"breeches of copper-coloured silk so voluminous it is a wonder he can pass through a doorway; doublet of ivory sewn all over with seed-pearls; a lace ruff at his neck so severely starched"

Portrait of Prospero Alessandri, 1580
Public DomainPortrait of Prospero Alessandri, 1580 - Credit: Giovanni Battista Moroni
An upper class man in this period would wear a linen shirt with a large starched ruff or very high collar, with matching ruffs at the wrists. Over this would go a doublet, a fitted buttoned jacket with long sleeves. On top of the doublet, a jerkin might be worn: a close-fitting, often padded sleeveless jacket, usually made of leather. On his legs he would wear stockings (nether-hose), and over these breeches (upper-hose). The breeches usually came to just below the knee and could be loose-fitting, semi-fitted or padded. Very short padded breeches (sometimes looking more like a roll around the hips) called trunk hose might be worn over tight-fitting full length hose. The outfit was often finished with a cloak and a hat, adorned with a jewel or feather.


Portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton, 1589
Public DomainPortrait of Sir Christopher Hatton, 1589 - Credit: wikimedia commons

The rich wore clothes made from a variety of expensive fabrics, including silk, velvet, taffeta and satin. These would be dyed in rich colours, with more vibrant colours denoting higher status. Many of the dyes and fabrics would have been imported at great expense. A new fashion developed for slashes in clothes. These were cuts in the outer layer of the garment, exposing the colourful linings underneath. The linings would be pulled through the cut and puffed out – these were called ‘pullings out’ or ‘drawings out.’ Poorer people wore breeches made from leather or wool.

More about Elizabethan men's clothing