all about the wardrobe and images of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I is a historical character and at the same time an icon of style. To begin with, I suggest you understand what a style icon is. A style icon by definition is a well-known personality with a pronounced individual style, a role model and Muse for designers. Therefore, this is a person who sets a trend, radically inverts the worldview by expressing his individual style.

I think we should start with the historical aspects, before Elizabeth came to rule, in order to understand the whole essence of the expression of the Queen’s personality.

Queen Elizabeth I-biography

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Good Queen Bess, Queen-maiden-Queen of England and Ireland since November 17, 1558, the last of the Tudor dynasty. Daughter of king Henry VIII of England, Tudor, by his marriage to Anne Boleyn. The reign of Elizabeth is called the “Golden age of England” in connection with the flourishing of culture and the increased importance of England on the world stage. “Elizabethans” – Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon.

Elizabeth changed the course of history and ruled the country for more than half a century. The Queen was given a divided country divided by religious disputes, and she was able to turn it into a powerful power. If we talk about style, about costume, then the Queen completely destroyed the “Spanish costume” peculiar to the era of that time.

Style of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was born on 7 September 1533 at the Royal Palace in Greenwich. Her mother, Anne Boleyn, was married to Henry VIII for passionate love, and the king hoped that Anne would give him the long-awaited sons. The birth of Elizabeth did not please many people — the Royal family already had a daughter, Princess Mary. When Elizabeth was two years and eight months old, Anne Boleyn (Elizabeth’s mother) was executed on charges of high treason.

Anna never gave birth to Henry’s son and, according to the court, repeatedly cheated on her husband, the evidence of “multiple infidelities” was clearly falsified. Elizabeth and Mary were declared illegitimate, but this did not affect their life of luxury. After that, King Henry VIII was repeatedly married, so his wife Jane Seymour gave birth to Henry’s son Edward. After Jane Seymour’s death, Henry married three more times.

He divorced Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Howard was executed on charges of adultery. The execution of the young stepmother shocked the nine-year-old Elizabeth almost more than the death of her mother. King Henry VIII ended up being married six times.

It was at the age of nine that the future Queen Elizabeth formed a persistent rejection of marriage, according to some experts of a secret physiological or mental abnormality. Her biography holds many secrets. Everyone knows that for the rest of her life, she remained an innocent virgin and passed the throne to the son of her main rival, Mary Stuart, but all in order.

Queen's accessories

Elizabeth was well educated, spoke several languages, and was educated by the best Cambridge teachers. Elizabeth studied science on the same level as men, and in her tenacity was very much like her father.

The last manifestation of the monarch’s will, Henry VIII “recognized” his daughters and gave them hope, if not for the crown of England, then for a problem-free future. After the death of the king, the rule passed to his son Edward( Elizabeth’s brother), but he was only 10 years old, and the power passed to his uncle, who was soon executed. Young Edward, who was very sickly, was persuaded to give the throne to lady Jane grey, Queen of the nine days.

At the age of 16, Edward VI died, and after the intrigues of Lord protector Dudley, Jane grey ascended to the throne. Mary, Elizabeth’s sister, quickly overthrew this rebellion and became Queen at the age of 37. Mary actively pursued a policy of returning England to the fold of the Catholic Church. The majority of the population of England remained Catholic, but a narrow stratum of nobles – Protestants.

Style icon: Queen Elizabeth I

Mary’s reign was very brief and brutal. In early November 1558, Queen Mary felt that her days were numbered. The Council insisted that she formally appoint her sister as heir, but the Queen resisted: she knew that Elizabeth would bring back to England the Protestantism that Mary hated.

Under pressure, Maria gave in to the demand of her advisers, realizing that otherwise the country could descend into chaos of civil war. The Queen died on November 17, 1558, and remained in history as Mary the Bloody (or Bloody Mary). Elizabeth, when she received the news of her sister’s death, said: “The Lord has so decided. His deeds are wonderful in our eyes.”

At the time of taking the throne, Elizabeth was twenty-five years old. By the standards of the sixteenth century, when many people did not live to be fifty, this was quite a respectable age. Let’s consider her style and the years of Elizabeth’s reign, since both were interconnected.

How the style of Queen Elizabeth I was formed

The reign of Elizabeth I was in The late Renaissance. The Queen arranged a lavish coronation, because she understood that she had not got the best country with the best conditions, and there were also many disputes over her right to the throne. 25-year-old Elizabeth chose a red velvet dress richly embroidered with precious stones for her coronation.

She looked much younger than her years, and seemed a very young girl. First, she was given the Tudor crown, the one that had belonged to her father, Henry VIII. She kept trying to slide down. After that, the crown was replaced with one that was made specifically for the ruler.

Elizabeth uttered a phrase that few people took seriously then: “For the glory of God, for the good of the state, I have decided to keep my vow of chastity unbroken. Look at my state ring — I have already become engaged to my husband, to whom I will always be faithful to the grave (…). My husband is England, my children are my subjects ( … ). I Wish to have my tomb inscribed: “Lived and died a Queen and a virgin”.”

Elizabeth acted very carefully, surrounding herself with her loyal subjects, but the country was waiting to see who would become Elizabeth’s husband. The future of the country and further policy depended on it. Marriage to a European would plunge England into the strife of Europe, and marriage to an Englishman would put her before the choice of a faction. England was suffering from the opposition of Protestants and Catholics, and any misstep could plunge her into the abyss of war.

Elizabeth’s decision to reject the marriage was not a whim, but a wise political move. The Queen decided to do as she saw fit. She did not marry or leave any heirs. Officially, Elizabeth went down in history as the “virgin Queen”.

Queen Elizabeth's dresses

Dresses and other outfits of the Queen

Elizabeth’s costume was built on the Spanish model, but only formal features remained from the Spanish: a RAF collar, a stiff bodice-corset, but the skirt’s solution, the form of the frame-farzingale, all the proportions are spontaneous” (Source: the book of M. N. Mertsalov “Costume of different times and peoples”).

“Farthingale — flat and very wide frames without the front part that allows you to drop far down the Cape to the bodice. Excess skirt fabric was placed in the transverse folds and secured by the bodice Cape, their location was fixed by special pads sewn to the cover. Farthingale distort the real proportions of the human figure, creating an unnatural and disproportionate silhouette”. The colors and shades of the costumes were always very bright and saturated.

In the Late Renaissance, ladies achieved a white complexion by any means possible. Toxic lead whitewash literally ate away at the skin, but did not lose its popularity. In Europe at that time, there was also a more expensive method – rice powder, which bleached, but did not harm the skin. The image was completed with a light blush and a drop of red lipstick.

Elizabeth to this day is known not only for the huge number of her dresses, in her wardrobe there were more than 3 thousand dresses, but also for the fact that they were all examples of jewelry, textile and sartorial art. Elizabeth tried to diversify the finishing of her dresses in every possible way and never put on a dress, no matter how expensive it was, more than once.

My personal opinion is that the dresses were a kind of designers who had interchangeable parts. Embroidered with a large number of precious stones, decorated with the best expensive lace, embroidered with gold and silk threads, these dresses demonstrated, both to compatriots and foreigners, the Royal power and strength.

Images on costume ensembles were almost always associated with the theme of a particular event, the conquest of territories, or Vice versa, peaceful actions. The Queen was very fond of roses in the drawing, a kind of rejection of the concept of marriage and in General of men.

“The life of the court was the worship of the earth goddess and the worship of her beauty. This was emphasized by Elizabeth’s dresses, their splendor and extravagant proportions, which were radically different from the dresses of the Spanish Queens” (Source: encyclopedia of Fashion and style).

The only legislator of fashion in the country was considered to be the ruler herself. So, at one of the official events in Oxford, she appeared in elbow-length gloves. They immediately became popular all over England. Also under her rule, women began to show the neck, the length of the dress was significantly shortened. It was allowed to wear loose hair, and a high forehead and white skin became the main indicators of female beauty.

It is believed that it was Elizabeth who introduced the fashion for high collars, which lay on the shoulders and hid the flaws. In all the portraits, she is depicted in closed clothes with a lot of jewelry around her neck. The monarch was said to be rather shy. In her will, she asked not to have her body examined after death.

Queen Elizabeth I

Under Elizabeth, the British philosopher and historian Francis bacon became famous, as well as William Shakespeare, who created his great works. It was under Elizabeth that the theater began to develop. Portraits of the Queen-an exhibition of the wealth and power of her country, expressed in the clothes of the ruler.

It made not only any modern European Queen look like a poor orphan, but even some bejeweled great man would feel damaged.

Her success in the government is undeniable and outstanding, I do not see much point in talking about them, since this article is still about her as an icon of style, but I will add that experts say that by the end of her life, Elizabeth was completely toothless and almost bald. The skin was in a terrible state.

Once a young suitor entered her chambers without knocking, a toyboy of the middle Ages, seeing Elizabeth without a wig and tons of makeup, he was horrified and ran away. The guy was executed as expected.

Queen Elizabeth's dresses

Queen’s style and modern fashion

In our time, the style of Elizabeth I is very often used and inspires artists.

Fashion houses: Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Vivienne Westwood draw inspiration and copy the style of the Elizabethan era.

Queen's style and modern fashion

Queen Elizabeth I in the movies

The film industry is not just recreate the movies:

The movie “Two Queens”. It was the images of Elizabeth I performed by Margot Robbie that were most accurately recreated. For formal wear, Alexandra Byrne studied the portraits of the Queen of England. In two images we can see the famous attribute of the costume of that period-the RAF collar. This collar was designed to emphasize the whiteness of the face.

A little later, with the advent of colored starch, the RAF began to be tinted to match the suit. Alexandra Byrne also used the open RAF, which came into fashion thanks to Elizabeth I. The cut of this collar revealed the neck and chest. The Queen adored Rafa and even introduced a decree regulating the maximum height of the collar.

Interestingly, Alexandra Byrne has already created costumes of Elizabeth I for the films “Golden age” and “Elizabeth”. The 1998 film “Elizabeth” starring cate Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar in 7 categories, one of them “Best costumes”. This time Byrne decided not to stick to historical accuracy, but the English fashion of the second half of the XVI century can still be traced. Let’s find out which images most accurately reflect the story, and in which cases Alexandra Byrne has shown a new look.

Many films are adaptations of the personality of Queen Elizabeth.

Here is a short list:

    • Bette Davis, the virgin Queen, 1955


    • Plenda Jackson, Elizabeth: Queen Of England, 1971


    • Judi Dench, Shakespeare In Love, 1998


    • Helen Mirren, Elizabeth I, 2005


    • Anne-Marie Duff, the virgin Queen, 2005


    • Joely Richardson and her mother Vanessa Redgrave played Elizabeth in youth and old age, Anonymous, 2011


  • Rachel Skarsten, The Kingdom, 2013-2017


Also, many heroines in films are inspired and exaggerate the style of Queen Elizabeth. Example “Alice in Wonderland”, Helena Bonham Carter as the “red Queen”. «Snow white: Revenge of the dwarfs”, Julia Roberts-the evil Queen Clementine, snow White’s stepmother and many others.

Many celebrities, singers and models show their images interpreted by Queen Elizabeth: Lady Gaga, Madonna.

Vogue magazine styles photo shoots in the style of the Queen. Undoubtedly, Elizabeth 1 as a historical character is a style superhero and inspiration for designers and stylists for all time.

Author: Stylist (image maker) Daria Zonova


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