What was Elizabethan Theater Clothing Like? An Introduction to England Theatre

If you would ask someone what the Elizabethan clothing should look like, they will most likely describe it as apparel that is made out of vibrant and bold colors, full of laces, small details, and other definitions that can catch the attention of the audience while the actors are performing onstage. Aside from that, the clothing worn by a person defines his status ranking. Hence, it seems reasonable to say that Elizabethan theatre clothing will most likely revolve in luxurious and expensive materials. Here are the following characteristics of an Elizabethan theatre that differentiates from other types of theatrical costumes.

1. Vibrant and bold colors

As what we’ve mentioned above, vibrant and bold colors are usually seen in Elizabethan costumes. Females wear wedding dresses with vibrant colors (but of course, only those colors and styles that are allowed by the law). The more vibrant the color is, the higher the status rank of the characters.

2. Males dressing up as females

You know too well that in Elizabethan’s time, the majority of the actors are males and the number of females who are allowed to perform is limited. As a result, males will be the one to portray female characters by wearing women’s clothes, wigs, and make-up. As what we’ve mentioned above, the color, style, and apparel that they are going to wear will reflect on their social status in the drama.

3. Too tight clothing

Elizabethan theatre costume is also known for being too tight. It’s like the complete opposite of the Hamilton clothing. The costume is filled with pads and cups and layers that the character is not comfortable in every move he makes. You can see the struggle of the character in wearing such extravagant clothes for the sake of representing his social status in the drama.

4. Historical reference

Since we are talking about the period of Shakespeare and Elizabeth, most of the costume is a reflection of their history. Hence, using heat press for making the shirt is not highly recommended for this type of costume. It can easily determine and separate rich people from poor people. Servants are not allowed to wear expensive clothes or own an expensive jewelry. Hence, they have no choice but to wear rags and worn out clothes, usually in the earthy worm, brown, and cream color.

5. Abundance of accessories

As what you can notice, in Elizabethan costume, both males and females are abundant with accessories. They tend to wear cloaks over their long gowns or an expensive and custom-made lace to show off their wealth to everyone. The hairstyle is rather complicated. Curls and braids with matching ribbons and laces.

You can also notice the large gems on the chests of female actresses, loops and earrings, and their wedding dresses are too big it’s not suitable for them to be running around. From the waist where the skirt flows, the dress is designed with beads, laces, glitters, and even a petticoat on the insides to support the ball gown. The rich and wealthy females are looking as if they are always going to attend an important social gathering. Aside from that, detailed fans, hanky, and exaggerated make-up are also worth noting down.

Elizabethan theatre clothing emphasizes the ranking status of an individual based on his costume. Hence, it seems reasonable to say that creating costumes for wealthy characters can be very expensive and time-consuming as opposed to the simple and effortless dresses of characters with poor status in life. If you wanted to incorporate Elizabethan theatre costume in your drama play, you might want to start reading about history of social rankings in that period to have an idea where to start.