European monarchs often were trendsetters in fashion. The clothing designs and even little details of kings and queens’ apparel were meaningful. And so their courtiers often imitated their appearance and outfits, thus, kings and queens influenced fashion, sort of like modern celebrities sometimes do. One of the most famous trendsetters of the European Renaissance was Queen Elizabeth I. There were a few well-recognizable features of her dress, and today, we’ll find out about some of them.
The article is based on the video by Natalya Skornyakova:
Black and white colors of queen’s gowns
One of the main messages shown by Queen Elizabeth I’s apparel is innocence, purity, and virginity. The queen herself used to say that her colors are white and black. At the time, white symbolized innocence and black symbolized stability. And these were not just her favorite colors but symbolic colors that broadcasted her chastity and power worldwide by her gowns. That’s why we often see Elizabeth I in the portraits wearing beautiful dresses made from white or black fabric with various adornments – floral embroidery and prints, gems, pearls, lace, costly trimmings, etc.
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, around 1592. It is stored in National Portrait Gallery in London
Pearls as queen’s favorite jewelry
The favored jewelry item of Queen Elizabeth I was, of course, pearls. The reason, as you might have already guessed, is the same as with white clothing. Pearls always symbolize purity and innocence. The queen wore lots of pearls – numerous rows of necklaces, earrings, hair jewelry, her gowns were embroidered with pearls, and so on.
Queen Elizabeth I by unknown English artist, circa 1588. It is stored in National Portrait Gallery in London
Interesting fact! Only during the period from July 1566 to April 1569 Queen Elizabeth I ordered 520 pearls for her collars décor.
Most of Queen Elizabeth’s jewels are gifts?
Actually, yes. Queen Elizabeth I seldom bought her jewelry. The majority of them she either inherited from her father Henry VIII or got as gifts from royalty, nobility in her court, ambassadors from other countries, and different allies. And these jewelry pieces usually had a deep meaning – they glorified the queen and England, accentuated her power and authority, etc. Jewels were the means to play up to the queen.
The queen’s favorites often presented her with jewels somehow connected to the secret nicknames she liked to give them, like “water” (Sir Walter Raleigh) or “eyes” (Lord Robert Dudley).
Another interesting fact! Not only the queen’s outfits were meaningful and special. Her courtiers’ garments were also full of symbols, hidden senses, and mysterious detail. For example, Sir Christopher Hatton (another of her favorites) ordered an insanely expensive armor garniture decorated with love knots and Tudor roses, which were the symbol of Queen Elizabeth I. It looked really bizarre even at that time.