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Tudor Clothes

To a foreigner, not used to seeing Tudor clothes, Tudor women were badly dressed. For one thing, they showed too much leg. However, the Tudor costume was usually gloriously covered in jewels, embroidery, and designs that had a symbolic significance.

The Materials

The richer the material from which Tudor clothes were made, the higher the status of the wearer. Cloth of gold (material shot through with gold thread) and cloth of silver were extremely expensive. If you could afford that material, it was known you were wealthy and, most likely, important.

Silks, furs, and heavy brocades, as well as wool, were used for Tudor clothes. Bright colors of taffeta and satin were commonplace and it wasn't unusual to see patterns mis-matched.


In an age where most people were illiterate, the best way to show your family allegiance was with badges, shields, or coat-of-arms. Bodices and doublets would be covered with family devices.

Usually, these embroideries were displayed for loyalty purposes. But, they were also used to designate ill-will to another family. The Duke of Buckingham, during Henry VIII's reign, was executed, for one reason, because the Royal Coat-of-Arms was displayed too prominently on his person.

Allegorical designs could be found on Tudor clothes. Symbols arranged in a certain pattern could quote a verse, or tell a story.

Ornaments and Jewelry

Having a pendant featuring the face of your reigning monarch was a clear way of showing your loyalty. Many times, these jewels would have been received as gifts from the king or queen.

However, a gift from a king to a nubile young woman could cause problems. Henry VIII's second wife wasn't too pleased to see her husband's face around the neck of his current girlfriend.

The richer the ornament, the richer the wearer was seen to be. Jewelry was very much a status symbol... advertising how wealthy you were. Tudor costumes were often covered in pearls. Rubies, emeralds, and diamonds were also looked upon with favour.

Head Coverings

With the arrival from France to the English court of Anne Boleyn, the French hood became all the rage for women. Basically, it was a small crescent-shaped cap with a decorated brim. A veil would hang down the back.

The previously favored head-dress was the gable, worn by Catherine of Aragon. It was a heavy-looking triangular headpiece, usually with two long-hanging pieces of material (lappets) coming almost to the shoulder.

For men, monarch and courtier alike, hats were usually flat pancake-like affairs. However, depending on your status, they could be covered in jewels and/or flash a jaunty feather.


A corset was worn under Tudor clothes. Also popular was a smock, worn by women. Underwear would consist of drawers, and were an optional item.


At the beginning of the Tudor reign, broad-toed shoes were the norm. By Mary Tudor's reign, shoes became narrower. Both styles were flats, and each shoe would fit on either foot.

To Dress in Tudor Costume for Women

Dressing for duty at the Palace of Westminster? Layers were the order of the day. Your smock, drawers, corset, and petticoats would be the first to be placed on your body.

Then it would be your farthingale, or hoop skirt. An underskirt, or kirtle, would complete this part of the process, followed by the overskirt.

The overskirt would be the garment covered with the embroidery or jewels, as would the bodice (which was a separate piece). Sleeves would then be added. For added warmth, a surcoat was often used. This was a long coat-like garment.

Tudor Clothes for Men

A shirt would be the first piece of Tudor clothing you would wear. It was usually close-fitting so that it wouldn't be uncomfortable under your doublet.

A doublet was a jacket, and it was usually this garment that was highly decorated.

Pants did not go to the ankle. Instead, they usually went from waist to knee, where they would then be gathered with either ribbons or buttoned.

Cloaks often completed the outfit, although long coats, on the order of the surcoat for women, were also worn.

Tudor Clothes for the General Population

The only difference between Tudor costumes at Windsor Castle, and in the village, was the material from which they were made. Rich cloth-of-gold, for instance, would have been beyond the reach of the average man or woman.

Wool, linen, and leather was their material of choice. Skirts, bodices, doublets, and cloaks were all part of the clothing, although the grand embroideries and jewels would have been missing.

Article by "Tudor Rose"

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