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Tudor Fashions for Women

In light of our trivia question for this week I thought we'd take a look at some images of Tudor dress for women.
English noblewoman 1538
This first image is from a small portrait miniature, which seem to have been very popular at the time. She wears the square-necked gown and bell-shaped sleeves of the typical Tudor dress, with slightly puffed undersleeves which would date this gown to the earlier part of the reign of Henry VIII. Her French hood and double parure necklace are also typical features of Tudor costume from Henry VIII's reign.

Princess Elizabeth 1546
Red was a popular color in Tudor England and in this famous portrait of the future queen we see that the square neck and conical bodice are still in vogue, but the neckline has become much wider moving out almost off the shoulders. The undersleeves have grown much larger and are now clearly false, not attached continuing past the narrow portion of the oversleeve. The french hood is smaller with an almost-imperceptible veil. To change up this look all you'd have to do is switch the undersleeves and forepart (visible underskirt panel).

Queen Mary 1554
By 1554 Elizabeth's sister Mary was Queen of England, and her devotion to the Catholic Church showed itself in many things. In this portrait we can see not only very large cross at her neck, but her body itself is much more covered in giving with a modest approach to dress. The sleeves themselves seem to have shrunk somewhat, though it is hard to tell since she stands behind something. The dress itself is a rich glowing brown velvet with a white wing collar that is distinctive to Mary's reign and would morph into the giant ruff collars of Elizabeth's.

Elizabeth I 1563
Here we have Elizabeth once more in a red dress, but this time the neckline, which has returned to a squarish shape sits more firmly on the shoulders, and is even flanked by large padded rolls at the head of the sleeves. There is still a split in the skirt showing a forepart, but the neckline is filled in with a sheer partlet and the standing collar has more formally become the ruff. Perhaps the most striking difference is in the sleeves, which have done away entirely with the bell shape and become close-fitting, all the puffing and slashing being moved to the outside.

This last dress really begins to show signs of what we would more properly call the Elizabethan style. Under Elizabeth dress would reach incredible excesses in proportion, variety, and decorative technique. Here we see the last vestiges of the slightly more subdued lines of the Tudor "triangles"; the conical bodice, bell skirt, and by this time we've already lost the flared sleeves. Perhaps next we'll look at Elizabethan styles; they definitely are too varied to have anything but a post of their own.


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