The Most Interesting Tudor Fashion Trends

The tudor family painted all together including Henry VIII, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and others.
The Tudor Family, painted circa 1572. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Tudors were known for their extravagance, flamboyance, and love of excess. Their penchant for jewelry and clothing is well recorded in countless paintings and accounts from the period.  Whilst many original garments are no longer in existence, there are some items of jewelry and clothing still on exhibition. We have investigated the fashion trends of the Tudor period and what royalty would have worn from birthright into adulthood.  

Baby Fashion: How The Young Tudors Dressed

painting future tudor king, Edward VI at around the 2. He is wearing red and golden clothes with a feather hat showing extreme wealth.
Painting of future King Edward VI by Hans Holbeln the Younger as a child at around the age of 2 in circa 1539. National Gallery of Art // Public Domain

Interestingly, in noble households children were usually dressed as adults straight away. In fact,  until about 9 years of age, young boys were also dressed as girls too. When they were old enough,  these young boys would be ‘breeched’ which means put into trousers and other garments. It is believed that the main reason behind dressing boys in dresses and gowns was due to toilet training and when they were able to be more independent they would be dressed in boys clothes.  

Children were known to wear large dresses and ruffled necks too. Usually, these garments were in rich colors and were adorned with jewels and diamonds depending on their family’s wealth and status.  

For children born outside of nobility, they were usually dressed in loose-fitting wool or muslin dresses until their families were able to dress them properly. Usually, peasant children would also wear a cloth bonnet too. When these children were old enough, they would also wear outfits that mimicked their parents too.  

Tudor Women: Fashion Forward Royals

Example of a tudor woman, Catherine Parr, wearing a Spanish farthingale.
6th wife of King Henry VIII, Catherine Parr, wearing a tudor gown that shows the Spanish farthingale. Painted in 1545. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It is believed that irrespective of status or nobility, all Tudor women wore a linen shift-like dress under their usual garments. These were easily washed and were worn to protect any large dresses that couldn’t be cleaned as quickly and easily.  

Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, was the first Tudor royal to introduce the ‘Spanish farthingale’ into the royal court. The farthingale was a conical shaped undergarment that gave a  different shape to dresses and exaggerated the silhouette. 

Royal women would also be corseted and have a bodice strapped onto them, a bodice often heavily embroidered and embellished. It is all believed that some royals allowed part of their linen shift dresses to show around the neck and the cuffs. Catherine of Aragon popularised this trend whilst involved with the royal court by embroidering these linen details.  

Jewels, Gemstones, and Glass Beading: Tudor Jewelry  

Painting of the Queen known as the Ermine Portrait, shows her wearing a decorated black dress covered in jewels. Painting attributed to William Segar in circa 1585.
Painting of Queen Elizabeth known as the Ermine Portrait, shows her wearing a decorated black dress covered in jewels. Painting attributed to William Segar in circa 1585. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Throughout this period, royal women were known to wear a muslin or linen cap underneath their more elaborate headdresses and hoods. This was a style that became fashionable throughout Henry  VIII’s reign and was further developed throughout Elizabeth I’s reign too. These headdresses were regularly adorned with various jewels and precious stones and both Catherine of Aragon and Anne  Boleyn can both be seen wearing them in a number of portraits.  

Towards the end of the 16th century, jewelry makers were able to create far more intricate designs that incorporated precious jewels and stones. Members of the royal court tended to have a particular eye for the finer things in life and many brooches, gold chains, bracelets, ring, and carcanets (choker necklaces) were commissioned and created for the Tudor nobility. Another typical trend during the Tudor period was for jewelry designers to paint small portraits of loved ones and embed them into necklaces and bracelets. In fact, Elizabeth I was known to have carried a small portrait of her mother on a gold chain around her neck.  

For poorer members of the Tudor world, the only options for jewelry were wooden beads or items carved out of stone or bone. Although, as jewelry became more popular so did the resourcefulness of normal people. By the end of the Tudor period, glass beads became a well-liked alternative to those that couldn’t afford the jewels and riches of the upper glass. Usually, these glass beads were fashioned into brooches or hair accessories. 

Tudor Makeup Of The Time

Painting showing the make up of Queen Elizabeth I of England.
Painting in circa 1559 of the face of Elizabeth I of England. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Makeup was a particularly important aspect of Tudor fashion and cultural trends. Most of the time,  women would color their cheeks with a homemade rouge and, throughout Elizabeth I’s reign, the use of lead-based face cream was popularised to hide any blemishes or scarring.  

In fact, the heavy application of makeup synonymous with Elizabeth I was not a trend throughout the reign of the first Tudors. For example, during Henry VIII’s time in power, it was more likely that noblewomen would go for a far more natural look. It was only when Elizabeth I came into power and also expanded trade to the Middle East and further abroad that face and eye makeup became widely used throughout the court.  

Interestingly, Elizabeth I’s involvement with the Middle East brought red ochre back to the royal court which women used to create a lip and cheek stain. As well as this, henna also became well-liked by the nobility, with women using the pigment to stain their nails and hair.  

But What Did The Tudor Men Wear? 

A tudor man in front of a castle wearing theusual clothing of a tudor nobleman at the time.
Portrait of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon during part of the Tudor dynasty. Painted in 1555. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In fact, the Tudor men were just as elaborate and flamboyant as the women!  

A classic outfit for a wealthy Tudor man would consist of a white silk shirt with frilling at the neck and wrists. Over this shirt, they would then typically wear a doublet and a pair of tight striped trousers, known as hose. 

Ruffs were a typical accessory for Tudor men and as time went on they continued to become larger and more pronounced. In fact, they were so fashionable that in many noble households, including the royal court, a specialist laundress was usually employed to clean these ruffs daily.  

Throughout Henry VIII’s rule, flat caps were also popularised. In fact, in many of his most famous paintings, King Henry can often be seen wearing a fur-trimmed flat cap heavily embellished with jewels and pearls.  

Overall, the Tudors were undeniably great lovers of the finer things in life. They were known for their extravagant and heavily detailed clothing and jewelry, trends that were only made more popular throughout Elizabeth I’s reign.


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