William Shakespeare lived in Elizabethan-era England and dressed in Elizabethan attire. The attire of this era was marked by vivid colors, intricate embellishments, and extravagant padding for the wealthy and famous. Shakespeare's own clothes are unknown but it is known that he died rich having sold many of his possessions.
In terms of color, his wardrobe was dominated by black and white. Some historians believe that these colors represented virtue and morality respectively. However, other scholars think that these colors were simply used because they made him look better against a background of red and blue coats.
Shakespeare didn't wear clothes like you or I would wear today; instead, he wore expensive garments fit for a king. In fact, it has been suggested that he wore a coat embroidered with silver coins! These might have been obtained when he served as an ambassador where such things were given as gifts.
He also wore silk shirts with gold buttons, velvet jackets, breeches, and stockings. It is estimated that the cost of making such clothes at the time would have been about £100 (or $150).
Nowadays, people often ask me what kind of clothes Will Shakespeare wore. His answer would be different depending on who you ask! Some people say he wore simple black clothes while others claim he wore lavish whites.
Shakespeare's Globe. Elizabethan style clothes Queen Elizabeth I had natural red hair, but to retain the appearance of a "virgin queen," she bleached it yellow and wore a number of wigs known as periwigs. She also wore men's clothing to fulfill her obligation as head of the Church of England. These clothes were expensive and fashionable at the time, so many historians estimate that she spent about 10% of her income on wardrobe expenses.
Elizabeth I was born on April 24, 1533. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. When Catherine died, he married Anne Boleyn, who was executed after being accused of adultery and treason. Elizabeth then became heir to the English throne. But when her father decided to divorce Catherine's sister Mary and marry Jane Seymour instead, Elizabeth became an unwanted princess. Her half-brother Edward VI became king when their father died, but he was only nine years old. So, a group of powerful people including Elizabeth's uncle, Francis I, chose William Shakespeare's daughter as next monarch. She was twenty years old at the time of her death in 1603. During her reign, she managed to fight several wars and entertain hundreds of guests at court every day.
Women of that time were expected to stay home and care for the family business.
The elite classes and nobility of Elizabethan England wore a wide range of luxury apparel made of velvets, satins, furs, silks, lace, cottons, and taffeta. Many of these opulent materials were brought in from the continent. These unusual materials were brought by knights returning from the crusades in previous ages.
Elizabethan gentlemen usually wore clothes that were very rich and luxurious. They often used embroidery techniques to add detail to their garments. For example, coats were often embroidered with flowers or other designs. Skirts could be embroidered with silk threads to create a fine work of art. Handsome hats were another important aspect of attire for men of rank. They often used feathers, jewels, and even animals' skins as material for their headdresses.
Elizabethan ladies had many opportunities to exhibit their wealth through their dress. Like their male counterparts, they also wore expensive fabrics such as velvet and silk. However, they usually didn't have the chance to show off their sewing skills like their male counterparts did. Instead, they used imported French fashion to guide them in creating attractive dresses. Hand-painted silk gowns are examples of clothing worn by wealthy women of this era.
Elizabethan peasants probably didn't wear much during celebrations or special events. Fine clothes were expensive and only found in large cities with well-to-do citizens. In general, peasants wore simple linen shirts and trousers. Peasants also worked long hours in extreme weather conditions.
The lavish styles represented in Elizabethan art frequently mirror the apparel worn by royalty, nobles, and the privileged. In addition to wool and linen, the aristocratic classes wore silk, satin, velvet, damask, and taffeta.
Lesser nobles wore garments adorned with fox or otter fur. The attire worn by peasants was a stark contrast to the luxury apparel worn by the wealthy. They dressed in basic clothes made of English cotton, wool, and leather.
They wore clothing that exuded understated elegance. Only the wealthy could afford the costly textiles necessary, such as silk brocade and hand-made lace edgings. The Queen's favorite colors were orange, blue, grey, peach, yellow, and olive green, which were frequently adopted by her courtiers. She also enjoyed purple and red dresses.
The King preferred white linen shirts with embroidered flowers or coats of arms. He also owned a black velvet coat lined in fur. At court, he was usually dressed in a doublet (a jacket with flaring sleeves) and breeches (short pants). When on horseback, he wore a long riding coat with leather straps across the chest to hold his sword belt. When traveling away from London, he often wore a robe or large cloak with a furred hood.
The King's clothes were designed by William Kent, who had also been appointed Lord Chamberlain. They are credited with creating the modern dress code at court: shirt sleeves, pant legs, and hats for men; and low-cut gowns, shawls, and jewelry for women.
During their marriage, the King and Queen shared many items of clothing. After the King died, new styles emerged at court, so it is hard to say what the Queen wore during this time.
Wool, sheepskin, linen, and taffeta were popular materials for commoners. Peasant men, like noblemen, wore loose-fitting trousers, trunks, cloaks, and hose, but their garments were quite basic in color, shape, and materials. Women's costume was equally simple: a shift or blouse with a skirt or petticoat. Men and women wore similar jewelry: rings, necklaces, bracelets, and hair ornaments.
Shakespeare's characters would have been able to afford new clothes if they could have afforded the price of wool. In England at that time, one good woolen garment cost about two months wages for a skilled worker. New clothing was therefore rare for the common man. The king himself didn't wear wool until the 1550s, when he had his wardrobe made of it. Before then, he went around dressed in silk and satin or cloth of gold.
The only character in all of Shakespeare who might be said to be well-off is Hamlet. He wears fine velvet and silk clothes, which we are told were expensive at the time. But even so, we are told that he has "miserable coins" for money, and it seems likely that he gets this from his father, who is a prince without an empire to support him. Thus, we can assume that he was never really rich.