In the Virgin Queen’s Black & White World

Following on from the previous post written about a year ago (!) I’ve been reading again about textile history and was struck by the fact that if we could walk into the court of Elizabeth the First, we’d be slightly taken aback by the colours of the courtiers’ clothes.

The Queen’s preferred colours were ‘constant’ black and ‘virgin’ white.

The court followed the Queen in her choice of colours.

A survey was done of 101 male courtiers in Elizabethan portraits. 73% of the young men were dressed in white/light colours and 70% of the older men in black.

This may have had something to do with the fact that English dyers had much less knowledge of, and access to, dyes and dyestuffs than the rest of continental Europe.

It may be because of the notion that bright colours masked bad smells…

From a 1603 text Vertue’s Commonwealth – ‘in whomsoever such outward vanitie appears, it is a sure token there is a stinking puddle of vainglory within.’

Or it may be the symbolism of pure, virgin white and constant, solemn black that Elizabeth herself so knowingly used.

One thought on “In the Virgin Queen’s Black & White World

  1. Actually, it was because England took its fashion lead from the Spanish Court, which, being Catholic, favoured sombre clothing and had black as its principal colour. Elizabeth displayed her love of colour in her undergarments – see her apple green and scarlet ‘bodies’ (corsets) as evidence!

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