Late 16th Century Elizabethan Woman’s Ensemble by Lady Lisette la Roux
This ensemble is an example of garments worn by a middle class woman during the late 16th century in Elizabethan England.The inspiration for these garments comes from woodcuts, drawings and paintings from 1570 through 1600.The shift was purchased by Historic Enterprises and the rust colored Under Petticoat was a gift from Mistress Isobel Bedingfield OL, therefore are for display only and are provided to show a complete representation of a period garment.The Flat Cap, Coif, Pair of Bodies and Outer Petticoat were made by me.
The following is a detailed description of each item.
lat Cap During the early 16th century a style of headdress known as the “flat cap” or “soft cap” began to emerge, and were an important part of the wardrobe during this time.Many variations of this style of hat appear that span the social classes and towards the late 16th century (or Elizabethan era) cross gender barriers as well. The Cappers Act of 1571 mentions them and dictates the style to be worn.Wool was the mostly commonly used, however the rich also used silk velvet and taffeta in the fabrication of hats in the late 16th century and were stiffened with material such as felted wool. This black flat cap is made of 100% black linen and is stiffened with buckram, which is more readily available.Flat caps were adorned in many ways, including embroidery and woven braids or trim, as well as feathers.
This style of coif was worn by women in the late 16th Century, by itself while indoors and covered by a hat when outdoors.Coifs were made mainly of linen or silk (for the well off).Cotton was available, but not common and very expensive.This coif is made of 3.5 oz bleached linen, lined with the same, and hand sewn.Although the coif on display is not decorated, embroidery and lace were popular forms of embellishment.This style can be worn loose or tied in a circular fashion at the back of the head.
Shift or Smock
This shift was purchased from historic enterprises and is being shown in order to complete the outfit and is for informational purposes only.Shifts or smocks were undergarments worn by both genders and all classes.This shift is linen with machine black working, and is an excellent representation of the correct pattern, including the gussets under the arms.Shifts were almost always made of linen, however, silk was used for those who could afford it and was popular in Spain and Italy.Women’s shifts were found with both high and low neck lines and were fastened with hook and eyes or tied with a cord.
Rust Colored Petticoat
This rust colored under petticoat (skirt) was a gift from Mistress Isobel Bedingfield OL and is being shown for display in order to complete the outfit.Several layers of skirts or petticoats were worn on a daily basis.Skirts were typically made from linen and wool, as wool was a chief export of England during this time and excellent protection from the cold weather.They were normally trimmed or adorned in some fashion and fastened with lacing.
Pair of Bodies
The bodice, or more accurately, the “pair of bodies” was worn by all women during this period in Elizabethan England.They were considered outer garments and not undergarments as is today.They were meant to be seen and adorned as such.They were worn with sleeves (matching or not) and were pinned or laced in place. They could also be covered by a doublet for warmth or for more formal occasions.Bodices would be boned with canvas, fustian and later whalebone and bents or reeds.
The pair of bodies displayed is made of 100% 5.3 oz weight linen in the color of “Tarragon” or light green and is trimmed with black bias tape, which is similar in style to the satin or linen bias strips used in period to trim or finish seams.There is no visible machine stitching and it is boned with doubled “Rigiline”, a modern boning product that mimics the shape and texture of whalebone but is more readily available. The bodice is lined with the same linen and is laced in back with hand sewn eyelets.
Outer Skirt or Petticoat
The skirt on display is made of 100% linen in the same color of Tarragon as the bodice.It has hand sewn finishing and is trimmed with the black bias tape, as is the pair of bodies, but varies in size for contrast.The skirt is cartridge pleated to achieve the full hip appearance popular in this period.This look can also achieved by layers of similarly pleated under skirts, farthingales and bum rolls.The skirt is fastened in the back with hook and eye, but in period could have been fastened by lacing as well and possibly been laced to the bodice.