The Elizabethan Era is the period associated with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) and is often considered to be a golden age in English history. It was the height of the English Renaissance, and saw the flowering of English literature and poetry. This was also the time during which Elizabethan theatre flourished and William Shakespeare, among others, composed plays that broke away from England's past style of plays and theatre. It was an age of expansion and exploration abroad, while at home the Protestant Reformation became entrenched in the national mindset.

Elizabeth I Elizabeth I Robert Dudley - Earl of Leicester Elizabeth Vernon - Countess of Southampton - 1600
Elizabeth I - 1580 Elizabeth Cornwallis - Lady Kytson - 1573 The Rainbow Portrait - 1600 The Browne Brothers - 1598

The Elizabethan Era was a highly fashion-conscious age, and prized a look that was elaborate, artificial, stylized, and striking. Men and women alike were concerned to be wearing the latest and most fashionable outfits. Elizabethan dress was gorgeous and elaborate, mirroring the prosperity and energy of the age. Queen Elizabeth herself provided an extravagant fashion model - an inventory of her clothing in 1600 included almost 300 gowns and several hundred other costumes, in addition to state apparel. Towards the end of her reign, English dress became increasingly exaggerated, following the eccentric tastes of the aging queen.


Women in the Elizabethan times had many different ways of showing their fashion styles. Elements such as puffy sleeves, tight-fitting bodices of dresses, and ruffles showed status in society. They also used different types of clothing to make themselves appear more petite than they actually were. In addition, Elizabethan women wanted their clothing to look much like that of the men, with broad shoulders, wide hips, and slim waists.