These laws about clothing in the Elizabethan era were called Sumptuary Laws.
They were designed to limit the expenditure of people on clothes - and of course to maintain the social structure of the Elizabethan Class system. The clothes that Elizabethan women wore were dictated by the Sumptuary Law as decreed by Queen Elizabeth I on 15 June 1574. The fabrics and colors of clothes which women were allowed to wear were determined by their position and rank. Some interesting facts and information about Elizabethan Women's Clothing and the Sumptuary Laws during the Elizabethan era.
The Meaning of Elizabethan Clothing
The rank and position of Elizabethan women could be immediately recognised by the color and material of their clothes. The English Sumptuary Laws were well known by all of the English people. And they were strictly obeyed. The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life. Elizabethan women only wore clothes that they were allowed to wear - by Law.
The Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Era Clothing
The info below details of the meaning of the colors which were allowed to be worn by Elizabethan women in relation to their position, status or position. Bright and dark colours were generally more expensive to produce and therefore limited to higher status clothing. The meaning of specific colors which were allowed to be worn during the Elizabethan Era are further detailed in The Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Clothing.
Materials worn in Elizabethan Era Clothing
The materials worn by Elizabethan men in relation to their position, status or position. Silks, velvets and furs were the most expensive materials and fabrics to produce and therefore limited to higher status clothing - Material & Fabrics used in Elizabethan Era Clothing.
Clothing allowed for Women during the Elizabethan Era
The above info detailing Elizabethan clothing allowed for women has been compiled directly from the Sumptuary Laws called the 'Statutes of Apparel' which were enforced by Queen Elizabeth I in Greenwich on 15 June 1574
- Queen, Queen's mother, children, and sisters, and aunts: Silk - Purple
- Duchesses, Marquises, and Countesses: Sable Fur
- As above: Cloth of gold or gold tissue - Gold
- Viscountesses, baronesses, and other personages of like degrees: Tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any gold - Gold
- Viscountesses, baronesses, and other personages of like degrees: Cloth of Silver, Tinseled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any silver - Silver
- Wives of Knights of the Garter and of the Privy Council, the ladies and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bedchamber, and maids of honor: Velvets - Furs - genets and lucerns - Crimson, Black
- Wives of barons' sons, or of knights: Velvet - Furs of leopards - Embroidery of silk - Spangles or pearls of gold, silver, or pearl - Enameled chains, buttons, aglets, and borders - Satin, damask, or tufted taffeta - Fur whereof the kind groweth not within the Queen's dominions, except foins, genets, bodge, and wolf - Grey
- Daughters of knights, and of such as may dispend 300 marks by the year so valued ut supra, and the wives of those that may dispend £40 by the year: Silk grosgrain, doubled sarcenet, camlet, or taffeta - Satin or damask
- Gentlewomen attendant upon duchesses, marquises, countesses: Liveries given by their mistresses
- Wives of barons, knights of the order, or councilors' ladies, and gentlewomen of the privy chamber and bed chamber, and the maids of honor: Velvet, tufted taffeta, satin - Gold or silver
- Knights' daughters: Damask, taffeta, or other silk
- Lower Class Women: Wool, linen and sheepskin - Brown, beige, yellow, orange, russet, green, grey and blue (not the deep rich indigo but dyed with woad)
- Lower Classes Women: Silk, taffeta and velvet trimmings allowed