Poor Tudors wore loose-fitting clothes made from coarse wool. Men wore trousers and a tunic which came just above the knee. Women wore a long woollen dress with an apron and a cloth bonnet. Their clothing was simple and practical.
The clothes of the rich were much more colourful and elaborate. Fashion was extremely important to rich Tudors, who used clothes as a sign of how wealthy they were. Their clothes were made from fine wool, linen and silk, and often decorated with gold thread and jewels. Men wore white silk shirts with frills at the neck and cuffs, a doublet (a tight-fitting jacket) and striped hose (loose-fitting trousers). Women wore corsets underneath bodices to make their waists look small, and padded underskirts (which were held in place with hoops) gave more structure to the floor-length gowns they wore over them. Children were dressed in miniature versions of these outfits.
Fashion was such a status symbol that there were even special rules (called Sumptuary Laws) to dictate what the different social classes could and could not wear. If you were found guilty of breaking these laws, it didn’t matter how wealthy you were - you could lose your title, your property, or even be sentenced to death! Here are some examples of the Sumptuary Laws:
- Only members of the Royal family could wear purple silk.
- Only those above the title of Viscount or Baron could wear cloth of gold or silver.
- Only those who earned over £100 a year could wear satin, damask, silk or taffeta.