The Royal Wardrobe – Queen Elizabeth I

The world of fashion is controlled by influential personalities and people in power. Then it was the Royals, now it is the celebrities who are the trendsetters. One of England’s greatest Monarch – Queen Elizabeth I’s impact on the Western European fashion in the 16th Century was indeed very remarkable.

Elizabeth I’s Love for Clothing

As a child, Elizabeth got a fairly poor treatment. She was declared illegitimate and was removed from the succession of the throne by King Henry VIII. It is believed that her fondness for rich clothes grew because she severely lacked them during her childhood.

As her reign progressed, she made sure that her image showcased – wealth, power and authority. She was known to be a clothes hoarder and it is estimated that she owned over 3000 gowns & headpieces and 2000 pairs of gloves.

Elizabeth I’s Wardrobe Routine

What did Queen Elizabeth I wear?

Just like her father, Elizabeth too loved elaborate clothing. She took 2 hours to get ready every morning. Dressing her up consisted of a lot of steps, starting from the shift (an innerwear up to the knees) that was often seen above the neckline of the outer garments, on top of it came the stiff bodies which gave shape to the torso and then the kirtle.

She wore a farthingale, which was used to give structure to the skirt followed by an embroidered petticoat. Then, her ladies would help her get into a floor-length gown or a separate skirt. Sleeves in those times were detachable which would give every outfit a brand new look.

Elizabeth I By Marcus Gheeraerts the Young
Elizabeth I By Marcus Gheeraerts the Young


Jewellery used by Elizabeth i

Few of the early portraits of the Queen show her wearing a necklace with an A. It is believed that it belonged to her mother, Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth was also fond of symbolic lockets in the shape of ships, animals or something that had her initials engraved on it.

Queen Elizabeth I Jewellery

The Chequers Locket Ring is one of the most astonishing and a very significant piece of jewellery which has survived and now belongs to the Chequers trust. A beautiful piece made out of gold, ruby, pearls and a letter E with white diamonds, this ring has two miniature enamel portraits of herself and her mother.

Elizabeth I Chequers Ring Ruby Diamond Gold Pearl

Queen Elizabeth I Ruffs

Ruffs were very luxurious attires and took very long to wear. Its structure forced the wearer to keep their neck straight and chin up acquiring a proud and haughty posture. Almost all the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I shows her wearing a ruff, which she was fond of.

Why did Elizabeth wear wigs?

Queen Elizabeth I initially wore wigs to match her hair colour with her garments. However, with passing years she used to wigs to hide her greying hairs.

Coronation Robe of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth’s coronation robe was a full golden-yellow coloured silk skirt with the bodice, sleeves, deep collar and a cape. The outline of her bodice & skirt, collar, neck and her hair was studded with pearls, rubies, sapphires and diamonds. It is also said that this dress consisted of a long train of gold tissue lined with white sarcenet and bordered with ermine.


Elizabeth I – Coronation Robe


She successfully carried her image of the Virgin Queen with the oversized necks and lots of pearls which were typical in those times for unmarried women. The famous Armada Portrait shows the Queen’s pearl-studded sleeves, collar, headgear, a layered neck-piece and earrings. Some of the pearl earrings that she wore are mounted in the Imperial State Crown.


Armanda Portrait

It was Elizabeth, who started the trend of white makeup and red lips. Young Elizabeth never used makeup until she fell ill with smallpox. She used white lead and vinegar to cover the scars. This is said to have poisoned her overtime.

Young Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s love for fashion wasn’t a secret and hence, the Queen received a lot of fine clothing with intricate designs and embroideries as gifts from all over the world. She often wore cotton stockings underneath the skirt until she was gifted with a pair of silk stockings on the New Year’s Day which she loved so much that she declared that she would only wear silk stockings and got them made for herself.

The Queen’s age was a mystery, safely wrapped under her glittery jewellery, majestic gowns and white makeup. In some of her portraits her gown is barely visible because of the jewels and decorations, this clearly shows that wealth and authority was her style statement. Elizabeth was smart and a bold fashion icon. Her style was carefully engineered to show power which made her England’s Greatest Monarch.

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