The Elizabethan Sihouette

Virtually any modern time period is easily recognized through the silhouette & lines of the clothing; the upturned chest and full skirts of the 1950’s, bell bottoms of the 1970’s, the lean lines of the flapper dresses in the 1920’s.

The same is true as you look further into the past- each time period (speaking primarily in a Eurocentric viewpoint here, of course other continents and cultures have distinctive styles) has its own definitive look.

The Elizabethan silhouette is very unnatural and, like many fashions up through the 1950’s, the attainment of the correct line depends on foundation garments.

It’s all about the underwear.

The image at left is early/mid Elizabethan and is characterized by the conical bodice shape and full hips on the woman, and the short “pumpkin pants”, close fitting doublet and tight hose on the man. Both feature a ruff at the neck. The woman’s hair is worn up, in the heart shape which Elizabeth wore & many others emulated. The man wears a soft hat with a brim.

The necessary undergarments for these silhouettes include a corset, bumroll and hoopskirt. A corset for both women and men was not unheard of- after all, both men’s and women’s bodies were expected to achieve similarly unrealistic shapes.

*Two notes here on swapping foundation garments across time periods*
Sometimes it works, other times, not so much.
1.To substitute a classically Victorian shaped corset for the Elizabethan one would ruin the shape…. the former was all about curve and shape and creating a tiny waist, whereas the latter was focused on a straight, conical line from the waist to the bust.
2. Similarly, the size and shape of the hoopskirt is important. The shape is like a bell and flared somewhat subtly…. a large “southern belle” style wouldn’t achieve the same look.

My next posts will describe the construction & other particulars of the undergarments mentioned here.