The Sumptuary laws were also passed in 1571 during the Elizabethan period. As per this law, every person who is above six years was to wear a woolen cap on Sundays and holidays. However, the law was enacted only to profit the woollen industries in England and was restricted to the lower classes of the society.
This law also provided for the type of fabric, colors and the materials that were to be used whilst making clothes depending upon the social rank of the people. Thus, based upon the social position of a person the material or fabric to be used for his clothes was determined.
Meaning of Blue Color
This color was normally worn by those persons who worked as servants. As per the Bible, Blue color resembles ‘heavenly grace’. The Blue color or dye was basically obtained from Woad leaves. The leaves were firstly dried, then crushed and ultimately composted with manure.
Meaning of Indigo Color
Indigo color stood for supremacy, significance and richness. Indigo is a dark blue color. Like in case of Blue, the Bible represents Indigo as ‘heavenly grace’. The material to make the color included plants and dyes. These were specifically imported from India and were thus expensive. As a result, only the rich and the wealthy could afford to pay for this color. Hence, only the wealthy class wore Indigo colored fabrics.
Meaning of Gold Color
In the Elizabethan times, Gold color represented richness or wealth. According to the Bible, Gold stood for divinity and God’s glory. The only section of the society permitted to wear Gold were the Royals like the Kings and the Queens and the Nobles.
Meaning of Brown Color
The Brown color symbolizes poverty and humility. The color could be obtained from the natural colors easily available in the surroundings of the people in the Elizabethan period. The Brown dye was made from Madder root which is a European herb. Since it was so cheaply available the poor sections of the society generally wore clothes made from brown dye.
Meaning of Orange Color
This color was regarded as a sign of Courage. Orange color was made from materials or dyes that were easily found in the human habitat. The Orange color was derived from cheap dyes primarily made from Madder roots. Like Brown color, Orange was normally permitted to be worn by the people belonging to lower social rankings as it was very cheap and easy to access.
Meaning of Red Color
During the Elizabethan Era, Red color was an indicator of Fire. It also meant Control and Importance. Red color, like Brown and Orange was obtained from the Madder root that was easily available. Similarly, the poor people were permitted the use of Red color. This color was also for courageous men.
Meaning of Pink Color
Pink signified happiness and joy. Pink also stood for the Christian color for 3rd Sunday of Advent. Pink color was made from the Madder roots. During the Elizabethan era, pink color was worn by women and young girls.
Meaning of Crimson Color
Crimson color was the Color of the Church. Like Red color, it represents fire, authority and importance. The Bible mentions that Crimson color means presence of God and blood of martyrs. The Crimson color was obtained from expensive kermes and cochineal dye.
Meaning of Black Color
Black color indicated authority and control. It was made from expensive dyes. Black was also regarded in connection with death. According to the Bible, Black color is the Color for Good Friday. This color even symbolizes modesty and plainness.
Meaning of Purple Color
During the Elizabethan reign, Purple color stood for Royalty or richness and was even associated with grief. Purple was the Christian color for Lent or Advent. It was made from expensive dyes and as such was affordable only to the richer class of society like the Queen, King, their children, etc.
Meaning of White Color
White was associated with richness or wealth. The reason was that the dye from which the color was obtained was very expensive and as such only the rich and wealthy could afford it. White also stood for pure and virtue. The Bible describes White color as Holy. It was the Christian color worn on days like Easter and Christmas and special occasions like Christening, Marriage, etc.
Meaning of Yellow Color
It meant rejuvenation or hope. Yellow was obtained from Saffron. The Yellow color also represented richness or wealth since Saffron was expensive and was needed to be imported from Europe. This color also denoted jealousy, greed and treachery. A cheap quality color was derived from cheap dyes like Weld, a European plant. Yellow color was worn on Easter.
Meaning of Green Color
This color meant a new start and even symbolized nature. As per the Bible, it represents the season of Epiphany. The Green color was obtained from woad, lichen dyes and other vegetables that were easily found.
Meaning of Gray Color
Gray was associated with mourning and regret. According to the Bible, Gray is the season of Lent and is even connected to fasting and plainness. The color was made from sources like coarse, rough and also un-dyed dark wool.
English Sumptuary Laws regarding colours
Each of the colours of the Elizabethan era had a particular meaning and significance. People of all position and rank were ordered to follow these rules. They were meant to enforce social hierarchies and moral values in the society and discriminated people according to their rank and social status.
The violation of such laws resulted in fines, title, and loss of property or could even lead to death.