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Clothing during the reign of Elizabeth always reflected the social status of the wearer. There would be no doubt in ones mind about picking out the nobility in any given crowd. Clothing was a direct indication of wealth, much in the manner of imported suits in the present. The cost of clothing was related to the type of fabric and in the days before synthetic dyes, color. Purple dye was extracted by crushing thousands of tiny sea snails and crimson dye was obtained by crushing a certain type of beetle. Processed fabrics such as velvet or corduroy were costly, as were satins and fine weaves.
Cotton, although common in this day and age, was expensive and uncommon before the rise of the cotton gin due to complexities in extracting from the seed. Harvested cotton was cleaned by hand, a lengthy and laborious process. Cotton was imported from India or the Americas with an associated high cost before taxation. Cotton was an expensive fabric up til the 1800s.
Flax and wool were the more common fibers. Flax is a plant that was is made into linen, which while expensive now, wasn’t when it was homespun. Wool yarn became wool fabric of all weights, including tweed which was woven wool fabric that had been beaten on one side while wet to form a woolly, wind proof material.
A typical man’s outfit would include boots, breeches or pants, a shirt, a jerkin or vest, and a hat. A typical woman’s outfit would include shoes, an over and under skirt, a shirt, a bodice, and a hat or snood. Long hair is generally braided. Children were dressed as infants only until about the age of three, then they dressed identically to adults (albeit smaller).
The best way to get an idea about costumes is to attend a Renaissance faire and take careful notes about what people are wearing. Or go to your local library and find some books about the period. Best of all Ask me or browse this site. Of course there are always more pictures of Nobility than the peasants who actually did the work. This is why we have put together this extensive site to allow you the opportunity to find real authentic clothing patterns true to their period.