Fabulous Tudor Fashion Fashion in the 16th Century

Have a watch of the above video and gain an understanding of what fashion was like for people in Tudor England.

Comfortable? I think not!

Rather like today, the wealthy people of the period would wear clothes made from luxurious materials such as silk, and bright colours. The middle-classes would wear clothes of a similar style but usually made from cheaper materials, such as wool and linen. Poorer people would wear simple clothes made from wool - tunic and trousers for men, and a long dress (worn with an apron on top) for women.

Well-to-do Tudor women wore hooped skirts with padded hips, which reached to the floor. Men wore padded breeches with stockings - not trousers. Fur was a popular trim among the wealthy.

One of the most recognized items of clothing from the late Tudor period is the ruff - a collar of lace worn around the neck. Some wealthy people wore enormous ruffs to show off their wealth.

Elizabeth I with a ruff collar

Tudor Sumptuary Laws

The Tudor Sumptuary Laws and regulations called Statutes of Apparel were passed to restrain or limit the expenditure of people in relation to their clothes, food, furniture. The Sumptuary Laws forbade the use of certain articles of luxurious apparel. Tudor Sumptuary Laws dictated what color and type of clothing individuals were allowed to own and wear, an easy and immediate way to identify rank and privilege. Examples of the Tudor Sumptuary Laws ensured that only Tudor Royalty were permitted to wear clothes trimmed with ermine. Lesser Nobles were only allowed to wear clothing trimmed with fox and otter and so on and so forth!

But why control the people in this way?

The reason for Tudor Sumptuary Laws were to maintain control over the population. During the reign of King Henry VIII a new and wealthy Merchant Class arose. These wealthy men were looking above their station and could afford to buy the luxurious goods previously only possible for the rich Tudors. This new wealthy class of commoners needed to be kept separate from the Upper Classes of the rich Tudor Nobility. King Henry VIII therefore drafted a new series of laws concerning dress and personal adornment - he updated the existing English "Sumptuary Laws". His daughters Queen Mary I (Bloody Mary) and Queen Elizabeth I followed suit.

A little bit of a laugh at the Sumptuary Laws

What did each class of society wear then?

Poor people wore simple, loose-fitting clothes made from woolen cloth. Most men wore trousers made from wool and a tunic which came down to just above their knee. Women wore a dress of wool that went down to the ground. They often wore an apron over this and a cloth bonnet on their heads.

The Peasant class No jewels or colour

Rich ladies wore padded skirts held up with loops. Over these went bodices and colourful floor-length gowns.

Rich men wore white silk shirts, frilled at the neck and wrists. Over this they wore a doublet (a bit like a tight-fitting jacket), and close-fitting striped trousers (called hose).

The Merchant Class- Bit more sophisticated, more colour and variety
The Gentry- A lot more colour, more variety and more luxurious fabrics
Even more luxury and colour- The gentlemen and women were the class directly beneath the King and Queen.
Outfits of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I- What differences do you notice between them and the rest of Tudor society?

Got to have something on the head as well!

Most people, when thinking about Tudor headwear, will bring to mind, images of two headdresses that were worn during King Henry VIII’s reign. These are the French hood and the English or, as is more commonly termed now, the Gable Hood.

The English Hood and the French Hood

Whatever one’s status – be it Queen, Gentle- or Working woman – head wear of some kind would be worn. Highly decorated as we have seen for the wealthy but simple linen coifs for those of lower status.

Fashion back then is like fashion today, people created these items of fashion to make themselves look good. Women wore clothes that made them have a 'triangle' shape, which means their waist would look small. Men wore clothes that would make them have a 'square' shape. This would mean they would create a broad shoulder look.


  1. Why would Monarchs set laws around what people could and could not wear?
  2. Describe the difference between the peasant class and gentry class clothing.
  3. Explain what would happen if you wore clothes that were higher than your class.
  4. Explain how fashion today reflects the class system of our society. What do the wealthy wear when compared with the Middle or working class? Why is there a difference?

Outfits consisted of:


Head dress

Corset - stiffened with wood to flatten all lumps and bumps.

Gown - split at the front to reveal the kirtle. Sleeves were either sewn in or tied on.

Kirtle - the main underskirt, coloured at the front.



Doublet – tight-fitting jacket that was stuffed and then quilted.


Breeches – tied at the knee with laces.

Your task:

Create yourself a Tudor costume for a modern day celebrity and write a paragraph explain why you used each element for your outfit.

You will need to decide if you want to be apart of the peasant, merchant, gentry or royal class. You could design a child's or adults outfit.

You will need to create your outfit based on what people could and could not wear for your chosen class.

Don't forget to accessories!! You can add any accessories that your chosen person may have worn.

You can create your outfit on a piece of A4 paper or on your device using an app. Your paragraph must detail why each item was used and how it relates to your chosen class.

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