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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
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.