Picture of Queen Elizabeth I
 

Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Clothing

  • Interesting Facts and information about the Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Clothing
  • The Sumptuary Laws of the Elizabethan Era
  • Elizabethan Era Clothing - Meaning of Colors
  • Men's and Women's Clothing
  • The Dyeing process

Picture of Queen Elizabeth I

 
 

Meaning of Colors in the Elizabethan Era
The meaning of colors worn during the Elizabethan era provided instant information about the person wearing them! A man or women who were purple clothes would be immediately recognised as a member of royalty. Gold, silver, crimson or scarlet, deep indigo blue, violet colors and even deep black and pure white colors were only worn by the highest nobility in the land. The colors of Elizabethan clothes provided information about the status of the man or woman wearing them.

 
 
 

This was not just dictated by the wealth of the person, it also reflected their social standing.

Elizabethan Clothing - Meaning of Colors in the Elizabethan Era
Elizabethan women and men were not allowed to wear whatever color of clothes that they liked! It did not matter how wealthy they were - the color, fabric and material of their clothes were dictated by their rank, status or position and this was enforced by English Law! These laws about the color of clothes that men and women were allowed to wear in the Elizabethan era were called Sumptuary Laws. They were designed
to limit the expenditure of people on clothes - and of course to maintain the social structure of the Elizabethan Class system!

 

Wear the wrong color in the Elizabethan Era and lose money, property, titles or life!

The English Sumptuary Laws were well known by all of the English men and women. And the Law was strictly obeyed! The penalties for violating Sumptuary Laws could be harsh - fines, the loss of property, title and even life! People living in the Elizabethan era only wore clothes that they were allowed to wear - by Law!

Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws

Colors of Cloth in the Elizabethan Era
The range of colors used for producing expensive clothes were produced by complicated dyeing processes. Expensive fabrics were imported from abroad.

 
 

The dyes used for coloring these clothes were expensive. The red dye used to produce deep crimson or bright scarlet came from a insect found in the areas of the Mediterranean. The brightest or darkest colours were more expensive to produce and therefore limited to higher status clothing. The color and its brightness helped determine the dye’s value. The lower classes wore colors of yellow, russet (a reddish brown color), orange, green, pale blue and pink. The production of dyes was a time consuming and often unpleasant process. The demand for dyes increased and in 1472 King Edward IV had incorporated the Dyers' Company of London. By the early 1500's France, Holland and Germany had begun the cultivation of dye plants as an industry - contributing to the 'unnecessary foreign wares' being imported to England and a reason for the Sumptuary Law of Queen Elizabeth 1.

Dyes used for coloring cloth during the Elizabethan Era
All of the dyes used for coloring fabrics in the Elizabethan era were produced from natural sources. The four major dyes used for coloring cloth during the Elizabethan era were called woad, madder, lichen and weld.

  • Woad was a European herb (Isatis tinctoria) of the mustard family grown for the blue dyestuff yielded by its leaves - cultivated as a source of blue dye
  • Madder was a European herb (Rubia tinctorum) the root of which was used in dyeing cultivated as a source of red dye
  • Weld was a European plant (Reseda luteola) cultivated as a source of yellow dye - also called dyer's rocket, dyer's mignonette and also known as dyer's broom
  • Lichen - A plant of the division Lichenes which occur as crusty patches or bushy growths on tree trunks or rocks or bare ground etc - a source of green dye

To produce varying colors the fabric was heated with the dye. Other elements were added to the dyes to produce a variety of different colors. These included wine, salts, shells, mosses, sheep urine, lentils, fungus, vinegar, wild cucumber, walnut, oak galls, insects, iron oxide (rust), barley malt, plants, barks, roots, berries and flowers.

The Meaning of Colors

 
The Color Red
The Color Crimson
The Color Indigo
The Color Purple
The Color White
The Color Black
The Color Pink
The Color Blue
The Color Orange
The Color Brown
The Color Gray
The Color Green
The Color Yellow
The Color Gold

Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Clothing

  • Interesting Facts and information about the Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Clothing
  • The Sumptuary Laws of the Elizabethan Era
  • Elizabethan Era Clothing - Meaning of Colors
  • Men's and Women's Clothing
  • The Dyeing process
 
 

Queen Elizabeth's Coat of Arms

 

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Queen Elizabeth's Coat of Arms

Meaning of Colors in Elizabethan Clothing

 

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