Fashion of the Elizabethan Era

What the people wore

Alyssa Driver, Health and Beauty Staff

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I recently took on the role of costume designer for the Pirate Players Theatre Company production of Twelfth Night.  Shakespeare’s classic comedy is presumed to have been written between 1601 and 1602, with some noting that the first production was in February 1602.   After conducting some research, our design team decided to go with the traditional Elizabethan dress that the show would have been originally performed.  I decided to share some of my findings with any of you who might be interested in the clothing from this period.


Clothes from this time were either heavy and big or loose and light. They really showed the difference of people of the higher class and people of the middle and lower classes. The clothes from the Renaissance are very interesting with how they look and how different those clothes are compared to the clothes we wear now.


Women who were higher class wore dresses with a low neckline and their gowns were heavy and limited movement, as to how lower class women wore dresses with higher necklines and had more mobility. They did not wear corsets or heavy clothes because they did not have servants to help them dress.


Men wore a shirt with no sleeves as their first layer, then another shirt on top with a lace collar and puffy sleeves. Over those two shirts there would be a jerkin, which is a tight fitting jacket. They wore knee-length trousers, and under the pants would be a pair of hose. To cover their modesty, they wore doublets over the hose.

Lower class men wore just a shirt and knee length trousers.


Children of this time wore clothes similar to their parents. While being an infant and a toddler, boys and girls wore dresses until seven. Boys get their first pair of pants at seven years old and then could help their fathers work. Lower class children wore whatever their parents could make or find, usually cheap dresses and non fitted trousers.


Twelfth night opens April 18 in the BLK Civic Center and continues through April 21.  Performances are at 7 pm. Admission is $5 for all ages. Poteau Public School employees get in free.


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