"both dressed in gowns of white silk "
Barbara Gamage with Six Children, 1596
Public DomainBarbara Gamage with Six Children, 1596 - Credit: wikimedia commons

 Rich Elizabethan women wore many layers. First there was a smock and petticoat, and over this a bodice and skirt. Hoops and padding (farthingales) were used to bulk out the skirt into the desired shape. An outer bodice and skirt were then added, and finally a long gown that stretched to the floor. A ‘stomacher’ might be tied to the stomach to keep it flat. The bodices were designed to pull in the waist and give it as narrow an appearance as possible.

 

Separate sleeves and cuffs might be added. Sleeves were often puffed at the shoulders. Larger neck ruffs became fashionable; at one point they were so big that meals had to be eaten with a long-handled spoon! Married women were expected to cover their head with a hat or bonnet. This might be a close-fitting cap called a coif, a hood, or even a hat similar to a man’s, usually worn over a coif. Hair would be worn coiled and pinned up.

 

 

A typical hairstyle and hat, St Cecilia, 1560s
Public DomainA typical hairstyle and hat, St Cecilia, 1560s - Credit: Circle of Ambrosius Benson
Elizabeth Vernon at her dressing table, 1590
Public DomainElizabeth Vernon at her dressing table, 1590 - Credit: wikimedia commons