Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Elizabethan Make-up

Queen Elizabeth Ist

"Queen Elizabeth Ist"

Clothing and Fashion - Elizabethan Make-up
Upper class women, the Nobility, of the Elizabethan era wore make-up. Queen Elizabeth I set the fashions and as she grew older she more wore elaborate make-up which was useful for hiding wrinkles and other signs of ageing. At one time Queen Elizabeth had contracted small pox which had left some scarring on her face. The heavy white make-up also helped to hide this and maintain her illusion of beauty.

The 'Ideal' Elizabethan Woman
Although the fashion for women changed to a more seductive look it was important for Queen Elizabeth to maintain her image and the beauty of a 'Virgin Queen'. The Elizabethan view of pure beauty was a woman with light hair and a snow white complexion complimented with red cheeks and red lips. A pale complexion could only be achieved by a woman of the upper class. Lower class women were expected to work outside and therefore acquired a suntan.  The pale complexion was therefore a sign of wealth and nobility - an immediate identification for a person from the upper classes. This alabaster complexion was therefore also required by Elizabethan men. Queen Elizabeth achieved this picture of ideal beauty by using white make-up. This explains the odd white face make-up seen in many of her portraits. This image of the Virgin Queen was further enhanced by the work of Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) in his epic poem 'The Fairie Queene' which was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabethan Make-up
The white make-up was also a useful aid to hiding the signs of ageing. White face make-up was applied to acquire the pale look. The favoured application of the upper classes was a make-up called ceruse - a mixture of white lead and vinegar. It was poisonous. A pale complexion was so desirable that women were bled to achieve the desired look. Face paint made from plant roots and leaves was also applied. An Upper Class Elizabethan woman followed this fashion further and might even dye her hair yellow with a mixture of saffron, cumin seed, celandine and oil. Expensive dyes such as Cochineal was used to redden the cheeks and lips. Madder and vermilion was also used to achieve this effect. Kohl was used to darken the eyelashes. Queen Elizabeth had a wide variety of wigs and hair pieces - believed to number over eighty. These were often referred to as Periwigs.

Elizabethan Make-up - a comment dating back to 1583.
During the Elizabethan era pamphlets were printed and distributed commenting on life in Elizabethan England. A writer of one such pamphlet was a well travelled Londoner called Philip Stubbes. He was believed to have been born c1555 and died c1610. He was well educated and attended both Oxford and Cambridge University. He was also a strict Elizabethan Puritan and held firm views on any social practices which, in his view were, unfitting  true Christians. He named his work " The Anatomie of Abuses " in which he strongly criticised many of the fashions and clothing worn during the Elizabethan era. It was entered in the Stationers' Register on 1 March 1583. This pamphlet includes his view and some valuable information about Elizabethan Make-up.

"The women of Ailgna use to colour their faces with certain oyles, liquors, unguents and waters made to that end, whereby they think their beautie is greatly decored : ...I holde this for a Maxime, that they are made of many mixtures, and sundry compounde simples, bothe farre fetched and deer bought, cunningly couched together, and tempered with many goodly condiments and holsome confections, I warrant you."

Interesting Facts and Information about Elizabethan Make-up
Some interesting facts and information about Clothing & Fashion - Elizabethan make-up included mineral makeup which was a loose powder foundation that women used as a base for their make-up, unfortunately they also lightened their complexion using a poisonous mixture of vinegar and white lead called ceruse,  prior to the Elizabethan Era it had been considered vulgar to wear make-up and the use of perfume had been frowned upon by the upper classes.

Elizabethan Clothing
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