One thing that never changed throughout the centuries was how those who asserted dominance, possessed power  became the celebrated symbols of fashion trends and style.

Back in the days of the Monarchy, the Kings and nobles would influence the fashion and way of dressing up around them. They would set norms for the rest to follow.

However several monarchs in the renaissance time period affected the fashion in those days, the most iconic and influential of them were the Tudor monarchs of England, Henry VIII & Elizabeth I to be specific. They were one of the biggest trend setters of their time of the 16th century in Western Europe.


Fig 1: King Henry VIII

Henry VIII was the most extravagant monarch of that time who would spend 16,000 ducats annually. He would adorn himself with exotic fur and jewels. His extravagant dressing sense influenced fashion throughout the Western European Empires. During his reign, various techniques were applied so as to enlarge the figure and make him seem powerful and intimidating. Methods, such as slashing & puffing and stuffing sleeves & shoulders were done so as to create that effect. This was in vogue till even after his death.

Elizabeth was quite the diva of the day. She was very fond of dressing up and had all the right been born and brought up in royalty. In her lifetime she owned over 3000 gowns and headpieces in her wardrobe. She had a high forehead and a very pale complexion that made the other women around her apply more white paste on their faces in addition to plucking their foreheads. Little did she know that the white paste she applied contained lead which ultimately took a toll on her. Her ensembles were lavished with pearls & ribbons, expensive jewels and fine embroidery. She was a fan of pearls. In her time she made the ruff, wasp waist and leg of mutton sleeves quite popular.


Fig 2: Elizabeth I

Some of the styles introduced in this period remained stationed throughout the renaissance. One of them were slashing where the outer clothing was cut in slits, and the underclothing slightly pulled through, a circular collar known as the ruff was starched which gave a very elaborate look. Detachable sleeves also served as an economic option for changing one’s outfit. Various laws and restrictions were passed by the royalty curbing the lower classes to wear certain garments. They were restricted to low grade cloth.

During the first phase of renaissance, women’s clothing consisted of the bodice or earlier known as a pair of bodys was slashed into two sections which was fastened at the front and back with laces and tape. To stiffen the structure, busk, a flat long piece of wood or whalebone was sewn into one or more casings provided in the stays. The chemise served as a base for any garment which would be worn on top. Women would wear a single dress or two layers both inner and outer. Trains on gowns were introduced and were decorated with ornate under-linings. Some of the sleeves of the time were hanging sleeves, wide funnel shaped sleeves with contrasting linings. The necklines in fashion of this period were ruff, high closed necklines with winged tip collars. The most widely remembered elements of women’s wear was the bum roll and huge wheel farthingale which aimed to accentuated the curvy female figure. There were several layers of heaving clothing which made it quite uncomfortable for the female wearer during the earlier phase. Women of the renaissance liked to display hand-carried accessories like handkerchiefs, purses, gloves and fans. Many renaissance paintings clearly depict the same.

Tudor chemise

Fig 3: A rare Tudor era chemise


Fig 4: A ruff

The earlier costumes for men depicted slender silhouettes. Men would wear undergarments which in today’s terminology are referred to as drawers. White linen with raglan sleeves with round or square necklines were popular during that time. The doublet and hose were laced together. While the hose extended to the feet, the doublet was waist length. A highly popular and ornate garment worn by both the sexes was the stomacher, which obviously covered the stomach and chest region. Jackets or jerkins would also be worn sometimes over the jacket. Gowns would also be worn over the doublet and hose occasionally with the front facings being made of fur. Large hanging sleeves with open ends were a part of those gowns. Outdoor garments especially for the horsemen were popular as they provided warmth during movement. It was open at the front and slit up at the back.


Fig 5: Men’s Renaissance cloak

Jerkins from 1620s

Fig 6: Jacket/ Jerkin

Doublet and hose

Fig 7: Doublet & Hose

Some of the richest artworks were witnessed in the period of renaissance in Europe [2]. There was application of perspective in their drawings unlike the medieval colour where dull and flat colours were being used. Classics were revived back with interest by Brunelleschi and sculptor Donatello on the first archaeological study of Roman remains. These were based on classical precedents that inspired classicism in painting and sculpture. They can be well witness in the paintings of Masaccio and Ucello. One of the finest works of Botticelli- the Birth of Venus was a splendid example of the grandeur Europe possessed at the time of renaissance.


Fig 8: Birth of Venus by Sandro  Botticelli

Donatello, David

Fig 9: Donatello, David


1. CWU, n.d, Renaissance,, Accessed September 23, 2014.

2. Wikipedia, 2011, Renaissance Art,, Accessed September 23, 2014

3. History of Costume, 2012, Influence of the Tudors, Accessed September 23, 2014


1. History Today, 2011, Renaissance Fashion: The Birth of Power Dressing, Accessed September23, 2014


1. Figure 1, History of Costume, 2012, Influence of the Tudors, Accessed September 23, 2014

2. Figure 2,  History of Costume, 2012, Influence of the Tudors, Accessed September 23, 2014

3. Figure 3, Black Pearl Designs, 2014, Historical Russion Blackwork, Accessed September 23, 2014

4. Figure 4, Chest, n.d, Starched Ruff,, Accessed September 23, 2014

5. Figure 5, Elizabethan Outftitters, 2011,, Accessed September 23, 2014

6. Figure 6, Koctym, n.d, Extant Originals,, Accessed September 23, 2014

7. Figure 7,  History of Costume, 2012, Influence of the Tudors, Accessed September 23, 2014

8. Figure 8, Uffizi, n.d, Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli,, Accessed September 23, 2014

9. Figure 9, Babylon Baroque, 2011, Vanquishing Goliath,, Accessed September 23, 2014

10. Figure 10, Mr Dowling, n.d, Renaissance Art,, Accessed September 23, 2014