The clothing which was worn by the poor Tudor man was a world away from the fashions to be seen at court. According to the Sumptuary Laws the clothing that could be worn by the poor was just as tightly controlled as for the nobility. There was a restricted range of items, of styles and of colours which could be worn.
A lower class person being found to be wearing clothing above their station could find themselves being punished for breaking the law. Extreme care needed to be taken in the choice of materials, colours and the use of any embellishments.
Tudor Peasant Clothing Used Cheap Material
The most inexpensive materials that were available to the poor in Tudor times were wool, Sheepskin and linen. This therefore indicated what their clothing was made from. In order to boost the wool trade in England a new law was passed in 1571 which stated that every member of the lower classes over the age of six was required to wear a woollen cap on Sundays and holidays.
The nobility of course were exempt from this new ruling. A poor man could have clothes which were brown or beige, in the yellow and orange range and grey or blue, but not the royal blue of course. Materials such as silk, velvet and taffeta could only be used in small amounts for trimmings.
They were allowed to wear cloaks, hats or caps and use buttons. A lower class woman at the time had to select clothing from the same colour range as the poor man, and again could only use the finer materials in small amounts for trimmings. She too was allowed the use of buttons, and could add cloaks, hats and caps to her wardrobe.
Items of Tudor Costume: Every Colour Had a Meaning
There was a meaning behind every item of clothing and every colour that was worn during the Tudor period. The costume of a typical poor man in Tudor times would consist of a basic pair of breeches or hose along with a simple doublet. The sleeves would be separate from the doublet and would attach with laces at the shoulder, a belt, shoes, cloak and hat were also added. Depending on the individual a ruff may also have been added.
These clothes would have been rather plain and boring compared to the same garments on display at the royal court. The over clothes of the poor Tudor woman would include a dress with separate sleeves, shoes, cloak and hat, plus occasionally a ruff. The under clothes in use by a Tudor woman are many, though it is doubtful that the poor women of the country had each item in their wardrobe.
Underclothes included a smock or shift which would be worn under the dress, along with a corset or bodice, a farthingale which was a hooped skirt, and petticoats. There were also kirtles, foreparts, partlets and rolls as well as a stomacher, though the majority of these were used by ladies of higher standing.