VIII: Costume Wars – Tudor vs. Stuart

Hello and welcome back to my blog! Today I thought I would do a continuation on my Costume Wars series – I really enjoyed researching my last post on this subject so I thought I would try some other eras! Today it will be the Tudors vs. Stuarts, which encompasses almost 250 years of British history. I’ll be going through some of the key parts of each era of fashion, let me know which period is your favourite in the comments below!

So, let’s start off with the Tudor era. Beginning in 1485 with the ascension of Henry VII to the throne after defeating Richard III during the Wars of the Roses, fashion in this era has been described as ‘the richest in English history’. Clothing during this era was of paramount importance – it showed your wealth, marital status and family. All of these factors affected one’s reputation. If you were a noble at court, it was vital to keep up with the latest fashion as this could have a direct impact on your future prospects. One word I would use to describe the clothing in this era is opulent – both men and women would have rich and luxurious fabrics such as silk or velvet. This era was also characterised by the number of layers one would wear – the average outfit for a noble at court would have had a minimum of 4 layers. The ideal shape for men in this era was square – therefore wide shoulders were cut into garments to display this. The ideal shape for a woman was a triangle – this was achieved through a very tight corset cinched at the waist and a full skirt. Many Tudor outfits would have displayed elegant embroidery – often with gold or silver thread to display their wealth.

For those at the bottom of the social ladder, clothes for the Tudor poor were regulated by the Sumptuary Laws. This was a legal limit on spending of Tudor garments in order to maintain the social structure. Therefore, those in the lower classes were restricted to very basic fabrics such as linen and sheepskin. Fashion for these people didn’t change much from previous eras and consisted of loose fitting clothes which primary function was to keep the wearer warm.

An example of clothing for those at the lower end of the social ladder

The Stuart era covers 1603-1714 and in terms of fashion, is described as being more comfortable than the Tudor era. Male outfits were characterised by a wide brimmed hat with a plume as well as a lace collar. If one was seen displaying these garments in public they would have been known as a Cavalier – a supported of King Charles I during the English Civil War (1642-51).

An example of ‘Cavalier’ clothing, c.1639

After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, under the reign of Charles II the first ‘three-piece suit’ was developed. It was seen as an elegant garment which would set one apart from the rest. Women’s fashion also changed during this period. As mentioned earlier, the Stuart era became more comfortable in terms of fashion, and this was characterised in women’s clothing by looser corsets and a less complicated dressing regime. The fashionable fabrics such as satin still remained however, and towards the end of the period skirts became opened at the front in order to show an elaborate petticoat. Note that I haven’t discussed any of the fashion during the interregnum period as I will be saving that for another post!

An example of women’s Stuart fashion, c. 1670

I hope you enjoyed this post, and let me know whether you prefer Tudor or Stuart fashion! I love the richness and grandeur or the Tudor era, but I also like the flamboyance of the Stuart era! I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Bye for now,

Lucinda

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