This beautiful and ornate gown was inspired by possibly the greatest Monarch of England – Queen Elizabeth I. This gown has been inspired by portraits of Elizabeth and costumes worn by Helen Mirren in the TV drama series Elizabeth as well as Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench.. It is a theatrical costume designed to show her power and status.
Elizabeth’s image was carefully engineered to impress and to convey wealth, authority and power. Her wardrobes was full of gowns of rich fabrics adorned with jewels and elaborate surface detail, which were clearly imposing and speak volumes about wealth and status. At her death, over 2000 gowns were recorded in Elizabeth’s wardrobe.
As the nation’s most powerful woman, Elizabeth’s taste set the ‘look’ of the day, especially for the aristocracy. Many of the women around her at court wore the narrow waisted, full sleeved, large-ruffed, full-skirted style of her later years.
Being beautiful in Tudor times was a risky business, especially in the time of Elizabeth I. Fashionable women had a pale face to show they were noble and rich, and did not work in the sun. Their cheeks were pink with rouge, their lips were red, their teeth white and their hair auburn or fair. They had elegant arched eyebrows and a high hairline.
To achieve this look, they had to use make up and dyes that were bad for their skin. To get their fashionable white complexions women ground up white lead and mixed it with vinegar to make a paste called ceruse.
They put white make up on to cover their chests as well if they wore low-cut dresses, and even painted pale blue veins on top of the make-up to show how fine their skin was. Lead is poisonous. Some people noticed at the time that it made the skin look grey and shrivelled. There were women who plastered on their make-up so thickly that it cracked if they moved their faces.
Red lipstick and rouge were called fucus. This was made from a pigment like red sandalwood, mercury sulphide or cochineal mixed with egg whites, green fig milk and gum Arabic, which comes from trees. Women could wear a wig or dye their hair. One hair dye recipe uses concentrated sulphuric acid, which is extremely dangerous.Elizabeth was tall and striking, with pale skin and light red-gold hair. She exaggerated these features, particularly as she aged, and other women sought to emulate them. Queen Elizabeth almost died of Smallpox in 1562 so was left with scars on her face – these were covered with the heavy white make-up which was fashionable at the time. Elizabeth’s curly red hair presented challenges as women tried to achieve the same look. Red wigs became a popular alternative, which Elizabeth also took to wearing. As Elizabeth aged her teeth to decay. Her influence by this time was so all-pervasive that some women even went so far as to blacken theirs to mimic her appearance!
No Queen would be seen at court without her lavish jewellery. A heavy three row pearl necklace is worn – Elizabeth loved pearls and this type of necklace can be seen in many of her portraits. She also wears a pearl and gold necklace with a large ruby/orange jewel and a pearl and jewel girdle with a pendant.
A beautiful peacock fan embellished with gold completes this lavish outfit.
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