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Sunday, 13 October 2013

Frocks and Rocks

 The wonderful exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in London showing portraits from the Royal Collection highlighted courtly fashion in Tudor and Stuart times. They were eras when privileged men as well as women wore sumptuous clothes that often cost more than lesser mortals could hope to earn in a lifetime. Royalty and the nobility decked themselves out with lavish fabrics, frequently exquisitely embroidered as well as fabulous jewels.
 

Detail from a portrait of Elizabeth I as a young girl.
Detail from a portrait of Edward VI
 
 
 
But woe betide anyone who dressed above their station. Sumptuary laws, introduced as far back as Ancient Roman times to discourage extravagance but more importantly to preserve the distinctions of rank were still enforced in Elizabethan days. Cloth of gold or silver was strictly for the Queen and the highest nobility, as was the fur of sables. The Statutes set out in exhaustive detail what was acceptable for the different strata of society and penalties for infringing the rules were severe.