The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion

Luxurious Fashion of Court Life

1st May 2013 The interest in what royalty wears is not a new phenomenon. In the 16th and 17th centuries, monarchs and their court were admired for their fashion sense and innovative style. For the Tudor and Stuart elite, luxurious clothing was an essential component of court life. Now this intriguing world can be explored in a stunningly curated exhibition – In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion – at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. Garments and accessories – and the way in which they were worn – conveyed important messages about wealth, gender, age, social position, marital status and religion. The exhibition traces changing tastes in fashionable attire and the spread of fashion through the royal courts of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Exquisite portraits, drawings and prints from the Royal Collection are on display, along with rare surviving examples of clothing and accessories, that illustrates the style of the rich and famous of the Tudor and Stuart periods. In the portraits, high maintenance and impractical clothing provided a clear message to the viewer that the subject of the portrait enjoyed a privileged lifestyle, and had plenty of spare time to devote to the pursuit of fashion and the lengthy process of dressing.  The portrait above – by William Scrots of Elizabeth First when a princess (c1548) shows her wearing one of the most striking, yet invisible elements of Tudor fashionable dress – a hooped underskirt known as the ‘farthingale’, which created a distinctive conical shape.


Frances Terest Stuart, Duchess of Richmond by Sir Peter Lely c1662
Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond by Sir Peter Lely c1662

Male fashions are on display too, and matched those of women in the luxuriousness of materials and complexity of design, and elements of masculine dress were adopted by women as well. Fashion accessories of the Tudor and Stuart period ranged from the quirky – a purse in the shape of a frog – to the ostentatious. Among the most important jewels were pearls, and the amazing ‘La Peregrina’ (The Wanderer) pearl, weighing 58.5 carats, the largest pearl in existence at the time of its discovery, was presented to Mary 1 by Philip 11 of Spain as a betrothal gift. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion is an enchanting voyage of both history and fashion. Opening on 10 May 2013 until 6 October 2013 at The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace. Tickets and visitor information: JG

Photos: Courtesy of The Royal Collection

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