat, in dry, in weet;-
Another article usually carried by the fine lady, was the mask, a fashion which appears to have been imported from France. Ben Jonson calls them“ French masks.” The mask of the Elizabethan age only covered the upper part of the face.
These details of the costume of our English ladies of the reign of Elizabeth will perhaps be better understood by the two accompanying figures. The first represents Queen Elizabeth herself in her state dress. Her doublet, as will be seen, is buttoned down the breast to the waist, where it joins the spreading farthingale. Her hair is here curled, and surmounted by the crown. The other is understood to represent the Countess of Derby, and is taken from a photograph of the original portrait in the South Ken.
sington Museum. Her ladyQUEEN ELIZABETH.
ship’s ruff is plainer in cha
racter than that of the queen,
and her hair is surmounted by a small hat, much in the style of those worn by ladies of the present day.
Since the Middle Ages had expired, a new agent of progress