Clothing and Fashion - Elizabethan Doublets During the Elizabethan era Women's fashion emulated that of a man! Doublets were first worn by men and then the fashion was emulated by women with a few minor emulations. There was a wide variety of styles including the heavily padded, peascod doublet. The Upper Class fashions worn by the nobility during the Elizabethan era were influenced by geometric shapes rather than the natural shape of the body. To achieve these shapes padding (bombast) and quilting, together with the use of whalebone or buckram for stiffening purposes, were used to gain this geometric effect.
The style of the doublet was designed for the emphasis to be on the shoulders and hips. Short skirt-like additions were made, creating Peplum Doublets, simply called peplums, covering the waist of the hose or breeches. The fashions were designed to give the impression of a small waist - especially desired by the women but also emulated by men who wore tight waisted, stiffened doublets. Men would sometimes wear girdles, the equivalent of the female corset, to obtain the wasp waisted look!
Elizabethan Doublets for Women Elizabethan Women's fashion sometimes emulated that of a man and this included the doublet. The women's doublet was often designed to be left open from the bustline up. The style of the women's doublet were tight and emphasised the waist.
Elizabethan Doublets for Men The style and fashion of the men's doublets and ranged from a wasp-waisted, geometric look to the 'peascod doublet' which the area of the belly was padded although the sides of the doublet were well fitted achieving a slim waisted look. The trim on doublets were designed and positioned to enhance the geometric, triangular, shape of broad shoulders and a slim waist. Doublets were fastened at the front. The sleeves were a seperate item and were often worn in different colors, materials and patterns. Sleeve attachments at the shoulder were disguised by decorative wings. The length of the doublet changed with the fashion of the day from waist length to mid thigh. Doublets were extremely uncomfortable and hot to wear. They were for formal occasions and courtly attire. More comfortable loose garments, similar to housecoats, were worn when the nobility were not on show!
Materials and Fabrics used for Elizabethan Doublets The materials that doublets were made of were expensive - silk, satin, velvet, taffeta, and sarcenet (Sarcenet was a delicate silk fabric). Many of these sumptuous materials and the dyes to produce their rich colors were imported, at great expense, from the continent. The fabrics were further embellished with fine needlework and embroidery and decorated with jewels, spangles, pearls. Cloth of Silver, Tinselled satin, silk, or cloth mixed or embroidered with any gold were often worn. Tinsell was a fabric was had a metallic sheen but was less expensive than gold or silver.
The Elizabethan Fashion of Slashed Doublets The limitations of Elizabethan dress and clothing led to a new fashion being created. Both men and women began to slash their clothes. The slash or cut in the outer surfaces of garments, which included doublets, exposed the contrasting color of the linings beneath. The linings would be pulled through the slash and puffed out to further emphasize the contrast of colors, fabrics and materials. An alternative to the 'slashed' garment was to 'pink' the material. Pinking was cutting a specific shape, commonly a diamond shape, from the garment to allow the fabric beneath to be pulled through - a more delicate form of slashing.
Elizabethan Doublets - a comment dating back to 1583! During the Elizabethan era pamphlets were printed and distributed commenting on life in Elizabethan England. A writer of one such pamphlet was a well travelled Londoner called Philip Stubbes. He was believed to have been born c1555 and died c1610. He was well educated and attended both Oxford and Cambridge University. He was also a strict Elizabethan Puritan and held firm views on any social practices which, in his view were, unfitting true Christians. He named his work " The Anatomie of Abuses " in which he strongly criticised many of the fashions and clothing worn during the Elizabethan era. It was entered in the Stationers' Register on 1 March 1583. This pamphlet includes his view and some valuable information about Elizabethan Doublets
"Their dublettes are noe lesse monstrous than the reste; For now the fashion is to have them hang down to the middle of their theighes, or at least to their privie members, beeing so harde-quilted, and stuffed, bombasted and sewed, as they can neither woorke, nor yet well plaie in them, through the excessive heate thereof: and therefore are forced to wear them loose about them for the most part:otherwise they could verie hardly eyther stoupe downe, or bowe themselves to the grounde, soe styffe and sturdy they stand about them. Now, what handsomnes can be in these dubblettes which stand on their bellies like, or muche bigger than, a mans codpeece ( so as their bellies are thicker than all their bodyes besyde) let wyse men judge; For for my parte, handsomnes in them I see none, and muche lesse profyte. And to be plaine,I never sawe any weare them, but I supposed him to be a man inclined to gourmandice, gluttonie, and such like. For what may these great bellies signifie else than that either they are such, or elsare affected that way? ...For certain I am there was never any kinde of appatellever invented that could more disproportion the body of man than these Dublets with great bellies, hanging down beneath their Pudenda (as I have said), & stuffed with foure, five or six pound of Bombast at the least. I say nothing of what their Dublets be made, some of Saten, Taffatie, silk, Grograine, Chamlet, gold, silver, & what not; slashed, jagged, cut, carved, pincked and laced with all kinde of costly lace of divers and sundry colours, for if I should stand upon these particularities, rather time then matter would be wanting. The Women also there have dublets & Jerkins, as men have heer, buttoned up the brest, and made with wings, welts, and pinions on the shoulder points, as mans apparel is for all the world, and though this be a kinde of attire appropriate onely to man, yet they blush not to wear it..."
Interesting Facts and Information about Elizabethan Doublets Some interesting facts and confirmation of information about Elizabethan doublets can be obtained from the words of Philip Stubbes. A first hand impression of the fashions of the Elizabethan era are invaluable - but the Elizabethan style of writing can be hard going! The following information has therefore been taken from the points he made on Elizabethan doublets:
The length of doublets at least reached the 'privy parts' and often reached the thighs
Doublets were stuffed, quilted and bombasted
Bombast was a stuffing for doublets and other garments, stretching them out and eliminating all folds and creases
Bombast stuffing consisted of rags, horsehair, cotton, or even bran ( the outer layer of grains such as wheat or oats, removed during the milling process)
4 to 6 pound of bombast might be used in one doublet
Doublets were hot to wear because of all the stuffing and movement was restricted
The Peascod doublet - making a man look inclined to gluttony!
Styles of doublets slashed, jagged, cut, carved, pincked and laced with all kinds of different colors
The materials that doublets were made of:
Grograine ( A costly, fine ribbed material)
Chamlet ( A costly, fine woollen cloth)
Gold and Silver
Elizabethan Doublets Additional details, facts and information about Elizabethan Clothing and Fashion can be accessed via the Elizabethan Era Sitemap.
Fashion and Clothing - Elizabethan Doublets
Interesting Facts and information about Clothing & Fashion - Elizabethan Doublets
Clothing for Men - a geometric shape
Costly materials used
Slashing and Pinking materials
Stuffing, quilting and bombasting
Extract from pamphlet by Philip Stubbes regarding Elizabethan Doublets dated 1583