Today, I taught Elizabethan portraiture in my Shakespeare class… and I like to dress the part. When teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I spend some time discussing how important “self-fashioning” was to validate the Tudor Dynasty, and especially Queen Elizabeth I’s status as an independently ruling Anglican Queen Regent. From Shakespeare’s own works those of his contemporaries–Raleigh’s Oceans to Cynthia and Spenser’s The Faerie Queen; Elizabeth’s self-representions in her various speeches; and in Elizabeth’s own, highly controlled and managed portraiture–we see that the queen is her appearance and her dress, whether as goddess, virgin, mother, warrior, and/or empress.
In these portraits, her mask-like face is contrasted with the sumptuous details–pearls and rubies glinting, eyes and ears patterned onto orange satins, ermine collars, an ostrich feather fan, plush scarlet velvets, transparent fairy ruffs, scalloped edges, and an occasionally a rainbow as prop.
My own nod to Elizabethan portraiture is all about playing with colors, textures, and fit. I have this purple striped Ralph Lauren button-up top with puffed princess sleeves that is a bit too froufrou to wear unless I am camping it up even more. Elizabeth did not wear much purple, as she more often wore deep reds, like scarlet or crimson, or she wore deep blacks with contrasting white details. But between the royal hue and the princess sleeves, it feels quite royal. (Also: see princess sleeves’ popularity during London Spring ’16 FW).
But I’m also inspired by the fashion and posturing of Elizabethan men. I like to layer a black vegan-leather perforated top from Banana Republic on top as though it were a jerkin (think of sexy Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love) and a full black brocade skirt from Old Navy with black or purple tights and Doc Martin heeled booties (or on occasion, black riding pants and knee high riding boots).
#thematicdressing #royalpurple #yasqueen