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Queen Elizabeths Wardrobe Revolution Fashions English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1599 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Fashion is defined to be the prevailing sought-after clothes that are à la mode. A fashion setter is someone who wears a new outfit that everyone else replicates and expands. Queen Elizabeth was a trendsetter and she not only affected the way people used to dress but also used this as an advantage to aid her throughout her reign. Queen Elizabeth was not always dressed so sumptuously. A letter written by her nurse during her childhood pleaded to the King to give little Elizabeth enough clothes so that she does not have to run around in rags.

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I beseech you to be [a] good lord to my lady…that she may have some raiment for she hath neither gown, nor kirtle nor sleeves, nor railes, nor body stitches, nor handkerchiefs, nor muffles nor biggins. All this her grace must have. I have driven off as long as I can, that be my troth I can drive it no longer. Beseeching you my lord that ye will see that her grace may have that [which] is needful for her (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion).

Elizabeth used her wardrobe for political and personal decision-making. She passed laws in regards to clothing and everyone was required to dress according to their station. Fashion has aided to maintain a social structure in England and had an impact on history throughout Queen Elizabeth's reign.

Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe was made up of astounding dresses and not only did she dress to impress people but her wardrobe serve more than just one purpose. It is said that during Queen Elizabeth's childhood, she did not have any extravagant dress to wear. In fact she was dressed with the simplest fabrics and the plainest of gowns and at one point her nurse begged for the King to give her more clothes that fitted her station. Elizabeth's youth and her mother's death had a great influence over her political as well as personal decisions (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). Her display of the fancy dresses was not due only to a craving for rich gowns to make up for her destitute wardrobe of her younger days but was also used to make political and wealth statements (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). Both her father and she were well known for their extravagance in dressing. It is said that Queen Elizabeth even outshone her father in the sumptuousness of her dresses. The use of fashion for her political advantage was one of the fascinating traits of Queen Elizabeth. For example, sumptuous gowns impress people and Elizabeth knew that. Thus her wardrobe was first fashioned to impress and also to suit her station as a ruling monarch (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). Also she sent portraits of herself magnificently dressed to Catherine de' Medici during the marriage negotiations with the Anjous which gained unanimous praise. As she was the queen of England, the way she dresses affected the people around her as they all dressed up to be in the Queen's good graces. King Henry VII, Elizabeth's grandfather, was the object of gossip about poverty and cheapness as a result of his austere wardrobe while on the other hand, Queen Elizabeth's lavish wardrobe conveyed generosity and the willingness to spend (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). Although her wardrobe far topped any other in England, her clothing expenses were quite modest. Behind the extravagant façade of her seemingly expensive wardrobe, were the fact of limited funds, carefully budgeted expenditures, and the crafty use of resources and materials (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). As her reigned progressed, people began bringing clothes to her as an attempt to gain her favors. So, her expenditure cost was significantly reduced and she could dedicate more funds to other areas.

Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe did not only affect foreign monarchs but also the English people under her reign during the Elizabethan era. The Elizabethan era was renowned for its fashionable concept and the way people were using it to express themselves. At the beginning of the era, women's fashion did not have much of an importance in their lives but after Queen Elizabeth came to power, everything they wore came to matter. Fashion was considered an important part of the Elizabethan era (England Fashion during the Elizabethan Age). Dressing up was deemed an art form and thus Elizabethan people took time and effort to be chic (England Fashion during the Elizabethan Age). As might be expected, the clothes the queen wore significantly affected the people close to her. They began to dress accordingly to match the Queen's fashion but were careful to not overshadow hers. Queen Elizabeth's ladies in waiting wore her old dresses that other women endeavored to imitate. Elizabeth's fashion influence spread well beyond woman's clothing. The splendor of her wardrobe began to change male garments as well. Courtiers competed with each other in order to be seen in the most flamboyant, ornate, costly, and fashionable outfits to get in the good graces of the Queen (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). Hunting was one of the favorite sports during the Elizabethan era and many clothing styles were formed during the hunting trips. Many a time, a noble or some wealthy person would come dressed up in a new voguish outfit which the other wealthy and under class surrounding the hunt would reproduce, thus spreading the style (Elizabethan Sports). Queen Elizabeth had portraits of herself painted, of which copies were made and distributed freely throughout the kingdom (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). This way her image could be displayed to wide audience thus resulting in the spread of the court's fashion and inspiring pride into the English people's heart. Queen Elizabeth changed the way people used to dress and this was considered as the 'it' thing of the time.

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The way people used to dress during the Elizabethan era was about a combination of the fashion with one's social status and this was also the era where laws were imposed with regards to clothing (Clothing in Elizabethan Era). "In Greenwich on the 15 June 1574, Queen Elizabeth enforced some new Sumptuary Laws called the 'Statutes of Apparel'" (Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws). It was primarily enforced and put to work by King Henry VIII, and these laws were then enforced by his eldest daughter Queen Mary, and then Queen Elizabeth continued the tradition. It was a good way of keeping control over the populace (Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws). These laws were popular among the English people as the punishment for violating the Sumptuary Laws could be severe; fines, loss of property, title and sometime even someone's life! (Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws). No definite legal documentation could be found where the felon was brought to justice or the stipulated punishment was carried out for breaking the law (Sumptuary Law). "Some references to such occurrences can be found in a few personal journals, but no parliamentary records seem to exist to substantiate these journal entries" (Sumptuary Laws). Queen Elizabeth enforced these laws to limit the expenditure of people on clothes and also to maintain the social structure of the Elizabethan era. The main concern of the Queen was that money was spent on pointless materials instead of being used for more purposeful things. The other concern was that if anyone started wearing anything they wanted, it will lead to moral decline and social chaos. For example, if someone cannot tell the difference between a milkmaid and a countess at a glance, then chaos might occur throughout the kingdom and Queen Elizabeth did not want that happening (Queen Elizabeth's Influence on Elizabethan Fashion). These laws were nearly impossible to enforce as there was no "clothing police" (Elizabethan Sumptuary Statutes). Elizabethan clothing displayed information about the social status of the person wearing them and this was not just determined by the wealth of the person but also their social standing (Elizabethan Clothing). The Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws were important as it revolutionized what everyone was wearing and it also emphasized the social class system as people were dressing according to their class.

During the Elizabethan era, fashion has played an important role in shaping the history throughout Queen Elizabeth's reign. Due to Queen Elizabeth's lack of rich and elegant dresses during her younger days, her wardrobe, alongside her famed 'virginity' when she grew up influenced thousands of people in England and helped her throughout her political as well as personal decisions. She fashioned the way people were dressing during the era as people looked up to her and wanted to gain her favors. Behind the façade of the expensive looking and jeweled incrusted gowns were a carefully budgeted planning, limited funds and intelligent use of the resources and materials needed. She also received expensive clothing gifts from many of her courtiers who wanted to be remarked and be part of the court. The portraits she painted of herself were a magnificent display of wealth and power that anyone would be impressed by its splendor. She made copies of her portrait and had them distributed throughout Elizabethan England. The Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws were an essential aspect of the Elizabethan era fashion as it kept society's social structure from dissolving in thing thin air. Queen Elizabeth was a key component in the spreading of the fashion during the era and she did with much grace and glory.


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